The scoring went back-and-forth for the first two periods of Saturday’s hockey game between Pilgrim and Toll Gate, but the Patriots surged in the final fifteen minutes to beat the Titans 5-3.
Both teams were coming off strong opening-night wins the day before. Pilgrim prevailed in a 2-1 game against Coventry, while Toll Gate won an offensive shootout over Ponaganset, 10-6.
But the Pats were the ones who started their season with a perfect weekend.
Just 47 seconds into Saturday’s game, Pilgrim senior Susie Cavanagh blasted the puck past Toll Gate goalie David Stachurski, giving her team an early 1-0 lead. She was assisted by Taylor Stringfellow.
Toll Gate had the opportunity to tie, as separate penalties on Pilgrim’s Corey Casale and Cody Weaver presented the Titans with a five-on-three opportunity. However, Pilgrim goalie Devon Gamba kept Toll Gate out of the net throughout the power play.
A scuffle after the first-period buzzer gave the Pats a four-on-three advantage to begin the second period and they quickly took advantage. Fifty seconds into the period, Weaver sent a slap shot from the blue line past Stachurski, giving Pilgrim a 2-0 lead. He was assisted by Cavanagh.
That’s when the Titans found their footing. On a power play early in the second, Dylan Russo put the puck past Gamba to cut his team’s deficit in half. Kevin Vittum had the assist.
Just 29 seconds later, after another Pilgrim penalty, Russo scored again to tie the game.
The Pats answered halfway through the period as Weaver scored his second goal of the game, but Toll Gate came back again as Russo capped off his hat trick with just 34 seconds left in the period.
The third period began with most of the action in the Toll Gate zone. After a couple of missed opportunities, Pilgrim sophomore Ryan Oatley saw a chance to strike. He pushed the puck past Stachurski in the fourth minute, giving the Patriots a 4-3 lead. Gamba made a few key saves in front of the net to keep the Pats in front.
“(Gamba) played well,” said Pilgrim coach Dave Tober. “He is aggressive, that’s the best thing about him. He’s a courageous goalie, and he is not afraid to make a mistake. He is very aggressive.”
With a minute left in the game, Toll Gate pulled Stachurski, but with 19.7 seconds left on the clock, Cavanagh sealed the win for Pilgrim with a breakaway, empty-net goal.
“Our mental toughness,” Tober said, “is something that has impressed me this first weekend.”
The Titans will attempt to get back on track against the PCD/Wheeler/St. Raphael co-op team on Friday at 9 p.m. at Thayer Arena..
As for the Pats, they’re the only team in Division II-North with a 2-0 record and they’ll attempt to continue their winning streak against North Smithfield on Saturday at the Levy Rink.