WOONSOCKET â Last week, when Rhode Island Interscholastic League officials asked East Providence High head coach Kevin Croke where he wanted to play his home games in the Division III playoffs, he selected Adelard Arena, the home of Mount St. Charles Academy.
âWe donât practice at Lynch Arena (in Pawtucket), and we only had five games there this season,â Croke reasoned. âTolman practices there, so we figured, âWhy give them home ice (for all three semifinal tilts)? Thatâs why we wanted it up here.â
Croke certainly couldnât argue with the result of the first game of this best-of-three semifinal series on Friday night. The Townies outskated and outplayed the Tigers, received a hat trick from junior Paul Lukas and a two-goal effort from classmate Kevin Hall to cruise to a 6-0 triumph.
Senior forward Ryan Barry notched three assists, while senior defenseman Matt Hall recorded two.
Still, in the locker room after the contest, he told his crew that the goals scored Friday definitely donât transfer over to tonightâs Game 2 at Lynch Arena (8 oâclock), and that they needed to rest up and prepare.
âOur game plan was just to be nasty around the net,â Croke said after his squad improved to 15-5-1 on the winter. âWeâre a blue-collar, lunch pail-toting bunch, so if youâre going to stand in front of us, youâve got to be willing to have your heart ripped out. Thatâs just the way we play.â
Freshman netminder Marc LaValley closed with 38 saves, while Tolman senior Stephane Meunier mustered 34.
The Townies needed only 24 seconds for Lukas to post his initial goal; he ripped a wrister over Meunierâs right shoulder, courtesy of a feed from Matt Hall.
Just 6:01 after, Kevin Hall swung around the net and shoved the puck past Meunier, who seemingly was the victim of having the puck carom off one of his defensemen. Kyle Marquis assisted on that one.
With five minutes left, it seemed Tolman (12-5 overall) had scored when sophomore Jared Pedro skated in and poked a backhand at LaValley; the goalie, however, made a left pad kick save. Eighteen seconds later, he tried to stuff in another offering, but LaValley again made the save.
At the four-minute mark, the Tigers earned their first power play after officials whistled freshman Ryan Costa for boarding. With eight ticks left, senior tri-captain Ryan Pedro fired a shot from atop the right circle at LaValley, but he made a nifty glove save.
Only 58 seconds into the second, Pedro actually hit the left post on a slap shot from inside his blue line, but nothing came of it. Actually, the Tigers kept EP at bay â until, with 35 seconds left â Lukas flipped in a rebound for the 3-0 cushion.
On the play, Barry hit the post, and the puck bounced out to Lukas, who knocked it over Meunier.
The Townies previously had a power-play chance, that when Ryan Pedro received a penalty for a tripping infraction, but Tolman killed that with relative ease.
EP manufactured three in the third, breaking it wide open at 3:44 when Kevin Hall drilled in a wrister from inside the right circle and past Meunier. It added two more in a 17-second span; freshman Jared Estrella scored on a feed from senior tri-captain Keith Marquis at 7:33, and Lukas mustered his hat trick with assists from junior Troy Derrick and Barry.
âDuring the regular season, we lost to Tolman, 3-0, but we outplayed them and outshot them nearly 2-to-1,â Croke stated afterward. âWe just werenât that aggressive to the net. The second time, we beat them, 3-1, and I thought that was a much closer game than the first one.
âLike I told the kids, we canât transfer the goals over to (tonight),â he added. âWe need to continue to play aggressive. I know Tolman will come out tough, as itâs a physical team as well.â