Hockey: #3 Exeter welcomes #6 Milton for Elite 8 opener

No. 3 Exeter will play host to the No. 6 Milton Academy Mustangs in the opening round of the Elite 8 playoffs with both teams hoping to kick things off with a win and get one foot in the next round of the prestigious tournament.

Despite struggling for consistency lately, Milton has given the best teams in New England a run for their money with a high-powered offense that hasn’t scored less than 3 goals in a game since a 2-2 OT tie with Kimball Union on December 18th. Since then, the Mustangs have potted 85 goals over 18 games to average a healthy 4.72 goals per game.

Their issue, particularly of late, is on the defensive side of the game, and they’re conceding 4.2 goals per game over their last five and are 2-3 with an OT loss to Nobles and back-to-back losses to Thayer. Still, Milton has claimed some big-time scalps this season with wins over Salisbury (Flood-Marr) and Belmont Hill. Despite that, their schedule is missing that one statement win over a fellow Elite 8 contender (Salisbury was missing notable players at the Flood-Marr).

Despite their recent struggles, Milton poses a serious threat to Exeter, should the Big Red look past the Mustangs and into a potential matchup with Kimball Union-Loomis Chaffee.

Exeter might feel like they’re looking in the mirror at Milton, as the Lions have a high-octane offense that has been blasting in pucks for fun all season, but just like Milton don’t have that win on their schedule that would solidify their championship bid. Despite notching close wins over Cushing and Choate, the Lions’ last major clash came against KUA (their potential matchup in the next round) and came out on the wrong side of a 8-3 scoreline.

That said, the Big Red hasn’t lost a game since, recording 11-straight wins en route to putting in 65 goals (5.9 gpg) and only allowing 15 (1.36 gpg), even though two of those wins were 11 and 16-goal aberrations against Holderness and NMH, respectively.

On paper, this promises to be a high-scoring affair with Exeter having the better claim to a spot in the next round, but as we’ve learned time and again in New England prep hockey, anything is possible when it’s all on the line.

Puck drops at 5PM in Exeter, NH, and we’ll be providing all the updates.