WARWICK, R.I. -- All of a sudden, the bull's-eye on the collective backs of the Bishop Hendricken became larger.
That’s what happened Friday night when the defending Division I Rhode Island state champions beat defending Division I Connecticut champion Notre Dame High, 5-3, at Thayer Arena in a game that wasn’t as close as the final score might indicate.
“That’s as good a team as we’ve played all season,” Hendricken coach Jim Creamer said. “I really like the way we’ve played over the last week. We’re practicing well. We’re playing well. I think we’re moving in the right direction come playoff time.”
Ed Markowski led the Hawks (13-3-1) with two goals and two assists while the coach’s son, Matt, contributed a goal plus an assist.
While coach Creamer obviously was pleased with his team’s performance, just the opposite was the case with Green Knights coach Bill Gerosa.
“We were embarrassed by a better team tonight,” Gerosa said. “We didn’t come to play. Our scoring line [Billy Vizzo, Greg Zullo and Jesse Ruocco] did score except we gave up more than we got.
“We just had a total team breakdown, especially against their top line. Markowski, Creamer and [Andrew] Fera were terrific. But we were schooled tonight. It was an embarrassing display for Notre Dame and West Haven. A lot of it had to do with the speed of Bishop Hendricken.”
What made the final score even more noteworthy was the fact that the Green Knights (14-4-0) stepped on the ice having allowed only 23 goals in their previous 17 games.
“We’ve had one line that’s really been productive for us,” Jim Creamer said, referring to the Markowski-Creamer-Fera line. “They’ve been pretty consistent all year and had one of their better nights all year tonight.
“When they move the puck well, they generate good chances for themselves. And we got a power play goal with those guys involved. I think they were involved in four of the five goals. Then, we put out our fourth line and it chipped in late.”
Ryan Lynch put Notre Dame on the board at 6:48 of the first period when he skated in front of the net and slid the puck under starting goalie Mitchell Proulx (15 saves).
Hendricken tied it when Markowski unloaded a slap shot from the left circle that beat Luc Amatruda (28 saves) at 8:02.
The Hawks skated into the first intermission leading 2-1 thanks to Matt Creamer’s goal at 13:46 – a snap shot from the left circle.
Zullo tied it one last time at 6:07 of the second on a slap shot from between the circles. But Markowski gave Hendricken a 3-2 lead at 12:36 on a wrist shot from the slot.
“He’s a typical senior leader and a captain,” Jim Creamer said of Markowski. “He’s been very, very consistent all year.
“We’re only going to be as good as that line is so we need them to be good.”
Good describes Hendricken’s play in the third when it scored on a power play with Tucker Alberigo stuffing the puck past Amatruda at 1:31.
Then, as coach Creamer alluded to, the Hawks’ fourth line joined in the fun when Brandon Mitchell tapped home the rebound of a Sam Boulanger shot at 4:25 for a 5-2 lead.
In retrospect, that rendered a last-minute goal by Vizzo, who slid the puck past backup goalie Craig Colson (16 saves), moot.
“We have another game [Saturday night] so we have to get ready for that,” Gerosa said. “We have to forget about this one after an hour and get ready for that one, otherwise we’ll never improve.
“It was a disappointing effort from the goaltender on out. We’re a better team than this but we didn’t show it tonight.”