It’s relatively easy to measure the progress the Coventry hockey team made the during the Rhode Island Summer Hockey League season.
In their first game of the season the Oakers were beaten 5-1 by Bishop Hendricken. The two teams met again in the semifinals Sunday night in Smithfield and the young Oakers gave a better account of themselves.
After Hendricken scored the opening two goals in the first period, Coventry battled back behind the No. 1 line of Jacob Anderson, Drew Strychasz and Zach Woods. The trio combined to tie the game before Hendricken managed an overtime goal to earn a 3-2 victory.
“We had our chances, that’s for sure,” Coventry coach Ken Bird said Monday afternoon. “We had a goal called back for a high stick and we had some golden opportunities late in the game. We played great. The kids have come a long way and we still have a long way to go.”
Sunday’s defeat ends the summer season for the Oakers, who are rebuilding after three straight years of unprecedented success for the program. Coventry won the 2010 and 2011 Division II crowns before moving up to Division I and reaching the semifinals this past season.
With a number of key contributors either graduated or playing for the Hitmen, Bird said it’s incumbent on his young team to build off the momentum of the summer.
“We need to get all of the kids in the gym,” Bird said. “We’re a young team, which means we’re smaller. We need to get as big as we can in the next few months. We have a lot of work to do this winter. It’s not like we’re playing Division II hockey like in the past. We’re rebuilding with a young group.”
One of the bright spots this summer for Coventry, according to Bird, was the play of sophomore Ryan Clifford, who didn’t play a minute on the varsity team last season. Clifford played well in the regular-season finale against Moses Brown and bounced back well from two early goals Sunday.
“We had Ryan Clifford play the whole game and he’s just a sophomore,” Bird said. “He did very well. The first goal he had no help and he knows he made a mistake on the second one. Other than that he played great to keep us in the game.”