Back on top

Back on top

The Cumberland High hockey team capped a superb 22-1 season by capturing the Division II championship on Monday night at Brown University’s Meehan Auditorium. The Clippers won the third and deciding game of their best-of-three series by a 1-0 score. (Breeze photos by Eric Benevides)
Cumberland holds off PSW co-op team to win first D-II hockey title in five seasons

PROVIDENCE – In less than 48 hours, the Cumberland High hockey team went from its lowest point of the season to championship glory.

Showing no effects from a shootout loss to the Providence Country Day/St. Raphael Academy/Wheeler School co-op team in the second game of their best-of-three Division II title series – a defeat that not only evened the series at a game apiece, but also tagged Cumberland with its first loss of the season – the Clippers turned in a strong defensive effort to win Monday night’s third and deciding game at Brown University’s Meehan Auditorium.

Junior defenseman Dom Rousseau’s goal off a deflection off a slap shot from senior defenseman Sean Meers 4:22 into the second period was the only score that Cumberland needed, as sophomore goaltender Jack Byrne stopped 21 shots, including six in the frantic final minutes, to help the Clippers net a 1-0 victory for their first D-II championship in five years and the sixth in their program’s history.

Byrne, who received the Msgr. Newbold Most Valuable Player award after posting his eighth shutout of the season, needed to be at his best in the last period, where he stopped 14 shots, most of them coming on three power-play opportunities by the Clippers’ co-op opponent.

Byrne and the Clippers were certainly put to the test, when with 5:36 to go in the game, one of their forwards was whistled for a five-minute major penalty for headbutting a PSW player after a play in front of the PSW goal. The advantage turned into a 6-for-4 for 64 second, when with 1:40 on the clock, PSW goalie Jeff Pimental was yanked for an extra skater, but Byrne kept his cool and turned away six shots in those closing minutes to preserve the one-goal lead and the title.

“There’s a lot of noise out there and a lot of people looking at you,” Byrne said, “You just have to keep your composure the entire time and make sure that you stay focused on what’s in play.”

“We played hard for about 40 minutes,” Cumberland head coach Mark Andreozzi said after bringing his young sons, Giuseppe and Anthony, onto the ice to enjoy the post-contest celebration. “The last five weren’t too good with stupid penalties, but the boys played hard. They listened to everything that we asked of them, and this is just a great feeling. I’m so proud of them, they worked so hard all year.”

The top-seeded Clippers end their season with a 22-1 record, with 12 of those games decided by one or two goals. Four have come against 3rd-seeded PSW – their 3-2 overtime win during the regular season, and all three games in this series.

And while the Clippers outshoot PSW (17-6) by a better than 2-to-1 margin, 128-63, in the three games, they were only able to slip six goals past sophomore goalie Jeff Pimental, who ended the series with 122 saves.

Pimental had a whopping 55 saves in regulation and two 7½-minute overtime sessions in last Saturday night’s second game, and then three easy stops made in the shootout, which PSW won by a 1-0 count on Cumberland native Bennett Hicks’ goal to end the fifth round.

“To lose in a shootout is a tough way to lose,” said Andreozzi, whose team had suffered a shootout loss to Burrillville three winters ago at Brown in the deciding game of the Division I (non-state) title series. “You play hard for all that time and then you have a shootout and it’s tough, so we had to deal with it and rebound, and that’s the sign of a champion, to rebound after a loss.”

PSW owned a 3-0 1:28 into the second period, thanks to a goal by Hicks 5:34 into the game and the next two coming from Cam Yee.

But the Clippers answered back with a power-play goal by Jordan Cullion midway through the second period and forced bonus hockey when Jackson Shevlin and Cullion lit the lamp 62 seconds apart from each other midway through the third period.

Pimental was at his best in the final overtime, which saw Cumberland take 10 shots and hold PSW to none.

After that loss, the Clippers were back on the ice the following night preparing for Monday’s winner-take-all battle, and the hard work certainly paid off.

“We got on the ice for a little bit and went over some things,” added Andreozzi. “We kind of tweaked some things that we were doing and watched some film to kind of get a little bit better idea of what they were doing, and that paid off. I’m so happy for them. They worked for it, they earned it, and they deserve it.”

While the loss ruined the Clippers’ bid for their first undefeated season since the 2013-14 season, Andreozzi shrugged it off after the game.

“I said it all along,” said Andreozzi. “We’re not playing for a record. If we’re playing for a record, then what’s the point? We’re not playing for that. We worked hard to get here. We didn’t get the outcome we wanted tonight, but you have to win two (games).”

In last Friday night’s series opener, the Clippers skated to a 2-1 overtime victory that saw Cumberland outshoot PSW, 37-11, and win the game when Shevlin tipped in the rebound of a shot by Aidan Clarey 2:37 into the extra session.

Clarey scored the Clippers’ first goal on a power play with 3:15 to go in the first period, but PSW tied the score three minutes later, PSW nearly pulled ahead midway through the third period when Yee found the back of the net on a breakaway, but his shot went past Byrne moments after the net came dislodged and was waved off.

Cumberland sophomore Jack Byrne shows off the Msgr. Newbold Most Vaulable Player award he received during the post-game awards ceremony.
Cumberland High fans celebrate a goal by senior forward Jackson Shevlin, second from right, during last Saturday night’s second game at Brown University. Shevlin’s goal helped the Clippers overcome a 3-0 deficit and force overtime, but the PSW co-op team won a shootout to send the series to a third game.