Iles, Crimson Knights Wear Crown
Salem, NH -- Junior goaltender Andy Iles was perfect and the skaters in front of him relentlessly ground down Exeter as Salisbury, in their first year under head coach Andrew Will, took a 4-0 decision in the 2009 New England Prep Championship game here today.
The win gives Salisbury their second Div. I title – they won their first in 2006 – and their second overall (they won a title as a Div. II program in 1991).
Today’s game was a little lacking in drama because, as Salisbury built up their lead, they simultaneously clamped down on Exeter, allowing their opponent no opportunity to mount any kind of sustained attack.
The first period was a little quiet, as Salisbury played a tentative and conservative game, making sure three guys were back. Neither team came up with much in the way of quality chances.
In the second, after a ten-minute delay for repair to the ice, senior center Frankie Drolet, off a screen, put Salisbury on the board – juniors Kyle Hughes and Brandon Russo picked up assists – at the 3:29 mark.
Then, at 8:14, with his team shorthanded, Russo made a great pass out of his end to junior Mike McCann in the neutral zone. McCann head-manned it to junior Kyle Armstrong who beat Exeter junior goalie Max Fenkell with a high wrist shot for the 2-0 lead.
Salisbury took five penalties in the period (to Exeter’s three) but the Exeter power play, their strong suit all season, was sporadic, mainly because Salisbury’s PK was a very aggressive one -- they just didn’t give Exeter any room to operate. On top of that, not only was Salisbury winning virtually all the 1-on-1 battles, but they were winning practically all the faceoffs, too.
The fact that Salisbury could build a 2-0 lead in the period despite taking all those penalties didn’t speak well to Exeter chances of mounting a comeback.
The third period was very tough for Exeter, as the puck was in their end for huge stretches of the period. Salisbury just forechecked like mad, banging Exeter every chance they got, and making it extremely difficult for them to clear the zone, much less move it through center ice.
Salisbury went up 3-0, with a power play goal late in the period. The goal was a nice tic-tac-toe tally, with senior Danny Biega moving it to Russo, who found sophomore Gunnar Hughes, who banged it past Fenkell at the 14:26 mark.
With 1:31 left on the clock Kyle Hughes converted a pass from senior John Guay to put Salisbury up 4-0, and that’s how the 2008-09 prep season came to an end.
“The key thing today was being able to shut down their top line – that’s a phenomenal group,” said Will afterward. “The thing we talked about most coming into the playoffs was playing our game regardless of who our opponent was, and that worked out great for us today. Iles was a big part of shutting them down, and Biega and Heselton were a big part of that as well.”
Asked about the season as a whole, Will said, “We were a team without a home rink all year long, a team that had to get on a bus every day to go to practice. This championship represents a full team commitment. I couldn’t be prouder of what they accomplished
Exeter coach Dana Barbin tipped his cap to Salisbury. “They were obviously a terrific team – relentless, strong. When the game was in the balance and we had power play chances, we couldn’t take advantage. We took some uncharacteristic penalties. But it was quite a season for this group of kids. At the start of the season, I didn’t think we’d be able to get this far, but we did.”
Dunn, New Hampton Upset Hebron, 3-2
Salem, NH -- New Hampton, behind a strong team effort and excellent goaltending from senior Pat Dunn, upset #1-seeded Hebron, 3-2, in the final Div. II New England Prep Championship here today.
New Hampton, which had taken a 1-0 lead on a Joe McCabe wrist shot at 3:17 of the second period, struck hard and fast in the third period, going up 2-0 when McCabe walked out of the corner unmolested and buried his second of the game -- an unassisted effort – at the 4:31 mark. Less than a minute later, this time on the power play, New Hampton’s Kyle Zobler, at the back door, scored to put give his team a 3-0 lead.
Things were looking bad for Hebron, down by three with less than ten minutes to go, but they didn’t pack it in. Instead, they mounted a relentless attack. At 8:06 Matt Siracusa got it out to Eric Rodriguez, who was barreling down the slot. Rodriguez banged it home to cut New Hampton’s lead to 3-1 with 6:54 on the clock.
Just 1:17 later, Hebron cut New Hampton’s lead to 3-2 when, off the faceoff, Andrew Cetola got it to Chad Goodwin who drove to the net and muscled a shot past Dunn.
Suddenly, it was a 1-1 game, with 5:37 remaining on the clock. Hebron just kept coming, but Dunn just barred the door. It was a real onslaught, too, and didn’t let up until the buzzer. And New Hampton, having taken the lead and then weathered the storm, emerged as the 2009 Div. II prep champion – the last Div. II prep champion.
Afterward, New Hampton head coach Mike Levine said, “I thought we executed our game plan well, keeping our third guy high and jamming sticks all over the ice. Our guys were very disciplined in that regard.”
