Avon Wins Sixth New England Prep Title
Avon Wins Sixth New England Prep Title
Nick Bonino scored two goals and Patrick Enloe picked up his second shutout of the playoffs as Avon Old Farms beat Belmont Hill, 3-0, to take the 2007 New England Prep title before a packed house of 2,500 at the Icenter in Salem, NH today.
The win gave Avon their sixth prep title, and third in four years. All six have come under John Gardner. No other school has won more than two.
For the actual period-by-period chronology of the game please scroll down the page. The short story here is that the better team won today, and Avon capped off a roll through the postseason that included a 3-0 win in the quarterfinals over Hotchkiss, and a 3-1 semifinal win over Nobles, with a virtually flawless performance. The Winged Beavers are good, they're deep, they're well-coached, and they can sing, as they showed when serenading their fans from the ice after being presented with the championship trophy.
Avon was firing on all cylinders from the opening faceoff, outshooting Belmont Hill, 16-6 in the first period. However, Belmont Hill goaltender Matt Gedman barred the door, and kept the game 0-0 until midway through the second period. Belmont Hill did a nice job getting back in the game in the second and Kevin McNamara hit a crossbar in the third that, had it gone in, could have allowed Belmont Hill to get back in the game. There were a couple of other times Belmont Hill came close, but coming close is one thing, beating Enloe is another.
Nonetheless, Belmont Hill hung in there, kind of like a boxer who keeps getting staggered but just won't go to the canvas. Gedman came up big numerous times. Two of the three goals he gave up were big time shots -- pure snipes -- and one came off a scrum after he'd already made several saves. For a player who came into the season pretty unheralded, it was an impressive performance.
Belmont Hill's Matt McCollem, the big wheel up front for Belmont Hill, played hurt all weekend. He separated a shoulder in the final game of the regular season, sat out Wednesday's quarterfinal win over Lawrence, then came back for Saturday's semi and reinjured it, but didn't miss a shift. He just kept playing, though it was clear he was far from right.
Bonino, whom we mentioned above, was excellent -- great hands, and a big time shot. Cam Atkinson only had one assist on the day, but he was a force every time he stepped on the ice -- fast, skilled, and dangerous. Brian Malchoff and Ken Trentowski were excellent on the blue line. The whole team -- every line, every defense pairing -- played well, exhibiting discipline, aggressiveness, and skill. And, as we said, Belmont Hill hung with them, and were a bounce away from making it a one-goal game until late in the third. It didn't make any difference whether Avon was on the powerplay, penalty kill, or shorthanded, they created offense, and a lot of it. On the defensive side of things, they kept Belmont Hill from getting too close to Enloe and moved the puck up ice nicely.
"I thought it was a great game," said longtime Belmont Hill coach Ken Martin, who has two prep titles himself ('85 and '90). "In the first period they outplayed us, but Gedman, who's the best goalie who's played for me in 35 years, was unbelievable. In the second, we picked it up, and I thought we played well in the third. I'm really proud of this team."
Down the hall, John Gardner had words of praise for Gedman. "He played great, particularly in the first. What we tried to do was get in in close and to the blocker side on him. He was excellent. I was impressed with how hard Belmont Hill played. It was a great prep game."
Gardner was asked about Bonino. "In big games," he replied, "you want your big players to come up big, and that's what they did. I am proud of them. We beat an outstanding team -- and we played our best game of the season."
When asked to compare this team with any of his other championship teams, Gardner said, "I don't compare teams. Each team has their own identity. I wanted this team to commit to the defensive end and when they did commit to it, they played their best hockey of the year -- in the playoffs. It was a great effort at the right time. We were also lucky to stay away from injuries. That's something every coach worries about."
"I'm really proud of this team."
In the Div. II final, Hoosac, which reached the title game two years ago, but got wiped out by Shea Guthrie and St. George's, won its first championship, defeating Vermont Academy, 7-3.
The difference in the game was Hoosac's big line of Mike Schiavi (1g,1a), Sy Nutkevitch (1g,2a), and Matthew David (2g) plus small defenseman Kyle Hardy (2a). No other Div. II team here was able to match up with those four Montrealers. Also playing well for Hoosac, which had a total of 12 Canadians on the squad, were defenseman Francois Jean Boutin (2g) and yet another Montrealer, forward Shawn Sacco (1g,1a).
Vermont Academy players who stood out included forwards Brian Gibbons (2g) and Mike Allport (1a); and defenseman Mike Donnellan (1g).
Afterward, Vermont coach John Forbes said, "Hoosac is a dangerous team. They have breakaway speed and goal scorers. You really have to limit errors against a team like that. Unfortunately, we had some breakdowns in the neutral zone. They capitalized on their chances and we didn't."
