SOUTH KINGSTOWN — It was a long-awaited victory in more ways than one.
The Prout School hockey team scored its first league win of the season on Monday afternoon and did it against the state’s most historic powerhouse. The Crusaders beat Mount St. Charles 5-2 at Boss Arena for their first victory over the Mounties in program history.
“It’s huge. It’s going to be a big memory,” said senior captain Cam Fonseca. “Beating Hendricken a couple of years ago, now beating Mount, it’s huge. Especially with the group we have. We have 11 or 12 freshmen. This is a big deal for us. We’re just ready to move on and try to keep it going.”
Prout entered the game with some non-league success on its resume but an 0-5 record in Division I play. With just two seniors surrounded by deep and talented freshman and sophomore classes, the Crusaders have the makings of a future contender. The potential has been on display throughout; Monday’s win brings hints of it into reality.
“The pieces are there,” head coach John Gaffney said. “I think we played a little bit more of a mature game today – keeping guys to the outside, not running around.”
The Mounties may not be quite as strong this year as they were in 2021, when they were a state finalist. They’re also just recently back from a long COVID pause. But regardless, the win was significant for the Crusaders, who previously owned just one win all-time against the triumvirate of Mount, Hendricken and La Salle.
“It defitely feels good,” senior Billy Costello said. “We’ve been struggling to put everything together – we’re good here, but not there. It’s great to put it all together and get a pretty good win against a good team.”
Prout struck early when freshman Max Costello scored on a breakaway midway through the opening period. Caleb Burnett and Aidan Forcier were leading the rush. Burnett’s centering pass from the wing hit Forcier’s skate but took a fortuitous bounce to Costello, who skated onto the puck and blasted home the game’s first goal.
Mount evened the score less than a minute into the second period and went on a power play soon after, a path that seemed to signal that order would be restored. Instead, Forcier blocked a shot on the penalty kill, which led to a breakaway for Billy Costello. He finished the chance to put his team back up 2-1.
It was a tone-setting moment.
“Billy got that short-handed goal,” Gaffney said. “He’s a guy that works his tail off. He doesn’t take a day off. When they see him get one, it’s like, ‘We can do this.’ It’s that enthusiasm and confidence that we’ve been lacking because we’ve just been playing from behind so much.”
“Aidan Forcier blocked it. I chased it down and put a shot on,” Costello said. “We were feeling good, but we knew it wasn’t close to finished.”
So they kept scoring. Derek Gesmondi intercepted a clearing pass in the left circle of the offensive zone and quickly buried a shot to make it 3-1 with 5:23 left in the second period.
The Mounties figured to come out hot in the third period, but the Crusaders came through instead. Gesmondi scored again just 13 seconds into the frame, knocking home a pass from behind the net by Fonseca. Matthew Deedy also assisted.
Mount got the goal back less than three minutes later, but it was still a two-goal cushion for the Crusaders.
“Hockey is a game of momentum. That kind of took the wind out of their sails,” Gaffney said of Gesmondi’s goal. “And it ended up being a big one because they got kind of a junk one right after that where we just didn’t cover up.”
The Crusaders didn’t let Mount get any closer, and Fonseca delivered the exclamation point when he scored on an odd-man rush with Gesmondi to make it 5-2 with 3:09 remaining.
“We knew what we were going to have to do,” Fonseca said. “They’re a good team, but it was in our barn with our fans and we came out flying. It all boils down to coaching. We have great coaching. They were tellihng us to keep our composure, not getting ahead of ourselves. I think that really helped us. We kept the pressure on and I think a lot of that was confidence.”
Owen Glass kept Mount off the board the rest of the way and finished with 37 saves.
“Owen played out of his mind, especially in the first period,” Gaffney said. “They tried to come out and kind of put two or three on us right away. We didn’t really let them. We got that first one and that kind of set the tone for the game. Their goalie is good. We just had their number today.”
The Crusaders had been building toward a performance like this one, but there was a missing piece.
“I think we played similarly against Moses Brown the other night, but we just didn’t score,” Gaffney said. “When given the opportunity, we didn’t finish. Tonight we did. That makes a huge difference in the tenor of the game.”
Prout hopes the win is the start of a surge, one that would be meaningful for this season and for the future.
“There’s definitely a lot of potential here. We’re just trying to build this team up,” Costello said.
“A big thing with our group is we have a lot of tenacity and a lot of heart,” Fonseca said. “We had a few guys hurt in the first game of the year, lost a few games in a row. This feels really good to get back on our feet. We really want to get back into the mix.”
That’s the ultimate focus. Monday’s win will go into the record books, but it’s just one victory.
“They don’t give out any trophies for this,” Gaffney said. “It’s two points. It’s a win. That’s what these guys came to Prout for, to play against the iron of the league and to compete.”