These two teams met for the first game of the season and met again for the last. It was actually their third matchup, both games going into overtime and being decided by a 3-2 score. This would be no different in the final showdown between these two Connecticut rivals.
Taft would get on the board early with just under three minutes into the first period when junior Archer Brown scored a catch and shoot blast at the top circles off a centering pass from rangey winger Shane Mettler. After the goal Salisbury settled down a bit and took the play to the Rhinos finding the back of the net with 18 seconds remaining in the period to tie the game 1-1 off a snipe from Michael Strapp who went just under the bar off a slick centering pass from Rapolas Marcinkevicius. Rapoloas actually created the play intercepting a clearing chip out off the forecheck and settled the puck – passed it across to get the goalie sliding and giving up the upper part of the net.
Both teams went to the locker room with a 1-1 tie and a hard faught second period would bring the same result; 1-1 tie at the end. Salisbury had a slight advantage outshooting the Rhinos 22-14 through the first two periods but it was even with Taft having several quality chances.
In the third period the tight checking, hard-faught game opened up a bit and saw more offensive chances being created. Taft opened up the scoring just 7:10 into the period on a funky goal from the corner where Jackson Holl threw a puck to the net – hit off a Salisbury defenseman’s shin pad and re-directed into the goal. It was one of the their only four shots on the period as Salisbury brought the pressure the second half of the period. The Knights, who entered the game as the most decorated prep program in the past decade in prep hockey looked destined to tie the game and did so with seven minutes remaining in the game when Jared Rothman tipped a hard slap shot from Sam Hall to even the score.
The game was deadlocked after that with both teams exchanging chances but would ultimately head to overtime. This was the third time this season these two teams were tied 2-2 after three periods and needed another frame to decide the game.
The first half of the overtime was evenly matched but you could see some signs of fatigue as both teams had tough battles just yesterday to get to this moment. However, Taft came down on an odd-man rush at the 10 minute mark in the period and a nifty 2v1 cross crease pass and Salisbury netminder Matthew Alberti flashed the pad an made a tremendous save. The Rhinos would crash the net for a second and third effort and Alberti sprawling stopped both but the final one gave a rebound that went out of the top slot where Taft junior defenseman Alexander Kenerson was there to finsih them off with a hard snap shot into the top half of the net for the Championship.
A great ending to a great game; credit to both teams who were well-coached and battled to the very end. Taft School, led by former Rhino and Boston College standout Ryan Shannon has taken this team from 15-29-3 in the past two seasons to a #1 seed in Large School playoffs and ultimately winning the championship.
Three Stars of the Game:
1st Star: Rudy Guimond, G, Taft
2nd Star: Alexander Kenerson, D, Taft
3rd Star: Jared Rothman, F, Salisbury