The top team in Division 1 in Ocean State boys hockey finished where they belong.
LaSalle Academy beat Bishop Hendricken, 5-2, preventing the Hawks from winning their third straight crown in the state’s highest division. LaSalle scored two empty-netters, making this one appear easier than it was.
Ryan Schwender’s goal snapped a 2-2 tie early in the third period.
Hendricken had taken a 1-0 Series lead but watched LaSalle rip off two straight wins by a combined scored of 12-4.
La Salle’s Robert Doorley got the game’s first goal in the opening period.
Jacob Paolino made it a 1-1 game for Hendricken.
Dylan Webber gave the Hawks a lead in the middle period, but Matt Pimental evened things up with 1:25 left in the period.
LaSalle goaltender Justin Spencer got the win.
This was La Salle Academy’s year. And nothing was going to stop them. Not even a Game 1 loss to the two-time defending champs in the best-of-three series for Division 1 Rhode Island. The Rams won the title with a 5-2 win over Bishop Hendricken in Game 3 Monday night.
“I am extremely proud of how my team responded to the Game 1 loss,” LaSalle coach James Mello said. “It could have gone either way for us. Last year we lost Game 1 in two overtimes and found ourselves eliminated Game 2. These kids lived through the disappointment last season and had no interest in doing it again. They got to work on Saturday night (in Game 2), focused on doing the little things each shift and it worked in our favor. We had great senior leadership on this team and kids who truly love to compete.”
The team ended up 20-2-0.
“We strayed from our game plan in Game 1,” Mello said. ‘We got away from what makes us a good team. The focus for Game 2 was to get back to being disciplined with our systems, move the feet to take away time and space for the opposition, and bring 100 percent effort for a full 45 minutes. Things we did not do well in Game 1.”
LaSalle made a few adjustments after Game 1, keeping the players focused on the task at hand.
“We knew we needed to win two games in the series,” Mello said. “It didn’t matter if it was the first two or second two. There was a willingness to work and do the little things on Saturday and Monday night in our two wins that was not as evident on Friday evening. We got back to what makes La Salle a good hockey team. There were more blocked shots, finished hits, pucks in deep, shots on goal, you name it — they executed on Saturday. We capitalized on five power play goals in Game 2 which helped carry the momentum for us into the Game 3 on Monday.”
Mello graduated from La Salle in 2007, and this is his first state title as head coach. He won as an assistant in 2014-2015 with La Salle as well. This is only the Rams’ second state title since 1977.
What does Mello say about the departing senior class and what he’ll miss?
“This was a special group of seniors,” Mello said. “We have a good number of them who have been with the team since their freshmen year. They have made tremendous contributions to the hockey program at La Salle and have helped shape the culture of academic and athletic excellence. They set the standard high and their impacts to the program will be felt for many years after they depart. I am happy to say they are all on to better things after high school and wish them the best of luck.”
Ryan Schwender finished with 12 goals and 20 assists. Brayden Edwards added 18 goals and 14 assists, and Zenas Kennedy (7-18-25) and Matt Pimental (16-7-23) had outstanding seasons. Justin Spencer got the bulk of the time in net and had an 0.92 GAA and a save percentage of .946.