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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.”


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

Around the Rinks

Salisbury seniors Vimal Sukumaran, James Gobetz, Quincy Gregg, and Kale Kane holding the hardware.
Salisbury seniors Vimal Sukumaran, James Gobetz, Quincy Gregg, and Kale Kane holding the hardware. (Photo: J. Alexander Imaging)
Cole Poliziani (#17) scored Salisbury's first goal, assisted by Vimal Sukumaran (#11) and Jordan Kaplan (not pictured).
Cole Poliziani (#17) scored Salisbury's first goal, assisted by Vimal Sukumaran (#11) and Jordan Kaplan (not pictured). (Photo: J. Alexander Imaging)
Brooks wins the 2015 Martin/Earl (Large Schools) Tournament.
Brooks wins the 2015 Martin/Earl (Large Schools) Tournament. (Photo: J. Alexander Imaging)
St. Mark's wins the 2015 Piatelli/Simmons (Small Schools) Tournament.
St. Mark's wins the 2015 Piatelli/Simmons (Small Schools) Tournament. (Photo: J. Alexander Imaging)