PROVIDENCE — In three previous Division II-DeCosta meetings this winter, the Lincoln/Cumberland Co-op squad had surrendered 13 goals while notching just four of its own against the defending state D-II champions Barrington/Mount Hope/Portsmouth girls.
In those tilts, the Lions suffered defeats of 6-1 on Dec. 15, 3-2 on Feb. 16 and 4-1 nine days later.
Veteran Lincoln/Cumberland mentor Dick Ernst had stated after his team had snared a berth in the R.I. Division II Tournament championship finals Saturday night – courtesy of a two-game sweep of Narragansett/North Kingstown/South Kingstown Co-op – that he believed his kids were ready to provide the top-seeded Eagles with a sincere and serious battle for the crown.
In Game 1 on Wednesday night, he was “right on.”
The Lions took the East Bay club into double-overtime, but freshman defenseman Allie Kelsey drilled home the game-winning tally with 5:58 remaining in the session to secure an entertaining 6-5 victory before a sparse but vociferous crowd at Brown University's Meehan Auditorium.
With the decision, the third-ranked Lions (9-11 overall) now will face elimination in the second contest of this-best-of-three set, and it's slated for 6:15 tonight back at Meehan. Still, Ernst has other ideas.
“Naturally, the kids were disappointed, but I told them (afterward), 'Girls, the state championship is two out of three. It's not over yet,'” he indicated. “They lost as tough a game as there ever was, but my responsibility is to bring them back to fire-pitch fever as soon as possible, and I'm going to do just that.
“I will say this: We put some fear into them, for sure,” he added, “and we're not going to back down.”
Just 2:42 into the second overtime, like the first a period that lasted 7:30, sophomore Leah Hoder found Kelsey inside the left portion of the blue line, and she knocked a wrister at senior goalie Ashley Devolve. It seemed as if she had made the initial save, but it slipped past her and inside the left post for the clincher.
All told, Devolve managed a whopping 45 saves in the defeat, while Barrington junior netminder Sophie Faxon collected 30, helping her squad improve to 17-4-1 overall.
In the scoring department, freshmen Marissa Isabella, Cassidy Simanski and Kathryn Cunningham all finished with a goal and an assist, while sophomore Marissa Mancini closed with three feeds and senior captain Jean Bray and sophomore Cassidy DiPaola a tally each.
For the East Bay contingent, they had a variety of point scorers as well, with Kelly Kraunelis leading the way with two goals and an assist. The good news for the Lions: Sophomore forward Meghan Miller, Rhode Island's leading female scorer, tallied just once
Lincoln/Cumberland actually had taken a 5-4 lead into the third period, and did so in stunning fashion. With 3:04 remaining in the middle stanza, sophomore Kelly Kraunelis had driven in a wrist shot from inside the left circle to break a 3-3 deadlock and give the Eagles a 4-3 cushion. At the 1:56 mark, Ernst's crew took advantage of Simanski's goal to knot it again.
On the tally, Isabella issued a remarkable pass to Simanski, who knocked a backhand under Faxon. And, just 1:46 later – and with 9.5 ticks remaining in the period – Bray scored on a breakaway. She hustled in toward the cage, dribbled twice and dribbled a backhander through Faxon for the 5-4 cushion.
In the third, it was Kraunelis who lifted a rebound over a sprawled Devolve, courtesy of a pass from Hoder, to tie it back up at 5-5.
As for the first OT session (lasting 7:30), it seemed as if the Eagles would snatch the win one minute in, when Miller ripped a wrister at Devolve, who made the initial save. The hovering Hoder skated in and tried to shovel it past the keeper; Devolve, however, made a collapsing save at the ice surface.
With 3:13 left, DiPaola whacked a wicked slap shot from the top of the right circle at Faxon, but she, too, made a solid stick save.
There were only 21.7 seconds left in the period when Miller delivered a wrist shot from just inside the left circle, though Devolve stood tall, knocking away the “five-hole” attempt.
Freshman Stephanie Galbriath had given Barrington/Mount Hope/Portsmouth a 1-0 advantage at 8:42 of the opening stanza, thanks to a feed from Hoder, but Lincoln/Cumberland knotted it when Isabella tucked a rebound under Faxon 58 seconds later.
The Eagles regained the lead after sophomore Danielle Makucevich rifled a high slapper from inside the blue line past Devolve, and they left the ice at the first intermission up 2-1.
It took 3:10 into the second for Miller to garner her lone goal, a wrist shot over the sprawled Lion. Ernst's crew, though, scored twice in the span of 19 seconds to tie it again. Cunningham drilled a wrist shot from inside the right circle, after feeds from junior Tayla Omar and Mancini, off of Faxon's right pad at the 10:21 mark.
Almost immediately, DiPaola punched another wrister from inside the right circle off of what appeared to be the keeper's shoulder.
“We were a little nervous at the outset, and our passing wasn't there, but the guts we showed when we were down 3-1, that was remarkable,” Ernst noted later. “The key was they got that shot off in double OT. What can you do?
“I have faith; we'll bounce back,” he added. “They've got a powerhouse team, and that's why they won the championship last year, but we were only one shot, one goal, away. I just have to say I'm very, very proud of our girls.”