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Varsity Hockey vs. Hotchkiss School

Event Type: Regular

Date: December 6, 2017


Event Recap:

Bladesmen Hold Off Determined Hotchkiss Squad, Move to 4-0

An early 2-0 Salisbury lead may have created a sense that the Bobcats of Hotchkiss School would offer little resistance on Wednesday afternoon at Rudd Rink as the Knights continued their early-season crusade through the prep-hockey ranks. While Salisbury (4-0) remained unbeaten at game’s end, by virtue of a 5-3 win, a physical and resilient Hotchkiss team did not make it easy.

The Bobcats began using their bodies from the opening puck-drop, helping to slow down a Salisbury roster that has no shortage of speed. Nevertheless, the Knights eventually got on track and began what would become a 47-shot barrage on the Hotchkiss net, fronted by a blameless Henry Wilder: of the five shots that did elude Wilder, only one was at even-strength, and one of the others came during a two-man advantage. In all, the Bearcats were saddled with 8 penalties in the game, the Knights with 7, as the two combatants gave no quarter.

At the other end of the ice, Salisbury netminder Brian McGrath saw 22 shots, stopping 19. He, too, was stingy in five-aside play: all three goals-against came in 5-on-4 situations, although Salisbury enjoyed the advantage in one of those situations – enjoyed, that is, until Hotchkiss mounted a 2-on-1 rush that culminated in a short-handed goal. That blot on the Knights’ scoresheet marked the second straight game in which the opponent scored during a Salisbury power-play.

Salisbury made good on its first power-play of the game, as Chris Brown scored on a wrister from in front of the net, just over a minute into the man-advantage at 4:56 of the opening period. Matt Holmes and Peter Diliberatore both collected assists on the play. At 8:25, Alex DiPaolo upped the advantage to 2-0, assisted by Arsenii Smekhov and Brown, for the only even-strength goal of the afternoon.

After the ensuing faceoff, Hotchkiss put together a strong shift and nearly got on the scoreboard at the end of a 3-on-2 rush, but McGrath moved quickly to his left to cover the open side of the net and repel the scoring attempt. With just over seven minutes remaining in the period, the Bearcats went on the power-play for the first time and looked utterly inept, as the Knight penalty-killers held the puck for most of the penalty. In the closing seconds of the period, the Knights had another excellent opportunity. The puck slid past Wilder, tantalizingly close to the goal-line, where DiPaolo extended his stick to coax it across, but Wilder recovered, got his own stick on the puck, and swept it away.

The second period belonged to Hotchkiss, at least on the scoreboard. First, the Bearcats scored their short-handed goal at 3:11, to trim the Salisbury lead to 2-1. Before the visitors could capitalize on the momentum swing, however, the Knight power-play unit reorganized and within a minute had lit the red lamp. Kevin Wall slid the puck to Brett Willits, who set the table for Nick Hale. Hale’s scorcher from the blue-line singed the back of the net on Wilder’s lower left side and expanded the lead to 3-1.

Although Salisbury had more opportunities in the period, Wilder was up to each incursion. Michael Fairfax, Nick Lachaine, and Jacques Bouquot all had chances to finish that Wilder denied. Back on the power-play at 11:37, the Bearcats wasted little time capitalizing. Just 14 seconds in, the puck dribbled past a partially screened McGrath, and Hotchkiss was back within one, 3-2.

Ominously, Hotchkiss ended the second period on the power-play, which carried over to the start of the third. Given a certain penchant for allowing the first goal of the period, Salisbury would need to come out disciplined and determined to offset the man-advantage at the start of the final frame.

They did so and then some, as Ilya Usau posted the next score of the game at 4:44, assisted by Noah Lee and Hale, once again opening a two-goal lead, 4-2. Another power-play opportunity ensued almost immediately for the Knights, and early on, the Bearcats created another short-handed opportunity, with McGrath once again facing a 2-on-1. This time, the ex-Roxbury Latin stalwart snuffed the chance with a crisp save. The Knights, however, came away without a score on this man-up advantage. No team is going to score on every power-play or even on the majority of such chances. Scoring on 4 of 8, as the Knights succeeded in doing today, should keep Coach Will and his staff happy.

A brace of Salisbury penalties at the mid-point of the period gave Hotchkiss a two-man advantage for 1:16, and the Bearcats were not to be denied. While the Knights, with McGrath warding off anything reaching him, held off a series of strong scoring chances, with 13 seconds left in the 5-on-3, the guests converted to pull within a goal at 4-3 – and still in a man-advantage situation and with 8:31 still remaining in the game.

But that would be the last conversion for Hotchkiss. In the final 1:30 of play, the weary Bearcats committed a pair of penalties that prevented their pulling Wilder for an extra skater and also gave their Hilltop hosts a two-man advantage. The Knights exploited that advantage, tacking on an insurance goal with 25 seconds left on the clock when Wall put the puck past Wilder off assists from Bouquot and Brown.

Salisbury will put its unbeaten record on the line Saturday night at Rudd Rink with a 7:00 face-off against Kent, who fell to 1-2 on Wednesday after giving up two third-period goals and an empty-netter in a 3-0 home loss to Brunswick.

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