Providence Catholic features dynamic scorers and one of Illinois’ best goaltenders but it was something else that kick-started the Celtics’ Kennedy Cup series win over Marmion.
“For the series we had a line that played against Marmion’s top line yesterday and shut them down — Aidan Castleton, Noah Oliver, and Nick Mastro,” Providence coach Nick Iaciancio said.
“They did an excellent job (Saturday) of shutting down Marmion’s top line, and I think that gave us confidence that everyone was going to contribute this weekend and we’d get a full team effort.”
Saturday’s 5-1 win gave way to Sunday’s 4-0 victory, sending second-seeded Providence to the Kennedy Cup semifinals, where the series winner between Benet and St. Rita awaits.
After getting two goals from Vinny Felice and one apiece from Carson Burris, Bruno Handzel, and Tom Dukups in Saturday’s win, Providence’s plan heading into Sunday’s second game couldn’t have been clearer.
“We were trying to keep pressure on them because we knew if we got one, we thought they were just going to fall,” Felice said. “We didn’t want them to get any momentum. We thought if we got on them early, they could fall apart.”
Buzzing in the offensive zone in suffocating fashion, Providence started the game fast and kept its foot on the gas throughout a first period that set the tone for the game.
Capping its solid opening pressure, Providence struck first at the 10:37 mark of the first period when Felice rushed the net and Marmion goaltender Charlie Donoghue made the initial stop. The rebound squirted free and Burris saw his chance.
“Vinny did a good job of entering the zone and it was laying right in front of the net,” Burris said. “I was just there to tap it in.”
Seventh-seeded Marmion gave Providence all it could handle during the regular season. Providence won 3-2 over Marmion in late October, the teams tied 2-2 in mid-December, and Marmion beat Providence 2-1 on Jan. 20.
Donoghue is also one of the best goalies around and has stood tall against Providence this season. So even after beating Marmion 5-1 Saturday, Providence knew the Cadets were more than capable of taking Sunday’s game.
Providence (31-15-4) came out ready and Iaciancio liked his squad’s attacking energy against Marmion (15-21-1) to start the game.
“That was by design. We wanted to take away any chance they thought they had to extend the series,” Iaciancio said. “We wanted to get the first goal, put some heat on them, and put some doubt in their mind. So that part went well.”
Burris struck again with 13:18 remaining in the second period on an unassisted short-handed goal. Burris took off with the puck from the boards on the left side, swept all the way across the slot to the far side, and then exercised some patience.
“I thought Nico (Felice) was going to take it so there was a little miscommunication,” Burris said. “But I walked in and knew I could pull it to the side. I did it and it went in.”
With a considerable edge in shots on net heading into the third period and a 2-0 lead, Providence kept at it. The Celtics went on the power play early in the period and made it 3-0 on defenseman Travis Briar’s shot from the point on the right side at the 14:19 mark.
“We got a goal out of (Briar) today on the power play and we’ve talked about how we have to start getting our defensemen involved,” Iaciancio said. “Getting some production out of them is key.”
Bruno Handzel made it 4-0 in the game’s waning seconds, scoring on an empty net.
Providence goaltender and captain Andrew Pavich has been stellar in net for the Celtics all season. Pavich, Vinny Felice, and Burris were all recently names to AHAI’s 2023 All-State team.
With Pavich in net and Burris, Vinny Felice, Nico Felice, and Handzel all contributing offensively, Providence has the makings for a deep postseason run.
“We know (Pavich) is one of the best in the state, we’re solid everywhere in our ‘D’ zone, and we have a lot of trust in him,” Burris said.
Burris liked the teamwork his side showed throughout and Vinny Felice liked the way the Providence bench kept the energy high all game long.
“It just provides a lot of positivity, bringing each other up, and it boosts us all to go out there and keep working hard,” Felice said.
“Now we just have to keep our emotions in check because towards the end of a game like this it was getting chippy. So we have to stay focused on winning in that situation.”
Third-seeded Benet and sixth-seeded St. Rita have played to a 1-1 series tie, with each winning a 4-3 game in overtime. Providence went 2-1 against St. Rita during the regular season and were 1-1-1 against Benet.
Either way, Providence knows where it needs to get and stay strong heading into the Kennedy Cup semifinals.
“We probably struggled a bit five-on-five and I think we only had three five-on-five goals all weekend, so that has to get better,” Iaciancio said. “But all three lines were working.
“We have our top three scorers basically on one line so teams can key on them, but we’re generating scoring opportunities with the other two lines. We were able to keep everyone fresh this weekend, which was important for us. We’ve got a couple guys with bumps and bruises and we were able to rest them a little bit.”
On the other side of the Kennedy Cup bracket, top-seeded St. Ignatius also moved into the semifinals with a two-game sweep of Notre Dame, while the quarterfinal series between fourth-seeded Brother Rice and fifth-seeded Fenwick is tied 1-1.