Established 1996


*NEPSAC Semifinals Highlights*
Saturday, March 4, 2023


Elite 8:

#1 Cushing Edges #5 Brunswick; #2 Avon Trounces #6 Belmont Hill

@ Avon Old Farms 7, Belmont Hill 2

Avon, once again the #2 seed entering the post-season, and once again facing Belmont Hill in the semis, took care of some unfinished business today, avenging last season's semifinal home loss to the Sextants with a decisive 7-2 win, sending the Winged Beavers on to Sunday's championship game matchup with #1 Cushing.

This game started off with a bang, as Belmont Hill's big senior defenseman Matt Biotti, a Harvard commit, scored 30 seconds in, only to be matched by a goal from Avon's junior Ryan Flaherty at the 1:51 mark, just about the time folks were finding their seats. Much later, as in four minutes (!) later, Belmont Hill senior Ryan O'Donnell, off a nifty pass from Dan Markham (his second assist), put the visitors ahead, 2-1, just 5:48 in.

Avon settled down after that, slowing things down, and stopping the bleeding. But the period ended with Belmont Hill holding that 2-1 lead.

Avon came out hard for the second, scored three (two of which came 48 seconds apart), and exploded over the next two periods, adding three in the third and, in sum, scoring six unanswered goals en route to a 7-2 win and a slot in Sunday's championship game matchup.

The third period belonged to senior Joe Odyniec, the big winger on Avon's top line with fellow seniors Charlie Gollub and Joe Connor. Odyniec, a UConn commit, notched a natural hat trick, with the third goal coming on an empty-netter.

Avon's senior goaltender, Stephen Peck, stopped 30 of 32 shots en route to the win.

John Gardner's Winged Beavers' halcyon days ran from 2004-2010, with five prep titles in a seven-year stretch. Gardner, who started coaching at Avon in 1974 and has over 800 wins under his belt, has won eight New New England prep titles. Can he add a ninth?

@ Cushing 2, Brunswick 1

Cushing senior goalie Cooper Rautenstrauch stopped 23 of the 24 shots he faced and PG Jack Costanzo's second- period tally stood up as the game-winner as top-seeded Cushing held on to edge red-hot Brunswick and advance to the Elite 8 title game. On the surface, this was a close one, but, after the first period, lacked the high-level playmaking that typically marks a classic playoff bout.

Starting at the beginning, just 34 seconds into the game, Cushing junior Landan Resendes, a BC commit, once again stated his case as New England's best player, slipping across the blue line uncovered and, with a last-second move to his forehand, burying the game's first shot. 1-0, Cushing.

The rest of the opening period was played with pace and energy on both sides, with a few good chances for the Bruins and a few more for the Penguins. Brunswick cashed in with 3:50 left in the first, when senior James Shannon, a Quinnipiac pledge, fed junior Sean Gibbons, who tied the game with his 21st goal of the year.

Brunswick held a slight advantage in shots after the first, but Cushing came out for the second playing stout, physical defense. The game ground to a halt, and Paul Pearl's team proved it can win that way, too. In their own end, they blocked shots, tightened up in front of the net, and relied on Rautenstrauch as the last line of defense. The Penguins took the lead for good on the rush, when senior Ethan Gardula, a UConn commit, ripped a tape-to-tape pass to Costanzo who, crashing the net, deflected it past Brunswick goalie Brendan Holahan at the 10:52 mark for what turned out to be the game-winning goal.

After that, it never really looked like Brunswick had any shot to re-tie the game. Cushing simply took over, outshooting the Bruins, 19-10, across the final two periods, and just clamping down in the offensive end.

The win sets up Sunday's marquee Elite 8 title game matchup between #1 Cushing and #2 Avon -- the meeting that's been awaited by anyone who's followed prep hockey this season. Cushing will be looking for its first prep title since 1998.

Large Schools:

#2 Salisbury Tops #3 Dexter; #1 Taft Upends #5 Tabor

@ Salisbury 3, Dexter 1

It's been pretty clear all season that Salisbury doesn't have the level of talent on its roster that the rest of New England has grown to expect from the Crimson Knights, but Andrew Will's team has been tough down the stretch.

In today's semifinal, neither side found the back of the net after a back-and-forth first that featured a handful of quality rushes on each end.

Salisbury got on the board first, 4:25 into the second, on a goal by sophomore standout Liam Kilfoil. Again, Dexter swung back onto the offensive in the middle part of the frame, but the Salisbury defense, anchored by PG goalie Matt Alberti, stood pat. Salisbury led, 1-0, after two. 

Four-and-a-half minutes into the final period, Dexter went on the man advantage -- its third power play in under seven minutes of play. But it wasn't Dexter that cashed in, as Salisbury junior Seamus Latta notched a shorthanded goal that would turn out to be the game-winner. Senior Trey Deere tacked on an empty-netter before the visitors finally got on the board with a Mick Frechette 5x3 goal in the final minute of play. Alberti (20/21) was excellent in picking up the win, but it was Salisbury's blueliners, after turning away Dexter on trip after trip into the offensive zone, who stole the show.

