Hockey: #4 Salisbury Start Their Chase for Four by Hosting #5 Gunnery in the Quarterfinals

The Knights and the Highlanders face-off in a rematch of the 2014 Elite Eight finals when they meet in the 2016 quarterfinals. Salisbury wound up skating away with the title in an exhilarating 3-2 overtime victory was the second of Salisbury’s current three-peat. This time, they get right to it in the first round. Gunnery, the number five seed, will travel to Salisbury, the number four seed, for a 3:00 PM start. These teams also met earlier this season; Salisbury came out of that one on top by a 5-3 margin.

Salisbury, a perennial powerhouse, has now qualified for the past six Elite Eight tournaments. They will have a target on their back as they go for their fourth title in a row. This year, the Knights rolled to a 20-4-1 record and claimed the Housatonic League title.

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Credit: The Salisbury School

The Knights have all the necessary tools to make another championship run. They boast a potent offense that averaged 4.40 goals per game as well as a stingy defense that only allowed an average of 1.80 goals per game. Their offense was spearheaded by seniors Tom Lee, Jordan Kaplan, and Edgars Treijs who were all within three points of one another. Lee lead the group, however, with 32 points. The diversity of scoring is what makes Salisbury so dangerous, as they have six players with 23 points or more and another seven who have more than ten points. The Knights have proven to be a match-up nightmare for opponents.

Salisbury’s defense was helped mainly in part to their two-headed goalie machine. Juniors Nick Sorgio and Jonah Capriotti shared time and both had stellar numbers. Capriotti finished with a .937 save percentage and just 16 goals against in 626 minutes of playing time, which is about 11 and a half games played. Sorgio, meanwhile, recorded a .915 save percentage with 311 saves and 29 goals against in 692 minutes which is about 13 games. While they split time for the entire season, the Knights started to lean towards Sorgio near the end of the season as he started three of the final four games. That will be one situation to monitor and will certainly give Gunnery’s coaching staff some headaches. Capriotti started against Gunnery earlier this season, so it will be interesting to see to whom they give the nod.

Salisbury had two main speed bumps in an otherwise perfect season. The first was at the Flood Marr tournament in which they lost three of their four games. This skid is deceptive, however, as Salisbury was missing three of their leading scorers for the tournament. Other than that, they have gone 19-1-1 with their full team with their lone loss coming to fellow Elite Eight member, Loomis Chaffee, and their tie to number one overall, Avon Old Farms. Other than that, the Knights saw great wins against highly ranked Westminster, Brunswick, and Cushing in addition to Gunnery which proves they can beat anyone.

A poor start took away the Highlander’s safety net early, so they took that and ran with it. After starting out 3-4-1, they went 21-2 to place themselves in the tournament. Coach Badger sees this as a strength, saying, “we have treated every game like a playoff game” and that if “we didn’t play like our season was on the line every game since then we would not have made the tournament.” That mentality carried them to strong wins over Thayer, Cushing, Brunswick, and Westminster. They hope to continue that success a few more times.

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Credit: The Gunnery twitter account.

The Highlanders match the Knight’s scoring depth with 14 players with at least ten points. That has lead to a ridiculous 4.32 goals per game average. Coach Badger said this depth was the key to their success this year and that it “allows [them] to wear teams down and to allow [their] skill to take over late in the game.” That group is lead by Cameron Donaldson ‘16 whose 45 points is ten points more than the next closest player.

Gunnery matches Salisbury’s two great goalies with one of their own, Trevin Kozlowski ‘16, who Coach Badger confidently said he believes is “the best goaltender in New England; he can win us a game on any given night.” Kozlowski tops both of Salisbury’s netminders with a .943 save percentage and 546 saves in 1160 minutes of playing time. He was a major reason they only allowed 2.13 goals per game and will need to play as he has all season to give his team a chance.

When these two teams met in late January, it was the Knights, as mentioned above, that came out on top. They were all over Gunnery from the start as they took a 3-0 lead a little over midway through the second period. The slow start doomed the Highlanders even though they three of the next four goals in that contest. Coach Badger stressed the need to stay out of the penalty box, which cost them two goals in that game, and to clean up their turnovers which were abundant. If they do that, Gunnery should put themselves in a great position to knock out the three time defending champions.

Salisbury, meanwhile, hopes to repeat the success they had in that earlier game. The Knights base their success off strong starts as they have scored 30 first period goals this season. If the Knights are able to jump on Gunnery early on and force them to make mistakes, they should be on their way to the second round.

Note: The featured images is credited to the Salisbury School.