The Fenwick hockey team took a big step forward on Sunday night to securing the No. 2 seed in the upcoming Kennedy Cup playoffs with a 2-1 victory over Providence at Southwest Ice Arena in Crestwood.
Tom Finn's power-play goal with 1:02 to play broke a 1-all tie, and gave the Friars a big win heading into Friday's showdown with St. Rita at Ridgeland Common.
"For some reason, we stopped playing after we scored first," Fenwick coach Dan Wolff said. "But we forced everything to the net there at the end and had a lot of traffic in front of the net.
"That helped us create a scoring opportunity, and we were able to capitalize. Our defense played well again, but we need more than one line to produce on the offensive end."
After suffering a pair of one-goal losses to the Mustangs in a 48-hour span last month, Wolff's squad will try to halt St. Rita's perfect run. After drubbing Brother Rice 8-0 on Sunday, the Mustangs improved to 13-0 in conference play. Not only did St. Rita wrap up its first conference title since 1982, but it also moved within three games of becoming only the second Catholic League team to finish undefeated.
"We realize it's not going to be a cakewalk to go undefeated," said St. Rita coach Craig Ferguson, who led the 1998 Mount Carmel squad to a perfect conference season. "It's going to be a grind, and these kids realize that. Fenwick has played us tough, and we have them on Friday."
Charlie Lawler also scored for Fenwick against Providence, while Nick Chiapetta earned the win between the pipes.
"I still feel good about this team, because the leadership is there for us to have a successful run," Wolff said. "We just need to get a solid second line.
"Last year, we were able to get away with one line at times, but I don't think we're going to be able to do that this year in the Kennedy Cup and state playoffs. We'll see how we do against Rita on Friday."
Fenwick also will battle defending state champion Glenbrook North at 7 p.m. Saturday at Ridgeland Common. The Spartans knocked off Fenwick at the United Center last March to earn their first state crown in over a decade.
"These kids realize we've won five consecutive Kennedy Cups, and they don't want to be the group that stops that streak," Wolff said. "They'll pick it up a notch in the playoffs, and I think we're going to be all right."