@ Taft 4, Tabor 1

As junior goalie Rudy Guimond goes, so goes Taft. That's how it's gone all season, anyway. Luckily for the Rhinos, Guimond brought his A-game Saturday, turning aside all but one of the 47 shots Tabor sent his way. Remarkably, it's the 11th time this season Guimond has made 42 saves or more in a single game. As a result, Taft won this one convincingly over the fifth-seeded Seawolves despite being outshot 47-32 on their home ice. On the attack, it was a three-point day for junior Derek Tremblay, who scored twice and added a helper, and a three-point day for senior Jackson Holl, who tallied a goal and two assists. It was already 4-0 Rhinos by the time Tabor senior Liam Johnson finally got one by Guimond with 12:21 left in the game. The Taft victory sets up an intriguing Large School championship matchup against Salisbury. The Knights are playing their best hockey of the season, but the Rhinos epitomize a tough-to-beat postseason prep hockey team: they're big, they're experienced, and they've got the  goaltending to back it up.


Small Schools:

#3 Gunn Defeats #2 Holderness in OT; #4 LA Edges #8 New Hampton

@ Lawrence Academy 4, New Hampton 3

Junior Brendan Hirsch's third goal of the game, with 7:56 left, was enough to lift the host Spartans over New Hampton, which, despite not having held a playoff spot until the last day of the regular season, snuck in as the tournament's final seed and knocked off top-seeded St. Mark's in OT Wednesday.

Saturday's semifinal was a close, back-and-forth tilt, with the two teams taking turns scoring in the opening frame, and LA taking a 3-2 advantage into the first intermission after senior d-man Sam Marchionni broke the deadlock with a minute-and-a-half left in the period.

The only goal of the second, however, belonged to New Hampton, and it came just 31 seconds into the period, when senior Scott Lagos, open between the circles, took a feed from freshman teammate Marco Senerchia and banged a shot past Spartans' goalie Vincent Lamberti. In response, the Spartans increased the pressure, closing in on Huskies' goalie Nate Zerrenner, but couldn't get back on the score sheet before the teams, tied at 3-3, retreated to the locker rooms.

In the third, Hirsch's third goal, the game-winner, came just over 10 minutes into the period, when senior defenseman JS Pack left a drop pass for Josh Erickson, who flung a left-handed wrister on net. Zerrenner made the initial save, but couldn't corral the loose puck before Hirsch whacked it into the open net, propelling his team to the title game.

Frederick Gunn 3 @ Holderness 2 (OT)

Gunn senior Peter Unger's game-winner, 2:24 into the extra frame, completed an improbable comeback in what was, unsurprisingly, a well-defended, low-scoring game highlighted by the play of the two best backstops in this year's Small School field: Gunn senior Ryan Crowshaw and his Holderness counterpart Evan Plunkett.

It took nearly two periods before either surrendered a goal. Finally, Holderness senior Maxime Charbonneau, broke the ice, putting the Bulls up 1-0 in the final minutes of the second.

Early in the third, Holderness sophomore, Jacob Duval doubled the lead, making it 2-0. Suddenly, Holderness, which was a win away from a second consecutive Elite 8 berth, was sitting pretty with a trip to the Small School final on the line. Enter the Gunn offense, which awoke from its slumber and suddenly turned up the heat amid sub-30-degree temperatures at Holderness's semi-outdoor Fiore Rink.

Almost 10 minutes after Duval put the Bulls up 2-0, Christian Wood, Gunnery's big, physical senior defenseman, sliced that lead in half with the fifth goal of his prep career. Still, the Highlanders trailed as the game entered its final stages. With Crowshaw (who finished 28/30) pulled for the extra attacker, senior Frenchman Paul Tollet tied the game with a 6x5 goal and 1:27 left in regulation.

Less than three minutes into OT, Unger's game-winner sent Gunn to its third straight Small School Championship Game.





Avon Wins 9th Prep Title; Tops Cushing, 3-1;
Peck Shines

It's not often, in sports, that you can say a whole season was a build-up to one game. But that's certainly the way it felt in prep hockey this season, with #1 Cushing and #2 Avon Old Farms on a collision course all season. 

They met Sunday and, with the Elite 8 title on the line, turned in one for the books.

It was, of course, a matchup of the two best teams in New England, but the game was chock-full of other parallel storylines. It was also a meeting of Avon's John Gardner, a prep coaching legend, and Cushing's Paul Pearl, a  longtime Div-I college coach. It was a bout between the league's top two forwards, both clad in #14 -- the Penguins' Landan Resendes and the Winged Beavers' Joe Connor. It was a duel of two of the season's top senior goaltenders, in Cushing's Cooper Rautenstrauch and Avon's Stephen Peck. The crowd, surely a few thousand strong at St. Anselm College's Sullivan Arena, was not let down. 

Though nobody scored in the first, it was a fast-paced, back-and-forth period. The action was split just about equally between ends of the ice, but Cushing headed for the first intermission with a 14-5 advantage in shots. The Penguins, it seemed, were shooting whenever and from wherever, while Avon was far more selective.

In the second, with Avon 3-on-1 deep in Cushing territory, sophomore Sam Houston left a drop pass for senior Charlie Gollob, who, alone in the crease in front of Rautenstrauch, made the extra pass, to his right, for sophomore Won-Jun Yun, who rifled a one-timer into the twine at the 3:24 mark.

