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WOONSOCKET â Mount St. Charles Academy coach Tony DiLorenzo has a dilemma on his hands this week, and itâs not trying to figure out a way to upend unbeaten La Salle Academy in their best-of-three title series at Brown Universityâs Meehan Auditorium.
Rather, itâs trying to figure out how to compete with what may be an 11-player roster, no thanks to a pair of injuries suffered by two of his defensemen in Saturdayâs 2-1 win over the Warwick co-op team that completed Mountâs best-of-three semifinal-round sweep.
The Mounties, who began the season with 15 players on their roster, their smallest squad in the teamâs 11-year history, headed into their series with Warwick with just 13 and did everything they could to hold off arguably the stateâs top public school squad.
If Mountâs two injured defensemen â one who is âday-to-dayâ with an ankle injury and the other with a head injury â are unable to answer the bell for tonight 8:15 p.m. series opener (Game 2 is Thursday at 8:15 p.m.), what will DiLorenzo pull out of his sleeve?
âI donât know,â he admitted on Monday before his teamâs afternoon practice at Adelard Arena. âIâm very limited with starters that can compete against La Salle. We usually go six forwards and three âDâ, and not having the two âDââŠ
âWeâre going to have to explore maybe moving some forwards to defense, having them play a defensive role and attack whenever we can because we know La Salle is powerful offensively. We canât go into the series weak defensively.â
Especially against the Rams, who head into the series with a 19-0 mark that includes last weekendâs semifinal-round sweep of the Burrillville/Ponaganset co-op team and has seen them score 111 goals while allowing just 10.
Three sophomores have done the bulk of the scoring for the defending champs, Meaghan Rickard (30 goals, 22 assists), Sarah Migliori (23-22), and Michaela McNamara (16-15), and their freshman goalie, Taylor Peltier, has a 0.44 goals-against-average and .973 save percentage.
But while Peltier faced just 257 shots, MSC sophomore netminder Ari Tourtellot has seen nearly twice as many pucks. Her 428 saves during the regular season is a school record, and counting the series against Warwick, where she stopped 64 more shots, she boasts a 1.99 GAA and a .928 save percentage.
âShe will have faced over 500 shots by the end of the finals,â remarked DiLorenzo, who added with a laugh, âIâm supposed to be a defensive coach, and thatâs embarrassing. But she has held us in there because we only have three defensemen. Itâs a lot of credit to her and three girls playing defense the whole game and taking double shifts.â
However, what the Mounties lack in quantity, they certainly make up for in quality. They also have two of the stateâs top scorers in sophomore Elisabeth Berard (23-28) and junior tri-captain Briana Castro (23-24). Another sophomore, Alexis Fagan, has 16 goals and 12 assists, and senior tri-captain Alisha Sleboda (14-13) adds to the attack.
Senior tri-captain Marissa Heroux has also been a solid all-around player, and sophomore Bri Luciani, the only defenseman left standing after last weekendâs series, âis a converted forward who has done a great job to get this team to where itâs at,â said DiLorenzo.
While those players and a few more have been keys to the Mountiesâ success, so has their off-the-chart conditioning, which has helped the team last throughout the regular season and allow them to complete it with a 13-4 record (that includes 8-1, 3-0, and 3-1 losses to the Rams).
âI made a commitment to skating them hard from the beginning of the year,â DiLorenzo admitted, âand that seemed to be the difference in them not losing their will in Game 2 against Warwick when we had the two injuries. It was huge. If we had to play a Game 3 (on Monday), being down people and coming off a loss, it would have been emotionally hard.â
Having to upset arguably the finest La Salle team in its programâs nine-year history also promises to be hard for Mount, even with a full complement of players, but regardless of what happens this week â win or lose â DiLorenzo noted that he can take pride in what his small group of players accomplished this season.
âTheyâve achieved above and beyond,â he said. âI told them right at the beginning (of the year) that weâre not the Mount teams of old. We canât play a fourth line. Itâs hard enough to roll some of our players out for double shifts for 15-minute periods and have them play both ends of the ice with a lot of energy.
âThis has been a great season, and I donât know if they fully appreciate that getting to this point is quite an accomplishment on their part, but Iâm sure they will.â