It was La Salle’s senior night at Smithfield rink, and the Rams sure did put on a show for their regular season finale, improving their winning streak to eight. It was evident La Salle was also seeking revenge for the 3-2 loss they suffered to Prout earlier in the season. The Prout Crusaders on the other hand, were looking to spoil the Rams’ senior night, and were trying to break their recent losing streak. Prout’s most recent loss came against the reigning State Champion Bishop Hendricken Hawks, and turning the page right to La Salle was certainly a tall task for the Crusaders. Prout Head Coach John Gaffney spoke on the challenge of facing two of the top schools in the state back-to-back.
“It’s not easy, they’re good primers for us getting ready for the playoffs. There’s going to be a lot of energy in the building, they have their senior night, so we’re going to have to weather the storm in the first five to eight minutes of the game, try to keep pucks out of our zone. They’re going to come at us hard, after the last time we played them, I’d imagine they have this one circled on their calendar,” said Gaffney
The Crusaders did in fact weather the storm of the Rams in the first period, holding them scoreless and consistently lurking in the offensive zone. There was a lot of back and forth in the first period, but there were ultimately no goals that came from either side. The second period was a different story, with Prout silencing the large La Salle crowd with a goal from junior forward Mark Belcher about five minutes into the period. Seconds later, it appeared that Prout had scored another goal, but it was ultimately ruled no goal by the officials, which was a huge break for the Rams.
The rest of the second period would be a defensive slug, with La Salle’s Caleb Jawharjian and Prout’s Angelo Evangelista earning their keep, while both defenses stood tall, cleaning up second and third chances as well as blocking shots. Due to the lack of offensive success on both sides, tensions started to rise, and tempers started to flare, with players exchanging words and shoves on the ice. The second period would end with the score being 1-0, Prout.
The third period was an eventful one, with the Rams cracking the code and having an offensive explosion. The Rams got a power play and cashed in, with a score less than three minutes in by senior defenseman and captain, Mark Frateschi, who was assisted by sophomore defenseman Marcello Martinelli. Less than a minute later, senior defenseman Jordan McIntyre would put the Rams up over the Crusaders 2-1, he had some help from fellow senior Vincent Healey and sophomore defenseman Devin Morra. Before the game, La Salle Head Coach Shawn Tingley spoke on the team’s recent offensive success that has aided them in their then seven-game winning streak.
“I think it’s just been sticking to the process, it has taken a little while for this team to come together and we’re starting to see that offensive production, guys like Seamus Murphy, Andrew Bradley, and Vinny Healey [have been key contributors]. There were many games during the year where we were getting 55, 56 shots and only scoring one goal, so over the last seven games it’s just been the guys being able to find the back of the net. They’ve been a little more hungry, guys going to the dirty areas, front of the net. The team is really coming together, starting to really play for each other,” said Tingley
About midway through the period, there would be yet another Rams goal, with about four minutes separating it from the last one. The goal came off the stick of Frateschi once again, with him snapping it up into the back of the net and collecting his second goal of his senior night. Frateschi was assisted by juniors Cam Tasca and Andrew Bradley. The Rams would continue to smother Prout defensively, impressively shutting down the Crusader’s shining star Aidan Forcier, who has scored over 20 goals on the season and has earned glowing remarks from his head coach.
“He’s a threat every time he’s on the ice, I think he has about 20 goals, between league and non-league. He’s just a going threat, a big guy on the powerplay for us obviously, and gets some big minutes, he’s critical for us moving forward,” said Gaffney
On the other side, Coach Tingley commented on Forcier and Prout’s team as a whole.
“Forcier is a great player, they’re well-coached, they have a great team, Coach Gaffney is doing a great job building that program, they beat us earlier in the year. We’re not going to hone in on one guy, we think that they have a very strong team, they’ve proved it this year, so we’re looking forward to the opportunity to get that one back from earlier in the year. Obviously Forcier is their standout guy, but I think they have good depth upfront and in net, and their goalie played well against us last time, so we’re going to focus on our game, we’re going to work on our forechecks, get pucks to the net, and be relentless in the d-zone. We just have to do the little things right, play the La Salle brand of hockey,” said Tingley.
The Rams continued to play their brand of hockey to close out the game, with yet another goal, with 4:39 on the clock, this time by junior Seamus Murphy, who was assisted by senior Blake Santos and Frateschi. Less than three minutes later, the Rams would get the cherry on top, in the form of a goal by Bradley, credit for the assists would go to Tasca and senior Frankie Simonelli. La Salle would go on to win 5-1, evening their series with Prout, and ending the regular season in the win column.
With the win over Prout, La Salle finishes their regular season with an overall record of 17-5-2 and a league record of 13-2-1, putting them among the top teams in the state entering the playoffs. The Rams had a somewhat rocky start to the season with some wins and losses, but as Coach Tingley stated previously, this team has started to come together, and at exactly the right time. The depth and talent of this team is showing itself in the late goings, making them a clear threat in the playoffs.
As for Prout, they end their regular season on a tough stretch, facing some very challenging teams and losing five games in a row, but they still have more hockey left to play. Prout will face Cumberland in the playoffs, who they are familiar with, playing them earlier this month. With the regular season in the books, playoffs are on the horizon, and there will be many exciting matchups to come.
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