CRANSTON – It’s been more than a decade since Mount Saint Charles Academy won a championship in girls’ hockey, and Cumberland High and Lincoln High are still waiting to see their players savor the glory that comes with capturing a title.
But this winter, instead of fielding one eight-team division, the RIIL will put a four-team Division I and four-team D-II on the ice.
The Mount/Cumberland/Lincoln co-op squad, which has won just eight games over the past two seasons, will skate in D-II, but do so with a talented team – with seven All-Division returnees – and a 17-player roster that’s one of its largest in quite some time.
That being said, could this be the season that Mount/Cumberland/Lincoln, which is in its seventh season as a co-op team, reaches a title series and hopefully brings a championship banner to its three schools?
“That’s the ultimate goal,” noted second-year head coach Vanessa D’Andrea. “That would be awesome. However, to have a successful season, it’s going to go by (the players’) effort. If they’re giving 110 percent effort every night, that should get us to a championship (series).”
D’Andrea saw her team give an outstanding effort for most of last Friday night during its season opener against the Cranston/East Greenwich co-op squad at Cranston Vets Arena. Down by a 3-2 score in the opening minutes of the second period, MSC/Cumberland/Lincoln erupted for five goals in the final 12:03 of the period and ended up with a 9-4 victory.
Cumberland senior Riley Trudeau netted a hat trick and added multiple assists to lead the winners’ attack, and Lincoln freshman Spencer Cameron dazzled in her high school debut by scoring twice in the second period and assisting on the co-op team’s two goals in the final period.
Mount junior Leah Laquerre also scored twice for the visitors, who outshot Cranston/East Greenwich by a 50-12 margin, but ran into a tough goalie in junior Haley Davis, who turned away 41 shots.
“This was a nice way to start our season,” added D’Andrea, who is in her sixth season on the team’s coaching staff. “We started off rocky, but their goalie stood on her head. She was making some phenomenal saves.”
D’Andrea spent a few minutes after the game talking about her team’s victory, as well as the RIIL’s decision to skate two divisions for the first time since the 2013-14 season.
D’Andrea, who graduated from North Smithfield High in 2010, played for the Northmen when they fielded their own team, and in her first three seasons, N.S. played in Division II and won the championship in 2008.
This season, MSC/Cumberland/Lincoln will take on Cranston/E.G. and the other two teams in the division, the Smithfield/Coventry/Moses Brown and the Toll Gate/Pilgrim/Chariho co-op teams, three times.
As for the D-I teams, three-time defending state champion La Salle, four-time finalist Barrington/Mount Hope/Portsmouth, and the Burrillville/Ponaganset/Bay View and the North Kingstown/South Kingstown/Narragansett co-op teams, each D-II team will play them only once.
“I like it better,” D’Andrea said of the two divisions. “It’s more competitive, and for me in high school, that’s what I grew up with, so I hope it works out each season.”
Everything seemed to work out well for the co-op team in last Friday’s season-opening victory after Cranston/E.G. took its only lead on back-to-back goals by sophomore center Braelyn King in the first 2:12 of the second period.
Forty-five seconds after King gave the hosts the lead, Cameron tied the score with her first varsity goal, and with 6:13 to play in the period, Laquerre flicked a shot between Davis’ pads to give MSC/Cumberland/Lincoln the lead for good.
And the visitors didn’t stop there. With 4:55 on the clock, Cameron lofted a 15-foot shot over Davis’ shoulder, and two minutes later, Cumberland sophomore Keira Niquette tucked in a long pass from Mount junior Ava Pitocchi that was Pitocchi’s third assist of the period.
Trudeau, who is an All-State soccer player who plans to continue her career at Iowa’s University of Dubuque, eventually gave the visitors a 7-3 lead with 46.8 seconds left in the period. In the final period, Cranston/E.G. jumped on the board just 10 seconds into play, but MSC/Cumberland/Lincoln soon responded with goals by Trudeau and Pitocchi.
Mount senior goaltender Grace Davenport and Trudeau are the captains, and the assistant captains are Mount junior defenseman Brooke Forget, who had a pair of assists in Friday’s win, and Laquerre.
Davenport, Forget, and Laquerre were also First-Team All-Division selections last year, while Trudeau and Mount junior Alexia Vercauteren were Second-Team picks and Cumberland senior defenseman Sophia Ziniti and junior forward Allison Murphy were Honorable Mention selections.
The locals are back in action this weekend against the other two teams in their division. On Friday at 6 p.m., they will play Smithfield/Coventry/Moses Brown in their home opener at Adelard Arena, and the following night at 6 p.m., they will head to Warwick’s Thayer Arena to face Toll Gate/Pilgrim/Chariho.
A lot of attention will be on Friday’s matchup with Smithfield/Coventry/Moses Brown, whcih kicked off its season last Saturday night in Smithfield with a 9-3 win over Toll Gate/Pilgrim/Chariho.