Cushing answered less than four minutes later, knotting the score at 1-1 when junior AJ Sacco, through a mad scramble in front of Peck's net, banged a loose puck into the cage. Assists went to Brendan Quinn and Dan Markevych. With the tally evened and the momentum on their side, the Penguins, who already held a sizeable edge in shots for the game, started taking off, finding open ice, making plays, and putting the suddenly tired-looking Winged Beavers back on their heels. Avon's 71-year-old head coach -- in search of his ninth title -- looked worried. So did his staff. So did the team's fans.

But Peck stood his ground, and Cushing failed to score.

Avon came out for the third with a little more hop, but the game's turning point came when Cushing, forechecking hard, was called for consecutive boarding penalties 22 seconds apart from the same exact spot at the end boards in Avon's end. Sacco committed the first; classmate Ethan Gardula the second. Now 5x3, it didn't take long for Avon's top line, in its familiar box-and-one alignment, to produce the game-winner. Connor found Joe Odyniec, who banged it home at the 3:18 mark, giving his team a lead it wouldn't relinquish.

In the final minutes, Cushing had a few good chances, but Peck didn't waver. Cushing pulled Rautenstrauch with a little over two minutes remaining. But Avon senior Alex Pelletier's empty-netter sealed the deal, giving Gardner his elusive ninth New England title, 13 years after his eighth.

"This is something I've been waiting a long time for," said a relieved Gardner, standing just outside a jubilant throng of players, parents, and supporters. "The last few years, the quarterfinals have been our biggest hurdle."

"Today, I was worried about our energy. We were dying a slow death in the second. Cushing's zone entries and forecheck were giving us some trouble. Fortunately, we made some adjustments. We battened down."

Gardner said the key to the win was Peck. Avon, outshot 45-22, leaned heavily on the senior from New York City who, not surprisingly, got the game puck. "He was awesome. Very few rebounds. He's done it for us all year. The kids believed in him."

Cushing's Pearl, in his third year at the school, was succinct: "Our guys worked really hard. We just didn't bury it. We didn't score."



Taft Edges Salisbury, 3-2 in OT; Guimond Stands Tall

Junior defenseman Alexander Kenerson's game-winner, just over eight minutes into OT, lifted #1 Taft to a 3-2 victory and the Large School title over #2 Salisbury. It was a grudge match of sorts for the two sides, which split a pair of 3-2 overtime regular-season games. Taft won the first, on Nov. 30th, in the first game of the season, on a game-winner by, well, Kenerson.

Sunday, the Rhinos, who have leaned on the play of Rudy Guimond all season, needed every last one of the 39 saves they got from their junior goaltender, because Salisbury spent much of regulation on the offensive.

"They played a lot in our zone," said Guimond, surrounded by a happy bunch of teammates. "It was really tiring, because a lot of what they do was throw pucks at my feet. It's tough. But our defense was really, really great today. They helped me out so much."

Taft scored first, nearly three-and-a-half minutes in, when junior Archer Brown flung a wrist shot from the top of the slot into the top of the net, beating Salisbury PG goalie Matt Alberti, glove side.

Guimond kept the Crimson Knights off the board until Salisbury got a break 22 seconds before the end of the period. A Taft defenseman, defending his end, turned the puck over, right onto the stick of Knights' senior Rapolas Marcinkevicius. The Lithuanian forward, suddenly leading a 3-on-1 rush the other way, dished to his right for classmate Michael Strapp, whose wrist shot evened the score at 1-1. 

While nobody scored in the second, it was clearly Salisbury's period. The Crimson Knights dialed up the pressure and outshot Taft 11-6, but Guimond didn't crack. Throughout the game, Taft made quick trips into the offensive zone, but it seemed as if Salisbury's offense produced the more sustained, persistent attack, much of which was generated south of the Rhinos' goal line, with pucks continually popping out to the low slot. With the Yale commit backstopping their defense, however, Taft stayed in the game.

The Rhinos caught a break in the third, just over seven minutes in, when senior Jackson Holl, from low on the the left wall, threw a pass to the net-front without a teammate in the vicinity of the blue paint, but the puck bounced off the leg of a Salisbury defender and into the net. 2-1, Taft.

Less than four minutes later, at 10:59, Salisbury answered, tying the game at 2-2 on junior Jared Rothman's re-direction of Sam Hall's low shot from the point. Not much Guimond could've done.

The extra period was the most evenly matched of the game; Taft's 8-6 edge in shots was their first such advantage in any of the game's four frames. In his end, Guimond stifled quality attempts from Salisbury's Anthony Biakabutuka, Marcinkevicius, and Trey Deere.

The golden goal came after Alberti made a 10-bell save, darting across the crease to his left. Taft's Shane Mettler picked the loose puck up behind the net, and stuffed it into the pads of Salisbury's post-graduate goalie, causing a massive pileup at the net mouth. With Alberti sprawled on his back amidst a moshpit of eight skaters, Kenerson, moving down from the right point, suddenly had a loose puck squirting in his direction. With eyes as big as saucers, the entire upper half of the net to shoot at, and a championship at stake, Kenerson stepped into it. He didn't miss.

