Small School Semifinals
Tilton, NH – In a game that decided who would play Sunday in Manchester for the Small School Championship – both the Rams of Tilton and the Lions of St Mark’s were making smart plays and giving this game every ounce of effort they had. The first period was a series of punches and counterpunches as both teams had numerous Grade A scoring chances. There were lots of rebounds left out front of the net in 5-on-5 play but nobody was able to capitalize. By the same token, it was a clean first 18 minutes with only one penalty called for hitting from behind on St. Mark’s. Sure enough, the Rams took advantage 10 minutes in as PG forward Shawn Leslie (Braintree, MA) fed junior forward Tae Lee (Seoul, KR) at the top of the circle and he fired a one-timer home top shelf. After that it was more of the same: back and forth trading chances but none ultimately leading to goals. The period ended 1-0 Rams.
In the middle frame, once again, St. Mark’s and Tilton traded chances at either end with neither team dominating territorially. The biggest pattern that emerged was St. Mark’s doing a nice job of denying Tilton’s stretch forward and using its layers defensively to clog up the offensive zone for Tilton. In 5-on-5 play, St. Mark’s played an honest game but eventually, the Rams broke through once again. With less than three minutes to go, senior forward Cam Ryan (Arlington, MA) carried the puck out of the D zone and passed it up to junior forward Jack Seymour (Chelsea, QC) streaking up the right wing who feathered a pass to the left of the net for a nice tap in goal by senior defenseman Jacob Iida (Yorba Linda, CA). That goal seemed to galvanize the Rams bench who went hollering into the room before the third period.
In the final stanza, St. Mark’s began to win more territorial battles and slowly but surely the momentum began to turn in the early part of the period. Sure enough, seven minutes in junior F/D Von Mabbs (Concord, MA) finished off a 3-on-2 rush into the offensive zone with the assist coming from junior forward Danny Ciccarello (Kirkland, QC): it was now a 2-1 game and the St Mark’s faithful was loud and proud on the road. Tilton was on their heels for a couple of minutes after the goal, but they reeled it back in quickly. Three minutes later, Jack Seymour wheeled the puck out of the corner and snapped a wrister on net which beat senior goalie Alex Cardonick (Glencoe, IL) on the short side to restore the two-goal lead. From that point on, St. Mark’s was a bit out of sorts and Tilton put on one final push where they owned most of the possession, with the exception of a terrific breakaway save by PG Rams goalie Owen Cuddyer (Braintree, MA) on Ciccarello. From there, the icing on the cake was an empty net goal (his second of the game) by Seymour, assisted by junior Jamie Cates (Anaheim, CA). The final was 4-1 in favor of Tilton.
- F Jack Seymour, Tilton
- F Cam Ryan, Tilton
- G Owen Cuddyer, Tilton
As you might have expected from a playoff game – there was a ratcheted up intensity, pace and ferocity to this one. Both teams played contrasting styles but they each had great looks at the net all through this tilt. St. Mark’s played excellent defense throughout, with great stick checks, good physicality and smart decision making. Tilton on the other hand barely possessed the puck in their own defensive zone, looking to turn up the ice the second they gained possession and attacking the net with speed from all angles. They also deployed the stretch forward on a regular basis, catching the Lions napping a couple of times leading to a goal and other odd-man rushes. The Rams are probably the quickest skating team, pound for pound in the Small School playoffs and they will be the favorite to win the title, regardless of their opponent.
For St. Mark’s we were impressed by the poise at both ends by junior defenseman Tucker Hartmann (Southboro, MA) – he showed great edgework and deception especially when he carried the puck. In addition, the double trouble tandem of Danny Ciccarello and sophomore forward Brendan Gibbons (South Kingstown, RI) were heavy on the puck and great on the bump pass to set up plays in the neutral and offensive zones. Tall sophomore defender Ian Moore and new Princeton commit (Concord, MA) was excellent on puck retrieval and winning battles along the wall. He also dropped the hammer when necessary to separate man from puck. We also liked the transition game of Jake Oblak (Bolton, MA) who not only cut through the neutral zone fluidly, but he used his edges to rescue pucks from danger in his own zone.
For Tilton, senior forward Brendan Sjostedt (Tewksbury, MA) was carving up the offensive zone with authoritative strides and sharp cuts to change direction – he was a headache driving deep into the St. Mark’s zone on multiple occasions. Cam Ryan was also a handful because he used his footspeed and vision to take ice and find seams which led to a couple of points on the night. Jack Seymour was quiet early in the game but came alive in the third period when his team needed a boost most: when the lead had been cut in half. Defensively Jagger Benson (Lynnfield, MA) was very athletic and used his acceleration to transition the puck fluidly and keep the offense moving. He also jumped up into the play well, putting a couple of quality shots on net when he noticed he could win puck races.