Late goal lifts La Salle past Smithfield

Late goal lifts La Salle past Smithfield

Smithfield sophomore Tyler Varin, right, skates away from La Salle Academy’s John Cardi as he brings the puck down the ice during last Friday night’s game at Adelard Arena. Varin scored the first goal of the contest, but the first-place Rams ended up posting a 2-1 victory. (Breeze photo by Kayla Panu)
Hockey team disappoints in 2-1 defeat to Rams, slips into tie for fourth place

WOONSOCKET – Despite scoring the first goal of the game, the Smithfield High hockey team was stuck playing defense the rest of the way in last Friday night’s Division I showdown with La Salle Academy, as the first-place Rams, thanks to Nick DiMuccio’s go-ahead goal with 3:52 left in the game, took a 2-1 victory at Adelard Arena.

“We played terrible,” Smithfield head coach Rob Jackson said, whose team fell to 3-2. “We didn’t win any races to any pucks and we didn’t win any battles for any pucks. We played very hesitant. We created tons and tons of turnovers. We just didn’t play well at all.

“I’m not taking any credit away from La Salle. They are a very good team; they capitalized on us not playing well, and they dominated the play. They had it down in our end zone a lot more than we had it down in their end zone.”

The Rams improved to 6-1 and will head into this weekend’s action with a three-point lead over Mount Saint Charles, which raised its record to 4-2-1 by blanking the Cranston co-op squad, 6-0, last Saturday, and a four-point lead over Bishop Hendricken, which won a pair of games over the weekend and is now 4-2.

As for the Sentinels, which dipped into a tie for fourth place with Cumberland (2-2-1 with an OT loss), they had very few high points in last Friday’s physical, high-paced matchup. They took the lead on Tyler Varin’s goal with 1:48 to play in the first period, but had no time to enjoy it, as the Rams responded quickly and scored the equalizer a little more than a minute later.

The Sentinels could not match the Rams’ intensity or their shots on goal – La Salle unleashed 31 on junior goalie Hogan Nelson and Smithfield took just 11 – but Jackson highlighted the play of his netminder, as well as Joey Paiva and Chris Watt.

“Joey Paiva blocked some shots,” Jackson added. “Chris Watt blocked a shot. There was some of that, but there can’t be some of it -- it has to be all the time. And then on the other side, when we had possession of the puck, we threw it around like a hot potato. Every time we got it, we threw it away and passed it to La Salle countless times.”

As for Nelson, Jackson said that he’s a very good goaltender who is big, strong, and quick and plays his angles very well. He added that Nelson “played very well and that’s what they expect out of him.”

Nelson shined in the second period, but the Rams were tireless in the third and gave him a lot to handle. While he turned away a lot of shots, he couldn’t stop one that DiMuccio flipped over his left shoulder with less than four minutes to play.

Shortly after that goal, La Salle was called for a tripping penalty, but Smithfield spent half the power play passing the puck around and not taking a shot. Ryan Falls finally took a shot that was blocked, and Varin hit the post. After the penalty expired, Smithfield took Nelson out for another skater, but that was to no avail.

“In the last minute and a half, our intensity came up a little bit,” Jackson added. “But even then, it wasn’t hard enough. You have to play 45 minutes of high, intense, competitive hockey and if you don’t, you don’t get results.”

Jackson also said that his team did not play what his staff has taught it.

“It’s very simple what we teach – it’s hard work and moving the puck,” he noted. “And there was no hard work. To play hockey and be effective at it, you have to work as hard as you can every single shift.”

The previous Saturday night, the Sentinels continued their competitive non-league schedule by hosting Medfield (Mass.) High, and even though they suffered a 3-1 defeat, Jackson said that he was very proud of his team’s efforts, as “they played their tails off.”

The Sentinels played another non-league game on Monday night that ended up in a 3-1 loss, as they headed to Wesleyan University to take on Xavier High of Middletown, Conn.

Smithfield also played a makeup game against the Cranston co-op team on Wednesday night. The Sentinels’ next game is another non-leaguer, against Bishop Feehan High of Attleboro on Saturday, Jan. 20, at the Smithfield Municipal Rink.