The Large School title game victory, Taft's first boys' hockey championship of any sort, was a long time coming for the Rhinos, who started their season with a team-building camp in August at the same place they finished it: Sullivan Arena at St. Anselm College. 

This was the first thing Guimond mentioned after the game, and soaked Taft head coach Ryan Shannon reiterated it, saying, "This was a poetic finish for us, and I give all the credit to our senior captains who led us into the season with that camp. It's definitely a full-circle moment for us."

"Rudy Guimond has kept us in games all season. He's an incredible goalie, cool, reads the play incredibly well. In games in which we were outshot, like today, we always felt we could win."

"This was a tough game, though. Salisbury is an incredibly deep and disciplined team. This is the third time we played them this year and every one was a 3-2 overtime game."



LA Battles Back From 3-Goal Deficit;
Edges Gunn, 4-3, in OT

Owen Leahy's overtime winner, more than 10 minutes into the extra frame, capped a three-goal comeback to snatch a Small School championship from the hands of Frederick Gunn, which led 3-1 with 10 minutes remaining in regulation.

It was a fast-paced, chippy, and well-matched game, all the way to the end. Lawrence held the slight advantage in shots, 39-35 for the game.

The first period was marked by strong goaltending from Gunn senior Ryan Crowshaw and LA senior Vincent Lombardi. The former made 13 saves in the first, the latter made nine, and neither surrendered anything. Nearly five minutes into the second, with the teams skating 4x4 after matching roughing penalties, Lawrence senior Clarence Beltz buried a backdoor pass from classmate Marek Thompson. 1-0, Spartans.

Gunn, after killing its third penalty of the game, tied the game at 1-1 midway through the period when senior Alex LoGuercio tipped Luke Calabria's point shot past Lamberti at the 8:56 mark.

The Highlanders, playing in their third consecutive Small School title game, stepped on the gas at the start of the third, taking a 2-1 lead on LoGuercio's second goal of the game -- on which he took a firm tape-to-tape pass from junior Mark Pizzo, waited for LA d-man Shawn Leary to go sliding by, and buried a backhanded shot in the top right corner. Gunn senior forward Kyle Smyth added a wrap-around goal at the 8:45 mark to make it 3-1. Just like that, Gunn had a two-goal lead, all the momentum, and half a period remaining in regulation. A group of nearly 100 Lawrence students that had bussed to the game suddenly became rather quiet.

Less than a minute later, however, LA, led by its top line of juniors Leahy, Brendan Hirsch and senior Josh Erickson, inched closer, thanks to Leahy's sprawling goal amidst a logjam of bodies in the crease. Still, his team trailed by one.

With a minute and change left, just as Lawrence head coach Robbie Barker gestured for Lamberti to return to the bench for the extra attacker, Hirsch took an elbowing penalty that instead sent the Spartans to the kill. After a timeout, Barker pulled his goalie to get it back to 5x5. The Highlanders flung the puck from their zone towards the empty net on the other end, but Thompson got to it in the crease before it became a game-sealing empty-netter. He turned up ice, tore into Gunn territory and the Spartans set up there, in search of the equalizer.

It came, with 22 seconds left in regulation, when Shawn Leary, with the puck in the slot, fed Erickson, who was crashing towards the bottom of the circle. In one motion, the LA senior rolled a righty shot through Crowshaw's legs, igniting the Spartan faithful and sending the game to the extra frame. 

Having scored both of their team's third-period goals, the Leahy-Hirsch-Erickson line went to work in overtime, producing several of the best chances in the additional period.

Nearly ten minutes in, Leahy took a pass from Erickson at his own blue line, quickly gained top speed, tore through the neutral zone, split two Gunn defensemen, and, with one shot, ended the game.

The win marks the first title for the Spartans since 2018, exactly five years ago, when they won the Small School title -- also in OT -- on a goal from current Northeastern forward Gunnar Fontaine in a 5-4 win over New Hampton. 

Coach Barker, amidst a throng of Spartan supporters after the game, said, "The tying goal gave us great momentum, but, starting overtime, we still had over a minute on the penalty kill. After the penalty was killed, I told the kids they had six minutes to score -- and they did. It was the same speech I gave in OT exactly five years ago today. Right here. In this building."

Asked about the OT game-winner, Barker said it all started with a battle on the boards in the Lawrence end. When Leahy got the puck inside the blue line he took off through the neutral zone. "Leahy," said Barker, "has next-level speed. There wasn't much that was going to prevent him from getting through. Goalie got a piece of it and it trickled behind him."

Barker said his team really turned it on over the last month or so. "They started to buy in and come together as a group, and believe in one another and themselves."

At the other end, Gunn head coach Craig Badger said, "We had a two-goal lead in the third, and we had our opportunities. We were good at times, not at others. When we were confident we played well; when we were hesitant we didn't. We played more not to lose than to win."

Badger shook his head before adding, "It stinks to lose."



