Crimson Knights Take Down Kent, 4-1, In Finale
They had worked so hard down the stretch. They were not going to be denied. That’s how it was for Salisbury School, which entered the post-season on a roll, playing perhaps its best hockey of the year. The Crimson Knights culminated that stretch by winning the Boys Prep Elite Tournament title, downing Kent, 4-1, in an All- Founders League final held at the Icenter in Salem, NH.
Salisbury’s three post-season wins, which included barn-burning overtime wins over Berkshire (3-2) and Westminster (4-3), put the finishing touches on an 11-0-1 run to end the season, and give the school its third New England title in the past eight seasons. “I am truly proud and pleased for the guys,” said Salisbury coach Andrew Will. “This was a fulltime effort, given the stretch of overtime and one-goal games we have played. I think it helped us to play confident and with composure.”
The Knights applied pressure all game long, outshooting Kent by a 36-16 margin. Lions goalie Charlie Fennell was superb keeping his team in the game until Salisbury forward Mitchell Smith scored a pair of third period goals to give the Knights some added breathing room. Salisbury scored first, taking a 1-0 lead just 1:46 into the game on a power play when forward Matt Pugh re-directed a Will Toffey slap shot past Fennell. Jacob Hand also assisted on the goal. Kent drew even late in the stanza.
At the 14:20 mark, Connor Mitchell buried a well-placed wrist shot past Salisbury goalie Callum Booth after the Lions were applying some sustained offensive pressure. Perhaps the game’s key juncture occurred late in the second period. Kent’s Keanu Hillaire was called for cross-checking at 15:55, and then Bennett Morrison for hooking at 16:06, giving Salisbury a two-man advantage for almost two minutes. With 53 seconds left in the period, Liam McDermott tipped home shot from Hand to put Salisbury back on top, 2-1.
“Being able to capitalize on that five-on-three situation was key,” Will said. “It gave us confidence. If we don’t score, it could have given them (Kent) confidence.” It stayed 2-1 for most of the third period, until Mitchell Smith came to the forefront. Derek Barach carried the puck into the Kent zone on the right wing side and fired a shot which Fennell made a great save on. The rebound came out to Smith in the left faceoff circle and he blasted home a one-time before Fennell could get over, giving the Crimson Knights a 3-1 lead with 6:10 to play.
“After we got that two-goal cushion, I felt it energized our guys on the bench,” Will said. “We kept playing our game.” Smith put the exclamation point on this one with 1:59 to go, taking a pass from brother Evan Smith on a 2-on-1 and rifling home a wrist shot to make it 4-1. “You really appreciate how hard it is to get here,” said Will, who led the Knights to the 2009 Division I crown. “We had 14 new players this year and only had a fully healthy team for two games.”