By ALEX SPONSELLER After finishing the regular season undefeated, the top-seeded Cranston boys co-op hockey team continued to roll by beating PCD/St. Ray's/Wheeler 3-0 in the quarterfinals and North Smithfield 3-1 in the semifinals of the Division II
By ALEX SPONSELLER After finishing the regular season undefeated, the top-seeded Cranston boys co-op hockey team continued to roll by beating PCD/St. Ray’s/Wheeler 3-0 in the quarterfinals and North Smithfield 3-1 in the semifinals of the Division II playoffs. The Falcons will now go on to face North Kingstown in this weekend’s state championship series.
The Falcons got off to a fast start in the quarters taking a 1-0 lead in the first period. They would get two more goals for insurance to close out the victory. Mickey Becker-Norton scored two goals for Cranston while Jaydin Rossi added another. All three goals were on power plays. Andrew Martin also added two assists in the win while Kaden Santurri and Justin Drohen also added assists. Goalie Matt Corrente finished with 10 saves in net.
Martin and Becker-Norton scored goals to give Cranston the 2-0 lead heading into the third period against North Smithfield in the semis, however, the Northmen would get a goal midway through the frame to make it a one-score contest.
Becker-Norton scored with 37 seconds left to put the game out of reach and help the Falcons punch their ticket to the state championship. Jeremy Ainley and Rossi recorded assists in the semis while Corrente made 39 saves.
“I told the kids, ‘You guys are going to have the target on your back, especially being undefeated, you’re going to get everyone’s best game each night.’ Even with PCD being the eighth seed, we knew we’d get their best game. It’s the playoffs, anything can happen, it was single game elimination, we’re going to get everyone’s best effort. Overall, a win’s a win and it’s good for (the state championship),” said Cranston coach Matt Brannon.
Corrente was solid in net for Cranston, and has become one of the top goalies in the state since the end of last season.
“Matt has always played well in the playoffs. Last year it started in the playoffs against Cumberland and it carried over into this season. His confidence definitely goes up in the playoffs. He was pressured more on Saturday night, but we call him ‘Playoff Matt.’ He played really well for us,” said Brannon.
Brannon was also proud of his team’s mental toughness, having to play in the single elimination format for the first time.
“They knew what the situation was. It was win or go home. It was a good situation for us, having our backs against the wall. Now we can relax a little bit more since it’s best of three. They’re pretty locked in, they know it’s the state championship and they have home ice. It’s what they’ve worked for. We’re looking forward to the challenge, we know it’s not going to be easy against North Kingstown,” said Brannon.
The Falcons have actually become pretty familiar with the Skippers, as North Kingstown has been sharing the rink for their home games this season due to the Boss Arena being closed down. The two clubs even competed in an exhibition earlier in the winter.
Regardless, the seniors are ready to make one more run at a title after coming up short the last two seasons.
“It’s a good feeling, anytime you’re playing for a state championship. They’ve had heartbreak the last two years in the semifinals, so for those seniors, taking your jersey off as a champion is a great feeling,” said Brannon. “This is one of the nicest groups I’ve had in a long time, they’re a close-knit group, they’ve been ready for this for a long time.”