Established 1996 -- Celebrating Our 25th Year
 
 


2015 NEPSIHA Playoff Schedule

Quarterfinals -- Wed. March 4

Stuart/Corkery Tournament (AKA Elite 8)
#8 KUA @ #1 Exeter, 5:00 pm
#7 Dexter @ #2 Cushing, 3:30 pm
#6 Gunnery @ #3 Nobles, 5:30 pm
#5 Salisbury @ #4 Loomis, 4:00 pm

Martin/Earl Tournament (Large School)
#8 Thayer @ #1 Brunswick, 3:30 pm -- at Avon Old Farms
#7 St. Paul's @ #2 Choate, 3:30 pm -- at Pomfret
#6 St. Sebastian's @ #3 Brooks, 5:00 pm
#5 Berkshire @ #4 Belmont Hill, 4:00 pm

Piatelli/Simmons Tournament (Small School)
#8 New Hampton @ #1 St. Mark's, 5:00 pm
#7 Vermont Academy @ #2 Westminster, 3:30 pm
#6 Tilton @ #3 Rivers, 3:00 pm
#5 Winchendon @ #4 Proctor, 4:00 pm

Semifinals -- Sat. March 7
At campus sites


Stuart/Corkery Tournament (AKA Elite 8)
1/8 winner vs. 4/5 winner
3/6 winner vs. 2/7 winner

Martin/Earl Tournament (Large School)
1/8 winner vs. 4/5 winner
3/6 winner vs. 2/7 winner

Piatelli/Simmons Tournament (Small School)
1/8 winner vs. 4/5 winner
3/6 winner vs. 2/7 winner

Championship Games -- Sun. March 8
at St. Anselm College; Manchester, NH


Piatelli/Simmons Tournament (Small School), 12:00 pm
Martin/Earl Tournament (Large School), 2:30 pm
Stuart/Corkery Tournament (AKA Elite 8), 5:00 pm

 

Salisbury Tops Dexter; Threepeat is a First

Salisbury, with a 3-1 win over Dexter, won its third consecutive Elite 8 prep title, becoming the first school to do so. It was also the fourth in the seven years of coach Andrew Will’s tenure. 

Salisbury struck early when junior Jordan Kaplan, with the puck behind the Dexter net and his back to the play, twisted his body in an effort to swing the puck out front. He did, and it landed right on Cole Poliziani’s stick. Poliziani stuffed it inside the near post before Dexter goaltender Nick Lanni was able to get over and seal off the post.

The first period was a bit raggedy, with a lot of neutral zone play as both teams had a hard time making clean entries. Dexter had difficulty using their speed to get Salisbury’s big d-men to move their feet.

In the second, there were five penalties called in the first eight minutes – the only penalties of the period.

A couple of early ones washed each other out.

At 6:03, Salisbury forward Luke Israel was called for a slash on Donato in front of the Dexter bench. It was the second time in the first six minutes of play that Donato had drawn a penalty. Salisbury, knowing Dexter’s offense revolved around Donato, engaged him every chance they got.

Two seconds after Salisbury killed the penalty, Donato took a slashing penalty of his own. Salisbury was only able to use 25 seconds of their power play before Vimal Sukumaran was called for boarding.

While five penalties were called in the first half of the period, the second half of the period was penalty-free.

On the Dexter power play, and in its immediate aftermath, the game started to open up a bit, but only a little, as Salisbury was effective at getting back as a unit and disrupting any attempts by Dexter at getting deep into Salisbury’s end.

Dexter’s Lanni had to make a couple of nice saves to keep his team in the game, the first on Poliziani, and the second on Sean McCarthy, a nice save on a shot (possibly) heading toward the far corner.

By late in the second period, the game became a battle of attrition, with the deeper Salisbury team rolling four lines and wearing Dexter down with their physical play, hitting them every chance they got, and winning the puck battles.

But it was still a 1-0 game after two periods. 

In the third period, Dexter came out hard and physically, and kept the puck in the Salisbury end for the first couple of minutes. Nothing came of it, and Dexter was unable to sustain that initial push.

After about the five-minute mark, Dexter, a three-line team, was visibly tired.

Dexter junior D Luke McInnis got careless on the offensive blue line and turned the puck over, getting stripped by Kaplan, who took off on a breakaway and beat Lanni and make it 2-0 at 7:19. (Kaplan, by the way, was a constant presence in this game.)

Exactly 1:30 later, Dexter’s Matt Brazel was called for hooking, putting Salisbury on the power play. With the penalty just about to expire, junior Anthony Vincent, another one of Salisbury’s unsung heroes today, got the puck from Sukumaran at the left faceoff circle, turned and wristed one high to Lanni’s glove side at 10:04. Poliziani also had an assist on the play.

Salisbury’s Dante Latessa was called for an elbow at 11:49. Less than a minute later Salisbury’s Mike O’Leary was called for tripping.

Dexter, looking at about a minute of a 5x3 advantage, called a timeout with 5:07 left.

