KINGSTON – The South County Storm hockey co-op experienced about as many highs and lows as one team can in a three-game playoff series. Squaring off against the Moses Brown/Coventry/Smithfield co-op, the Storm won in overtime in Game 1, lost in Game 2 despite outshooting the competition by a wide margin and then faced a 1-1 deadlock after the first period of Game 3.
The freshmen-dominated squad had the last laugh in the series, breaking through for three goals in the final two periods of play. The Storm won Game 3, 4-1, and advance to face unbeaten La Salle in the semifinals.
“When we first started, I wasn’t really sure what we were going to have,” first-year Storm head coach Sydney Collins. “They’ve all really stepped up and taken on leadership positions. Any of them will play any [position] I ask them to. They always give 100 percent.”
“It was so dramatic,” she continued, of the Game 1 OT win. “I couldn’t calm myself down after. The extra 15 minutes of hockey was a lot for us. Certain players had to step up and play the entire overtime. We have a lot of gamers out there.”
Junior captain Victoria Gauvin scored two of the goals in the decisive win on Tuesday night. She opened the scoring less than 30 seconds into the first period, and started the celebration in earnest with a score that made it 3-1 in the third.
The early goal helped wash away some of the frustrations from the Game 2 loss. The Storm lost that one 2-0, despite the fact that they dominated time of possession and shots on net. Moses Brown goalie Asia Porter was like a brick-wall, and was the key factor in her team forcing a Game 3.
“It was awesome,” Collins said of Gauvin’s early strike. “We went out with the mindset of, ‘get to her early’. Get her rattled. Keep pushing. The other night we struggled to generate any offense. We played like we were scared to lose. I told them tonight, we have nothing else left to lose at this point.”
The Storm broke the 1-1 tie 10 minutes into the second period. Adora Perry’s initial shot was blocked by the pads of Porter, but Jade Shabo was there to slam home the rebound for the Storm.
Gauvin provided the insurance goal from there, and Erin McNamara really ended things by scoring an empty-net goal from inside her own defensive zone.
Goalie Veronica Sabatino made a series of early, nice saves that kept the opposition off the board. The sole conceded goal of the day came after it looked like Sabatino had covered the puck. The ref didn’t agree, and didn’t blow his whistle. The MB co-op took advantage by forcing the puck into the net through Sabatino’s legs.
The playoff series win comes despite the Storm having 17 freshmen on their roster. Sabatino and Shabo are both first-year high school players. Collins has taken her inexperienced roster and guided them to a playoff series win, following a three-win campaign a year ago.
Now, the Storm will face the biggest challenge of their young athletic careers. Waiting in the semifinals is a 14-0 La Salle team that has utterly decimated any Rhode Island competition they’ve faced this season.
The Storm lost twice to La Salle in the regular season, by finals of 6-1 and 9-4. Collins hopes that the confidence and momentum from their opening round series win can help them shock the Rams.
“We’re going to give them hell,” she said. “These girls play with a lot of them in their travel leagues. The mindset going in is: why can you play with them but not against them? That seems to get them to mentally shift into another gear.
“We’ve put at least four goals on La Salle before. If we play defensive-minded, there’s no reason to say we couldn’t maybe give them their first loss. Crazier things have happened.”
The best-of-three series starts Friday night at Route 146.