The season as a whole, Forbes said, was a good one. "I'm extremely proud of these guys. We were successful because of the whole group. We have a strong core group -- we had ups and downs and we faced adversity and prevailed. A game like this is tough, but it just wasn't our day. Hoosac was the better team today."
Hoosac coach Gary Rabinowitz said, "We played selfless hockey. The guys on the team started caring more about the guy next to them than themselves the past couple of days. Our core guys work real hard and play the system to a T."
"We were here two years ago and took a beating from St. George's. We just kept pounding the message home that we don't want to suffer the same fate. This was redemption for all the program has gone through -- the probation, all the controversies."
Hoosac was clearly overjoyed, and started celebrating prematurely -- and way too exuberantly -- on the bench. While they were partying and allowing their attention to be drawn away from the game's final minute, Vermont Academy's Gibbons provided a small touch of poetic justice, popping in a goal to make it 7-3 with 25 seconds left to go. There's a saying in football, not really heeded much these days, and it's applicable here: "When you get to the end zone, act like you've been there before."
Before today, Hoosac had never reached the end zone. If they get there again, we hope they'll know how to act. This was a small thing, and probably unnoticed by many, but often it's the small things that mean the most.
In closing, let us point out that this tournament grows larger each year. The Salem venue is perfect in practically every way, but the day is approaching when it may need a larger venue. All of the people who stood to watch today's action might say that time is already here.
Championship Sunday -- with Updates
Avon Old Farms 3, Belmont Hill 0 (final) --
Gedman in goal for Bel Hill; Enloe in goal for Avon. The first period was pure domination by Avon. Even-strength they were coming at Belmont Hill in waves, and on the pp... well, it was scary. Our shot count for the first period had Avon outshooting Belmont Hill 16-6. Avon's penalty killing was excellent as well -- Belmont Hill literally couldn't get a shot on their first power play. Bel Hill had another pp with three minutes remaining and did get a decent opportunity when Kevin McNamara fed Luke Arnold at the corner of the crease, but things are going to have to change in the second period for Belmont Hill to have a chance here. The difference so far has been Matt Gedman -- but he needs help.
The second period was much better for Belmont Hill. They came out strong, playing aggresively, and had the early edge territorially, but weren't able to get much in the way of Grade A chances. Avon, in the second half of the period, began to take the game back. Avon went up 1-0 at the 7:45 mark when Sam Ward took a shot from the point. There was some whacking away at the rebound; it wound up on Nick Bonino's stick -- and it wound up in the back of net. Cam Atkinson and Tom Atkinson picked up assists. With 3:30 left in the period, Avon went up 2-0 when Tom Atkinson took a pass inside the left faceoff circle and, with time and space, didn't miss, blasting it high glove side. Assists went to Ken Trentowski and Bonino.
In the third, Avon did what they had to do -- they remained aggressive, and made sure the game stayed under their total control. Belmont Hill worked as hard as they could, but Avon's depth and skill and execution was very impressive. Just good disciplined hockey. There was one goal in the third and it came with 5:30 left when, right off the faceoff, Bonino scored his second of the day, just sniping one - no chance for Gedman.
Hoosac 7, Vermont Academy 3 (final) --
Goaltenders: Julien Hernandez (VA) and Kyle Ferguson (H). Hoosac goes up 5:47 into the game as Matthew David scores on a turnaround shot from about 10 feet. Colin O'Rourke and Sy Nutkevitch picked up assists. Hoosac went up 2-0 when, with the teams skating 4-on-4, defenseman Francois Jean Boutin took a whack at the puck from about 15 feet out and it bounced flukiley through Hernandez's five hole. Peter Bouchie and Shawn Sacco assisted. Vermont cut the Hoosac lead to one when, three seconds after their power play expired, defenseman Mike Donnellan took a nice pass out from Mike Allport and fired it past Ferguson.
In the second period, Hoosac picked up three goals in a little over a minute to go up 5-1. First, Matthew David scored a shorthanded goal at 6:24, a blast from the left faceoff circle. Then, 20 seconds later, Sacco converted a cross-crease pass to make it 4-0. And 53 seconds after that, Hoosac added yet another, off the stick of Boutin, to make it 5-0. Finally, with 13 seconds left, Mike Schiavi was sprung for a breakaway, his second breakaway in less than a minute, and this time he deked Hernandez to put Hoosac up 6-1.
In the third, Gibbons, at 2:02, took it to the net and tucked it by Ferguson to make it a 6-2 game. With 1:48 remaining, Nutkevitch cruised over the blue line and fired a long, low shot into the corner, stick side, to make it 7-2 Hoosac. Finally, with 25 seconds left and the Hoosac players attention diverted by the premature celebration on their bench, Gibbons scored for Vermont, making it 7-3.
