Mount takes ice with young team

Mount takes ice with young team

Mount Saint Charles junior Alex Gonfrade, left, avoids a check by Smithfield’s Joe Paiva as he brings the puck to the center of the ice during last Friday night’s Division I opener at Adelard Arena against Smithfield, which came away with a 5-3 victory. (Breeze photos by Kayla Panu)
Mounties bounce back from season-opening defeat with 2-0 triumph over La Salle

WOONSOCKET – After dropping its first Division I game of the year to Smithfield last Friday night at Adelard Arena, it was evident that the Mount St. Charles Academy boys’ varsity hockey team had plenty of work to do during its first month of the season.

But less than 24 hours later, the Mounties came back from their 5-3 loss to the Sentinels to pin a 2-0 defeat on La Salle Academy at Thayer Arena.

Not a bad start for a team that graduated eight players from last season's 10-6-1 team that reached the state semifinals, and among those losses were four big defensemen and three players who earned All-State honors.

On home ice last Friday, the Mounties showed their age against a team that got more confident as the game went on. They never led in the game, but they tied the score twice before Smithfield took the lead for good with two goals in the final minute of the second period.

“We learned that we make a lot of mistakes; it’s what young teams do,” MSC head coach David Belisle said. "(We had) just too many giveaways, and a lot of it had to do with Smithfield. I thought we came out in the first period and did some good things on the power play, but we had a disastrous second and they took it to us. They gained confidence and you could tell that the forechecking was harder, they felt a little more confident, and our kids started to back down and get a little nervous.”

Only three seniors dressed for last Friday's opener: defensemen Zachary Lavoie and Anthony Luciani and forward and team captain Brian Simpson, who despite being sick for most of the week, did his best to contribute to his team's cause.

“(Simpson) only came back two days ago from being in the hospital, so you could tell he didn’t play very well," said Belisle. "He was the first one to admit that he had nothing, and we need him."

Simpson played on the top line with juniors Bailey Thibeault, who tied the score at 1-1 with a power-play goal six minutes into the game, and Brendan Shandley, who netted Mount's other two goals. Thibeault was also a bit under the weather, and Shandley did not play in high school last year, opting to play junior hockey instead.

With sickness and a lack of varsity experience, Belisle is juggling up his lines, trying to find the best combinations, and he realizes that the biggest thing that goes into coaching a young, rebuilding team is patience.

“It’s one game at a time with a young team,” he said. “But I think we’ll get better. I hope we get better, but it’s going to take a while.”

The players vying for time on the second line include John Belisle, Bryan Testa, and Alexander Pratt, who are all sophomores. Pratt broke a scoreless tie in the win over La Salle with an unassisted goal 5:53 into the second period.

While the Mounties are trying to figure out their offense, their defense is also in rebuilding mode after the likes of defensemen Jack O’Donnell and Jack Boisvert graduated. They are rebuilding with three sophomores and one freshman and taking some forwards and putting them back there.

Belisle thinks that junior Alex Gonfrade will be their best defenseman, and another name highlighted by Belisle was sophomore Jacob Maddalena. Other defensemen include junior Matt Canavan and sophomores Everett Misto and Chris Baxter, and a freshman who was put in at the end of the Smithfield game, Brendan Donahue, will also begin to play more minutes, noted Belisle.

Against the Sentinels, the Mounties also used both their goaltenders, junior Ryan Forget, who started, and sophomore Michael Hauswirth, who replaced Forget in net. Both goalies teamed up to stop 14 of the 18 shots they faced, and the final goal scored by Smithfield was an empty-netter with 1:12 remaining in the game.

“I’m putting it out there for them,” Belisle said about his goaltenders. “I gave both of them a chance. We need good goaltending with such a young team. I don’t want to put pressure on those kids, but we have to play better defensively. It’s not like (Smithfield) had a ton of shots, but the shots that they did have were quality.”

It’s hard having to rebuild a team in any league, but particularly hard in the state's top division. Despite the long road ahead, Belisle expects to see his team get better and savor some success.

“It’s going to be a very competitive league,” Belisle said. “This won’t be our first loss. We’ll get some victories, but it’s going to be a tough league. I see us right in it; it’s just going to take a little longer, but I think we are going to be right in it in the end. I wouldn’t want to play us by the end of the year in the playoffs.”

In the victory over the Rams, Shandley gave the Mounties a 2-0 lead with 22 seconds left in the second period by scoring off a pass from Maddalena, and Hauswirth stopped 23 shots to earn the shutout.

The Mounties will be back at home this weekend for a pair of 9 p.m. matchups. On Friday, they will host Moses Brown, which is back in the Rhode Island Interscholastic League after a six-year absence, and on Saturday, they will face Burrillville, which was the only Division I team to post two victories last weekend, defeating the Prout School, 5-2, and Cumberland, 2-1.

Despite being sick for most of the week, Mount Saint Charles senior captain Brian Simpson took the ice for his team’s season opener against Smithfield last Friday night at Adelard Arena.
Mount Saint Charles junior Brendan Shandley scored three goals in his team’s first two games of the season, a 5-3 loss to Smithfield and the following night’s 2-0 win over La Salle Academy.