The argument has raged in Rhode Island seemingly since the first puck was dropped at center ice when the first Interscholastic League hockey game was played.
How can a competitive balance be struck between the private schools and the public schools that play the sport?
The imbalance that exists is underscored this season like a rocket soaring through the skies since the Rhode Island Interscholastic League expanded to 10 schools – four private and six public – in the state’s top division, Division I.
Through games of Dec. 29, Mount St. Charles, Hendricken, La Salle Academy and Moses Brown School were a combined 12-0-0 against public schools Barrington, Burrillville, Cranston West, Lincoln, North Kingstown and Smithfield.
Moreover, the four private schools had outscored their public school opponents by the outrageous margin of 82-3.
The last time a public school won the state Division I championship occurred when Toll Gate captured back-to-back titles during the 2003-04 and 2004-05 seasons.
Otherwise, the last time a public school annexed the Division I title was during the 1974-75 season when East Providence prevailed.
The advantage private schools enjoy is obvious: they draw students from every city and town in the state – and even some from Massachusetts. And in the case of Mount St. Charles, the Mounties have their own rink (Adelard Arena), which is adjacent to the school.
Interscholastic League officials over the years have wracked their brains in an attempt to come up with alignments which would involve private and public schools and, hopefully, make more competitive games. But other than the years when Toll Gate prevailed in Division I, the alignments have left much to be desired.
After all, what fans (read parents) want to witness blowouts on a regular basis?
Even if Mount St. Charles, Hendricken, La Salle and Moses Brown were placed in Division I by themselves, and played each other three times a season (as has happened when the Mounties, Hawks, Rams and Titans were in Division I), they still would have to play some public schools – or venture out of state as Mount does on a frequent basis – to round out an adequate schedule.
But that might be the only solution after this season – a solution that might be fostered if red lights in the state’s rinks continue to pop from flashing on way too often.
BEST OF THE BEST
When private schools from around New England venture to Rhode Island for the annual Mount St. Charles Holiday Tournament, fans are treated to the highest brand of interscholastic hockey the sport can offer.
In the opening round this week, for example, Mount beat St. Dominic’s Academy (Maine), 5-1, as Brian Campbell scored two goals while Brian Belisle, Trevor Plante and Mike Magerman each contributed a goal plus an assist.
Andrew King made 20 saves as La Salle College High (Pennsylvania) blanked Hendricken, 5-0.
Frank Crinella and Sean Kavanagh each scored a goal as Springfield Cathedral High (Massachusetts) edged St. Joseph’s College Institute (New York), 2-1.
Pawtucket rivals Tolman and Shea put on a show and then some in the finals of the annual James W. Donaldson Memorial Tournament (which is named in honor of the Tigers’ late, long-time coach who was one of the true gentlemen in the history of Rhode Island interscholastic sports).
Jeremy Graca scored 20 points, including a pair of three-point shots, as Tolman edged the Raiders, 48-45.
Austin Silva posted a double-double for the Raiders, with 20 points and 10 rebounds. But his three-point shot – which would have tied the score at the buzzer and forced overtime – fell short.
HOW ABOUT A REPEAT?
For the better part of this decade, La Salle Academy has dominated Division I girls’ basketball.
Prior to the 2009-10 season, the Rams had captured six of the previous eight state championships.
La Salle’s reign came to a screeching halt last season when Woonsocket – the 2009 Division II champ – beat the Rams in the Division I finals.
Woonsocket is off to a 2-1 start in the early going. But it won’t be easy for the Villa Novans to repeat considering who they graduated from last season’s team: Division I Tournament MVP Brooke Coderre (daughter of head coach George Coderre), Nicole Boucher, Kofo Olowookere and Lauren Masse.
If the Villa Novans are to make a run at another title, they’ll need players like Michelle Brayboy, Ashley Doubois and Allyson Cartier to fill the void created by the departure of their teammates.
CAN’T KICK ABOUT THIS TEAM
Division I state champion Barrington landed three players on the All-State boys’ soccer team: midfielder Brett Sullivan, who led the Interscholastic League with 27 assists; forward Jeff Craven, who tied for the state scoring lead with 30 points; and goalie Andrew Jones, who made 115 total saves as the Eagles notched an 18-0-4 overall record.
Other selections included defenders Gaelen Oliver from Chariho, Connor Bolton from Hendricken and Sam Hall-Stinson from North Kingstown; midfielders Colin Patch from La Salle; Joao Cardoso from Shea; and Marcos Urgate from Providence Country Day; forwards Emerson Barros from Shea and Bob Bialy from East Greenwich.
Craven, a senior, also was voted All-America honors by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America.
ODDS ‘N ENDS
Toll Gate senior Samantha Chace will be competing in track and field next year at Columbia. An honors student at Toll Gate High, Chace applied for early admission and was accepted. During her time at Toll Gate, she’s earned All-State honors in cross country plus indoor and outdoor track and field.
Prout School’s Elise Walsh was voted the Gatorade Rhode Island Volleyball Player of the Year for a second consecutive season. A senior center, Walsh led the Crusaders to a 14-3 record and their second consecutive Division I state championship. She is a three-time, First Team All-State selection.
Portsmouth director of athletics and boys’ basketball coach Mike Lunney was named the new assistant director of the Rhode Island Interscholastic League. He replaces Dick Magarian, who is retiring. Lunney has been the A.D. at Portsmouth for 16 years and a coach for eight.
Mike Scandura has been covering high school sports, college basketball, football and hockey, plus minor league baseball in Rhode Island since the early 1970s. A native of Oswego, N.Y. he’s a member of the Words Unlimited Hall of Fame which is the statewide organization of sportswriters, sportscasters and sports publicists.