After play resumed, the first penalty expired, making it a 5x4. Donato, at the top of the umbrella, took a pass from McInnis and one-timed a shot, beating Salisbury PG goaltender Bailey MacBurnie high to the glove side at 13:45. Kevin Hock also got an assist.

Right after that McInnis was called for a slash, and then 40 seconds after that Jack Oullette was called for a hit-from-behind. By the time Dexter was back at even strength there was less than two minutes on the clock.

It was all over but the shouting.

“The key today was simply that we wanted to play with the lead,” Will said afterward. “We felt that if we could get them on their heels and pushing, that would allow us to wear them down. “

“I feel our depth really helped us end up on top at the end of the day.”

The three in a row? “It’s exciting, but it speaks to the kind of kids we have here.”

“We’re a timely team. When there’s a needed goal, save, penalty kill, they just get it done. They learned from the losses and got better and better. And here they are: the last team at the end of the season.”

Dexter head coach Dan Donato, who was previously at Salisbury, where he won a NEPSIHA championship in 2006, said, “I feel we would have had momentum if we had gotten a goal early, but MacBurnie made some good saves early.

“I’m proud of the way we battled. We didn’t expose their D like I had hoped, and we didn’t play our best, but I am proud of them.”

“I was proud that we came together as a team. There was nothing better than going to the rink every day at 3:30 with a great bunch of kids. They were a team. The fact that the best player in prep hockey came back for his senior year showed great loyalty.”

“And Nick Lanni…we wouldn’t have gotten here without him. He wasn’t lights out today, but he gave us a chance.”

“Salisbury is a big strong older team. We were playing three lines on consecutive days against two very strong teams, and that’s tough. But I have to give a lot of credit to Salisbury. Andrew has done a great job, and I am proud that I was able to play a small role in their success over there.”

Notes:

Poliziani’s goal a couple of minutes into the game was pivotal. When that early lead went to Salisbury, it affected the entire tenor of the game. A key to beating Salisbury is scoring first. Salisbury scored the first goal in 17 of their 20 wins this season.

Speaking of scoring first, Poliziani’s goal 2:10 into the game that  put the Knights up 1-0 was a duplicate of Wednesday, when he scored the first goal of the game at the 2:55 mark of the quarterfinal win over Loomis, also a 3-1 decision.

Five Salisbury players have won three consecutive prep titles: Seniors James Gobetz, Quincy Gregg, and Sean McCarthy. And juniors Dante Latessa and Anthony Vincent, who will go for four in a row next season.

All of Will’s assistants have been with him for the consecutive titles as well: Matt Corkery, Brian Phinney, and John Toffey.

Will’s four titles is second to Avon Old Farms’ John Gardner’s eight. Will is halfway there, and he has time on his side. He turns 41 later this month.

Salisbury has only one player, junior forward Mike O’Leary, with a confirmed Div. I commitment (Cornell). There will be more. Bailey MacBurnie, Brett Stirling, Vimal Sukumaran, and Kale Kane will be out in the BCHL. James Gobetz is exploring his options, but will also be playing juniors.

Evan and Mitchell Smith, keys to last season’s championship team at Salisbury, will be returning to Dubuque (USHL) for a second year before matriculating at Yale in the fall of ’16.

Photo Gallery of Salisbury-Dexter Elite 8 Championship Game

***

Brooks Beats Belmont Hill; Takes Large School Title
Brooks senior Henry Cormier scored two goals and senior goaltender Max Prawdzik was outstanding, kicking out 26 shots, as Brooks topped Belmont Hill, 4-2, to take home the Large School championship.

Nine nights earlier, on the final weekend of the regular season, Brooks had been blanked, 4-0, at Belmont Hill.

After a first period in which each team was feeling the other out, things cranked up in the second period. Brooks junior forwards Henry Cormier and Jack Goodwin set the tone, flying unmolested through the offensive zone for a couple of early scoring opportunities. However, Belmont Hill junior goalie Matt Barrow turned them both aside.

The pressure appeared to affect Belmont Hill for, right afterward, defenseman Mike Armstrong took a holding penalty. Brooks responded by keeping the puck in the Bel Hill end for virtually the whole power play.

Brooks got on the board first, making it 1-0 when a shot from the point by sophomore D Max Kahn was adroitly tipped home by Cormier at the 10:13 mark. Alex Vincent-Ouici also picked up an assist on the play.

Shortly after, Brooks’s Vito Bavaro took a shot that Barrow got a piece of, forcing the puck to dribble wide.

Brooks kept their feet moving throughout the period, carrying the play to Belmont Hill by utilizing their team speed to be the first to loose pucks in all three zones. On breakouts, the Brooks d-men moved the puck extremely well, allowing the forwards to have great zone entries.

Brooks came out for the third period, and struck hard and fast, scoring two goals in the first several minutes of play. The first came when junior D Connor Moore carried it into the zone with speed, dropping it to freshman Max Rand, the trailer on the play. Rand got it to Paul Capozzi, who fired it home at the 1:31 mark.

