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Ponaganset 5 West Warwick 4

January 10, 2015

(West Warwick, RI)  Josh D’Alessio (pictured left) drilled home a power-play goal with 4:17 remaining in regulation and co-captain Derek Merchant’s hat trick and assist propelled Ponaganset to a 5-4 win over West Warwick/Exeter/West Greenwich Friday night at the West Warwick Civic Center.

The battle of undefeated teams in Rhode Island’s Division III featured high-powered offenses and stingy defenses entering the contest, but the former was the order of the day in the game’s first period.

Nate Morin opened the scoring for Ponaganset (9-0) at the game’s 2:49 mark with his 15th goal of the season, assisted by Tom Caine. Just over four minutes later, Nick Pecchia tied the game with his fifth goal for the Wizards (7-1), as Brendan Sheridan and Zack Magiera tallied assists. Merchant gave the visitors a 3-1 lead with a pair of goals, at 9:22 and at 9:30, assisted by Nick Ferrucci and co-captain James Manni, respectively. Jared Olson cut the deficit to 3-2 with his first goal of the campaign with an assist by Tom Pecchia, at 12:49, and Sheridan tied the contest with his eighth goal, unassisted, with 35 seconds to play in the opening period.

Defense ruled the final 30 minutes of the game as each team tightened up inside their respective blue lines.

West Warwick took a 4-3 lead 10:17 into the second period on Tom Pecchia’s 16th goal, assisted by Olson. The Wizards’ lead was short-lived as Merchant, with 27 seconds remaining in the period, notched his 13th goal and completed his hat trick with Morin assisting on a power-play to tie the game at four and set up a thrilling final period.

With the crowd at the West Warwick Civic Center on the edge of its seat, both teams played a hard-hitting third period with both squads’ defenses holding firm, denying chance after chance. After failing to cash in on a pair of third period power-plays, the Chieftains broke through on the man-advantage as Merchant set up D’Alessio for the sophomore’s eighth goal and the eventual game-winner with less than five minutes to play.

Despite a stinging first period, both goaltenders settled down for excellent games with Ponaganset net-minder Curtis Briggs stopping 20 of 24 shots while West Warwick’s Ivan Forcier made 18 saves on 23 shots on net.

Ponaganset returns, home, to Levy Arena Saturday night to face (1-8) Woonsocket at 8:30 while West Warwick/Exeter/West Greenwich travels to Portsmouth Abbey Rink next Saturday to battle Mt. Hope at 7:00PM.

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