Hockey: AOF and Salisbury Renew Their Bitter Rivalry for More Than Just Bragging Rights

With the Elite 8 looming on the horizon, easily one of the most pertinent matchups on the prep hockey calendar is the annual Avon-Salisbury clash. But apart from recent years past, this year there’s plenty more at stake.

There is no love lost between Avon and Salisbury – not even a little bit. These two schools are made to be rivals: both all-boys, both enjoy traditionally successful athletic programs, and it is beyond doubt that both schools love to win. That being said, this year’s Avon-Salisbury regular season hockey game turns out to be more than just a rivalry game. This year there’s Elite Eight seeding on the table. 

Avon is coming into this game ranked No. 1 in New England according to USHR; this is the sixth week in a row that the Winged Beavers have held their perch on top of the rankings. This past Wednesday was the first game since December that didn’t end up in the win column.

With some late-game heroics from seniors Patrick Harper and Tyler Carangelo, Avon came back from a 2-0 deficit to force Choate into OT. The game ended in a tie, but had Carangelo not scored with 2.2 seconds left on the board, Avon would have had their first loss since they fell short against Cushing in the first week of the season, enforcing their reputation as a tough team to beat this campaign.

AOF first liners Patrick Harper (left) and Jamie Armstrong (right)

AOF first liners Patrick Harper (left) and Jamie Armstrong (right)

The Winged Beavers’ first line has been a force to be reckoned with. To point, of the team’s 98 goals, 51 have come from the first line. This singular line has more goals for than all of some Founders League rivals and is tied with Choate and TP. Avon’s talent does not stop at their first line, though. Although the majority of the offensive output has come from the top line, other skilled players like Jake Witkowski ’16, Tyler Carangelo ’16, and Dan Winslow ’16, AOF has also been able to put the puck in the net plenty of times. 

Salisbury’s assistant coach, Brian Phinney, weighed in on Avon’s depth, “[The first line] is pretty special, and play a fun style of hockey. They have three more lines that can play the game as well, so we cannot be concerned with only one group. Their depth is great for prep hockey. We have confidence in our players, however and in their ability to play as a unit. They will have to play as a unit tomorrow.”

The Knights have been efficient at keeping the puck out of their net. Junior goalies Jonah Capriotti and Nick Sorgio have been splitting time pretty evenly so far this season and have only let up a combined 31 goals against, which is the best in the Founders League. This excellent goaltending has been a key part of their success and a major factor in their ranking of No. 4 in New England.

Nick Sorgio controls the crease

Nick Sorgio controls the crease

Avon’s head coach, John Gardner, explained how his team could prevail against good goaltending, “Number one, we need to focus on defense and keep our opponents off the board. To beat a good goalie, we must have a good net presence and screen the goalie when possible. Driving to the net and stopping in front of the goal and on the posts are all factors in scoring goals.”

Per usual, this game will undoubtedly be full of emotion, but these coaches are telling their players not to treat this game any differently.

“You cannot afford to approach a game as anything other than the biggest game you are playing that day. Tomorrow is all about playing the game, executing, and enjoying the moment; not being consumed by it,” coach Phinney explained.

When asked about preparation the past few days and his players’ ability to keep their emotions in check, Coach Gardner responded, “We have kept the routine very close to normal. Hopefully the players are disciplined enough to focus on the game rather than the crowd or who they are playing.”

Puck drop will be at 3:00 Saturday afternoon at Salisbury. Stay tuned to @PrepSportReport on Twitter for live updates.

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