Just 31 seconds later, Cormier scored his second of the night, again on a tip, this time off a Max Schusterman pass. Connor Moore picked up an assist on this one, too.

Brooks, with the 3-0 lead, looked a little too comfortable. After setting the pace for the first two plus periods, they slowed it down in an effort to keep the desperate Hillies from mounting a comeback. They took a couple penalties, which added a layer of difficulty.  They got past those, but, with the game entering the final three minutes of play and Prawdzik looking like he had a shutout all but locked up, the team – and Prawdzik – had a big hiccup, allowing Bel Hill to score a pair of unassisted goals 31 seconds apart to cut the lead to 3-2.

After Belmont Hill senior D Matt Barrow scored on a weak high to the blocker side, Christian O’Neil, on a play from behind the net, made it a one-goal game.

Belmont Hill coach Jeremiah McCarthy pulled his goalie as time wound down.

Belmont Hill had an offensive zone faceoff, but Brooks junior Jack Goodwin got to a loose puck, smartly chipped it forward, away from a Belmont Hill defender, and then won the footrace to the puck for the empty-netter with 50 seconds left. Belmont Hill’s David Giunta took a holding penalty on the play, and the game was in the pocket for Brooks.

Brooks had a rough final week of the season, tumbling from contention for the eighth and final slot in the Elite 8, but redeemed themselves in the postseason, edging St. Sebastian’s 2-1 in OT, topping Choate 4-3, also in OT, to get to the championship game.   

“I’m really proud of our guys,” Brooks coach Dave Ries said. “The bench never changed. Our attitude was the same at 0-0, 3-0, and even when they cut the lead to 3-2.”

Belmont Hill’s McCarthy said, “For 54 minutes of the game, we did not play Belmont Hill hockey.”

Photo Gallery of Brooks-Belmont Hill Large School Championship Game

***


St. Mark’s Tops Westminster; Takes Small School Title
#1 seeded St. Mark’s played a disciplined and determined game, and was in control from start to finish en route to winning the 2015 Small School Tournament with a 3-1 win over #2 seeded Westminster.

The Lions, who would notch a goal in each period, went on top 1-0 when Zach Tsekos, at his defensive blue line, stole the puck from Westminster D Tim Sanford and took off up the ice as part of 3-on-2. Tsekos dropped it to trailer Adam Lee who one-touched it back to Tsekos. The junior one-timed a low, hard wrist shot from the right dot that beat Wesminster junior goaltender Nick Sanford at the 7:31 mark.

The difference in the first period was that, while Westminster had more puck possession time, St. Mark’s had better scoring opportunities.

In the second, St. Mark’s waited until the final minute – 8.9 seconds actually – before taking a two-goal lead when junior Luke O’Brien made a pass out from the corner to senior captain Brendan Dawson who, from the hash marks, beat Sanford half way up the post, blocker side.

The second period ended 2-0. By this point, it was clear that the St. Mark’s defensive zone coverage, in tandem with southpaw junior goaltender Ryan Ferland, were very much on their game.

Westminster would score its only goal of the game just 13 seconds into the third. Junior wing Taggart Corriveau found center Johnny McDermott at the near post. McDermott slammed it past Ferland to make it 2-1.

Westminster had time to get back in it, though scoring chances were not plentiful. Junior Bryan Smyth had a great chance in front but couldn’t get a handle on it. 

Shortly after, with St. Mark’s defenseman Peter Housakos in the box for a hit from behind, Westminster went on the powerplay. It wasn’t a good one, though, and it passed without a decent scoring opportunity.

With 4:10 left in the third, St. Mark’s put the game on ice when junior Owen Allen banged home a rebound of a shot by Zach Tsekos to make it 3-1.

Westminster took a couple of bad penalties in the waning minutes – a cross-check and a too many men on the ice – and gave St. Mark’s a 5x3 advantage, thus snuffing out any chance Westy had of coming from behind to tie it.

Afterward, St. Mark’s first-year head coach Carl Corazzini said, “It’s been a crazy road with the Proctor win and now coming in here today and knocking off a Founders’ League team. The one thing I will say is that this team responded to everything that was thrown at them all season. All season we talked about just living in the moment.”

Asked what the difference in the game was, Corazzini replied, “Ferland. He has been outstanding throughout the playoffs. He was overused this year, but when the game is on the line he steps up.”

Westminster coach Tim Joncas said, “I thought it was a great hockey game. I thought we played well but made a few costly mistakes which they capitalized on We had a lot of puck possession and offensive zone time but, credit to them, they (St. Mark’s) played excellent team defense.”

Asked about the two penalties at the end of the game, Joncas said, “Those were two bad penalties to take late in the game. We play hard, and there is a fine line.”

Photo Gallery of St. Mark's-Westminster Small School Championship Game


2015 NEPSIHA Championship Games Results

 Results -- 2015 NEPSIHA Championship Games
@ Sullivan Ice Arena, St. Anselm College; Manchester, NH 03102


-- Piatelli/Simmons Tournament (Small School)
    St. Mark's 3, Westminster 1

-- Martin/Earl Tournament (Large School)
    Brooks 4, Belmont Hill 2

-- Stuart/Corkery Tournament (Elite 8)
    Salisbury 3, Dexter 1

More is coming on all these games soon!

