WEST WARWICK – Narragansett boys hockey coach Chris Lussier had seven simple words for his team moments before the start of Wednesday’s game against undefeated West Warwick/Exeter-West Greenwich.
“Make them beat you,” he said, “five on five.”
The message went unheard.
West Warwick/Exeter-West Greenwich converted three power plays in the first two periods into three quick goals while the Mariners converted only one all game – and it came when things were well in hand - in the Knight-Wizards’ 4-1 win Wednesday at Magiera Memorial Ice Rink Wednesday night.
“We have good confidence on the power play,” said WW/EWG’s Brett Coski, who scored two goals. “We can move the puck, get them out of position and put the puck in the net.”
“Our goal differential five on five is on the positive side,” Lussier said. “Again, West Warwick has a great power play, moved the puck well and if you allow teams to do that, you’re going to get burnt.”
The story should have ended with WW/EWG’s offensive wizardry, but the third period turned into a dirty affair with the teams racking up 12 penalties for a total of 16 minutes, 30 seconds, including a major game disqualification on WW/EWG’s Dean Brown for a hit to the head on Narragansett’s Kurt Richardson. Brown was ejected and Richardson was helped off the ice.
With 1.8 seconds left the game was stopped after a scrum in front of net ended in a cross-check called on the Knight-Wizards' Justin Lake.
“I told my guys they know I don’t stand for that but I think the referees let it get out of control,” WW/EWG coach Peter Ethier said. “A couple of our guys got mugged down there, pushed over the goalie and they don’t call a penalty; they come down here and my guy goes like this [with his hands and stick up] and they call a penalty.
“It kind of got out of hand and I think the other team was a little bit chippy because we were ahead 3-0. The last six minutes of the game was not enjoyable to me.”
“That can’t happen. That throws off all our games and makes other coaches and players think we’re goons and we’re just going to go out and take someone’s head off,” Coski said. “We’re great players, know how to play hockey and we play hockey the right way.”
WW/EWG (9-0 Division III) is the top scoring team in D-III by a mile, averaging over eight goals per game heading into the game against Narragansett. The Mariners (4-4 Division III) aren’t struggling in the scoring department, averaging over five goals per game, but Wednesday night came down to converting chances.
The Knight-Wizards scored one in the first and two in the second and all three came immediately following Narragansett penalties.
The first was a bit of a fluke. Following a high stick on Narragansett’s Andrew Morvan, WW/EWG’s Brett Coski took a shot from the right wing that got past keeper Dolci Wagner – who finished with 25 saves - wide left, but the puck deflected off the chest of as Narragansett’s Connor McKnight, who came sliding in to help on the back side, for a goal.
“It was a weak shot. It made it to the net and that’s all that matters,” said Coski, a freshman at West Warwick. “I was happy it went in. I’ll look for a stronger shot next time, but you take what you can get.”
In the second, an elbow by Narragansett’s Cam Fossa gave WW/EWG another power play and nine seconds later, Josh Marco put away a rebound after Troy Sankey’s shot was saved by Wagner to make it 2-0 with 7:01 left until intermission.
A penalty was called after the goal on Narragansett’s Erik Sterling, giving the Knight-Wizards another power play and 55 seconds later Coski got his second goal of the game on an assist from Tony Rei and Sankey.
“If we go out there and play hockey like we practice every week – we practice on the power play every Thursday so I know it’s fresh in their minds - and if they move the puck,” Ethier said, “I don’t think there is a better team on the power play.”
“They were 3-for-3 on their first three power plays and we were 0-for-3 on the PK,” Lussier said. “You can’t give a team like that opportunities. There’s no recipe for success when you do that.”
Narragansett played its best hockey in the third, where it took 12 of its 20 shots. Knight-Wizards’ keeper Ivan Forcier turned away several in the early portion of the period to keep the Mariners at bay before ’Gansett got on the board on a goal by Dylan Jardon that was assisted by Brody Wise.
It didn’t change the outcome of the game, but Lussier was pleased with what he saw in the third period, especially coming off Monday’s 5-2 loss to Tolman and a game against East Providence coming up Friday night at Boss Arena at 7 p.m.
“The way we battled in the third, we had opportunities to put pucks in the net, I think that’s something we can probably build off,” Lussier said. “I’ve yet to see us face adversity and kind of step in the face of adversity and man up up until that point.”
The Knight-Wizards won’t be back on the ice until Saturday, Jan. 12 at Magiera at 6 p.m. for a game against Tolman, which is in second place in Division III at 6-1-1. WW/EWG beat Tolman 5-4 in overtime on Dec. 28. It gives the team plenty of time to focus in what will be a big game for both teams.
“Some of the players are getting overconfident, trying to win every game and trying to be the best; some are just taking it game by game,” Coski said.