by Team Reporter Nate Gordon ’16
Until time ran out, for each Salisbury (2-0-0) goal, Williston (1-2-0) had a response. Down 3-2 with under nine minutes to play, junior forward Jack Kelly skated down the right side of the rink and fired a shot past the Crimson Knight goaltender to tie the game. And when it appeared the game was headed for overtime, an unlucky bounce off an official’s skate gave a Salisbury forward a shot between the two face off circles that rocketed to the top left corner past Williston’s goalie Shane Mason’s blocker.
This loss was the Wildcats’ second consecutive loss against top prep school hockey games. In USHR.com’s 2014-15 New England Prep Preview, Salisbury was ranked number one, coming off a one-loss season in which it won the NEPSIHA championship.
In the locker room after the game, Williston Head Coach Derek Cunha told his team, “The line of how close we are [to winning] is very thin. If we were further away, I’d call it what it is. I’d say, ‘you know what we’re just not as good as those guys, we have to get better.’ But we are, we are as good these guys.”
Although the Wildcats lost both their games this week, they showed they deserve to be playing against these top teams. Cunha said in the locker room, “We picked up zero points this week, but the emphasis is not on the outcome, but on the process. The process that you guys went through for these two games.”
This game against the Crimson Knights was Williston’s first home loss of the young season.
Mason ’16, who has started each of the three games this season, saved 33 of 37 shots that came his way. Besides Salisbury’s flukey first goal, Mason appeared to be screened for two of the Crimson Knights’ next three goals. Throughout the game, Salisbury displayed its speed, which resulted in numerous odd man rushed and a few breakaways that Mason turned down.
Williston senior forward Jack Gethings scored his first two goals of the year to keep the Wildcats in the game until Kelly ’16 added the team’s third goal of the game, his first of the season.
Before the final period, Cunha told the team, “You want a story you’re going to take with you, you guys have the chance to write it right now.” With a line that lightened the mood, Cunha said, “Punch these guys in the face…figuratively. This is a prizefight right here. You guys have been exchanging blows all game. But we’re in the late rounds, what kind of team are we going to be.”
From the start, in a game in which neither team scored two consecutive goals, the play was very fast moving and aggressive, bordering on dirty at points.
There were a combined 13 penalties in this game, seven against the Wildcats. This is the second time in the first three games the Wildcats have gone to the box at least seven times. This was dangerous against a Salisbury team with a very potent power play, but it capitalized on just one of these opportunities.
After the game, Salisbury Head Coach Andrew Will said, “I think the difference was that we were able to keep our focus and just to do things that we needed to do to have an opportunity. I thought both teams were terrific at playing with energy, playing hard, and competing.” He added, “When [Williston] got that goal to tie it up late, it was a great shot, a great play, and it could have gotten us a little rattled and anxious, but I think we regrouped and continued to apply pressure and we were able to get that winning goal.”
Stay tuned for a weekly preview of next week which will include games against Cushing and Gunnery.