CRANSTON --- East Providence got the large ice surface it wanted as the host of the first game of its Division III best-of-three semifinal-round series with Tolman on Friday night.
The Townies got a bit of momentum from their ‘Senior Night’ festivities that took place prior to the opener, and they also got to dress a full complement of players (20), while the Tigers were only able to suit up a dozen.
But in the end, Tolman got the only thing that mattered the most – a hard-fought triumph over the league’s defending champions.
Jared Pedro and Brandon Speight scored goals within 35 seconds apart from each other in the third period to snap a 1-1 draw and help the Tigers secure a 3-1 triumph at Cranston Vets Rink that moved them one win away from finishing their program’s existence in the championship series.
The third-seeded Tigers (14-3-1), who are playing in their final season, will seek a series sweep tonight at 6:30 p.m. in the friendly confines of Lynch Arena, but should the No. 2 seeded Townies (13-3-1) manage to even the series, a third and deciding showdown will
be held on Monday night at a time and rink to be announced.
The Townies, who hold their midweek workouts in Cranston, but were playing their first home game of the season there, came into the series with a 1-8-1 record over the Tigers in their last 10 meetings, including last year’s sweep of Tolman in the semifinals.
But all that was ancient history to the Tigers, who ended up getting a pair of goals from Pedro, his 27th and 28th of the season, a nice 24-save performance from goaltender Jared DaSilva, and superb play from their senior tri-captains and defensemen, Chris Baldwin, Kevin Tracey, and Ryan Pedro.
The Tigers drew first blood 4:51 into the game on an unassisted goal by Jared Pedro that came on a wrist shot that sailed over the right shoulder of E.P. goalie Marc LaValley (26 saves).
The score stayed that way until the Townies struck with 4:52 left in the second period on an unassisted goal by Kyle Marquis that also came on a wrist shot in the slot that he fired over a Tolman player, past DaSilva, and into the top right corner of the net.
But Tolman came out strong in the final period and reclaimed the lead for good 4:32 into the period on a power-play goal by Pedro that was assisted by Tracey and was a carbon-copy score of his first tally.
The Tigers kept their foot on the gas, and at 5:07, Speight scored their insurance goal by taking a pass from Baldwin and zipping a long shot through traffic and past a screened LaValley. That goal was Speight’s 19th of the season.