WOONSOCKET — This is how Mount St. Charles sophomore Brian Larence celebrated an amazing 3-2, double-overtime victory over La Salle Academy on Monday night:
While his teammates went ballistic on the ice, exchanging hugs and high-fives, Larence skated to the chain-link fence near the Mounties’ bench at Adelard Arena and fist-bumped schoolmates with his right-handed glove.
He then shed his stick, bent over, grabbed some snow off the ice and threw it at those fans, still going berserk at what they had just witnessed.
With 1:42 remaining in the second OT session – 46 seconds after officials whistled the Rams for a two-minute, too many men on the ice penalty – junior Brian Belisle drilled a wrister at La Salle freshman goalie Tyler Walsh, who made the save.
Senior defenseman Nick Bennett pounded on the rebound and ripped the power-play tally past Walsh to post the game-winner in the rubber tilt of this R.I. Championship Division semifinal. He did so before a thrilled, sold-out gathering at the arena.
“We won it for the coach,” coach Dave Belisle grinned after the contest, then explained how his dad, legendary mentor Bill Belisle, had suffered a gash above his right eye in the final seconds of the initial stanza.
“I guess the blade of a stick – I don’t know if it was us or them – caught him near the temple,” the younger Belisle stated. “I know he’s going to need some stitches, and he may have a concussion. But he’s a tough old guy. He’s an old-style guy. The trainer treated him, and he was back on the bench at the beginning of the second.
“We’re going to take him to Landmark (Medical Center) in a few minutes, but that’s OK,” he added. “He’s been there before.”
Dave Belisle called this series against La Salle “one of the greatest series I’ve seen since I’ve been alive,” and he did so for good reason: The Rams eked out a 2-1 victory in the first of this best-of-three set, and the Mounties forced a third tilt when sophomore Brandon Borges scored the game-winner just nine ticks into double overtime in the second contest on Saturday night.
“I told the kids during that game, ‘You’ve got one breath. Do you want to keep your mouth open and take it? Or do you want to get closed out?’” he said. “They chose to take that breath.
“The resiliency of this team has been extraordinary,” he continued. “Talk about clutch. We were 50 seconds away from not advancing (on Saturday night), but found a way to win. There’s just no quit in these guys.
“We just drive and drive and drive. They remain calm. They count on me to stay cool and do their jobs. I just tell them, ‘Give it time, and do what you’re supposed to do.’”
MSC took that advice right from the start. A mere 2:09 into the game, Brian Belisle used a backhand in the slot to beat Walsh, and the goal came courtesy of assists from seniors Brian Campbell and Ryan Berard.
Then, just 3:25 later, Borges drilled a wrist shot from the left circle to make it 2-0. Sophomore Tyler Scroggins and senior Callen Morriseau assisted on that one.
The Mounties (now 15-5 overall) ran into some trouble toward the end of the middle period. Ben Handanyan was whistled for holding with 5:48 remaining, and – only eight seconds later – referees gave Bennett two minor penalties for cross-checking and unsportsmanlike conduct.
The two infractions gave La Salle a five-on-three advantage for 1:53, and the Rams didn’t let the opportunity get away. With 4:19 left, sophomore Bryan Lemos beat Larence with a wrister from inside the left circle after receiving a feed from Jason Delisle.
Despite the fact 2:39 remained on Bennett’s double minor, the penalty-killing crew of Borges, Handanyan, Berard and James Casilli thwarted the Rams’ attempts.
La Salle knotted the score at 2-2 just 23 seconds into the third. That’s when speedy senior Robert Fox flipped a wrist shot over Larence’s shoulder. Ryan Izzo assisted on that goal.
The final 10 minutes of the third period turned into a dogfight, with both squads creating their fair share of stellar chances, but both Walsh and Larence stood tall in their respective cages.
With 3:14 left in the third, MSC apparently had scored in a scrum in front of Walsh, but the officials waved it off.
No one scored in the first OT period, which lasted 7:30 and followed a four-on-four format, though MSC’s Berard and the Rams’ Lemos both had superb point-blank chances.
When the second OT began, the same four-on-four intact, Bennett ripped a slap shot at Walsh from above the right circle, but the goalie made a magnificent glove save with 6:49 left.
But, with 2:28 remaining on the game clock, La Salle was called for the “too many men” penalty (Nathaniel McDonald served it), and Dave Belisle immediately called a time out.
Only 46 seconds later, Bennett delivered the game-winner, causing chaos in the stands.
The Mounties now will face Hendricken, which swept Burrillville in he other semifinal on Saturday, in the Championship Division finals.
“We had played so well before (the penalties in the second period), and the penalties changed the momentum,” Dave Belisle noted. “I know Nick felt so badly about it, so I’m glad he ended up with the winning goal.
“Once the coach (Bill Belisle) got hurt, our kids wanted to win it for him,” he added. “We’re not good enough to put anyone away, and you have to give La Salle a lot of credit. They played great. But we are good enough to win the big games, and that’s just what happened here.”
That being said, he grinned, then walked back inside the Mounties’ locker room to find his dad, then take him to the hospital.”