WOONSOCKET — Highlights have been few and far between this year for Woonsocket, a young squad that has been slowly trying to rebuild its program since the Villa Novans won the Division III-North title three seasons ago.
On Tuesday afternoon, before a small, but energetic gathering at Adelard Arena, all the hard work, sweat, and tears the Villa Novans put into their season nearly paid off in the form of their first victory of the year, but Scituate spoiled their aspirations.
Lucas Mancinelli scored a pair of goals in the final 4:08 of play to erase a one-goal lead by the Novans and help the visiting Spartans – with 11 players, the smallest team in the state – hand Woonsocket a heartbreaking 3-2 loss.
The Novans (0-13-1) were ahead 2-1 after a period of play and clinged to that lead until Mancinelli tied the score at 7:52 by flipping a shot over the glove of Woonsocket goalie Nick Beals, who 14 seconds later, had made a huge save on a shot by Mancinelli.
With 1:08 to play, the Novans took an untimely penalty in their end of the ice, and eight seconds later, Mancinelli gave the Spartans (2-11) the eventual game-winner by taking a pass from Scott Iacobucci that he won off a faceoff and slipping it past Beals.
It was a very bitter loss for the Novans to swallow, but in the eyes of second-year head coach Nathan Arruda, his Villa Novans’ performance didn’t match the previous efforts they gave during last weekend’s close defeats to East Providence and Ponaganset.
“They just didn’t have it,” Arruda said. “They didn’t play the way we’d normally would play. This past weekend, we had some really good games. We worked hard. We played better positioning. Today, we were just standing still, and we were letting (Scituate) win the battles, and that’s what it’s all about, winning the 1-on-1 battles.
“My guys could play better than they did tonight. They just didn’t bring their ‘A’ game today, and a couple of bad penalties hurt us. But I have to give credit to Scituate. They played hard and they didn’t give up, especially with the number of players they have.”
The first period didn’t offer many quality scoring opportunities by either side – the Villa Novans took nine of the period’s 11 shots – but the hosts found themselves with their 2-1 cushion, thanks to Ian Provencal’s goal off a pass from Robert Morin at 7:33 and Chance Boucher’s goal off a breakaway with 15 seconds to play.
The Spartans’ goal came 16 seconds after Provencal lit the lamp and came off the stick of Iacobucci, who has scored 17 of his team’s 29 goals this season.
Despite taking just two shots in the opening period, the visitors came back to outshoot the Novans by a 29-22 count, with Iacobucci and Mancinelli taking the bulk of the shots and Beals, a freshman, turning in some big stops among his 26 saves.
The loss may have been a difficult one for the Novans, but they still have two big chances to break into the win column before the Division III season comes to a close on Saturday.
On Friday at 9 p.m., they will host Warwick Vets (1-11-1), a team they tied 2-2 on Jan. 4, back at Adelard, and on Saturday at 9:30, they will again take on the Spartans at Thayer Arena’s Warburton Rink.
“That was the goal today, to hopefully get a ‘W’ and potentially start a nice little three-game winning streak,” remarked Arruda. “I think if we work hard in practice these next two days, hopefully we can get some ‘W’s this weekend. We just have to keep working hard.”