WEST WARWICK - It took over 45 minutes for the game’s one and only goal to be produced, but when it was, it was well worth the wait for a Coventry hockey team that has begun to rediscover its stride.
Junior forward Hayden Kearney lit the lamp 2:57 into overtime, netting the game-winning goal in a 1-0 victory over North Kingstown on Saturday night, helping the Oakers improve to 3-9-2 on a season that has proven to be trying from the onset.
“We’re playing a lot better,” interim head coach Ray Lamont said of his group, which he took over for midway through the season following the departure of previous head coach Paul Nadeau.
Saturday’s contest against a struggling Skippers squad (5-10-0) boiled down to simple execution on the part of the Oakers.
“We’re getting back to basics, keeping it simple and just using our feet and our legs to win battles,” Lamont said.
Senior goaltender Brandon Ciampanelli stopped all 23 shots by NK in the win, while Skipper goalie Braeden Perry had his lone slip-up in the extra session, as Anthony Saccoccio and Eli Benjamin helped set up Kearney with the game-winning strike.
“We’re not giving up the odd man rush as much as we were early on, so we’ve been better in that area,” Lamont said, noting key area of improvement on his team’s behalf.
“Simple hockey seems to be working,” he added.
Unfortunately, the recent run of success by the Oakers will not be enough to get them over the hump and into the playoffs this year, as not enough time remains in the regular season for them to be able to do so. Nonetheless, the effort will continue to be there on a nightly basis though the season’s conclusion.
“We’re just going to try to improve and finish the season out on a positive note. So far, so good. We’ve had a really good few weeks,” Lamont said.
The turnaround began in earnest about two weeks ago.
On January 24, that elusive first victory finally arrived, coming in the form of a 4-1 victory over North Smithfield. The previous night, the Oakers had skated to a 4-4 tie with PCD/St.Ray’s/Wheeler at Lynch Arena, a sign that the tide was already beginning to turn following a stretch of winless hockey that had spanned more than a full month.
The following weekend, Coventry split a pair of decisions, falling by a tight 4-3 count on the road against South Kingstown before beating Cranston West, 8-7 the ensuing night in a high-scoring affair at Magiera.
This past weekend mirrored the previous one, starting with a hard-fought one-goal defeat followed by a thrilling one-goal victory.
“We had a tough matchup against Cumberland, a very good team,” Lamont said of Friday’s 2-1 setback on the road against the Clippers prior to Saturday’s win over the Skippers.
“The kids are positive, we’re having fun,” their coach said.
Coventry returns to action this coming Saturday night when they head up north to take on Lincoln at the Rt. 146 RI Sports Center. The puck is set to drop in that game at 6:30 p.m.
Follow Nick Cantor on Twitter @cantornick