Boys Semifinals – Updates from Salem, NH
Avon Old Farms 3, Nobles 1 (final) --
Goaltenders: Muse for Nobles; Wolcott for Avon. Nobles scored about five minutes into the period when Mark Hourihan, from down around the left faceoff circle, got the puck out to Gus Young at the left point. Young's shot to the far top corner beat Wolcott, who appeared to be screened. The first period was pretty frenetic, and the players seemed over-amped, not surprising since the crowd, in particular the Avon kids with their noisemakers, is loud.
In the second period, Avon's forwards got into gear, putting pressure on Nobles from the start. Muse held the fort early, but after 80 or so minutes of not allowing a postseason goal, was finally solved as Avon scored when their center, off the faceoff, pushed the puck by his Nobles counterpart, getting it on net, where it was pushed past Muse -- a blue collar goal. James Chamness was credited with the goal; Brad Cooper and Ryan Butler assisting. That made it a 1-1 game. After that, Nobles got themselves into trouble, primarily by taking two offensive zone slashing penalties within three minutes: Avon's potent power play cashed in on both opportunities. The first, with Matt Marshall in the box, came when Nobles failed to clear the puck. Avon's Tom Atkinson corralled a bouncing puck inside the blue line and fed Cam Atkinson, who one-timed a shot past Muse to give Avon a 2-1 lead at 10:43. A little over two minutes later, with Mike Griffin in the box, Derrick Pallis' blade popped out as he was attempting to clear the zone, meaning what was a 5-on-4 turned into what was essentially a 5-on-3. Avon's Bonino jumped all over the opportunity, firing a blistering slapshot past Muse to make it 3-1 at the 12:48 mark. Ken Trentowski picked up an assist on the goal.
In the third, Avon held the advantage in play early, but as the period moved along -- and particularly in the final 8-9 minutes -- Nobles took over. Hourihan took a nice pass from Chris Steele, but was stopped on a breakaway. Josh Franklin had a great chance. Matt Marshall had a nice chance. Nobles owned the last part of the period, but just couldn't get it past Wolcott, who played an excellent game.
Tomorrow at 3:00 pm Avon will face off against Belmont Hill for the Div. I crown. Avon's John Gardner will be going for his sixth crown, while Belmont Hill's Ken Martin will be going for his third.
Belmont Hill 7, South Kent 0 (final) --
Gedman in goal for Belmont Hill; Sorokolat for South Kent. McCollem is back in the lineup for Belmont Hill. Edge in play early went to South Kent, as Belmont Hill was called for several penalties in a row. However, South Kent, while buzzing along, was unable to cash in, though they came close several times. Gedman had a strong period, and came up with a particularly big pad save on John Tague. Late in the period, South Kent's Nick Lampson was called for hitting after the whistle and Belmont Hill quickly took advantage when Kevin McNamara moved down the right side boards and, showing patience, zipped a pass to Jason Silvia, who was camped on the edge of the crease and banged it home to put Belmont Hill up 1-0 with 1:47 left. With 14 seconds remaining there was a big scrum in front of Sorokolat, the puck was never covered up, and Silvia banged it home for this second goal of the game and a 2-0 Belmont Hill lead.
In the second, Belmont Hill got on the board again when Joe Tierney made a great pass from his end up to Jake Moscatel, who got it to Luke Arnold, who made it 3-0 Bel Hill with 8:13 left in the period. Luke Arnold scored his second goal of the period with 3:07 remaining when he came down the left side and took a shot that broke off Sorokolat's glove -- 4-0, Belmont Hill. With no time on the clock Belmont Hill was awarded a penalty shot when Dillon O'Hara was called for tripping on Moscatel. Sorokolat stopped him.
Early in the third -- 28 seconds in to be exact -- Belmont Hill went up 5-0, scoring from a scrum in front. We don't know exactly who put it home, but it was the result of a lot of work and a lot of whacking away at it -- Belmont Hill scored on the fifth shot of the flurry.
Belmont Hill went up 6-0 when Silvia, forechecking behind the net, beat two South Kent players for the puck, spun, and passed it to Moscatel coming down the slot. Moscatel rifled it low stick side.
Belmont Hill made it 7-0 with 32 second left as Jack McNamara made a perfect pass to Silvia, who fired it home for his third goal of the game.
Vermont Academy 4, Hebron 1 (final) --
The first period ended 0-0. Hebron had a ton of chances, did a good job getting it to the doorstep but couldn't find the handle and convert on any of them. Starting goaltenders are Jon Glant for Hebron and Julien Hernandez for VA.
In the second period, Hebron had a goal waved off early because the referee was out of position and blew his whistle too early. Shortly after, Vermont began to take it to Hebron and eventually cashed in with a couple of goals less than two minutes apart. The first came when Oleg Koval picked up a puck off the backboards and tucked it past Glant at the 7:17 mark. VA went up 2-0 when Brian Gibbons, from the left point, hit Justin Aquino at the far faceoff circle with a pass. Aquino lifted it over Glant for the goal.