 

Saturday's Semifinal Results

Sat. March 7, 2015
at Campus Sites

Elite 8:


Dexter 4 @ Gunnery 2

This game started off hard and fast. Just terrific hockey. Every check was finished, and high-skill plays were in abundance. From the get-go Dexter sought to take away Gunnery's home advantage, and cashed in pretty quickly as freshman center Jay O'Brien, on a partial breakaway, waited out Gunnery junior goalie Trevin Kozlowski before beating him inside the post, low glove side, at the 4:51 mark.

Junior Patrick Daly would make it 2-0 after linemate Ryan Donato forced a turnover on the forecheck. Daly sneaked it under Kozlowski's arm, the puck just trickling in.

The second period was scoreless. Gunnery did ring a couple shots off the crossbar behind Dexter senior goalie Nick Lanni and, at the other end, Kozlowski made a pair of spectacular saves, first robbing Ryan Donato on a shorthanded 2-on-1 (which led to a hooking call on Gunnery, evening up the sides for some 4x4 hockey), and then shortly after making a sprawling save on Bryan Green.   

The third period started off with some odd refereeing. Dexter started off the period on the PP. Gunnery won the faceoff, and iced the puck. It was a blatant missed call. On the ensuing faceoff in Gunnery's end, a Dexter win on the draw led to a puck battle and another penalty on Gunnery. Now the referees, recognizing their original error, kept the penalties as were, but put the faceoff at center ice. Jack Donato ended up scoring on a one-timer from Ryan Donato just after the 5x3 ended, putting Dexter up 3-0 at the 2:05 mark of the third period.

Gunnery took back the momentum over the following three minutes, but had nothing to show for it until Cam Donaldson scored a PPG at the 5:14 mark.

The game was back-and-forth for the next ten minutes, with each team trading odd-man rushes, body blows, and great puck battles.

Shawn Knowlton gave the Highlanders some hope at the 14:28 mark, banking a shot of Lanni's leg from below the goal line.

In the final minute, with Gunnery's goalie pulled for the extra attacker, Kevin Hock beat out an icing to kill 20 seconds off the clock while holding the puck in the Gunnery end.

Ultimately, a forced turnover in the neutral zone gave Patrick Daly a layup of an empty-net goal as time expired.

For the game, Gunnery outshot Dexter 24-23.

Dexter, a #7 seed, moves on to face #5 seed Salisbury in tomorrow's championship game, a showdown between coach Dan Donato's former team and his current team. Donato coached Salisbury for six years ('01-'07) and brought the school its first Div. I title in 2006.

Note: Since Nick Lanni became Dexter's full-time goalie on Jan. 21, his record is 12-0-2 with four shutouts and 18 goals allowed. The senior has a .941 save percentage.

Salisbury 4, Kimball Union Academy 2 (game played at Loomis)

Things started out badly for KUA as senior forward Jack McCarthy, on a cross-check, suffered a hip pointer and was done for the day -- on his first shift of the game.

Right off the bat, KUA coach Tim Whitehead had to juggle his lines; nonetheless, it was the Wildcats that got on the board first, off a Connor Jean shot from the left faceoff dot.

Salisbury answered when senior defenseman Quincy Gregg eluded a forechecker, and moved the puck up to fellow d-man Brett Stirling who, in turn, spotted junior Luke Israel at the back door. It was a 1-1 game and that's how the first period -- a fairly even period with a good pace -- ended up. 

Several minutes into the second, Salisbury junior Tom Lee hit a post.

At the 6:25 mark, 6'2" Salisbury junior Mike O'Leary scored a back-door goal off an assist from Kale Kane to make it 2-1 Salisbury.

Salisbury stretched its lead to 3-1 when Kane entered the KUA zone down the right side and, from the faceoff circle, fired one high far side at the 9:06 mark.

KUA got one back when Ben Finkelstein received the puck at the left point and one-timed a low shot past Salisbury goalie Bailey MacBurnie to make it 3-2.

That's how the second ended, a fairly wide-open period that was hampered by tentative and inconsistent officiating. The players, not knowing what would be called and what wouldn't, never seemed to really lock horns and play the kind of physical game these two teams played in their quarterfinal wins on Wednesday.

In the third, Salisbury was back on their heels, sitting on the lead. KUA worked harder and took a measure of control, but not a full measure. Though they had a good amount of possession time, they had difficulty working the puck into prime scoring areas. 

KUA's Ben Finkelstein took a penalty with 5:38 left, which didn't help.

With 1:10 left, Wildcats goalie Oscar Flory was pulled for the extra attacker.

With an empty net in front of him and 24 seconds on the clock, Salisbury's Anthony Vincent poked the puck free and chipped it out. After he got a step on the d-man and was breaking in for an empty-net attempt, the KUA defender threw his stick along the ice, knocking the puck away from danger. The officials ruled it a goal, which was the correct call -- on a very rare play.

