CRANSTON — Burrillville may been on vacation from school this week, but that hasn’t prevented the Broncos from working overtime these past few days.
Two days after posting a thrilling OT victory on the road over Barrington, the Broncos picked up a point in the Division I-Eccleston standings on Wednesday afternoon by battling Cranston West to a 2-2 draw at the Cranston Vets Rink.
Tom Libby’s power-play goal with 6:43 to go in regulation and Kyle Wilkinson’s 37 saves in goal allowed the Broncos to bus home with the hard-fought draw and improve to 4-8-2 with four games left on their regular-season schedule.
The tie also assured the Broncos of winning their three-game series with the Falcons (1-9-3), but unlike their 3-3 tie on Jan. 4 with the Falcons, followed by a 5-1 triumph over them a week later, Burrillville coach Steve Daigle found some faults with his team after its latest effort.
“One of our biggest problems is keeping our intensity for three periods,” admitted Daigle. “We came out flat at the start of the game, and we picked it up a little bit towards the end of the first period, but in the second period, we came out flat again.
“We’re just not playing our style of hockey. It’s kind of a more individual style, (with) guys trying to do everything themselves. If we’re going to go anywhere in the playoffs, we’re going to have to start playing together and playing a tougher style of hockey, mentally and physically, and that’s going to make the difference if we’re going to be successful.”
Toughness was the name of the game in this contest, which was a physical one from start to finish and saw both sides total 40 minutes in penalties (22 by the Falcons), not including the four misconducts (two issued to each side) that were handed out with 18.6 seconds to play in overtime following a skirmish to the left of the Falcons’ net.
Both teams scored their first goals within 70 seconds apart from each other in the opening period. The Falcons struck first at 8:43 on a shorthanded goal by Chris Dodge, but the Broncos tied the contest on Dan Takita’s first career goal, which was set up by Chad Stone. The score remained knotted until Jonathan Alsfeld gave the Falcons a 2-1 lead with 1:12 left in the second period by tucking in the rebound of a shot by Dodge.
The Falcons outshot the Broncos in each period (including 15-6 in the second) en route to a 39-21 margin, but Wilkinson kept Burrillville in the game with his solid play. His finest stop of the afternoon came a minute and a half into the last period when he prevented Alsfeld from scoring a shorthanded goal on a partial breakaway.
Wilkinson also had 31 saves in the Broncos’ 3-2 triumph over Barrington on Monday at Portsmouth Abbey’s rink, a game that saw Stone score the game-winning goal with 27 seconds left in the five-minute overtime session and Drew Buxton and Mitch Lafond also light the lamp for the winners.
“I can’t say enough about Kyle,” added Daigle. “Hats off to him. This is his first year as a starter, and he’s come to the plate for us and kept us in most of our games. Without him playing like he has, I don’t think we’d be winning too many games. We’ve been impressed with his play, and we just hopes he keeps it up for the playoffs.”
Speaking of the Division I playoffs, which begins on Friday, March 8 with the best-of-three semifinals getting under way, it’s going to be awfully tough to pick a favorite. Only five points separate Smithfield (5-9) and the Broncos from the last-place Falcons in the standings, and of the 14 league games played among Barrington (3-11) and the Sentinels, Broncos, and Falcons, two were ties, five were decided by a goal, and five more were two-goal games.
“Any one of us can beat each other on any given night,” noted Daigle. “It should be a very good playoffs. We hope we can start building towards the playoffs, and we felt as though we took a step up on Monday against Barrington. We felt we played more of a playoff-style game, but today, I feel as though we took a step back again.
“We’re playing Smithfield on Friday night [at 9 p.m. at Smithfield] and that’s going to be a very good game. Hopefully we can take another step forward and not another one backwards.”