Brookline, MA: In a game of two top five teams in our Neutral Zone poll, nothing was decided as the teams played to a 2-2 draw. Dexter held a 2-1 lead almost until the end when senior Garrett Foster (Newfields, NH) fired a puck home in a scrum to tie the game with the goalie pulled.
The first period was a bit sluggish to start as both teams felt each other out. It was clear that Exeter did not want Dexter to have many chances on the rush as the clogged the middle of the ice and played strong on the puck. Exeter did an excellent job blocking shots as the protected goalie Ryan Welch (Swampscott, MA). They generated a few chances of their own but and broke through about five minutes in. Senior Michael Pitts (Raymond, NH) won a faceoff cleanly to classmate Reese Popkin (Hooksett, NH) who fired a hard, low shot to the net. Dexter goalie Derek Mullahy (Scituate, MA) made the stop but Pitts continued to the net to bury the rebound. Exeter led 1-0 after one but the most important development of the period was that Dexter star and probable NHL draft pick John Farinacci (Chatham, NJ) was injured on the first shift, came back, drew a penalty near the end of the first and it appeared that his injury was worsened during the closing moments of the period. He did not return.
Without Farinacci, Dexter seemed to come out with more intensity as the attacked the net and made a clear push for the tying goal. Exeter played smart hockey, did not panic, blocked shots and remained poised with possession. The game went up and down. Paddy Bogart just missed giving his team a two- goal lead on a 2v1 with about 11 minutes left but Mallahy stood tall. Dexter tied the score with 3:06 left when Ben Raymond (Newton, MA) came streaking down the left wing and fired a puck on goal. Defenseman Ben Meehan (Walpole, MA) who was good all night, drove the crease and the puck bounced off his chest and in the net. The teams went to the rooms all tied up at 1-1.
The third period saw Dexter take the lead early as Aidan Connolly (Marshfield, MA) attacked the net jammed a puck home in the crease. Assists went to John McElaney (Walpole, MA) and Chase McInnis (Hingham, MA). The period saw chances both ways until Foster fired the shot home to tie it all up.
Overtime saw Exeter get a power play chance where Mullahy made a couple solid stops but the game ended knotted at 2-2. Interesting contest between two very good teams. Exeter who is older, more experienced against a younger, skilled Dexter group.
Dexter coach Dan Donato commented after the game: “I thought it was a great game between two good teams. After an average first period, I thought we found our legs in the second and third periods. The late 6 on 5 goal by Exeter was tough to swallow but I was proud of our effort. We also had a big penalty kill in the OT to preserve the tie. Our goalie Derek Mullahy was was terrific once again”
Exeter’s Dana Barbin saw the symmetry with last year’s game “Very pleased with my team’s effort today against a strong Dexter team on the road. Last year we played to a 2-2 tie when Dexter tied it up with twenty seconds left and today we tie it up 2-2 with six seconds left. It feels better this year. I thought our goaltender Ryan Welch was very sharp as he always is. Garrett Foster and Michael Pitts played another strong game.”
NZ NOTES: Both teams had a half a dozen players 2002 born or younger but Exeter has a higher percentage of 2000 born players and that is where the experience and sometimes strength difference can show up. For Exeter, we thought Andrew Seaman (Winnetka, IL) showed some speed and skill. PJ Garrett (Duxbury) looked solid and showed no signs of his injury. Paddy Mangan (South Burlington, VT) and Paddy Bogart (Toronto, ON) both looked strong and showed well on the power play. For Dexter, Doug Grimes (Brookline) is raw and interesting. Connor Blanchard (Waltham, MA) has made the adjustment from public HS well. Jack Dempsey (Natick, MA) is big and direct. Kevin McKay (Franklin, MA) was there when things started to unravel.
First Star: Ryan Welch (Exeter)
Second Star: Aidan Connolly (Dexter)
Third Star: Derek Mullahy (Dexter)
Photo Credit: Dan Hickling/Hickling Images