NEW BEDFORD, Mass. -- In the middle of January, Coyle-Cassidy boys’ hockey had already lost their first league game of the season to Martha’s Vineyard and they were about to be run out of the rink again, down 3-1 to Eastern Athletic Conference rival Bishop Stang.
Then, something clicked. The Warriors came back to pull out a 4-3 win over the Spartans in their first meeting. That’s when C-C head coach Dave Borges said “the team learned how to win.”
The Warriors swept the season series with a 5-2 win over Stang on Thursday at Hetland Arena.
It started out as a dominant performance, with Warriors goaltender Brent Petrowski (22 saves) pitching a shutout until 2:29 remained in the third period. But C-C weathered the Spartans’ harshest charge and kept pace in the EAC title race with the Vineyarders.
“I thought we controlled the pace of the game and played well in our defensive end,” Borges said. “But at the end, they got a power play goal and that brought a little momentum to them. Then, we starting running around a little bit and we didn’t do what we needed to do the get the puck out of our end.”
The Warriors (5-5-1, 4-1-0 EAC) held a 3-0 lead until Spartans forward Kody Skolis finally beat Petrowski.
The goal set in motion a frenetic flurry to the end of the physically played match.
Stang (10-3-0, 3-3-0) senior forward Ben Lloyd whittled the lead to one goal, banging home a rebound with 1:15 to play. The Warriors responded immediately as Shea Powell turned a neutral zone turnover into C-C’s fourth goal six seconds later.
Nick Cambria added an empty-netter for his second goal of the game to round out scoring.
“I think we’re starting to come together now and we’re playing better hockey,” Cambria said.
C-C built a two-goal lead by the second intermission with goals in each of the first two periods. Junior captain Ryan Jones scored on a partial breakaway for a 1-0 lead at 5:08 of the first. Cambria then scored his first of the game at 3:35 of the second.
Warriors defenseman Steve Cogan picked up assists on both tallies, helping to set up the transition game out of C-C’s defensive zone.
Greg DiBona had the Warriors to a 3-0 lead at 8:38 of the third, again coming on a partial break stemming from a neutral zone turnover.
While their 5-5-1 record might not rock your socks off, the Warriors will again prove a tough out in the Division 2 South tournament – akin to their Thursday opponents and the D3 tournament.
C-C has traditionally scheduled aggressively, and this year has the tall task of playing four teams who participated in last year’s Super 8 tournament, in addition to D1 non-leaguers against St. John’s (Shrewsbury) and Xaverian.
It all makes for a battle-tested squad, which Borges believes is coming together at the right time.
“I like where we’re headed,” Borges added “We’re starting to play our best hockey of the season now.”
With the early warning shot fired in their earlier loss to the Vineyarders, the Warriors have learned to tighten up where it counts.
“A lot of it’s just doing hard work, keeping our heads up, finding the open man and making the right plays,” Cambria said.