My Pitch

Hawks, Rams deliver...again

Posted

The Bishop Hendricken and La Salle hockey teams will square off at some point in the postseason, and the winner will be the 2018-19 state champion.

Let me say from the start, this is by no means a hot take.

The two clubs have formed a great rivalry over the past five or six years … of course they have had history long before that, but things have really heated up as of late.

The Rams won last year’s title, stopping Hendricken in the state championship and ending its chance at a three-peat. The two clubs met recently during the holiday break for an exhibition, and the Hawks prevailed in a tight 4-3 win. Last Friday’s game was another great battle, with the Hawks once again taking home a close win, holding off the Rams by a score of 3-2.

With this being my first winter covering sports in RI, I haven’t had the opportunity to check out many other teams yet, but from what I saw on Friday, and from what I have seen, heard and read in general, it just seems like these two teams are once again on a collision course to face each other on the biggest stage. The two teams are set to have one last regular season battle, this time on Hendricken’s turf, but regardless of the outcome I expect these teams to go at it multiple times by season’s end.

It’s easy to talk up the rivalry in terms of the big picture. Both schools are private, both schools have historically great teams, and both schools have rivalries that are intertwined in other sports, like football for example.

But on paper, these teams also look to be the other’s toughest match.

Both of these clubs are complete in terms of skillset. Offensively, they are fast. Defensively, they are big and strong. Both also boast great goaltenders.

Hendricken senior Matthew Dumond has really stepped his game up this season, and was one of the heroes for the Hawks on Friday. Freshman phenom Brady Berard has followed in his brother’s footsteps nicely in the early going, and has emerged as one of Hendricken’s top forwards as well.

Other Hawks who have had nice starts so far are Cam Toussaint, Dylan Webber, Michael Boscia, just to name a few.

On Friday, the biggest standout was senior goalie Patrick Gribbin, who came up with save after save and at times single handedly kept the Rams at bay.

The way that hockey goalies are valued interests me. As we all know, in hockey there is offense, defense, and goaltending. Usually when one assesses a team, one of the first boxes to check is the goalie.

As much as we give goalies credit when they have a great day, and as much as we slam them when they are off, it never seems like we break down their performances as much as we can. Friday for example, Gribbin had a great game and was a big part of the win … that is usually the extent of the conversation.

In this case though, I’m going to take it one step further.

Gribbin was not only key in the win, he wasn’t only the biggest reason they won, he was even more than that.

The Rams came out flying in the first period and quickly scored to take the 1-0 lead. Were the Hawks panicked? No. Were the Hawks frustrated? Absolutely.

Some slammed their sticks, some cursed, some skated back to the faceoff circle with their heads down. Gribbin on the other hand kept his poker face, took his spot in the net, and was nails the rest of the way.

The Hawks offense took off in the second period and mounted the 3-1 lead. However, Gribbin once again came up huge in the third period and took La Salle’s best shot. Even the score that the Rams got in the third was on the powerplay in front of a crowded net … point being, Gribbin was certainly not at fault in that situation.

We usually don’t think of goalies as the tone setter in hockey. Usually it’s the high-flying forward, or the smashmouth defenseman. I guess my overall feeling towards goalies is this: Although they are not undervalued, they are definitely at times underappreciated … if that makes any sense.

I’ll tell you what. If Gribbin brings that type of game to the postseason, it will be tough for any team to top Hendricken. I’m not trying to downplay the strength of the rest of the team, but Gribbin stole the show on Friday and deserves the credit.

I arrived to the stadium about 20 minutes early on Friday and the line to get in was out the door. Fans poured in throughout the first period, some fans were even turned away.

I now understand what the hype was about, and why people made the trip. Hendricken and La Salle once again proved to be the top two clubs in the state, and put on a show.

Not that this is breaking news or a flashy prediction … but I fully expect to see these two meet again in the playoffs, and I can’t wait to see who comes out on top.

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