PAWTUCKET — Once the final horn had sounded, Lincoln/Cumberland Co-op head coach Dick Ernst spoke to his enthused pride of Lions in its second-floor locker room above the Lynch Arena ice on Saturday night before he strolled into the nearby press box.
There, he took a seat in a cushy leather chair and grinned, “That was something. That was something! Did you see that passing? Unbelievable!”
Ernst had been referring to his squad's 5-1 beatdown of the Narragansett/North Kingstown/South Kingstown in the second game of this best-of-three R.I. Division II Tournament semifinal set.
With it, his Lions secured not only a 2-0 series triumph against the Storm (following a 6-4 win in the opener at the University of Rhode Island's Boss Arena 24 hours before) but also a berth in the title series.
It will come against D-II/DeCosta regular-season champion Barrington/Mount Hope/Portsmouth on Wednesday evening at Brown University's Meehan Auditorium.
Really, how could he be disappointed? Freshman Cassidy Simanski (a CHS product) manufactured a hat trick and an assist; sophomore wing Cassidy DiPaola added a tally and four feeds; and senior captain Jean Bray chipped in a goal and two assists.
“The passing was it; it was sharp, it was pinpoint,” Ernst noted after his club improved to 9-10-0 overall. “I saw intelligence on the ice. That's what sets us apart from other teams. I mean, Simanski had a hat trick in the biggest game of her life … and (senior goalie) Ashley (Devolve) had a fantastic game (with 19 saves).”
Lincoln/Cumberland needed only 44 seconds into the contest to take a lead it would never relinquish. DiPaola drove a try at Storm junior keeper Emily Edwards, who made the initial save, but Simanski knocked a backhand under the pads, good for the 1-0 advantage.
Just 7:35 later, Bray skated along the right boards and delivered a pass toward the net; DiPaola immediately spun and poked the puck past Edwards for the 2-0 cushion.
It looked as if Narragansett/NK/SK would slice the deficit in half when freshman Tea Williams ripped a wrister at Devolve with 1:21 left in the initial period, but the keeper utilized her left pad to kick it away.
A mere 1:04 into the middle stanza, officials called sophomore defenseman Marissa Mancini for interference, but the Lions killed that penalty. After freshman Julia Hagopian had been whistled for a hook at 11:23, Ernst's crew took just 38 ticks to convert the power play.
Simanski netted her second when she drilled home a try through a scrum in front of Edwards at 4:15.
With 8:35 left, freshman Erica Edwards ripped a wide-open wrister at Devolve, but the latter made a superb left-pad save. The Lions quickly responded with their fourth, after Bray whacked a point-blank attempt over Edwards' blocker (with assists to Simanski and DiPaola) at the 7:53 mark.
See LINCOLN, page B2
Later in the period, the Storm preempted a pair of Lincoln/Cumberland power plays, the first on a slashing infraction by sophomore Brooke McGreen, the second on Hagopian's tripping call with 3:31 left.
That actually gave Ernst and Co. 13 ticks worth of a five-on-three situation, but neither woman-advantage came to fruition.
When junior defensewoman Lauren Hervieux was whistled for a cross-check with 1:59 remaining, the South County contingent delivered an unlucky 13 seconds after, courtesy of sophomore Nichole Carvalho's conversion of assists from classmates Caitlin McGuirl and Alexandra Lindo.
Narragansett/NK/SK received a fine chance to knife into the Lions' lead when refs called junior center Tayla Omar for interference only 2:17 into the final session, though the hosts killed that infraction. And, with junior Danielle DeAngelis already in the box, McGuirl sustained a penalty for interference at 8:32, giving Lincoln/Cumberland 53 ticks of yet one more five-on-three advantage.
Bray did rip a wrist shot from the mid-slot 21 seconds later, but Edwards answered with a magnificent glove save.
The Storm had two more stellar chances to cut into the deficit, but Devolve registered a phenomenal collapsing stop of Lindo's flip from the right circle at the 4:16 mark, then used her blocker to drive away Carvalho's try at 2:15.
Simanski notched her third when she slipped a breakaway backhand past Edwards, thanks to terrific passes from Hervieux and DiPaola, with 14.7 seconds remaining in regulation.
All told, Edwards finished with 23 saves, Devolve with 19. The South County bunch ended their campaign at 8-11-2 overall.
“The difference here was we only had three penalties, and they were called for six; that's 12 minutes,” Ernst noted after the contest. “Our players showed discipline throughout; for our kids to stay out of the box was a very significant factor in this win.”