If Westminster was the #8 seed playing #1 on the road somebody forgot to tell them because they came out with a purpose and put the talented Salisbury Knights on their heels. Four minutes into the game Westminster defenseman Ryan Pineault (Glastonbury, CT) threw a high wrister from the point which was rebounded by Darion Benchich (Dover, PA) to go up 1-0; but the goal was called back. That didn’t slow Westy’s momentum as they scored three minutes later with 11:05 remaining in the period off a beautiful pass out of the corner from Jacob Monroe (Wethersfield, CT) to a wide open Jordie McKenna (Dartmouth, NS) in the slot who made a quick move and scored a quick snap shot between the blocker and the post.
Salisbury had some chances in the first, particularly their top line of Hryckowian-Capone-Mercuri but couldn’t sustain offensive pressure and Westminster’s defense did a nice job carrying pucks out of their end and getting possession through the neutral zone. The period ended 1-0 Westminster and while Westminster was playing a shorter bench, an upset looked possible.
“With nine 2002’s in our line-up we felt in the first period we had a few too many passengers; guys watching waiting for others to take charge,” said Salisbury Head Coach Andrew Will. “Between periods we talked about the need to get our feet moving and to get on our toes; we wanted to attack the game.”
Only seconds into the second period Westminster got and odd man rush and made a terrific cross crease pass which Salisbury goalie Jared Levine (Newport Beach, CA) came up big with a sprawled-out toe save to keep the game within 1 goal. Later that shift Salisbury went down and tied the game on a brilliant individual effort from Nick Capone (East Haven, CT) who powered his way out of the corner to the net front and fired an on ice wrister by Westy goalie Ian Shane (Manhattan Beach, CA). “If Jared doesn’t make that huge toe save early in the second, we would have found ourselves in a deep hole,” admitted Will. “Instead we go down to the other end and tie the game up on the same shift. That early goal gave our guys some confidence and energy, and we seemed to build from there.”
The second period belonged to Salisbury as they were controlling the play, had several scoring chances and made it difficult for Westminster to get out of their end. The game remained tied however as Ian Shane came up big for the Martlets. With 45 seconds remaining in the period Sean Clarke (Kirkland, ON) took the first penalty of the game with a trip in the neutral zone which was an effort play actually but just got tangled up and took him down. Salisbury quickly got possession in the zone, worked the puck to Bayard Hall who fired a wrister on net which was re-directed by Lucas Mercuri (Lachaine, QC) with 2.7 seconds remaining in the period. “Scoring at the end of the period was a great way to head into the intermission. It was a big goal for us.”
Salisbury’s depth took over in the third period and while Wesminster kept battling and never quit; the Knights took over. They scored just under a minute into the third where Justin Hryckowian (Ile-Bizard, QC) scored in tight from a shot off Mercuri and four minutes later it was Nick Capone again, this time off a quick snap shot top circles through traffic.
Will Gilson scored the nicest goal of the game to cut Westminster’s deficit to 2 with 6:38 remaining but it wasn’t enough. Gilson carried the puck into the zone, cut in top circles and fired a low snap shot on net which was saved by Levine. He didn’t quit on the puck, he followed up the rebound, showed poise and took it quickly behind the net and scored on the wrap around. A headsy play and gave Westminster some hope after not having any for most of the period. The Martlets were unable to generate many chances after that and Salisbury took the 4-2 win to advance to the semi-finals.
The difference in this game was Salisbury’s depth and their physicality which really wore down a talented Westminster backend and made it difficult for them to generate much offense. “We have been really proud of how hard this group competes,” remarked Coach Will at the end of the game. “We’re a team that has been able to score some goals this year, but we also pride ourselves on playing heavy and physical. I thought our discipline and composure were terrific today and we will need to continue that moving forward.”
Salisbury will face Dexter for a rematch of last years semi final game.
Salisbury proved here why they are the top team in the league; depth, size and skill. They were able to physically overpower Westminster, they were able to create offense on zone entries, out of corners, on the power play, etc. The most important in this game was how they could send out line after line and just wear down Wesminster over the course of the game.
One area that was a bit suprising however was the first period Salisbury was a bit flat and goaltender Levine wasn’t see the puck well and was vulnerable. Westminster wasn’t able to capitalize enough but against Dexter, a period off could be the difference so while Salisbury is the clear #1, they’ll need 3 periods in the next round.
Will Gilson, Ryan Pineault, Ned Shepard and Malik Alishlalov all played a good two-way game in this contest and were the reason Westminster had a chance (along with the great performance of Ian Shane in net).
For Salisbury Fairfax, Capone and Bauchiero brought the size and physicality to set the tone in the game. While the younger guys in Vallese, Coronato, Quillan, DeBoer, etc. were not on stat sheet here, they were all contributors. Bayard Hall has taken a nice step forward in his game this season as has Fairfax and Bauchiero.