SALEM, N.H. – If there was a key moment in Sunday's NEPSAC boys hockey game between fourth-seeded Kent School and sixth-seeded Salisbury, it came late in the second period when Salisbury cashed in on a 5-on-3 opportunity.
Senior forward Liam McDermott collected the goal that broke a 1-1 tie with 53 seconds remaining in the period and propelled Salisbury to a 4-1 victory in the championship game of the Stuart/Corkery Tournament, better know as the Elite 8 Tournament.
“Getting that power-play goal settled us down a little bit and gave us the confidence we needed to play with the lead,” Salisbury head coach Andrew Will said. “If we don't score on the 5-on-3 it gives them a boost and gives them a little more energy. You have to score on chances like that to win games like this one.”
Junior forward Mitchell Smith added two third-period goals for Salisbury, which completed its season with a 21-5-3 record. Matt Pugh scored Salisbury’s other goal. Junior defenseman Will Toffey and junior forward Evan Smith each collected two assists in the victory.
It was the third meeting between the teams this season. Salisbury prevailed 4-3 at Kent, and the teams played to a 2-2 tie at Salisbury.
“It was a case where the teams knew each other well,” Will said. “We really stressed staying out of the penalty box because we knew their power play has been deadly lately. Once we got the third goal we were feeling pretty good. At that point you could feel the energy on the bench and that the guys weren't going to be denied.”
Salisbury's path to the title included overtime victories against third-seeded Berkshire (3-2) and seventh-seeded Westminster (4-3). Will said playing those one-goal games benefited his team.
“It allowed us to play with the composure we needed in a game like this,” he said. “Something that really helped us was our depth.”
Senior Connor Mitchell scored for Kent, which ended its season with an 18-7-3 record. Kent advanced by beating fifth-seeded Dexter (7-1) and No. 8 seed The Gunnery School (3-0).
Kent goaltender Charlie Fennell stopped 23 saves. Salisbury goalie Callum Booth also made 23 saves.
Pugh handed Salisbury a 1-0 lead 1:46 into the contest, but Kent pulled even when Mitchell scored at 14:20 of the first. Then Salisbury took the lead for good when McDermott capitalized on the 5-on-3 opportunity.
“I'm just tremendously proud and pleased for these guys,” Will said. “It was a full team effort.”