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The No. 3 Tolman hockey team played a perfect two periods for the second straight game in the Division III title series, but the Tigers couldnât stop No. 1 West Warwick/Exeter-West Greenwichâs perfect season.
The Knight-Wizards, who steamrolled their way to title series, only led by a goal heading into the final period of Sundayâs game. But as has been the case many times during their fantastic run, the Knight-Wizards were simply too deep and too good for a Tolman team playing the last game in the programâs history.
West Warwick senior forward Antonio Rei, who was the leading scorer in the state this season, scored two goals for the second straight championship series game, while EWG senior forward Troy Sankey scored the Division III championship-winning goal 2:27 into the middle of the period to cap off the Knight-Wizardsâ perfect
season with a 5-1 victory at Meehan Auditorium.
âThis feels amazing,â Rei said after winning the seriesâ MVP honors with a team-high four goals. âIf you asked me where I thought weâd be a few years ago, Iâd probably say at the bottom. This just feels great.â
âThis feels unreal to go from winning two, three, four games a season â the laughingstock of Division III â to finally being a team thatâs worth something,â West Warwick senior defenseman Austin Barlow said. âWeâve shown we can play with other teams and do well. It feels amazing to be on the other end of the spectrum.â
âThis is great. This is awesome,â WW/EWG coach Pete Ethier said. âItâs been 25 years and we brought the cup home. âŠ This is a great group of kids both on and off the ice. Theyâre all really good kids. They put their minds to a few goals and worked real hard and they went out and accomplished it.â
Sundayâs championship is the first for West Warwick since the Wizards won the 1988 Suburban Division title. The title is the first for Exeter-West Greenwich, which joined the Wizards in a co-op three seasons ago.
The Tigers, who proved to be the only team in the division who could survive more than a period with the Knight-Wizards, finished up the season with a 13-6-1 record. The Tigers upset East Providence in the semifinals and led the title series for a few minutes in the first period. Senior forward Brandon Speight had the Tigersâ goal Sunday.
West Warwick/EWGâs game plan for the entire series was to make long, diagonal passes across the neutral zone to beat the Tolman defense. Thatâs how the No. 1 seed scored the gameâs opener when senior Josh Marco played a perfect cross-ice pass to Rei. The senior skated the puck into the zone, forced Tolman goalie Jared DaSilva to commit to stopping a shot before finding Sankey for an open-net goal.
Sophomore goalie Ivan Forcier played superb hockey all series, but he gave up a juicy rebound later in the period after a shot by junior Edward Reall. Speight was on hand to finish the chance and even the game. Forcier would atone for the mistake by saving every shot the Tigers took for the rest of the game.
âI made some nice saves, but we played great as a team,â Forcier said. âWe put some pucks in the net and won. When I see more shots I get in a rhythm and I know the teamâs behind me. This is an unreal experience and I canât wait to share it with my teammates.â
Just like in Saturdayâs game, Sundayâs contest was tied after the first period and just like Saturdayâs game the Knight-Wizards scored early in the second period to take a lead. Sankey finished up a chance setup by Marco and freshman defenseman Brett Coski.
Unlike Saturdayâs game the Tigers didnât respond with a goal of their own later in the period. Tolman had two power-play chances in the period, but Forcier and the stout WW/EWG defense wouldnât let Jared Pedro and the Tolman forwards good chances to score.
As well as they were playing, the Knight-Wizards still only had a one-goal lead heading into the final period. The lead was doubled just 2:36 into the final period when EWG freshman forward Alex Ventura found EWG sophomore forward Anthony Ventura in the left circle. The elder Ventura snapped a wrist shot past DaSilva.
âOnce that third goal went in I think everybody started feeling a little better now that we had a little bit of insurance,â Barlow said. âWe werenât going to stop. We were going to keep putting them in until that last buzzer. They say two goals is the worst lead in hockey, so we just wanted to keep putting them away.â
Tolman was forced to take some chances after Venturaâs first goal of the series and that meant more space in the cavernous neutral zone for Rei, Coski and Sankey.
Rei scored his first goal of the game at 11:38 after a nice feed from Coski and he added another goal with just 30 seconds left in the period. Sankey and Marco earned assists on the play.
âI feel like at the end we realized we wanted to end it now and not go to another game on Tuesday,â Rei said. âI was always thinking about the next opportunity and the next chance.â
Of the four hockey champions crowned over the weekend the Knight-Wizards were the only team to go undefeated and untied this season. Ethier said he is proud his team went 20-0.
âTwenty-and-0, thatâs great,â Ethier said. âNow I can say âYa, I love the undefeated season.â Iâm glad the guys accomplished it.â