Asked how it felt to win it all, Levine said, “I don’t think it’s really sunk in yet. I was thinking about where the program was four years ago and where it is today – winning a prep championship. The credit goes to these kids. They worked hard. They believed in each other. Our goalie…. words can’t describe how well he played.”
Hebron coach Matt Plante said, “I tip my cap to Mike. He’s done a great job. It’s not easy to get into the playoffs and then to the prep finals two years in a row. His team went out and did what they had to do today. Patrick Dunn was phenomenal. I also want to say that I thought our kids did a great job and I’m proud of everything they did this season. They just came up short.”
“Even when they went up 3-0 I never lost faith. I know the heart of this team and I thought if we could have gotten it tied up, we’d have had a good chance in OT – if it got to OT. But Pat Dunn was the difference-maker today.”
Prep Semis on Tap for Today
Today, we'll be doing recaps of each game from Salem, NH immediately after they conclude. Yesterday, we conducted an informal polling of college recruiters and NHL regional scouts, asking them to pick the Div. I winners. Salisbury was picked over Andover; and Exeter over Gunnery. And who do they think will take the whole thing? Salisbury. They won't get any argument here. Over the past two weeks, we've watched Salisbury score five goals, all in the second period, to defeat Taft 5-1. A couple of weeks later, we saw them break open a 1-1 game against Hotchkiss by scoring four lightning-quick third period goals. They showed the same propensity early in the season as well, scoring four third-period goals against Milton in the Flood-Marr. And, yes, that was a 1-1 game when they struck. They have a tendency to strike fast -- and then really stick the knife in -- that is a step above any other team. Look also for how the Scarlet Knights cover Chris Kreider, who can strike fast and take over a game all by himself -- if he gets the room. Lawrence Academy had a couple players -- Matt Baldino and Jason Molle -- all over him Wednesday. They did an excellent job, but could only minimize the damage, as Kreider had assists on both of the game's goals. As for the late game, Exeter is better than people realize. The top line of Weiniger, Hatch, and Kondiles is very dangerous, the defense combination of Larkin and Reppucci is as good as any, and Fenkell is excellent in net. Gunnery, though, can cause teams all sorts of grief, and their goaltender, Alex Vazzano, is excellent.
-- Exeter 3, Gunnery 2 (final)
A Nick Kondiles power play goal at 6:37 of the third period lifted Exeter to a 3-2 win over the Gunnery, and a shot at their first New England prep championship in ten years when they go up against Salisbury tomorrow at 3:00 pm.
Right from the opening faceoff, this was an entertaining game – really, the classic of the playoffs (thus far), with up-and-down action, playmaking, skating, hitting, and tremendous goaltending at both ends.
Early in the first, Exeter went up 1-0 on the power play when senior Matt Hatch got the puck out to Tommy Larkin who faked a shot and dished it to over Dan Weiniger at the right faceoff circle. Weiniger roofed it off the crossbar -- a snipe -- at the 6:35 mark.
At the 9:01 mark, Weiniger was stopped by junior goaltender Alex Vazzano – a great save -- on a breakaway, but Hatch, trailing, knocked home the rebound to make it 2-0.
Gunnery came back, though. With 2:11 in the period, a long pass through the middle by junior Thane Heller sprang Vinny Scotti for a breakaway. An Exeter player tripped Scotti, but, as the junior was falling to the ice, and the referee had his hand up to call the penalty, Scotti, in a highlight reel special, got off a shot that beat Exeter junior goaltender Max Fenkell stick side to cut the Exeter lead to 2-1. If Fenkell had stopped the shot, it would likely have been called for a penalty shot.
There was no scoring in the second period, but at the eight minute mark it appeared that Heller had slipped one between Fenkell and the post. The referee ruled no goal, however, saying the net was off its mooring before the puck crossed the line.
The third period was the game’s best. Early in the stanza, Gunnery tied it up when junior Shane Gorman took a pass from sophomore Terrence Wallin and drove to the net, banging it past Fenkell at the 3:07 mark.
The winning goal came on the power play, with Gunnery's Rob Badger off for boarding. Exeter’s Larkin moved it, point to point, to senior Jeff Reppucci, who spotted Nick Kondiles back door. Kondiles tucked it home at 6:37 to give Exeter a 3-2 lead they wouldn't relinquish.
There was still nearly 12 minutes to play, though, and Gunnery wasn't going to back down. Exeter's starting six is tough to beat, but Gunnery has a deep group of kids who can all skate and forecheck with intensity and, as they had all game, they came at Exeter hard, flooding the Exeter end, and, in general, giving a bigger and older Exeter team all they could handle and then some.
If there was a difference in this game it was the fact that Exeter has had a lethal power play unit all season, and tonight was no exception. Gunnery had six penalties called against them in the game, to only one for Exeter. And twice Exeter cashed in on their opportunities.
