PSW tops E.G., N.K., reaches .500 mark

PSW tops E.G., N.K., reaches .500 mark

St. Raphael Academy junior Patrick Coughlin, shown skating with the puck during a recent Division II game against East Greenwich, leads the PSW co-op hockey team in scoring with four goals and two assists. (Breeze photo by Kayla Panu)
Battling injuries, co-op hockey team improves D-II record to 3-3-1

SMITHFIELD – After a somewhat rough start to its Division II season, the Providence Country Day/St. Raphael Academy/Wheeler School co-op hockey team came back from its holiday break with a pair of crossover victories, defeating North Kingstown, 5-3, last Friday night at URI’s Boss Arena, and a weekend earlier, East Greenwich, 1-0, at Smithfield Municipal Rink.

Those two victories helped PSW, which contains 11 players from SRA, four from PCD, and nine from Wheeler, even its record at 3-3-1, which keeps the co-op squad a handful of points away from the top three teams in the II-North standings, Coventry (5-1-2), Toll Gate (6-2), and Ponaganset (5-1-1).

But the squad has been battling its share of injuries as of late. Wheeler junior center and co-captain Dennis Gastel, who was the team’s second-leading scorer last year, is out with a dislocated shoulder and may be out three more weeks, according to head coach Gary Leonard. PSW was also without one of its top freshmen, second-line forward Mike Barone, who went down with a broken wrist.

Leonard did get one of his injured players back for the game against N.K., forward Pat Fleming, a senior from SRA who was out with a bruised shoulder, and he scored three goals and added an assist to help guide PSW to its victory.

No thanks to the injuries, Leonard has had to shake things up, and not only has he used some of his younger players, but he’s also moved some players to new positions. D.J. Paul Demers, a senior from SRA, and Brendan Sullivan, a senior from PCD, are forwards, but Leonard has had to move them back to defense.

“We’re trying to find our identity with new players,” Leonard said after the game with E.G. “We have some really good freshmen, and our goaltender, (SRA senior co-captain) Justin Simmons, has been great so far. Once we get everybody back and play as a unit, we will be a very difficult team. We just have to come and really play competitive hockey every shift.”

Leonard has seven freshmen, including SRA forward Andrew Andella, who has seen regular time. The sophomore class also contain center Ben Kailher, who scored a goal in the win over N.K., and forward Bennett Hicks, who has been playing a regular shift on the top two lines. He also contributed three assists in the victory over the Skippers.

Two other SRA players, junior forward Pat Coughlin, a transfer student from La Salle Academy, and defenseman Dylan Malo, are also key contributors for PSW. Coughlin scored the goal (off an assist from Kailher) that lifted PSW past E.G., and against N.K., he produced his team-leading fourth goal of the season.

“Pat always drives to the net with his stick on the ice, and that’s why he’s been putting pucks in the net,” Leonard added. “He’s working hard and doing exactly what he is supposed to do.”

Leonard said that his team’s goal this season was to “keep plugging away” and make the playoffs for the fourth straight year. They also want to improve as a team and get better each night.

“There’s definitely a lot of room for improvement,” Leonard admitted. “I think we need to play a little bit more physical and work on hitting the net. If we can do that, then I think we’ll get better and better as the year goes on.”

During the team’s holiday break, PSW held its annual Hockey Scores for Hunger Tournament at Lynch Arena, which featured five teams and saw the Cranston co-op team capture the tournament title. More importantly, more than 600 pounds of food was collected during the three-day tournament and donated to the R.I. Community Food Bank. It’s something that Leonard said he “is very proud of” as a program.

PSW, which is currently on a five-game road trip, will travel to Portsmouth Abbey’s rink on Saturday for a 6 p.m. game against Portsmouth, which is also at the .500 mark at 3-3-2.