"I thought it was a hard-fought, tightly-contested game between two deep teams with a lot of similarities," said Salisbury coach Andrew Will.

"In the first period, I thought both teams were tight. In the second period emotions kicked in more, but I thought we lost  a little composure, which showed when we took two penalties in the offensive zone. But we were good until the third when we had the lead and were back on our heels."

"This was not our best 54-minute game top to bottom." said Will. "But we blocked shots, got some timely goals, and some good defensive play."

"We're excited," Will added, "to be in the finals for the third year in a row."

Kimball Union coach Tim Whitehead said, "I'm extremely proud of the character and resiliency of our guys. They have gone all year long not ranked #1 but these playoff games really brought out their best. The kids saw this as an opportunity to make this their own team."

"They left it all out there on the ice. It was a good, hard-fought game."


Large Schools:
@ Belmont Hill 5, Thayer 4
Brooks 4 @ Choate 3 (OT)

Small Schools:

@ St. Mark's 5, Proctor 4
@ Westminster 4, Rivers 2

***
Schedule -- Sunday's Championship Games
@ Sullivan Ice Arena, St. Anselm College; Manchester, NH 03102

-- Piatelli/Simmons Tournament (Small School)
    St. Mark's vs. Westminster, 12:00 pm

-- Martin/Earl Tournament (Large School)
    Belmont Hill vs. Brooks, 2:30 pm:

-- Stuart/Corkery Tournament (Elite 8)
    Salisbury vs. Dexter, 5:00 pm

 

Top Seeds Flame Out at 2015 Prep Quarterfinals
#8 KUA, #7 Dexter, #6 Gunnery, and #5 Salisbury All Advance


ELITE 8:

Gunnery 6 @ Nobles 1

Early on, this looked like it could have been a blowout -- the other way. Nobles, playing at home in front of a loud, enthusiastic student section, came out attacking. Every time the puck was brought into the Gunnery end by the Miles Wood-Cody Todesco-Mike Fahie line -- and with guys like Billy Sweezey teeing it up at the point -- the imbalance in firepower and size made it terrifying to watch, certainly for the Gunnery faithful. Gunnery didn't panic, however. 6'4" junior goaltender Trevin Kozlowski stood tall, and his teammates, once they initial onslaught ended, hung with Nobles. The play was fairly back-and-forth, though it didn't always feel that way. 

The first period ended 0-0, but for the first half of the second, it still felt like Nobles' game, that at some point they were going to kick the barn door down. The Nobles pressure -- primarily with that first line -- was that strong. At times it seemed like Gunnery was playing rope-a-dope, letting Nobles fire away while doing their best to keep them on the perimeter, not allowing them to set up as much as they would have liked, and trusting in their goalie, who was outstanding. 

Still, in the middle of the second period, though, Miles Wood broke down the right side and fired a hard, short-side shot to beat Kozlowski cleanly. Nobles had a 1-0 lead.

Less than four minutes later, disaster struck Nobles when, on the powerplay, and with a chance to make it 2-0, they gave up a shorty when Nobles junior goaltender Brendan Cytulik mishandled the puck with no one near him. The puck just popped over his right pad. Gunnery center Noah Bauld, charging hard, nudged it over the goal line to tie it at 1-1. The game changed there.

It would change again in the crucial final two minutes of the period, when Gunnery scored twice.

The first was on the power play. Shawn Knowlton got the puck to Nick Quillan at the left point. Quillan fired a dead-on shot under the crossbar to give Gunnery the lead they would not reliquish.

The second goal -- a back-breaker -- came with just six seconds left. With the faceoff in the Nobles end, Noah Bauld cleanly won the draw back to Alex Hopkins, whose wrister from the point didn't have much on it, but found the back of the net. Just like that, Nobles was down 3-1, and skated off the ice stunned.

Still, entering the third period, the game felt far from over. Over the course of the season, Nobles has scored two or more goals in the third period numerous times. Plus, they were desparate. Their season was on the line.

And they did pour it on. But Gunnery stood tall. They worked hard and played as a team. They sacrificed their bodies and blocked a batch of shots. And when they got the puck out of their zone, they worked it deep into the Nobles end and made Nobles carry it back up ice again and again, with nothing to show for it. As time went on, the Nobles forwards increasingly tried to do too much on their own. It appeared as if, perhaps subconsciously, the squad was waiting for Miles Wood to engineer a miracle. It never came. Time kept ticking away, and, with a little over two minutes left, Cytulik was pulled for the extra attacker. There was no luck there; with about 30 seconds Gunnery notched a pair of empty-netters. With 48 seconds left and Cytulik back in net, Quillan notched his second to make it a 6-1 final.

"Kozlowski was great," Gunnery head coach Chris Baudo said afterwards. "Just very focused. He made some exceptional saves, particulary on some of those back-door shots. He's been great all year."

