WOONSOCKET —The contributions from Mount’s second and third lines were key in helping the top-seeded Mounties overcome a two-goal first-period deficit in Game 1 of the state semifinals Friday night against No. 4 La Salle.
But when the Mounties earned a power play early in the first overtime session, coach Matt Merten knew exactly who he wanted on the ice with a chance to move within a game of the state final.
“You have to go to your best line and every team would do the same thing,” Merten said. “They came through.”
The trio of Micaiah Bascombe, Matt Mahoney and Cee-Jay Laquerre carried the Mounties all season and they came through again in the biggest moment of the campaign. Senior defenseman Eddie Mulligan put a shot on net that La Salle goalie Maxwell Cute blocked, but no Ram picked up Bascombe in front of the net.
The hat-trick hero from the quarterfinal round flicked the puck into the net to give the Mounties their only lead of the night in a 3-2 overtime victory at a loud Adelard Arena.
“Puck came out loose and we we’re talking all game about how we needed to get to the net because there were rebounds getting out,” Bascombe said. “We just wanted to crash the net and use our body. On that play, I just got the puck, turned and shot and it went in. Going forward, we need to get our heads ready earlier and play a full three periods.”
Mount St. Charles (10-0-1) can secure a spot in its second straight state final with a victory over the talented Rams Saturday night in Game 2 of the series at Smithfield Municipal Rink. The Rams are hoping to force a Game 3 back at Adelard Arena Monday night.
La Salle (6-4-1) has a habit of playing overtime playoff games at Adelard Arena. Two seasons ago, the Rams ended the historic coaching careers of Bill and Dave Belisle when Sean Helfrich scored in the same goal as Bascombe in double overtime to send the Rams to the 2019 state final.
The first period of Friday night’s game looked a lot like most of the Rams’ games last season where their ferocious forecheck and skilled forwards caused all sorts of problems for a Mount team that had only faced one two-goal deficit all season. It took the visitors just 2:44 of the opening period to grab the lead when leading-scorer James McCue-Louvet put a shot past Jason Mandeville after good forechecking by forwards Matt Walsh and Chris Gannon.
La Salle continued to skate hard and that led to a second goal at 5:44 when junior forward Michael Brouillard picked a spot over Mandeville’s glove hand and scored from the right circle. Mount managed to avoid any further damage in the period thanks to 11 saves from Mandeville.
“After the first period we just knew we had to wake up,” Mahoney said. “We kind of pooped the bed in that period and we knew we had a lot more in the tank, but we had to work. When that happens we just seem to manage to overcome it.”
The Mounties received a lifeline from an unexpected source just 3:34 into the second period. Laquerre – not an unexpected source – attacked the net and forced Cute to save a puck into the path of third-line forward Kyle Smolan. The sophomore winger calmly deposited the puck into the vacated net for his first goal of the season to make it a 2-1 game.
“We knew we needed to stay positive and we had to stay up and next bring each other down,” Bascombe said. “We just took it to them and that goal from [Smolan] made it a whole new game and gave us a whole new perspective.”
La Salle was the architect of its only misfortune just 42 seconds later because the Rams made an ill-advised line change when Mulligan had the puck near his own blue line. The senior made a tape-to-tape pass to Laquerre, who broke into the Rams zone on a two-on-zero with Mahoney. The senior winger made the unselfish centering pass to Mahoney for the junior to flip past Cute to tie the game.
Mount controlled the rest of the period, but neither side could find a goal. Both teams had power-play chances in the third period, but the best scoring chances came shorthanded. First, Mahoney had a breakaway saved by Cute and then La Salle senior forward Josh Hogue had a point-blank one-timer gobbled up by Mandeville.
Mount earned its second power-play opportunity to just 70 seconds into overtime when Mahoney used his speed and skill to fly past freshman Andrew Bradley, who was forced to commit a penalty to stop an odd-man rush. The Mounties called a timeout to give their first line a rest and then they went to work.
“The approach on the last power play was simply to put everything on net and that’s what we did,” Mahoney said. “[Bascombe] buried it.”
The home side kept the puck in the zone for over 80 seconds before Mulligan’s tight-angle shot was saved by Cute, only for Bascombe to bury the rebound to lift the Mounties to their first playoff win over the Rams since winning the 2014 state title.
“We’re going to have to come ready to play in Game 2,” Merten said. “Their forecheck was tough in our barn, so I think we’re going to have a little more space in Smithfield because it’s a wider rink. We need to clean up our passing because it wasn’t crisp in the first period. That was the big difference as the game went on.”
Follow Branden Mello on Twitter @Branden_Mello
Mount St. Charles 3, La Salle 2, OT
La Salle 2 0 0 0 – 2
Mount St. Charles 0 2 0 1 – 3
First period – LSA, James McCue-Louvet (Matthew Walsh, Chris Gannon), 2:44: LSA, Michael Broulliard (Connor Huard, Connor Barrett), 8:26.
Second period – MSC, Kyle Smolan (Cee-Jay Laquerre), 3:44; MSC, Matt Mahoney (Laquerre, Eddie Mulligan), 4:16.
Third period – No scoring.
Overtime – MSC, Micaiah Bascombe (Mulligan), 3:10.
Saves – LSA, Maxwell Cute (28 saves); MSC, Jason Mandeville (29 saves).