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Providence got off to a slow start but the Celtics picked up the pace at the end of the first period and blew past Mount Carmel 5-1 in the opening round of the Kennedy Cup playoffs on Saturday evening.
The No. 6 Celtics (44-11-4) will take on top-seeded Fenwick in the semifinals.
"We played good defense and we got good goaltending,’’ Providence coach Nick Iaciancio said. "Justin [Salazar] did a good job in the net.’’
Salazar’s effort was needed as the Caravan (10-12-3) came out and peppered Salazar early. The junior net-minder was equal to the task and his effort seemed to motivate his teammates, who then picked up the pace late in the first.
Mike Vennetti opened the scoring for Providence on a turnover at the blue line. The junior forward marched in all alone and used a nifty fake forehand before pulling the puck to his backhand to beat goalie Jeff Vervlied.
"My defense helped me out a lot tonight,’’ Salazar said. "They blocked at least ten shots. When I couldn’t see the puck, they were blocking shots.’’
Sophomore Dan Ricker then started off a big night for himself by assisting on Ben Brandau’s goal early in the second period. It was the start of a four-goal period that essentially gave the game to the Celtics. Ricker ended his evening with two goals and two assists.
"I’m playing better than last year,’’ Ricker said. "I’m getting more ice time and making the most of it.’’
"It helps that he’s using his speed,’’ Iaciancio said. "He has been playing more physical and aggressive.’’
The Kennedy Cup playoffs are a best of three format and Providence captured the first two games while allowing only one goal in both games. Salazar turned away 31 shots while allowing the only goal to Luke Glover with 14 seconds remaining in the game.
Matt Payton scored off a feed from Ricker in the second period.