Thunderbirds vs. South County

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The Cranston-East Greenwich co-op girls hockey team cruised to a 5-0 shutout win over North Kingstown/South Kingstown/Narragansett last week.

The Thunderbirds would roll to three goals in the opening eight minutes and never looked back, completing the lopsided win and emerging as a true contender in the division this season.

“Abbi Ainley has brought a new dynamic to the team this year, Lindsey Brady played with the boys for the last two years but is back her senior year and has added a new dynamic as a defenseman. She’s really helped control the game which has helped (goalie) Hannah Slaiby. She hasn’t seen as many shots because of that new dynamic on defense,” said Cranston-East Greenwich coach PJ Bessette, who also feels that the Thunderbirds boast one of the top offensive lines in the state. “Now that we have Lindsey on defense, we can bring Abbi Sampson up as a forward which is her natural position. Abbi Sampson, Abbi Ainley and Rosalina (Calin), they’ve become a dominant line. They move the puck well and they’re comfortable with each other.”

Ainley would get the Thunderbirds on the board just 2:39 into the contest, followed by Sampson, who scored less than three minutes later with a goal of her own. Brady would add one more goal shortly after to lift Cranston-East Greenwich to a 3-0 lead heading into the second period.

The Thunderbirds continued to roll, adding two more scores in the second. Brady and Sampson each added goals to make it 5-0 heading into the third. The Thunderbirds would maintain the lead and secure the win in the third.

The Cranston-East Greenwich program is relatively new, and is enjoying its best start to date. Bessette, who has coached the team since its inception, has been proud of the development of his players over the past few seasons.

“We have a lot of girls that didn’t start playing hockey until high school. When I took the job a few years ago I knew that these girls were doing it for fun and because they wanted to learn hockey, and over the five years the girls have worked really hard with summer boot camps, summer games. I’ve had some talented girls in the past, but depth-wise, this is the best group that we’ve had,” said Bessette.

The Thunderbirds will now set their sights on Warwick and Smithfield this weekend, with each game carrying possible playoff implications in the future. Bessette hopes that his club will carry this recent momentum into the weekend, and potentially further this year.

“It’s good (for our confidence),” said Bessette. “We have Warwick and Smithfield coming up this weekend, and if we play the way we played, if the girls keep playing hard, I expect wins this weekend. If we play to our ability, we should make the playoffs and hopefully make some noise for those seniors that have worked so hard to get here.”

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