After multiple down seasons in Division I, the Cranston West boys hockey team would make the move down to Division II this year and make noise immediately, advancing all the way to the semifinals against Cumberland.
The Clippers, who enjoyed an undefeated regular season, kept their campaign alive by topping the Falcons last week in two games to punch their ticket to this weekend’s state championship series.
“Overall the kids sold out both nights. Friday we came out flying and our pregame message was to jump out first and put some pressure on them. We had some unfortunate bounces go against us in Game 1 and the hockey gods were not on our side. Jumping up 2-0 on them we kept preaching that Cumberland wasn’t going to quit, and that they were 19-0 for a reason,” said West coach Matt Brannon. “Game 2 the kids believed that they could skate with them and knew they had to give everything they had to keep the season going. We made some adjustments and tried to tighten up our D by moving Dylan Demers back and then put our top three scorers to try and generate offense. To Cumberland’s credit, they have been the best defensive team all season, they limited all of our opportunities to the outside and we never were able to get generate any major threats.”
Despite the loss, Brannon was proud of the club’s bounce-back season this winter, and was happy to see his seniors enjoy success in their final year.
“Obviously we came up short of our ultimate goal of reaching the state finals, we ran into a very good team. Moving down from D1 to D2 where we didn’t have a lot of success over the last few years, it was nice great to see our kids enjoy and embrace winning. Seeing the seniors and juniors get to experience high school hockey playoffs at the fullest,” said Brannon. “My seniors have been great, they stuck with us through a lot of high and lows. There were a lot of times of the last three years they could have packed it in against the top teams in D1. To their credit they fought each and every night. To see them finally see success this year was truly great. We will miss them and they all will be doing great things in life. This season I’m sure for them will be a year they will never forget.”
Although the Falcons will be saying by to a handful of key upperclassmen, including seniors Jaycob Hargreaves, David Sczerbinksi, Nathan Baldini, Robert Miller and Luke Cavalaro, Brannon expects the younger players to step up and help West be back in the hunt next year.
“We should be very strong next year, this was a learning experience for everyone, being the new guy on the block we realized we were going to get everyone’s best game each night,” said Brannon. “There are no nights off. With a core of 12 juniors we need to build off the success we had and continue to build a winning tradition.”