NS into playoffs
Acciardo’s two goals not enough to stop North Smithfield
The North Smithfield hockey team defeated Lincoln, 3-2, Saturday night to earn a spot in the Division II playoffs.
NORTH SMITHFIELD — When the North Smithfield hockey team trudged off the ice after a blowout loss to undefeated Cumberland two Saturdays ago, the Northmen’s playoff hopes were hanging by a thread.
Following the defeat North Smithfield coach Ben Shatraw said his struggling team needed to win its final two games if it wanted to return to the playoffs for the first time since winning the 2015 Division II title.
The Lions did the easy part Friday night, shutting out North Kingstown at Rhode Island Sports Center. The difficult task came Saturday night at the same venue against a Lincoln team trying to find some good form going into the playoffs. The Lions scored the opener thanks to talented junior Colby Acciardo, but Mitchell Prudhomme, Robert Martufi and Evan Gravel answered to lift the Northmen to a 3-2 Division II victory to earn the final spot in the playoffs.
“This is a complete 180 from the way we played against Cumberland last weekend,” Shatraw said. “This is a huge weekend for us. Going through practice this week, we had the kids juiced up and they brought it [Saturday] night. It wasn’t as physical the other night, but their physical play totally changed this game.
“I put them in a room on Monday and we had some issues in the locker room. I stepped out and they handled it. It’s been completely different since that meeting. I don’t know what happened, but they handled it. I trust the leaders on this team. They were buzzing [Saturday].”
North Smithfield (7-7-0-1 Division II) finished the regular season with 15 points. Coventry has 11 points and two games to play this weekend, but be- cause the Northmen defeated the Oakers, 3-1, last month North Smithfield is tasked with playing the undefeated Clippers in the Division II quarterfinals starting next Friday night at Adelard.
Lincoln (8-4-1-2 Division II) was in position to earn home-ice advantage in the quarterfinals just two weeks ago, but the shorthanded Lions lost three straight one-goal games, including overtime contests to Portsmouth and PSW. Saturday, Acciardo netted hits 21st and 22nd goals, while linmate Thomas McGowan added two assists.
“We’re making little mistakes here and there,” Lincoln coach Mike Forrest said of the three-game losing skid. “We’re just in a little valley right now. We have a little sickness going through the team and we’ve been without Spencer Smith the last couple of games and he’s on that line with Colby and [Kyle] Costa. A lot of our offense comes from that line.”
After a scoreless opening period, the Lions opened the scoring just 19 seconds into the second period when Costa and McGowan created a goal for Acciardo. The lead lasted until the middle of the second period when Brayden Driscoll earned the primary assist on Mitchel Prudhomme’s effort.
The Northmen took the lead for good just 29 seconds into the final period on Martufi’s effort. The Lions compounded their problems minutes later when they turned the puck over to sophomore Evan Gravel, who scored a short-handed goal at 2:51 to put the Northmen up 3-1.
“Even though we fell behind early, we were dictating the game from the beginning,” Shatraw said. “They play that 1-2-2 trap and we went over how to break it and how to beat it. The kids executed fantastic.”
The Lions responded with a power-play goal from Acciardo at 5:25, but the home side couldn’t find the leveler. Lincoln finishes the regular season Friday night at Levy Rink against second-place Ponaganset before beginning the playoffs the following week.
“I told the guys we have two weeks to get ready for an opponent that we will play in a best-of-three series” Forrest said. “We only have to focus on one team. Against Ponaganset, I want to see us do things the right way when we get back to full strength. We need to play the way we’re capable of playing.” North Smithfield 0 1 2 - 3
Lincoln 0 1 1 -2
First period – No scoring.
Second period – L, Colby Acciardo (Kyle Costa,Thomas McGowan), 0”19; NS,Mitchell Prudhomme (Brayden Driscoll, Max Mattos), 7:42.
Third period – NS, Robert Martufi (Garet Reilly, Luke Pasquariello), 0:29; NS, Evan Gravel (unassisted), sh, 2:51; L, Acciardo ( Darien Carney, McGowan), pp, 5:25.