Early in the third period, Hebron got on the board when VA turned it over in center ice and Hebron broke in 2-on-1. Oleksandr Romanenko held the puck and then wristed it home from the slot, beating Hernandez low blocker side at the 2:37 mark. However, midway through the period VA got it back when, on the power play, Mike Donnellan hit Brian Gibbons with a pass and Gibbons, at the right faceoff circle snapped one high over Glant's glove to make it 3-1 Vermont at the 7:57 mark. After the goal, Vermont kept the pressure on and didn't allow Hebron to get back into the game. Gibbons added an empty netter with 47 seconds left to make it 4-1.
Vermont Academy advances to tomorrow's 12:30 pm title game against Hoosac.
Hoosac 5, Brunswick 1 (Final) --
Hoosac leads 2-0 after one period on goals from Matthew David, a slapshot from the left faceoff circle following a center ice turnover with 1:57 remaining. Hoosac went up 2-0 with 29 seconds left when Sy Nutkevitch outworked two Brunswick defenders and fed a pass in front to Mike Schiavi – a pretty goal. Hoosac outshot Brunswick 13-9.
Hoosac leads 3-0 after two periods as, early in the period, Sy Nutkevitch took a nice cross-crease pass from Mike Schiavi and just tapped it past Brunswick goaltender Michael Petchonka. The Hoosac goaltender is Kyle Ferguson.
Hoosac has gone ahead 4-0 1:28 into the third, Schiavi on an odd-man rush, converting a pass from Nutkevich. With 2:37 left Hoosac goes ahead 5-0 on a power play goal as Matthew David converted a Sy Nutkevitch pass.
Hoosac will play the winner of Hebron-Vermont Academy tomorrow at 12:30 pm.
Time to pack up for New Hampshire, where you can live free or die shopping in Salem, NH, a once-dignified New England town that sold its soul to Circuit City, Best Buy, CompUSA, K-Mart, BJ's Wholesale Club, Bob's Discount Furniture, Pier I, JC Penney, Walmart, Kohl's, Target, Marshall's, Macy's, The Gap, TJ Maxx, Ann Taylor, Sear's, Filenes and probably a hundred others.
Not all is lost though.
Salem is home to Canobie Lake Park, a 104 year old amusement park in which the original 1902 carousel still revolves daily from Memorial Day to Labor Day. The Yankee Cannonball is as good as a roller coaster gets in these parts, and the Boston Tea Party is a good ride on a hot summer day. In 1937, at the old Canobie Lake Ballroom, on the park's grounds, Duke Ellington appeared. So genius has graced this town.
Speaking of which, Robert Frost went to grade school in Salem and later came back as a young schoolteacher.
But, for the first weekend in March, the Icenter is where it's at -- and let's not forget the fine dining and drinking establishments around town. The redoubtable Buzz Patterson has compliled a special edition of his respected USHR Dining Guide to help you in that regard. Just click on the link in the upper right-hand corner of this page.
NEPSIHA, presided over with an iron fist and a light touch by Choate head coach Patrick Dennehy, does a great job running this tournament, which seems to feature bigger crowds every year. We've seen some gripping games at this tournament over the years, the kind of games that stick in our memory bank. And we expect this year to be no different.
Here is the schedule. Note that Brunswick vs. Hoosac is the first game on Saturday and begins at 11 am. Driving directions are below. And yes, this article was, pretty much word-for-word, in this space last year. Maybe by next year we’ll dig up some more Salem-related trivia.
Div. I Semifinal Matchups:
Icenter, Salem, NH, Sat. March 3, 2007
South Kent vs. Belmont Hill, 3:30 pm
Noble & Greenough vs. Avon Old Farms, 6:00 pm.
Div. I Championship Game:
Icenter, Salem, NH, Sun. March 4, 2007 at 3:00 pm
Div. II Semifinal Matchups:
Icenter, Salem, NH Sat. March 3, 2007
Brunswick vs. Hoosac, 11:00 am
Hebron vs. Vermont Academy, 1:15 pm
Div. II Championship Game:
Icenter, Salem, NH, Sun. March 4, 2007 at 12:30 pm
Driving Directions to the Icenter:From Boston, Take Route 93 North. Right after crossing the Mass/New Hampshire border, take Exit 1 (Rockingham Park Boulevard). After exiting, you will see a sign for Mall Road, which will take you up on an overpass. When you come to a traffic light, take a right. This is Mall Road (you will see the race track on your right). Very shortly thereafter, it comes to a T, take a left there (Rt. 38 South), go straight through two sets of lights, and you'll see the Icenter about a half-mile down on the right.