Westminster came to Hotchkiss for a battle of two ranked teams looking to make a playoff push in the closing month of the season. Westminster entered the game winning 6 of their last 7 and Hotchkiss entered the game on a 4 game win streak.
The first period was scoreless with both teams exchanging chances in and up and down, back and forth, physical hockey game. Hotchkiss showed they had good size and strength and were hard to penetrate defensively and Westminster showed good skill and skating ability. Their defenders particularly were great at moving the puck up ice and joining the rush.
Just under 7 minutes into the second period Westminster struck first when Quinn Armstrong scored a nice goal in tight on Hotchkiss netminder Henry Wilder. Hotchkiss responded less than a minute later when Nick Traggio blasted a low slap shot from the point which hit off a Westminster defenders skate and went in. Westminster controlled much of the play in the second period and finally got on the board with under a minute remaining in the period when Nate Pane knocked in a tap in off a great feed from Jordie McKenna.
Hotchkiss came out hard in the third period and chipped pucks in behind the Westminster defense and were winning puck battles. They evened the game up at 13:09 mark when sophomore defender Brian Hayword took a shot from the point that was blocked, loose puck went to senior forward Jordan Ehrensperger who lifted it top corner over the goalies shoulder. Westminster responded well and the game was an even matchup after that; it was fast, it was heavy and it was played in both ends of the ice. With 1:39 left in the game Westminster forward Darion Benchich took the puck wide on a rush, cut in and got hooked but still managed to get the shot off which Wilder made a nice save but put the Martlets on the power play. Westminster worked the puck around really well as they have skilled defenseman but were unable to generate many quality scoring chances and took outside, low percentage shots which were stopped.
Overtime Hotchkiss controlled the play in overtime and generated several scoring chances; none better than when Quinn Carlisle picked off a pass on the forecheck and went in all alone on Westminster goalie Ian Shane who made the big stop. The game ended in a tie 2-2 but it was a great prep school game which showed two teams that have contrasting styles but played hard, created scoring chances and were solid defensively and in the net. Unfortunately, both teams were in a need of a win here and neither got it but these will be tough teams to play down the stretch.
Hotchkiss is a tough team to play against given their size and defensive zone discipline. We were impressed tonight with the play of Nick Traggio on the backend, he was physical and showed two-way ability. Forwards Gavin Puskar and Alex Mozian were the most noticeable forwards throughout the game and Mozian showed slick hands and Puskar is a brilliant skater. Wilder between the pipes is their top player and he showed it again here tonight.
Westminster in many ways was the better team; they had more speed, more skill with the puck and were able to create more scoring chances. However, their power play struggled at times as they would work it around the top well but didn’t create chances from it. Their defensive corp is really strong; Will Gilson, Ryan Pineault, Ned Blanchard and Malik Alishlalov were particularly impressive. Malik has a size, skill, strength combo that is rare among prep defenders and Ned Blanchard is emerging as a legit D1 prospect.
Will either team make the Elite 8? Hard to say, betting man would probably say no but these are two teams built for playoff hockey and they could go a long way.