WOONSOCKET — For a head coach whose squad had just fallen, 4-2, to mighty Mount St. Charles in a crossover tilt, Lincoln/Cumberland Co-op's Dick Ernst sure seemed in good spirits as he strolled out of an Adelard Arena team room on Saturday night.
Behind 4-0 entering the final session, the always-animated veteran mentor's Lions fought back with two goals in the span of 48 seconds midway through it.
“Our kids just didn't give up,” Ernst raved about his girls. “We trailed by four coming in, and the only thing I told the kids was to go out and win the third. Guess what? They did.”
He hesitated, peered at the score sheet he had just been handed and exclaimed, “We did! We outshot them, 12-9, in the third period. I've gotta tell you, these girls are fantastic! They've got great spirit, and they have the composure and confidence of champions.
“We played another Division I team, La Salle, (Friday) night (at the Smithfield Rink), and we lost, 6-2,” he added. “They have forwards who can fly and one of the best goalies in the state (in freshman Taylor Peltier), but my kids went out there and believed they could win.
“You know what? We were tied, 1-1, with a minute left in the third, but they scored. We still played them tough. I'm so proud of them. They're a true team.”
For the record, Mounties' junior tri-captain Briana Castro closed with a goal and an assist, while fellow tri-captain Alisha Sleboda notched a tally and sophomore forward/defenseman Elisabeth Berard posted two assists. In the process, the Mount moved to 10-1 overall and 8-1 in league action.
Division II representative Lincoln/Cumberland, however, improved to 3-5 – while facing each Division I squad once and its league foes three times apiece.
“We were 2-14 last year, but this team is going places,” Ernst remarked.
The Lions – call them the home squad on this night – actually stymied the vaunted Mount attack early on; in fact, just 1:55 into the contest, sophomore wing Cassidy DiPaola skated in on MSC sophomore netminder Arianna Tourtellot, dribbled twice and tried to shove a muscler past her, though the latter kicked it away.
Fifty-nine ticks later, officials whistled Mountie 10th-grader Jordan McComb for checking, giving Ernst and Co. their first power play. Remarkably, MSC was called for “too many players on the ice” at the 11-minute mark (with Castro serving), leaving the Lions with 55 seconds of a five-on-three advantage.
Not long after, senior center Jean Bray sat at the top of the right circle and drilled a slap shot at Tourtellot, but she responded with a magnificent stick save. In the end, Tony DiLorenzo's crew thwarted both power plays.
With just 1:20 left in the opening period, freshman Melanie Foster took a feed from Berard and lifted a wrister over senior Ashley Devolve's right shoulder for the 1-0 lead. Lincoln/Cumberland, though, manufactured nine shots in the stanza, equaling the Mount's number.
“We just rushed our shots (on the two-player advantage),” Ernst said. “We missed on some early goals, and – if we had connected – we could've made things pretty interesting. Obviously, against a team like that, we were going to get outshot, but I thought we kept things pretty competitive in the long run.”
A mere 2:03 into the second, MSC received just the break it had wanted when refs called freshman winger Kathryn Cunningham for interference, yielding her opponent its first power play. Only 23 ticks after, Berard slipped a Castro pass under Devolve to make it 2-0.
That started a three-tally barrage over the next 3:48. Sophomore Alexis Fagan sent a high wrist shot from McComb under the crossbar at 4:13, and Sleboda, stationed inside the right circle, flipped a high attempt over the keeper to make it 4-0.
At the 3:44 mark, sophomore Brianna Luciani was called for tripping, issuing the Lions their third power play. Less than a minute later, freshman Cassidy Simanski took a pass from sophomore Cassidy DiPaola, skated in and tried to shove the puck through Tourtellot's pads, but the keeper somehow swept it away.
That's when Ernst delivered his speech – “Win the third!” – and his kids came out firing. Just 2:51 into it, junior Lauren Hervieux ripped a slapper from just inside the blue line at Tourtellot, who deflected it.
Immediately, classmate Morgan LaRose pounced on the rebound and poked a backhand at the net, but the goalie again responded.
Simanski, however, drilled a wrist shot just under the crossbar for the unassisted tally that made it 4-1 with 7:42 remaining, and the Lions sliced the deficit to a pair when LaRose slipped a try through the five hole (Tourtellot's pads).
That left her looking up, puzzled as to how it got by her.
With 2:04 left, Sleboda appeared to have recorded her second goal when she skated down the right side, cut left and delivered a hard shot at Devolve, but she used her left pad to drive it to a teammate.
Devolve, by the way, picked up where she left off as Lincoln's field hockey keeper, posting a stellar 29 saves. Tourtellot finished with 24.
“It was a good win; we fought really hard for it,” Castro said of the Mounties' effort. “We're facing some injuries right now, and we had a couple of girls out sick, but we're happy to win it. I think the difference was we learned their style of play, and made some adjustments. The good news is, they worked.
“I'll also say this: That's one tough team.”