PAWTUCKET --- Tolman High dearly needed this victory.
Junior Kody Casavant and freshman Jared Pedro each scored a pair of goals and the Tigers’ defense turned in a solid showing over the final two periods to help nail down a 5-3 triumph over West Warwick High on Friday night in their hard-hitting Division III meeting at Lynch Arena.
Tolman, which is now 4-3 and in fourth place in the nine-team division, was coming off ugly back-to-back defeats to Cranston East and Mount Hope that saw the Tigers play both games shorthanded and allow a total of 14 goals.
But the Tigers bounced back in a huge way with their win over the Wizards, who also entered the weekend with a 3-3 mark and had already suffered a 4-2 loss to Tolman back on Dec. 3 in West Warwick.
“We had a playoff mentality coming into this game,” admitted Tolman coach Steve Reynolds. “This win was huge. We were both 3-3 and (West Warwick) had a big win last weekend over East Providence, so it was definitely nice to take two from them.”
Reynolds was also happy to get some injured players back in action, such as sophomore defensemen Chris Baldwin and Matt Mooney. The Tigers were missing five players and had just 10 skaters in their 8-4 loss to Mount Hope last Saturday night.
“We were healthy tonight and I think it showed,” offered Reynolds. “It was nice to get Chris and Matt back, but unfortunately, Matt went down again tonight. But Chris is one of our better defensemen, if not, our best -- a good two-way defenseman.”
While the Tigers got a lift from the return of those two players, they also got a strong game offensively from their first line of senior captain Patrick Gray, Casavant, and Pedro.
Casavant, who also assisted on both of Pedro’s goals, produced his 12th and 13th goals of the year to move into second place for the division lead behind Mount Hope’s Gian DiMezza (17), and Gray was also good for two assists.
“That’s our line,” said Reynolds. “That’s no secret. They get up, they move the puck well, and they put it in the net. And our second line is starting to come around, forecheck, and balance it out a little bit. We’re throwing two good lines out there, and hopefully, a few injuries will heal up and we’ll be running three soon.”
The Wizards wasted very little time getting on the board, for just 63 seconds into play, Antonio Rei scored his team-high sixth goal of the season. But the Tigers quickly knotted the score 2½ minutes later when Pedro flipped home a rebound in front of the Wizards’ net.
The Wizards then seized a 3-1 lead on an unassisted, shorthanded goal from John O’Brien at 6:52 of the first period, and after Steve Courtemanche gave the hosts a scare by hitting a post in the final seconds of the period, he came back to net the next goal 55 seconds into the second period.
But their joy was shortlived, because just nine seconds later, Casavant sliced the Tigers’ deficit in half with an unassisted goal.
Tolman eventually tied and took the lead when Pedro and Casavant scored their next goals within 14 seconds of each other with less than three minutes to play in the period.
Pedro notched his goal on a nice pass from behind the net by Casavant, and Casavant gave the Tigers the lead by pouncing on a rebound in front of West Warwick goalie Kayvon Shakoori and flipping it over him.
The Wizards’ best chance to tie the game came with 2:45 to play in the game when O’Brien squirmed loose on a breakaway, but Tolman goalie Stephane Meunier (who ended the night with 17 saves) denied him with a stick save.
The hosts quickly worked the puck back down the ice, and with 2:31 on the clock, sophomore Ryan Deighan scored his first goal of the year off a pass from Brandon Speight.
West Warwick 2 - 1 - 0 -- 3
Tolman 1 - 3 - 1 -- 5
First period: WW -- Antonio Rei (Troy Sankey, Steve Courtemanche), 1:03; T -- Jared Pedro (Kody Casavant, Pat Gray), 3:40; WW -- John O’Brien (unassisted), shorthanded, 6:52. Penalties: WW, 2-3; T, 1-1:30.
Second period: WW -- Steve Courtemanche (John O’Brien), :55; T -- Kody Casavant (unassisted), 1:04; T -- Jared Pedro (Kody Casavant), 9:18; T -- Kody Casavant (Jared Pedro, Pat Gray), 9:32. Penalties: WW, 3-4.5; T 1-1.5.
Third period: T -- Ryan Deighan (Brandon Speight), 9:29.
Shots on goal: West Warwick 9-5-6--20, Tolman 5-10-6--21. Goalie saves: WW -- Kayvon Shakoori (16 saves); T -- Stephane Meunier (17 saves).