Both goaltenders in this game, Fenkell and Vazzano, were on their game – and both were frequently tested.
It's a shame one team had to lose because this was as compelling a game as any we've seen this year. Exeter we’ll see again tomorrow. Gunnery, a young team, might be around for a while.
-- Salisbury 4, Andover 3 (final)
Salisbury struck for three goals in five minutes -- the final one a shorthanded game winner -- to come back from a 3-1 third period deficit and skate off with a 4-3 win over Andover and a berth in tomorrow's Div. I prep championship game.
Andover might be kicking themselves for a while over this one.
With a little over ten minutes left in regulation -- at the 7:24 mark – things were looking very good for the Big Blue as senior Josh Geary scored from a wild scrum in front to put Andover up, 3-1.
But, like they say, there is nothing less safe than a two-goal lead, and that was borne out tonight. Just 31 seconds after Geary had put Andover up 3-1, Salisbury's John Guay, driving to the net, shoveled a backhander past Andover senior goaltender Glenn Stowell to trim the lead to 3-2 at the 7:55 mark.
Then, a little over four minutes after that, with Andover senior defenseman Ryan Heavey off for interference, Salisbury junior defenseman Brandon Russo, from the left point, moved the puck to senior Frankie Drolet at the right faceoff circle. Drolet drilled one past Stowell to tie the game at 3-3.
The backbreaker came with 2:48 left and Salisbury skating shorthanded. Junior Mike McCann took it down the right side and fired one that beat Stowell 5-hole and gave Salisbury the 4-3 lead.
It was a discouraging turn of events for Andover, no doubt about that, but they didn’t throw in the towel. Instead, they came at the Salisbury defense hard and created all sorts of havoc around junior goaltender Andy Iles, who was excellent throughout, but especially so as Salisbury made their comeback down the stretch.
Going back to the beginning, Andover got on the board first, when senior Nick Craven tipped a Ryan Heavey shot from the left point at the 9:30 mark of the first period. Salisbury got it back when Adam Platt picked up a Reid Johnson pass in center ice and broke in alone on Stowell, who went down a little early, allowing Platt to pick the top shelf to tie the game at 1-1.
In the second period, Andover junior Chris Kreider faked Salisbury defenseman Vic Heselton 1-on-1, then faked Iles as well – just not all the way. Iles stayed with it just enough to smother Kreider’s shot with his pad.
Andover kept it up – throughout the period, as Salisbury kept handing Andover power play opportunities. Salisbury was whistled for four minors in the period to Andover’s one. While Andover came up empty on their first three man-up opportunities, they converted the last, as junior wing Garnet Hathaway gave Andover a 2-1 lead with 16 seconds in the period. The play started with Luke Duprey, from the point, moving the puck to Kreider in the slot. Kreider then hit Hathaway coming out from behind the net and Hathaway hooked it past Iles. The call that led to this goal seemed a little dubious. Salisbury junior forward Kyle Hughes got a piece of Andover’s Heavey, who was driving down the slot. It might not have been called at all, but Heavey made contact with the post, lost his balance, tumbled into the endboards, and had to be helped off the ice. Heavey, though, was back for the start of the third when, after a promising start, it all crumbled for Andover.
Salisbury did a good job keeping Kreider in check (he had the one nice assist mentioned above, but that was all he could put on the board). The difference in this game was simply that Iles was sharp, and Stowell was not.
-- Hebron 5, NYA 2 (final)
Juniors Cam Moniz (1g,1a) and Andrew Bettencourt (2g,1a) led Hebron to a 5-2 win over North Yarmouth Academy and a showdown with New Hampton in the Div. II championship game tomorrow. Hebron broke out to a 2-0 lead in the first on goals by Moniz and Nathaniel Dupere. NYA cut in to 2-1 on a Simon Hebert goal. Hebron put it away with three straight goals - the first two by Bettencourt, the last by Eric Rodriguez -- in the second to stretch it to 5-1 after two. North Yarmouth’s Tom Gildersleeve scored in the third to make it 5-2.
-- New Hampton 4, Dexter 2 (final)
New Hampton, behind a goal and an assist from senior Kyle Zobler, took a 2-0 lead in the second period and held on for a 4-2 win over a youthful Dexter squad. The first period was a feeling-out period. In the second, New Hampton went up on a Joe McCabe goal at 2:32. Zobler made it 2-0 when he rolled out of the corner and roofed one for an unassisted goal at 4:14. Dexter got on the board with a couple of minutes left in the period when talented freshman Cam Darcy, back door, popped one in. In the third, Mike Carr off an assist from Zobler made it 3-1 with a nice move in front. McCabe added an empty-netter to make it 4-1. Darcy scored his second for Dexter when he banged home a rebound from in front with 50 seconds remaining. Senior Pat Dunn got the win in net for New Hampton, and soph Kevin Green for Dexter.