Unbeaten Clippers skate into D-II finals

Unbeaten Clippers skate into D-II finals

Cumberland sophomore goaltender Jack Byrne, shown in action during last Friday night’s semifinal-round opener at Adelard Arena, stopped 38 of the 40 shots he faced last weekend to help the unbeaten Clippers sweep its best-of-three semifinal-round series with Cranston West and head to this weekend’s Division II championship series at Brown University. (Breeze photos by Eric Benevides)
Semifinal-round sweep of Cranston West sets up best-of-three championship series 
vs. PSW co-op hockey squad at Brown

CUMBERLAND – To longtime Cumberland High hockey fans, this winter has certainly felt a lot like the Clippers’ glorious 2013-14 season.

That was the season the Clippers rolled through their Division II schedule with an undefeated record and capped their winter by capturing their first title in eight years by sweeping the Providence Country Day/St. Raphael Academy/Wheeler co-op team in their best-of-three championship series.

Last weekend, the undefeated Clippers took a step closer to duplicating the magic of that historic season by sweeping its best-of-three D-II semifinal-round series with 4th-seeded Cranston West, claiming the opener by a 4-2 score last Friday at Adelard Arena and finishing off the Falcons the following night, 2-0, at Cranston Vets Arena.

That sweep will send the Clippers into their fourth title series in the last six seasons – they lost to Burrillville in the non-state Division I finals in 2015 and 2016 – and like they did in the 2013-14 title series, they will face off against the 3rd-seeded PSW co-op squad at Brown University’s Meehan Auditorium.

The opening game of their series is Friday at 8 p.m., with the second game scheduled for the following night at the same time. If a third and deciding game is needed, it will take place on Monday night at a time to be announced.

The Clippers will head into this weekend with a 20-0 record, with nine of those victories coming by one or two goals. The PSW co-op team, which is 16-4, was one of the teams who took the Clippers the distance during the regular season, only to suffer a 3-2 loss in overtime that saw Jordan Cullion cap a hat trick with the game-winner 2:20 into the extra session.

The co-op team, which has won its last eight games, reached the finals by sweeping 2nd-seeded Ponaganset in their semifinal-round series by scores of 6-2 and 6-3. That was only the fourth and fifth times this season that PSW had scored as many as six goals in a game.

In the opening game of their semifinal-round series with the Falcons, the Clippers got off to a slow start and trailed by a 2-0 score 9½ minutes into the game. But with 3:04 to play in the first period, Dom Rousseau cut the Clippers’ deficit in half by scoring off a pass from Stephen Ciolino, and with 2:49 left in the second, Jackson Shevilin knotted the score with a power-play goal, with John Mello and Cullion assisting on the score.

The go-ahead goal came off Ciolino’s stick off a pass from Rousseau 4:34 into the final period, and Shevlin took away some of the contest’s drama with 3:48 to play in the game by netting a shorthanded goal off a pass from Aidan Clarey that was his 20th goal of the season.

The following night’s clincher saw the Clippers receive second-period goals from Keith Sisson and Ciolino and an excellent performance by their defense. Goalie Jack Byrne, who turned away 38 of the 40 shots he faced in the series, only needed to make 17 saves for his seventh shutout of the season.

Cumberland junior Keith Sisson, right, steals the puck from Cranston West sophomore Andrew Martin at the start of the second period.
Cumberland junior defenseman Dom Rousseau, #6, lands on his back, and receives congratulations from teammate Stephen Ciolino, #22, after scoring a goal in the first period of last Friday night’s series opener against Cranston West. Down by a 2-0 score, the Clippers scored four straight goals to win the game.