CMB #10 Jamie Robbins on the rush as SMI goalie Jacob Selema squares up to the shot Photo: Jason Malo
Smithfield, RI - The Cumberland Clippers (0-0-0) hockey team visited the home of the Smithfield Sentinels (0-1-0) for an RIIL Division 1 contest at the Smithfield Municipal Ice Rink on Wednesday evening. Cumberland, coming off several dominant seasons in Division 2, has been moved up to Division 1 and had a tough task at hand facing a Smithfield program that has had time to acclimate to D1 hockey.
Both head coaches, Mark Andreozzi (CMB) and Robert Jackson (SMI), have their teams play a very physical brand of hockey, with both teams finishing their checks whenever possible. The match-up was reminiscent of a classic 90's battle between these schools when both were aligned in the Metropolitan B division and equally competitive.
Photo: Jason Malo
Early in the first period with the Sentinels on the attack, Chase Rinker put a shot on goal from above the circles and Cumberland goaltender, Savanah Joseph, directed the rebound just off to the left of the slot. Sentinels forward Cameron Kasbarian kept his feet moving while trailing the play, and beat the Cumberland defense to the puck, ripping a shot past Joseph and giving the Sentinels a 1-0 lead.
The Sentinels had their legs under them in the first period and used their speed to execute an aggressive forecheck, keeping Cumberland on the defensive for most of the period. It wasn't until Smithfield forward, Anthony Mercurio, was penalized for tripping with 4:55 to go that Cumberland found their own stride. The Clippers power play unit attacked ferociously, sending three forwards on the puck with the man advantage, and putting the Sentinels on their heels for the first time of the night. The Clippers managed to only get off 3 shots on the power play with Smithfield goalie Jacob Selema standing tall for the remainder of the first period.
Sentinels would add another goal with just over a minute to play when Senior Reed Clavet collected a centering feed from the half-wall off the stick of Nathaniel Goffe, and snapped the puck against the grain and past the blockerside of Savannah Joseph.
In the second period the checking intensified between the teams and both were penalized at times, resulting in some 4 on 4 play, with shortened special teams opportunities. Selema and Joseph both stifled their opponents power play chances and were the best penalty killers throughout the night. With 3:08 to play in the second period, Cumberland senior, Shea Bessette, put the puck on goal and Selema could not corralle the rebound. Clippers forward Sam Lopes quickly put the puck back on net with Selema scrambling on his knees and Lopes lit the lamp, pulling the Clippers within 1. Cumberland was buzzing, applying immense pressure in the Sentinels zone and Smithfield head coach Robert Jackson, sensing his team's distress, wisely used his time-out and the Cumberland rally was quelled for the time being.
The third period opened with some pretty tallies, starting with Sentinels Anthony Mercurio going bar down over the glove of Joseph. This was followed by Clippers sophomore, Jaime Robbins, matching the accomplishment by sniping Selema over the glove, pipe and in, to make the score 3 to 2. With 3:04 to play, Nathaniel Goffe put a seemingly routine shot on the Cumberland goal which eluded Savannah Joseph. The puck found the back of the net, beating Joseph clean just over the pad blockerside and the Sentinel lead was 4 to 2.
With just under a minute to play and Cumberland pressuring in the zone, Jaime Robbins collected a rebound off a shot from Sam Lopes, beating the outstretched pad of Selema, and the resilient Clippers were back to within 1 goal, 4 to 3.
After a Clippers time-out and a gain of possession, Cumberland pulled their goaltender and pressured Smithfield with the extra attacker. However, a great individual effort by Smithfield's Chris Disano in a battle for a loose puck in the slot, resulted in an empty net goal that Disano slid home from his knees, dashing the comeback hopes of the Clippers.
Photo: Jason Malo
Both Smithfield and Cumberland traded volleys of offense that tested their netminders and defensive corps alike. Smithfield barely outshot Cumberland, 36 to 35, and had trouble at times, establishing a net front presence. The Sentinels play their best hockey when they can crash the net, all while toeing that line between aggressive and malicious. Smithfield was only penalized twice in the game, with one being a bench minor for too many men. This will be a winning recipe for the Sentinels in 2021if they continue playing disciplined hockey.
Conversely, Cumberland needs to do a better job staying out of the box and not negating their power play opportunities with mental mistakes. Their power play displayed the ability to control zone time and wear down their oppositions defenders, and this will be pivotal for the Clippers to find success this season. With two of their goals coming from winning battles at the top of the crease, the Clippers were only one save away from overtime and possibly a different outcome. Cumberland played a good three zone game tonight and have established that their forwards should not be underestimated.
You can watch full game coverage here, presented by the SFNBRI broadcast team:
SMI- Jacob Selema SV% .914 32/35
CMB- Savannah Joseph SV% .886 31/35
CMB- Sam Lopes 1G 2A
CMB- Jamie Robbins 2 G
SMI- Chase Rinker 2 A
SMI- Nathaniel Goffe 1G