* NEPSAC Championships Scoreboard *
Sunday, March 5, 2023


Stuart/Corkery Tournament (Elite 8)

#1 Cushing vs. #2 Avon Old Farms, 5:00 pm -- Avon, 3-1
Piatelli/Simmons Tournament (Small Schools)

#3 Frederick Gunn vs. #4 Lawrence Academy, 2:30 pm -- LA, 4-3 (OT)


Martin/Earl Tournament (Large Schools)
#1 Taft vs. #2 Salisbury, 12:00 pm -- Taft, 3-2 (OT)


NEPSAC Boys' Hockey Tournament
* Semifinals Scoreboard *
Saturday, March 4, 2023

Stuart/Corkery Tournament (Elite 8)

#5 Brunswick @ #1 Cushing, 2:30 pm -- Cushing, 2-1
#6 Belmont Hill @ #2 Avon Old Farms, 1:30 pm -- Avon, 7-2

Sunday's Elite 8 Championship Game -- At St. Anselm College
#1 Cushing vs. #2 Avon Old Farms, 5:00 pm

Martin/Earl Tournament (Large Schools)
#5 Tabor @ #1 Taft, 2:30 -- Taft, 4-1
#3 Dexter @ #2 Salisbury, 2:00 pm -- Salisbury, 3-1

Sunday's Large School Championship Game -- At St. Anselm College
#1 Taft vs. #2 Salisbury, 12:00 pm

Piatelli/Simmons Tournament (Small Schools)
#8 New Hampton @ #4 Lawrence Academy, 2:00 pm -- LA, 4-3
#3 Frederick Gunn @ #2 Holderness, 2:30 pm -- Gunn, 3-2 (OT)

Sunday's Small School Championship Game -- At St. Anselm College
#3 Frederick Gunn vs. #4 Lawrence Academy, 2:30 pm


             How'd They Get Here?
Wednesday's Quarterfinals Results

Elite 8:
@ (#1) Cushing 6, (#8) Kimball Union 2
@ (#2) Avon Old Farms 5, (#7) Westminster 1 
(#6) Belmont Hill 7 @ (#3) Milton Academy 2  
(#5) Brunswick 3 @ (#4) Nobles 2 (OT)

Large Schools:
@ (#1) Taft 5, (#8) Kent 3  
@ (#2) Salisbury 4, (#7) Loomis 3 (OT)  
@ (#3) Dexter 6, (#6) NMH 2  
(#5) Tabor 6 @ (#4) St. Sebastian's 3  

Small Schools:
(#8) New Hampton 5 @ (#1) St. Mark's 4 (OT)  
@ (#2) Holderness 3, (#7) Brooks 1 
@ (#3) Frederick Gunn 5, (#6) Tilton 4  
@ (#4) Lawrence Academy 5, (#5) Governor's 0



Weather, and More

We're 24 hours ahead of Saturday's playoff slate. And we're watching the weather, which could, at least, create some headaches tomorrow. 

With semifinal games spread across six sites in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Hampshire, the National Weather Service forecast maps show an east-west line across Massachusetts, roughly along the Mass Pike. What this means is that northern Mass. and all of New Hampshire are under a Winter Storm Warning. Points south are under a Winter Weather Advisory.

So...Cushing Academy, Lawrence Academy, and the Holderness School all fall under the warning. Avon, Taft, and Salisbury are all under the advisory.

(The girls' semifinals face the same problem. The Large School semis are tonight, so they'll have no problems. But that leaves four games for tomorrow, and all -- at Williston, Andover, Groton, and Cushing -- are under storm warnings.)

Just something to keep an eye on if you are considering driving.


         Holt Conference Names All-Stars, Player of the Year

Connor Dozois – Jr. -- Worcester
Eli Chilicki – Jr. -- Berwick
Justin Massa – Jr. -- Berwick
Ryan Kavanagh – Jr. -- Pingree
Josh Bonrouhi – Sr. -- Portsmouth Abbey
Daxton St. Hilaire – Sr. -- NYA
Ryan Teehan – Sr. -- Hebron

Nick Theodos – Sr. -- Hebron
Josh Felton – Sr. -- Berwick
Jack Baird – Sr. -- Portsmouth Abbey
Louka Vamvakas – Sr. -- NYA 

Matthew Pimental – Soph. -- Berwick
Patrick McDevitt – Jr. -- Portsmouth Abbey

Player of the Year:
Eli Chilicki -- Jr. -- Berwick

Travis Roy Award for Perseverance, Achievement, and Sportsmanship
Brayden Warde -- Sr. -- NYA



Changing of the Guard
For those of you who don't know me, I'm Chris Warner, the U.S. Hockey Report founder, publisher, editor, and writer. I started USHR in the mid-'90s and have been the voice of this publication for the better part of three decades.

Starting next season, we'll have new voices behind the Report, and new faces in the rinks. I'll continue on in an advisory role, but, as far as the day-to-day operations go, that will be taken over by new staff, once we find them.

Our tech lead, Noah S. Cutler, has been with the Report for over 20 years, and will continue to run the fastest hockey reporting service on the internet.

As far as who will step in to take over editorial duties next season, we're looking for a self-starter, someone who enjoys prep hockey, sharing insights about teams and players, and building relationships in the hockey community. Contact if you, or any of your colleagues, are interested in joining USHR.

