The Smithfield Ice Rink was host to an RIIL Division 1 match-up between the visiting Cumberland Clippers (0-2-0) and the La Salle Rams (0-1-0) on Saturday night. Both teams were trying to recover from losses in their previous games on Friday night, in which Cumberland was defeated by East Greenwich 3 to 2, and La Salle was beaten by Burrillville 2 to 1. With the compressed nature of the 2021 schedule, Cumberland was playing their third game in four nights, having also lost to Smithfield, 5 to 3, in a Wednesday night contest at the Smithfield Municipal Ice Rink.
Cumberland started off the game flying, initiating body contact and controlling the tempo. Just over three minutes into the first, Cumberland threw the puck to the front of the net and La Salle goaltender, Maxwell Cute, kicked the rebound to the corner. Clippers forward Jamie Robbins collected the puck and put a shot back into the crowd of players on top of Cute's crease. The puck pinballed around the mass of players in front of the net, eventually landing on the tape of Cumberland forward Troy Senn, who ripped the shot past Cute for the 1-0 Cumberland lead.
Lasalle would find their rhythm with their physical play, executing a heavy forecheck and finishing their hits. Five minutes left to play in the first, the Rams were on the attack and controlling in the zone, when Cumberland goalie Savannah Joseph was tested with three point blank scoring chances in a row, stopping all three and falling back onto the puck to get the stoppage of play. However, off the ensuing face-off, the Rams gained possession down low and La Salle center Joshua Hogue passed the puck out to James McCue-Louvet just below the slot, who snapped the shot off quickly short side, glancing off Joseph's glove, and sneaking in the back of the net, tying the game at 1.
The second period continued the heavy physical play, with both teams being penalized multiple times, including a pair of cross checks, and an interference call, resulting in some shortened special teams opportunities and 1:14 of 4 on 4 play. With La Salle short handed, forward Dylan Johnson did an excellent job low along the boards in the Cumberland zone to kill a large chunk of his team's penalty, fighting off multiple Cumberland players and drawing a raucous cheer from his bench. Both goalies were excellent at controlling rebounds throughout the night, but particularly in the second, limiting second chance opportunities, and steering the puck towards low danger areas. With 5:38 to play, La Salle defenseman Paul Boghosian fired the puck onto the cage from the boards, just inside the blueline. The shot hit the top edge of Joseph's right pad, elevating into the cage, giving the Rams a 2-1 lead.
The third period was more of a grinding match, with lots of neutral zone play and defensive posturing. La Salle worked hard to get the puck deep behind the Clippers goal line and slowly wound the clock down. Cumberland was playing with a sense of urgency, outshooting the Rams for the first time in the third and testing goaltender Maxwell Cute with 11 quality shots. Cute was able to play aggressive with the help of his defense, allowing him to cut down the angle, and gobble up shots, leaving little if any rebounds for Cumberland to pounce on. Just under five to play in the third, Cumberland forward Kole Sisson walked out of the right circle and wristed a shot hallway up the iron, short-side on Cute, which squirted out behind the goalie and into the far corner, ending the scoring threat.
In the final minutes of play, Cumberland had the goalie pulled and were on the attack in the Ram's zone, when La Salle forward McCue-Louvet gathered the puck and moved to start the breakout, when Clippers defenseman Shea Bessette, stepped up to make the hit. McCue-Louvet attempted to sidestep the check and Bessette's leg made contact, causing McCue-Louvet to fall to the ice and Bessette to be assessed a two minute minor for tripping.
With the face-off in the Cumberland defensive zone and Joseph back in to protect her cage, Rams center Joshua Hogue won the draw clean back to James McCue-Louvet standing at the top of the circle. McCue-Louvet dropped the pass to defenseman Marc Frateschi who launched the puck on net, allowing Benjamin Riccitelli to deflect the shot, beating a screened Joseph gloveside, and ending the Clippers comeback chances.
La Salle perhaps underestimated the Clippers to open the game, but after the Cumberland goal, settled into their game plan and controlled most of the play throughout the remainder of the contest. The Ram's "defense first" mantra in the third period, really did a fantastic job of keeping the Cumberland attack out of the high probability areas, while keeping most of the shots to the outside. Maxwell Cute of the Rams was sharp, stopping 27 of 28 shots and standing tall during the surges of Cumberland offense.
Cumberland came out of the gate flying, but soon had their schedule catch up to them. Having played three out of four nights, the Clippers legs just didn't have that extra step needed to turn the defense of the Rams. Despite having 28 shots on Cute, many of the chances lacked traffic in front and allowed the Ram's goaltender to track the puck well.
On the other side, Savannah Joseph stopped 32 of 35 and made many good glove saves, which appears to be her strongest attribute. The junior goaltender has kept her team in games with many solid saves, However, Joseph needs to find a way to keep her focus and not give up goals that she should be stopping. If the Cumberland defenders can find a way to shut the back door, it could be what Savannah Joseph needs to feel more confident in being aggressive on her angles and utilizing her speed to get back to the posts.
You can watch the game in it's entirety here, presented by the SFBNRI broadcast team.
Maxwell Cute 27/28 .964 SV%
Savannah Joseph 32/35 .914 SV%
LSA Joshua Hogue 2A; 2PIM
LSA James McCue-Louvet 1G; 1A
CMB Jake McMillen 4 PIM
CMB Shea Bessette 4 PIM