Boys Division 1 quarterfinal playoff action took place at the Smithfield Municipal Ice Rink, with the Smithfield Sentinels visiting the La Salle Rams on Tuesday evening. La Salle's goaltender Maxwell Cute and his Smithfield counterpart, Jacob Selema, were outstanding throughout the game, giving shooters little room for error in their shot placement. Right off the opening face-off, it was apparent that both teams would be taking a physical approach by finishing their hits wherever possible.
At 14:20 of the first period, Christopher Gannon was penalized for interference, putting the Sentinels on the man advantage. Smithfield would generate three shots on the power play, but failed to convert. However, the momentum swing was noticeable. Smithfield outshot Lasalle 5-1 in the first five minutes of play and looked to be in control of the tempo early.
(Smithfield's Connor Derderian executes a clean body check on La Salle's Dylan Johnson c/o LiveBarn.com)
It wasn't until Charles Dhosi was penalized for interference at 8:12 in the first period that the pendulum would swing back in La Salle's direction. The Rams were able to get their powerplay set-up in umbrella fashion, using their points and good lateral passing to open lanes. La Salle had excellent net front presence all game, causing problems for Sentinel defenders. During a positional battle, Connor Derderian was penalized for interference while protecting the front of his net, putting La Salle on a 2 man advantage for 42 seconds. With 5:16 to play and La Salle still on the man advantage from the Derderian penalty, Rams forward Joshua Hogue posted up at the top of the crease in front of Sentinels goalie Jacob Selema and battled for position.
Engaged with the Sentinel defenders, Hogue set a screen while fellow Ram, defenseman Marc Frateschi fired off a shot into the mass of players in front of the Sentinel crease. Hogue tipped the puck past Selema and the Rams appeared to have themselves a one goal lead, but, the referees never made an immediate goal call. After a brief discussion, the referees had determined that Hogue had interfered with Selema's ability to make a save by being in the crease, therefore, the goal was disallowed.
The Ram's remained on the power play and Christopher Gannon gained control after the face-off and began the rush. Weaving his way through the Smithfield defenders, Gannon worked his way into the left slot and fired a wristshot top corner over the right shoulder, blocker side, on Selema who was in the butterfly. The tally came just 8 seconds after the disallowed goal and put an exclamation point on a dominant stretch for La Salle. The Rams fired 7 shots on Selema during the extended powerplay and outshot the Sentinels 13 to 6 through one period of play.
The second period opened with more jousting for dominance as both teams continued to execute their physical brand of hockey. La Salle controlled the offensive pace, outshooting the Sentinels for a second straight period, by a count of 13 to 8. With 8:53 to play in the period, Christopher Gannon carried the puck to the front of the cage and tried to jam the puck past Selema who stood firmly planted in his butterfly. The rebound found the stick of Ram's forward James McCue-Louvet who was able to chip the puck between the post and the hip of Selema, extending the La Salle lead to 2-0.
The Sentinels were facing the end of their season, with only 15 minutes remaining to try and solve goaltender Maxwell Cute, who had turned away all 14 Sentinel shots up to that point in the game. The Smithfield attack intensified and started to generate quality scoring opportunities, testing Cute and the La Salle defenders. With 8:31 remaining in the third, La Salle's Andrew Bradley was called for slashing and made his way to the penalty box. Sentinels head coach Robert Jackson used his his time-out, taking the opportunity to go over his gameplan. The Sentinels, however, were unable to convert on the opportunity and generated only 2 shots while on the man advantage.
Costly time was ticking off the clock as La Salle used its speed to get pucks deep into the Sentinels zone and apply pressure on Smithfield's breakout. With 3:55 to play, La Salle's Christopher Gannon was penalized for tripping, and the Sentinels were given another opportunity to sneak one past Maxwell Cute on the power play. The Sentinels had previously used their time-out and had little time to go over their assignments. La Salle siezed this opportunity to display one of its strengths of the season, their penalty kill. Dylan Johnson of the Rams once again ragged time off the clock with hardwork along the boards, and in conjunction with his fellow penalty killers, was able to stifle the Sentinels attack and hold them without a shot through the man advantage.
Smithfield pulled their goalie in a last attempt to save their season and was rewarded with 40.9 seconds remaining, by beating Cute on a shot by Charles Dhosi, assisted off the stick of Cameron Kasbarian. Dhosi gathered the pass from Kasbarian in the top of the slot and ripped a wristshot that sailed past the glove of Cute, while Jack Morel set the screen in front, making the score 2 to 1.
Unfortunately for the Sentinels, it took them just over 44 minutes to solve Maxwell Cute and they simply ran out of time. La Salle's special teams proved to be the difference in this game, backboned by the consistently reliable goaltending of Cute. The Rams were 1 for 2 on the powerplay and produced 10 shots with the man advantage.
Jacob Selema of the Sentinels played extremely well, turning aside 33 of 35 shots while suffering the loss. The Sentinels offense struggled at times to generate traffic in front of Cute and couldn't force the La Salle goalie to misplace his rebounds to create second chance opportunities. The Sentinels powerplay unit went 0 for 3 and mustered only 5 shots during their time with the man advantage.
Next up for La Salle will be a best of three match-up against the Mount St Charles Mounties. The Rams and Mounties played a regular season game on February 20, in which the Mounties blanked the Rams 2-0, which included an empty net goal. Mount St Charles goalie Jason Mandeville was credited with a 28 save shutout, and the game winner was awarded to Eddie Mulligan assisted by Micaiah Bascombe on the powerplay at 6:47 of the first. The Mounties offense managed to get the one and only goal past Maxwell Cute on 29 shots. Game 1 of the Semi Finals will be Friday night at Adelard Arena, with game 2 Saturday night at the Smithfield Municipal Ice Rink. Game 3, if needed, would be at Adelard and is still yet TBD.
LSA Christopher Gannon 1G 1A 2PIM
LSA Maxwell Cute 22/23 .957 SV%
SMI Jacob Selema 33/35 .943 SV%
SMI 4 penalties for 8 mins; 0/3 on PP
LSA 4 penalties for 8 mins; 1/2 on PP