BURRILLVILLE — A year ago, the South County Storm and the Burrillville/Ponaganset/Bay View co-op team played a dramatic girls hockey state championship series that came down to overtime in the third and final game.
A rematch in the quarterfinals this season delivered similar drama, but a different result for the Storm.
After pushing the series to the brink with an overtime win Monday, South County fell 4-2 to the Broncos Tuesday night at Levy Rink, ending its reign as state champion.
After the Storm rallied from a 2-0 hole with two goals in the second period, the Broncos went ahead with 5:16 left in the second then put the game on ice with a late third-period goal.
“They left it all on the line tonight and that’s all we could ever ask for,” head coach Dave Cannon said. “They made it a game. That was an exciting, back-and-forth game.”
Without much depth, the Storm has been in an uphill battle all season but fought to a 7-9 league record, good for the No. 5 seed. The battle grew steeper in the series with the Broncos, with the Storm losing Mia DeCataldo to injury in the first game and Maddy Gallagher in the second game. The team was left with nine healthy skaters for Tuesday’s game.
“Our bench was very, very light,” Cannon said. “We essentially played two defensemen in the series. Emma Rial and Dempsey Campbell played just about every single minute. Up front, we didn’t even really have two full lines. It would have been nice to have a couple of extra, but they battled. They didn’t use it as an excuse. They just kept playing.”
After dropping the opener 3-2, the Storm trailed 1-0 for most of Monday’s game two, but tied it in the third period. Chen Marino netted the equalizer with 3:43 left off a scramble in front of the net. In the second of two seven-minute, 30-second overtime periods, Christina Green scored the game-winner off a pass from Rial.
“I am so proud of those girls,” Cannon said after the win. “Even in game one, it was a 3-2 game. We played the best we could. I told them, even though we did that, we needed that little bit extra, and tonight they responded with the extra. They dug deeper. They had that little extra in the tank and they just kept coming.”
Goalie Peyton Newman helped set the stage for the comeback, stopping every shot she faced after the Broncos’ goal with 7:22 left in the first period.
“She was challenging the shooters today. She stepped up. She was aggressive,” Cannon said. “You could see in her body language, she wanted to step up and take it to those shooters. That’s a long stretch for a tender. She responded. She gave everything she had tonight and really quieted them, which we needed.”
In game three, Burrillville grabbed the lead with two goals just 21 seconds apart late in the first period. Both came off the stick of Caysie Gautreau, with assists to Meg Buxton.
South County had been outshot 14-9 in the opening period but went to back to work quickly in the second. Victoria Gauvin scored to cut the lead in half with 11:52 left. Four minutes later, Emma Rial tied it on a shot from just past the blue line that Broncos goalie Emily Etheridge couldn’t come up with.
With 5:16 left in the second period, the Broncos regained the lead on a shot by Buxton from the right edge of the slot. The Storm had a few chances to pull even in the third – holding a 12-7 edge in shots on goal over the final 15 minutes – but the next score came from the Broncos. With 4:21 left, Emma Audet knocked in a rebound for the 4-2 lead. South County pulled Newman for an extra skater with 2:22 left but couldn’t break through.
The Broncos will face La Salle/Moses Brown in the semifinals.
The Storm will bid farewell to four seniors, a group that led the way for the Storm’s fight to the finish.
“They peaked at the right time of the season,” Cannon said. “They showed that resilience and that character to just come back. It was really a joy to watch and being behind the bench with them.”