Finally, more than one group has expressed interest in buying USHR. If we decide to take that path, one of the requirements will be maintaining the same quality of reporting and data (notably league/team/player stats, and RPI/JSPR).

I’ve been at this for well over a quarter of a century – the largest chunk of my working life, and the most enjoyable by far. I’ll still be here, but behind the scenes.

Good luck to all the teams participating in the playoffs this week!

C.C. Warner
Cambridge, Mass.





* NEPSAC Quarterfinals Highlights *
Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Stuart/Corkery Tournament (Elite 8)
#1 Cushing, #2 Avon, #5 Brunswick & #6 Belmont Hill Advance

@ #2 Avon Old Farms 5, #7 Westminster 1 -- It's hard to beat the same team three times in a season, but that clearly doesn't apply to the Winged Beavers, who dispatched Westy in the opening game of the Elite 8, following up their 7-1 and 6-2 regular season poundings of the Martlets. It was, in fact, Westminster that scored first, on junior d-man Eric Elbery's second goal of the year less than five minutes after the opening puck drop. But Avon answered with sophomore Sam Houston's goal less than five minutes later, and, once the teams headed for the first intermission deadlocked at 1-1, it was all AOF from there. Avon senior Stephen Peck was 26/27 between the pipes. Westy's Matteo De Luca was 28/33 in the season-ending loss. Avon senior linemates Joe Connor (1g,1a) and Charlie Gollob (2a) were the leading pointsmen for the winners, who advance to the Elite 8 semifinals for the third straight postseason. Saturday, they'll look to avenge last season's semifinal loss to Belmont Hill, when the Hillies visit John T. Gardner Rink with a trip to the title game on the line. 

@ #1 Cushing 6, #8 Kimball Union 2 --
After a 23-2-4 regular season, #1 Cushing didn't skip a beat when it began its campaign toward an Elite 8 title with a home-ice victory over KUA. The Penguins held a 46-18 advantage in shots, and, before the Wildcats could blink, they trailed 2-0 on a pair of goals by junior standout Landan Resendes, who totalled 51 regular season points. He needed all of 49 seconds to get his team on the board, then doubled the lead with a powerplay goal three minutes later. His teammate, senior Malcolm Green, also put two in the back of the net. Senior G Cooper Rautenstrauch (16/18) gave up little in net, surrendering only sophomore Landon Paul's goal in the second, and junior Sam LeDrew's in the third. This win showed that Cushing will be extremely difficult to topple over the weekend. KUA, on the other hand, is out after sneaking into the field with a Lakes Region Tournament championship win over Holderness. They finished 4-3-1 across the last eight, with all three losses coming at the hands of the Penguins. 

#5 Brunswick 3 @ #4 Nobles 2 (OT) --
Junior Sean Gibbons's PPG 34 seconds into OT lifted #5 Brunswick to the win. The goal, Gibbons's second of the day, assisted by juniors Drew DellaSalla and Cooper Cleaves, sends 'Wick on to a semifinal tilt at Cushing Saturday. But it wasn't easy. The Bruins, over the course of the game, would unload 47 shots at Nobles' sophomore G Thatcher Bernstein. Nonetheless, they entered the third period trailing, 2-0, but a pair of powerplay goals from Gibbons and Cleaves tied things up, and sent the game into OT.

#6 Belmont Hill 7 @ #3 Milton 2 --
(Statistics missing.)

Elite 8 Semifinals Schedule -- Saturday, March 4, 2023
#5 Brunswick @ #1 Cushing

#6 Belmont Hill @ #2 Avon Old Farms


Martin/Earl Tournament (Large Schools)
#1 Taft, #2 Salisbury, #3 Dexter, #5 Tabor All Winners

@ #3 Dexter 6, #6 Northfield Mt. Hermon 2 -- Senior Joe Hurton and junior Cullen Emery combined for five goals -- three for the former and two for the latter -- as Dexter rolled to a quarterfinal home victory. Dan Donato started senior Max Gatti, who logged less than 40% of his team's minutes in goal this season, between the pipes. He didn't disappoint, going 27/29 in the victory. The road ahead gets tougher for Dexter, which travels to Salisbury for a Saturday semifinal meeting, a rematch of the 2020 Elite 8 title game. NMH, meanwhile, finishes 19-9-1 in the final season at the helm for Kevin Czepiel, the former UMass captain who won 102 games in his tenure with the Hoggers. He takes over at the Berkshire School next season.

@ #2 Salisbury 4, #7 Loomis Chaffee 3 (OT) -- Senior Trey Deere's OT winner lifted Salisbury, the reigning Elite 8 champs, to a Large School tournament quarterfinal victory that, at one point, looked bleak for the home side. It was a seesaw game, all the way to the finish. Loomis got the only goal of the first, senior Eli Hull's powerplay snipe. In the second, Salisbury put the heat on Loomis senior G Andrew Heinze, tying it up just a few minutes into the middle frame, but Loomis took back the lead seven-and-a-half minutes later, thanks to senior Jacob Hookman-Vassa. The Pelicans carried that 2-1 advantage until there were just under 11 minutes left, when Loomis took a cross-checking penalty and the Knights cashed in, re-tying the game on senior Hayden Haynes' quick strike off the draw. Then Salisbury took the lead, and had all the momentum in its favor before Hull re-created his earlier powerplay goal with another in the final four minutes. After 54 minutes it was 3-3. OT, however, was one-sided; in the eight minutes needed to determine a winner, Loomis put just one shot on net. Heinze, a Middlebury commit, went 41/45 in net. He stopped 84 of the 89 Salisbury shots he saw in the two matchups this season. Junior Cooper Flemming (21/24) earned the win for Salisbury. 