"I also thought our D did a very good job moving the puck north all day," he added. And as for the blocked shots in the third period, Baudo said, "That takes a lot of courage."

***
KUA 2 @ Exeter 1

#8 Kimball Union won this one, a quick-paced, hard-nosed game with just two penalties, on the strength of a well-executed game plan in which the Wildcats clamped down hard in all three zones, limited shots against and, by so doing, shut down #1-seed Exeter's offense and earned themselves a slot in Saturday's semifinal against defending prep champs Salisbury.

Senior forward Jack McCarthy established KUA's tone early in the first period, throwing his body around and inspiring his teammates with his gritty play. The first period passed quickly, a fairly even game with no penalties and no scoring.

The second period was pretty even too. Exeter went on the powerplay after KUA's Connor Jean was called for hooking at the 1:38 mark, but was unable to set anything up as KUA pressured and prevented Exeter's power play from finding its customary rhythm. After killing the penalty, Exeter and KUA dug in and battled hard for the next five minutes, with few whistles. With just over ten minutes left in the period, big Dominic Franco, who was impressive all night, entered the Exeter zone quickly, only to be stifled by Exeter D Jordan Haney, which led to a rush the other way and was capped off with a Teddy Hart goal off a deflection of a Devin Moore shot to put Exeter up 1-0 at 8:19.

KUA responded well, going on the attack.  Finally, with 2:31 remaining in the period, a deflected shot sailed over Exeter's net, deflected off the glass and bounced back, over the net, to an opportunistic Nic Hamre, who deftly batted the puck past Exeter PG goalie -- and recent Babson recruit -- Bryan Botcher to make it a 1-1 game, which is where things stayed for the rest of the period.

The third period belonged to KUA. Early in the period, Exeter committed a couple of turnovers, one in their end and one in the neutral zone. The net result was the puck winding up on the stick of senior Brendan Riley who scored what would turn out to be the game-winner, stuffing the puck past Botcher at the 3:53 mark. From that point on, other than the occasional Teddy Hart rush, Exeter was unable to sustain any offense. KUA's persistent forecheck, led by Franco, McCarthy, and Patrick Shea, kept the play pinned in the Exeter net for the majority of the period. With 3:37 left in the game, Exeter's Jacob Dupont was called for tripping. While Exeter was able to kill the penalty and pull their goalie, KUA's depth on defense and overall aggressiveness prevented Exeter from getting any quality scoring chances and, in the end, put a finish to Exeter's season. It was only their fourth loss in 30 games.

***
Dexter 1 @ Cushing 0

A first period goal by Bryan Green and a shutout from mid-season replacement goaltender Nick Lanni was all #7 Dexter needed to blank #2 Cushing and move on to a semifinal matchup at Gunnery on Saturday.   

The final shots on goal show Cushing outshooting Dexter 39-20, but it was actually wasn't quite that lopsided, perhaps more like 32-20. Both goalies, Lanni and Cushing senior Joey Daccord (19/20) came up with some really nice saves. Dexter did a good job limiting Cushing scoring opportunities off the rush by forcing numerous dump ins.

Cushing controlled the play early, but Dexter's neutral zone play was strong and kept Cushing to the perimeter. Dexter got on the board when Bryan Green flicked a perfect low-angle shot over Daccord's shoulder and into the net at the seven-minute mark of the first period. It was the game's only goal.

The key to the low scoring affair was each team's ability to bottle up their opponent's top lines, with Dexter keeping the Bailey Conger-David Cotton-Jake Simons line off the board, while Cushing shut down the Pat Daly-Ryan Donato-Kevin Hock line. Cushing, however, hit a few posts and the game was always a hair away from getting tied up. It never happened, though, and Dexter moves on to their first-ever appearance in the Elite 8.

Afterward, Dexter coach Dan Donato said there were two keys to the game. "We knew that in their transition game the D gets involved and they look for opportunities on the third and fourth waves. We limited those opportunities. And we also know Daccord to be a very good goalie, and that we'd have to work to get anything past him."

"I think now people are starting to understand that Nick (Lanni) is a pretty good goalie," Donato added. "He's a leader in the room, and he's a very good athlete. He's the captain of the football team, and will probably be the captain of the baseball team as well."

"His style isn't the prettiest, but he stops everything. So even if he gets out of position he's athletic enough to get back and make that ten-bell save. He made five or so saves today that were really great. Pure game changers.

"Overall, I thought it was a great road game."

***
Salisbury 3 @ Loomis 1

This was a defensive, grinding, physical affair between two teams that don't carry a lot of love in their hearts for each other. No doubt much of this animosity is a carryover from two weeks ago, when Loomis traveled to Salisbury and beat the Knights, 2-1, in a highly-physical Valentine's Day matchup.

If you like tough, defensive, locked-up, grinding-in-the-corners games, this was for you. Neither team could get to the net, odd-man rushes were non-existent, and, in total, there couldn't have been more than five good scoring opportunities in the entire game.

