Salem, NH -- Salisbury, behind a pair of goals from junior Mitchell Smith and a 23-save performance from sophomore goaltender Callum Booth, topped Kent 4-1 to take the 2013 New England Prep Elite 8 title here on Sunday afternoon.
With the win, Salisbury now has three NEPSIHA Div. I titles - they also won in 2006 and 2009. In addition, they won a Div. II title in 1991.
The turning point in Sunday's game came late in the second period when Kent defensemen Keanu Hilaire (cross-check) and Bennett Morrison (hooking) were whistled for minors seconds apart from one another with roughly two minutes left in the stanza. Just like that, Salisbury had a 5x3 powerplay for virtually all the time remaining in the period. The Knights didn't squander it, either. A Jacob Hand shot from five feet inside the left point deflected off the upper body of Liam McDermott, parked in front, and got by Kent senior goaltender Charlie Fennell with 53 seconds left in the stanza to give Salisbury a 2-1 edge going into the second intermission.
Early in the third, Salisbury, gripping tightly to the one-goal lead, got a great save by Booth on a Mitch Allen shot.
Salisbury made it 3-1 with an insurance goal at 11:50 of the third. The play actually started deep in the Salisbury end when senior D Mark Hamilton made a great diagonal saucer pass from outside the left faceoff circle hash marks right onto the stick of a streaking Derek Barach at the far blue line. Barach's shot rebounded to the far side, where a waiting Mitchell Smith found a wide-open net to shoot at - and didn't miss.
Smith, from his twin brother Evan Smith, would salt it away for Salisbury, making it 4-1 off a 2-on-1 with 1:59 left on the clock.
Earlier in the game, back in the first period, the two teams traded goals, Salisbury striking first when, with Mitch Allen off for tripping, PG Matt Pugh scored just 1:46 in, with assists going to junior D Will Toffey and junior F Evan Smith.
Later in the first period, Kent, after hemming Salisbury in their end for an extremely long stretch, cashed in to make it 1-1 when senior Connor Mitchell whistled a high shot over the glove of Booth at the 14:20 mark.
The second period was tense, with both goalies coming up big. Kent's Fennell made a pair of excellent saves late in the second to keep it at 1-1. First, Fennell made a great save on Jason Kalinowski with about three minutes left. Then, less than a minute later, the senior from Elmira, NY came up with a great right pad save to rob Mitchell Smith.
Seconds later, however, Fennell, who had 23 saves in the game, was facing Salisbury's 5x3 powerplay, a task too formidable. Salisbury, as mentioned above, would cash in, take the one-goal lead into the dressing room, add a couple of insurance goals in the third, and take home their first NEPSIHA title since 2009.
Afterward, we asked Salisbury head coach Andrew Will, who won his first title in his first year at Salisbury ('08-09) and now has a second to go with it, what the keys to his team's win were.
"We wanted to make sure we limited Kent's power play opportunities, mainly by making sure we played with composure to make them earn whatever they got," Will said. "On the penalty kill, we wanted to get sticks in the lanes and keep the puck to the outside. We also wanted to limit odd-man rushes or at least have back side pressure coming back into the zone. In those things, I think we succeeded."
"We also play on a big sheet at Salisbury and we try to use the full width of the ice. We thought we could take it wide and get their D to turn and get it deep and work on the cycle."
As for individual players, Will spoke of Booth, his sophomore goalie. "He's a true sophomore," Will said. "And he relishes the big stage. At Berkshire, he gave up a goal on the first shot and vs. Westminster he gave up a goal on the first shot. For a young kid to not get rattled by that and to keep his composure speaks to the mental maturity and focus he brings to the game."
Will was pleased by the 'Smith Twins' line, which also features Derek Barach. "They have been relentless the past three weeks. They just put so much pressure on the D. They anticipate, and they are smart coming back through the neutral zone. They push back."
Will also spoke glowingly of his entire defensive corps. "The maturity really impressed me," he said. "Plus they are so sound defensively."
Article from USHR and Salisbury School website