PROVIDENCE — Just days before the start of the R.I. Division I Tournament championship series between the Burrillville and Barrington co-op squads, Broncos head coach Marc Brissette and his son spent some time shuffling through some old newspapers, just to reminisce.
They came upon one that highlighted the premier PGA careers of the Ocean State’s Brad Faxon and Billy Andrade.
“I knew we were facing Sophie Faxon, the Barrington goalie and Brad’s daughter, in the finals, and I told my son, ‘How ironic is that?’” Brissette stated. “I also said, ‘I hope it’s not an omen.’”
Sadly for Brissette’s bunch, it may have been.
Faxon stonewalled Burrillville, turning in a magnificent 27-save performance and leading Barrington to a 2-1 victory and a sweep of the Broncos in the best-of-three series at Providence College’s Schneider Arena on Sunday afternoon.
The Eagles, a co-op program including players from Portsmouth and Mount Hope, had secured a 1-0 cushion for most of the contest, but the Broncos (with girls from Ponaganset) finally evened it up when senior captain Kelsey Koprusak somehow slipped a pass under Faxon’s pads with only 5:45 remaining in the tilt.
Koprusak had received a feed from junior Jacquelyn Keable, and – while stationed in the left circle – she pushed the puck toward Faxon. The shot seemingly deflected off one of the sophomore goalkeeper’s skates and trickled in.
Just 41 ticks later, however, Faxon delivered an outlet pass to freshman defenseman Leah Hoder, who streaked down ice and blasted a wrist shot from outside the right circle over Burrillville goalie Brittney Bebeau’s right shoulder.
With the tally, Barrington – which had gained a 3-2 win in the first game on Saturday -- had sealed the D-I state crown, ending the season with a 14-7-1 overall mark. Somewhat surprisingly, it wasn’t Faxon who captured the Rev. Robert C. Newbold Tournament MVP award, but teammate Emily Carlson, a senior defenseman and tri-captain.
“I’m extremely proud of their effort out there,” Brissette said after his team closed its winter campaign at 12-11. “It was a lot better than (Saturday’s) effort. We came out and played well, but you’ve got to give Barrington credit. They got a couple of nice goals; that’s while they’re the champions.”
The contest began quickly for Burrillville, as both junior Trista Cardone and Koprusak mustered point-blank opportunities on Faxon in the very first minute.
In fact, Koprusak’s backhand in front of the net seemed to slip past Faxon, but she corralled the puck.
At the 8:30 mark of the initial stanza, an official whistled Barrington’s Kathleen Saunders for an illegal body check, giving the Broncos their first power play.
But, just 1:08 later, Eagles senior tri-captain Chelsea Larisa stole the puck at her own blue line, outhustled a Bronco defenseman down the ice and slid a wrist shot under junior netminder Brittney Bebeau for the shorthanded tally – and a 1-0 advantage.
“We just had a defensive breakdown, that’s it,” Brissette noted. “We have a very young team, as we had five freshmen out there. We only have one playing senior, and that’s Kelsey. Hopefully, we’ll learn from it.”
Barrington had three power-play chances in the second period, but failed to take advantage of any. The bad news for the Broncos: They had two, but the Eagles exhibited stellar defense, icing the puck with aplomb.
When Larisa was called for an illegal body check with 1:47 left in the middle session, Burrillville had problems earning a shot on Faxon, but still had 13 seconds of a player advantage entering the third.
The Eagles killed that penalty as well.
Yet it looked as if Burrillville would knot the score only 2:25 into the final period, that when Koprusak drilled a slap shot from the left boards at Faxon. The goalie, however, made a terrific stick save.
Not even seven minutes later, Koprusak succeeded, but that merely set up Hoder’s late-game heroics. The Broncos also outshot their foes by a 28-15 count, and – ironically – allowed only one on goal. That belonged to Hoder.
“We had a boatload of penalties, but we did (Saturday) night, too,” Brissette explained of his team’s five infractions on Sunday. “We talked about that before the game, staying out of the box. It’s all about self-discipline. You can’t play a championship game and give your opponent that many power-play opportunities.
“Sophie just played a terrific game,” he added. “I still can’t tell you how proud I am of our girls. They played with a lot of grit.”