Each team gave up a weak goal early in the first. Salisbury's Cole Poliziani, on a 10-foot wrist shot from the slot, beat Loomis junior goaltender Tim Birarelli five-hole at the 2:55 mark and then, exactly ten seconds later, Loomis tied it up at 1-1 when defenseman Zach Guittari threw a weak wrister on the Salisbury net, somewhat of a dump-in that bounced off Bailey MacBurnie's pad and popped out to the left faceoff dot, right onto the stick Eric Esposito. The sophomore quickly fired it into the open net. Both teams seemed to be fighting nerves, and it carried over to the rest of the period, which was a bit sloppy and tentative.

Ten seconds into the second period, Salisbury took the lead -- it would stand up as the game-winner -- when senior Vimal Sukumaran carried the puck along the left boards to the goal line before cutting to the net and stuffing the puck under Birarelli's pad. Salisbury grabbed the momentum and controlled play for the next seven-plus minutes. At the 7:40 mark, with Eric Esposito about to take off on a clean breakaway, Salisbury junior d-man Dayne Finnson stretched himself out, diving to break up the play just as Esposito reached the blue line. A great individual effort, it stood up as one of the key plays of the game.

With 5:13 left in the second Salisbury junior forward Mike O'Leary took a tripping penalty, giving Loomis its first powerplay of the game. Salisbury shined here, imposing their will, giving Loomis very little zone time, and keeping their hosts from sustaining pressure and getting quality shots. Salisbury junior forward Anthony Vincent played a key role, clearing pucks out of the zone, blocking shots, and picking off passes as Loomis attempted to break it out.

In the third period, Salisbury again struck early, as Sukumaran made a cross-crease pass on a two-on-one to Jordan Kaplan who buried a one-timer at the 21 second mark.

The game opened up a bit more after that as Loomis tried to stretch the ice and pressure the Salisbury defense. Despite some stretches in Salisbury's end, they were unable to penetrate the scoring areas, and were kept to the perimeter. Five minutes in, Salisbury's Brett Stirling took a retaliatory hitting after the whistle penalty. Again, Loomis failed to generate chances on the ensuing powerplay. Over the final ten minutes, the game became more increasingly back-and-forth, faster, and physical. However, neither side was able to generate much zone time. The game ended with some late hits by both teams, words exchanged by coaches, and a large Loomis student section left silent.

"The true difference in the game was opportune goal scoring," said Salisbury coach Andrew Will. "We were able to capitalize on the few chances we got."

For the game, Salisbury had a 25-20 shot advantage.

Salisbury returns to the semifinals for the third consecutive year. They will host Kimball Union at 3:30 on Saturday -- and the game will be played at Loomis.


Sat. March 7 Elite 8 Semifinal Schedule:
KUA vs. Salisbury, 3:30 pm (at Loomis)
Dexter @ Gunnery, 2:00 pm

***

LARGE SCHOOLS:

Three of the four top seeds -- #2 Choate, #3 Brooks, and #4 Belmont Hill -- emerged as winners. #8 Thayer was the only low seed to advance.

Thayer 5, Brunswick 4  (OT) -- Sophomore Mike Seoane, with an assist from freshman Tristan Amonte, scored at 13:24 of overtime to lift #8 Thayer past #1 Brunswick. Ty Amonte (1g,2a) and Lincoln Griffin (1g,1a) also had multiple points for Thayer. Colin Slyne (1g,2a) and Christian LeSueur (1g,1a) led the Brunswick attack. Thayer advances to Saturday's semifinal (@ Belmont Hill, 1:00 pm).

@ Belmont Hill 4, Berkshire 2 -- Senior Charlie McConnell, with a hat trick and an assist, figured in all four of Belmont Hill's goals today. Sophomore Matt Koopman scored both of Berkshire's goals. #4 Belmont Hill will host #8 Thayer in Saturday's semifinal.

@ Brooks 2, St. Sebastian's 1 -- An unassisted goal from junior Paul Capozzi at 14:11 of OT and a 38-save effort from senior Max Prawdzik lifted #3 Brooks into Saturday's semifinal (@ Choate, 3:30 pm). St. Seb's senior goaltender Danny Higgins was the hard-luck loser, kicking out 41 of 43 shots. 

@ Choate 4, St. Paul's  2 -- #2 Choate, on the strength of first period goals from Jack Hoey and Henry Marshall and a second period goal from Alex Kolowrat, took a 3-0 lead and never looked back. Senior Sam Tucker (26/28) earned the win. The Wild Boars will host Brooks in Saturday's semifinal.

Sat. March 7 Large Schools Semifinal Schedule:
Thayer @ Belmont Hill, 1:00 pm
Brooks @ Choate, 3:30 pm

***
SMALL SCHOOLS:

All four high seeds -- #1 St. Mark's, #2 Westminster, #3 Rivers, and #4 Proctor -- advance.

@ St. Mark's 3, New Hampton 2 -- Junior Zach Tsekos scored the game-winner -- his second goal of the game -- at 6:17 of the third period. Junior Ryan Ferland kicked out 27 of 29 for the win. #1 St. Mark's moves on to host Proctor in Saturday's semifinal (3:00 pm).