#5 Tabor 6 @ #4 St. Sebastian's 3 -- A three-goal first -- headlined by junior Keanan Dewbeerry's two goals -- gave Tabor, playing on the road, a lead it wouldn't relinquish. With two quick goals to start the second, Seb's made it close for a few minutes, but three of the game's final four goals were Tabor's, and junior Josh Itri's ENG with four seconds left was just icing on the cake. Seawolves goalie Gus Ackerman, a senior, extended his prep career at least one more game with a 26/29 showing in net. Dewberry and classmate Cam Gaffney (1g,2a) each had three points in the victory. Tabor will visit top-seeded Taft on Saturday. 

@ #1 Taft 5, #8 Kent 3 -- Senior F Jackson Holl had a four-point day (3g,1a) to lead the Rhinos, and junior F Derek Tremblay contributed a goal and an assist. Kent led this one, 2-1 after one, and 3-2 after two, but the Rhinos scored three unanswered goals in the third (the final was an empty-netter). Junior Patrick Walsh led the Kent scorers with a goal and an assist.

Large School Semifinals Schedule -- Saturday, March 4, 2023
#5 Tabor @ #1 Taft
#3 Dexter @ #2 Salisbury

Piatelli/Simmons Tournament (Small Schools)

#2 Holderness, #3 Gunn, #4 LA, & #8 New Hampton Advance

@ #3 Frederick Gunn 5, #6 Tilton 4 -- In a neutral-site Small School quarterfinal matchup at Deerfield, the Rams and Highlanders were neck-and-neck all the way through. The two teams traded first-period goals and retreated to the locker rooms for the first break tied 2-2. Tilton jumped in front 12 seconds into the second, on senior Aidan Dres's goal, but an ensuing stretch of three straight Gunn goals put the game out of reach, despite a Tilton powerplay goal in the third. Dres and senior Nicholas Fontaine each had three-point nights. Tilton junior G Sawyer Russell (29/34) took the loss. Gunn, which advances to face Holderness in the semifinals, was led by senior Michael Ryan's three points. Senior G Ryan Crowshaw went 28/32 between the pipes in the victory.

@ #2 Holderness 3, #7 Brooks 1 -- After a scoreless first, Holderness bookended the second with a pair of goals -- senior Maxime Charbonneau's less than two minutes in, and sophomore Jacob Duval's in the final seconds -- to build a lead it wouldn't surrender. Senior Evan Plunkett (25/26) earned the win, which propels the Bulls to a second-round meeting with Gunn on Saturday. Brooks, which won eight of its last 10 regular season games to come flying out of nowhere into playoff position, finishes the season 14-8-2 overall.

@ #4 Lawrence Academy 5, #5 Governor's 0 -- Junior F Spencer Hirsch notched a hat trick, classmate Owen Leahy (1g,1a) had a two-point game, and senior G Vincent Lamberti, in his sixth start of the season, blanked Gov's with a 28-save effort.

#8 New Hampton 5 @ #1 St. Mark's 4 (OT) -- In a back-and-forth tilt, St. Mark's went ahead on an Andrew Gibbons goal midway through the third, but, with a little over a minute left in the game, Huskies' senior Matt Babineau, with his second goal of the game, tying the game at 4-4 and sending it to OT. There, just 1:05 in, senior F Scott Lagos found the back of the net, sending the Huskies to a semifinal matchup at Lawrence.

Small School Semifinals Schedule -- Saturday, March 4, 2023
#8 New Hampton @ #4 Lawrence Academy
#3 Frederick Gunn @ #2 Holderness



NEPSAC Boys' Hockey Tournament
* Quarterfinals Scoreboard *
Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Stuart/Corkery Tournament (Elite 8)

#8 Kimball Union @ #1 Cushing, 4:00 pm -- Cushing, 6-2
#7 Westminster @ #2 Avon Old Farms, 2:45 pm -- Avon, 5-1
#6 Belmont Hill @ #3 Milton Academy, 5:30 pm -- Belmont Hill, 7-2
#5 Brunswick @ #4 Nobles, 4:30 pm -- Brunswick, 3-2 (OT)

Semifinals Schedule -- Saturday, March 4, 2023
#5 Brunswick @ #1 Cushing, TBA
#6 Belmont Hill @ #2 Avon Old Farms, 1:30 pm

Martin/Earl Tournament (Large Schools)

#8 Kent @ #1 Taft, 4:45 pm -- Taft, 5-3
#7 Loomis @ #2 Salisbury, 4:00 pm -- Salisbury, 4-3 (OT)
#6 NMH @ #3 Dexter, 4:00 pm -- Dexter, 6-2
#5 Tabor @ #4 St. Sebastian's, 4:45 pm -- Tabor, 6-3