@ Proctor 6, Winchendon 5 -- Juniors Jake Pappalardo (2g,2a) and Jack Hall (1g,2a), and sophomore defenseman Reilly Walsh (1g,2a) led the Hornets' attack. Winchendon sophomore D Jack Moran scored two goals. #4 Pomfret will travel to St. Mark's for a semifinal matchup Saturday.

@ Rivers 3, Tilton 2 -- Senior Joe Sacco's goal at 6:06 of the third lifted #3 Rivers to the win. They will travel to Westminster for a semifinal on Saturday (2:00 pm).

@ Westminster 8, Vermont 0 -- Eight different Westminster players had multiple point games. Sophomore Nick Sanford posted a 20-save shutout. #2 Westminster will host Rivers on Saturday afternoon.

Sat. March 7 Small Schools Semifinal Schedule:
Proctor @ St. Mark's, 3:00 pm
Rivers @ Westminster, 2:00 pm

 

NEPSIHA Playoff Brackets

The prep playoffs start Wednesday. Pack your bags. Here are the brackets:

2015 NEPSIHA Playoff Brackets


 

The Latest, As We See It

Around midnight, a very late score -- a Holderness 4-2 win over NYA – popped up on USHR’s results. This was a bolt out of left field. Virtually no one knew this game was scheduled. It certainly wasn’t on USHR’s composite. And it was definitely not something the NEPSIHA Committee, which had started its final calculations, knew about either. Everyone was blindsided.

At first glance, a Holderness game on the final day of the 2014-15 season might not strike one as particularly meaningful. However, Holderness had played eight teams under consideration. They had lost all eight of them, so the ripple effect was significant. To see exactly how significant, look at the RPI of St. Paul’s and Thayer – 0.5460 -- an apparent tie for 16th place.

However, when you start running it out to additional decimal places, St. Paul’s, which had seemed out of the TUC, jumps back in at the #16 spot -- and Thayer is out.

That infinitesimal difference buttresses the words every coach tells his players about the value of every game, whether it’s in early December or on the final day of the regular season. They all count in the end, and the margin for error is small.

Earlier in the day, Choate, which led Kent 4-0 entering the third period but gave up four unanswered goals as Kent mounted a furious comeback, did eventually prevail in OT, but held the #8 spot briefly.

Brooks, which as late as Friday morning, looked to have a pretty good handle on the #8 spot, lost again that afternoon, to Belmont Hill, but bounced back to beat BB&N yesterday. Too little too late.

As of 1:00 pm today (Sunday), nothing is official, though it looks extremely likely Kimball Union has the #8 spot. But given all that has happened over the past couple of days, we wouldn’t bet the farm on it, though we might bet the silo and a few head of cattle. As we said last night in a tweet, unexpected things do pop up.

And the puff of smoke hasn’t appeared yet.

We will let you know when all this becomes official.

If KUA, a small school, does indeed hold onto the eight spot in the Elite 8, this is how the large and small school situation appears. We also feel that the three-way tie for third between Nobles, Loomis, and Salisbury, and the two-way tie for sixth between Gunnery and Dexter, will shake out the way we have it.

Large School:
1. Brunswick
2. Choate
3. Brooks
4. Belmont Hill
5. Berkshire
6. St. Seb’s
7.
St. Paul’s
8.
Thayer

Small School:
1. St. Mark’s
2.
Westminster
3. Rivers
4. Proctor
5. Winchendon
6. Vermont Academy
7. Tilton
8. New Hampton

If by chance Brunswick, a large school, should get the final Elite 8 seed. The Large School Tournament seeding would drop down a slot from what’s above, and start with Choate as the #1 seed, and finish with Tabor as the #8 seed. As for the Small School Tournament, KUA would become the #1 seed and Tilton the #8.

Around the Rinks

Loomis sophomore F Eric Esposito bowls over Westminster's 6'4" d-man Will Brophy.
Loomis sophomore F Eric Esposito bowls over Westminster's 6'4" d-man Will Brophy. (Photo: J. Alexander Imaging)
 
Cushing junior F David Cotton, with 1:18 on the clock and the goalie pulled, scored the game-tying goal vs. Tabor on Wed. Feb. 11
Cushing junior F David Cotton, with 1:18 on the clock and the goalie pulled, scored the game-tying goal vs. Tabor on Wed. Feb. 11 (Photo: J. Alexander Imaging)
 
Tabor freshman Max Sauve flying through the neutral zone in Wednesday's game at Cushing.
Tabor freshman Max Sauve flying through the neutral zone in Wednesday's game at Cushing. (Photo: J. Alexander Imaging)
 
Going into their final two games, Groton '99-born forward Chris Brown leads all prep freshmen in scoring (11-21-32 in 22 gp).
Going into their final two games, Groton '99-born forward Chris Brown leads all prep freshmen in scoring (11-21-32 in 22 gp). (Photo: Sarah Forbes)