Semifinals Schedule -- Saturday, March 4, 2023
#5 Tabor @ #1 Taft, 2:30 pm
#3 Dexter @ #2 Salisbury, 2:00 pm

Piatelli/Simmons Tournament (Small Schools)

#8 New Hampton @ #1 St. Mark's, 4:00 pm -- New Hampton, 5-4 (OT)
#7 Brooks @ #2 Holderness, 4:00 pm -- Holderness, 3-1
#6 Tilton @ #3 Frederick Gunn, 5:00 pm -- Gunn, 5-4
#5 Governor's @ #4 Lawrence Academy, 3:30 pm -- LA, 5-0

Semifinals Schedule -- Saturday, March 4, 2023
#8 New Hampton @ #4 Lawrence Academy, 2:00 pm
#3 Frederick Gunn @ #2 Holderness, 2:30 pm


Quick Picks

Here’s how we see the Elite 8 Quarterfinals:

#5 Brunswick @ #4 Nobles (4:30 pm) – Nobles, quite young at key positions – up front and in net -- is slumping at the worst possible time. The Bulldogs, from the Flood-Marr forward, reeled off a 14-game unbeaten streak (13-0-1). Since Feb. 4th it’s been a dramatically different story, as Nobles has just one win over its last seven (1-3-3), with the lone win a 6-3 decision over BB&N on Feb. 15th.

Brunswick, on the other hand, has a nine-game win streak (seven were NEPSIHA games) going. Last season, they reached the Large School Final, only to lose to Kent, 4-1. That was a young team. This season, they’re battle-tested, and won’t be happy bowing out in the quarters.

This game has the highest likelihood of a road upset. We'll take our chances with Brunswick.

#6 Belmont Hill @ #3 Milton (5:30 pm) – They’ve played each other twice: Milton tied Belmont Hill, 2-2, on Jan. 5th. And Milton beat Belmont Hill, 6-2, on February 15th.

We’re giving the edge to Milton in this one, based on better goaltending. Milton senior G Harrison Brown (38/40) played in the tie and sophomore standout Sam Caulfield (43/45) was in net for the 6-2 win.

Neither of these teams is a high-scoring powerhouse.

We’re going with Milton (9-0-3 over its last 12) over Bel Hill (14-2-1 over its last 17).

#7 Westminster @ #2 Avon Old Farms (2:45 pm) – The two teams have played each other twice. Avon beat Westminster, 7-1, on Jan. 23rd, and beat them again on Feb.1, this time by a 6-2 score.

Avon, after back-to-back one-goal losses to Taft and Hotchkiss in early January, has gone on a 14-game unbeaten streak  (10-0-4). That includes the two wins over Westy.

The Martlets had a terrific stretch run, winning eight of its last nine. That includes a 6-4 win over Belmont Hill on Saturday that propelled them into the Elite 8.

They’ve been battling for their lives to get in. Can the momentum from that override the doubt that the two decisive losses to Avon could instill in a team?

This is just too tough a row to hoe. We’re going with Avon.

#8 Kimball Union @ #1 Cushing (4:00 pm) – KUA has done very poorly against the iron (the Top 16), going 2-5-1. One of those two wins came on Saturday night, with the Wildcats beating Holderness, 5-1, in the Lakes Region title game, a game that allowed the Wildcats to squeeze into the #8 slot.

Head-to-head? The two teams played a home-and-away series Feb. 17-18 and Cushing won them both, 4-2 and 2-0.

From that alone, we'd put our money on the Penguins.

Around the Rinks

Junior Landan Resendes, Cushing's top goal scorer, leads the #1-seeded Penguins into the post-season. They'll host KUA in a Wednesday quarterfinal.
Junior Landan Resendes, Cushing's top goal scorer, leads the #1-seeded Penguins into the post-season. They'll host KUA in a Wednesday quarterfinal. (Photo: Dave Arnold Photography)
KUA captain Jackson Kyrkostas notched a hat trick and added an assist as the Wildcats topped Holderness, 5-1, in the Lakes Region Championship Game Sa
KUA captain Jackson Kyrkostas notched a hat trick and added an assist as the Wildcats topped Holderness, 5-1, in the Lakes Region Championship Game Saturday night. (Photo: Dave Arnold Photography)
Westminster junior F Ryan Shaw had a six-point (3g,3a) weekend as the Martlets locked down an Elite 8 spot with wins over Deerfield and Belmont Hill.
Westminster junior F Ryan Shaw had a six-point (3g,3a) weekend as the Martlets locked down an Elite 8 spot with wins over Deerfield and Belmont Hill. They'll be at Avon for a quarterfinal matchup Wednesday. (Photo: Dave Arnold Photography)
Sophomore F Dennis Davidson, Nobles' leading goal-scorer, scored the Bulldogs' lone goal in a 6-1 loss to Milton. Nobles will host Brunswick in an Eli
Sophomore F Dennis Davidson, Nobles' leading goal-scorer, scored the Bulldogs' lone goal in a 6-1 loss to Milton. Nobles will host Brunswick in an Elite 8 quarterfinal match Wednesday. (Photo: Dave Arnold Photography)