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New England Prep Hockey: Elite 8 Championship Game Preview

No. 7 Dexter will meet No. 5 Salisbury in the NEPSIHA Elite 8 Championship game, the first ever matchup between these two teams.

Salisbury's victors in 2014.
Salisbury's victors in 2014.

Despite the fact that these two teams have never met before, there is one interesting storyline that is sure to dominate the lead-up to this game: Dexter's Coach Dan Donato is a former coach at Salisbury. After 6 fruitful seasons at Salisbury, winning 1 Division I Championship, numerous Flood Marr's and Founder's League titles, Dan Donato left for Dexter to build up a struggling program. During the 2007-2008 season, Dexter Varsity Hockey went 2-12-2, losing to the likes of Portsmouth Abbey, Kingswood-Oxford, Roxbury Latin, Pingree, and North Yarmouth Academy. Fast forward 7 seasons and after 141 wins, Coach Donato has elevated Dexter's program to a much higher pedestal. In this Elite 8 Championship game, it is the upstart Dexter program against the budding dynasty of Salisbury. Let us look at the matchup.

#7 Dexter (20-2-5) versus #5 Salisbury (22-4-2) @ 5 p.m. at St. Anselm's College in Manchester, New Hampshire

In mid-February, Salisbury had a weekend that looked as if it had proved the Crimson Knights were not true Elite 8 contenders. Having lost home games on back-to-back nights against Loomis and Cushing, Salisbury's flaws were exposed. Yet, after those two losses, Salisbury has been rolling along and has beaten Loomis and KImball Union to advance to the Championship game. For the Knights, the key for them is to get their offense going against what is now a stingy Dexter defense. Since becoming the starting goaltender on January 21st, Nick Lanni has been superb. He has a 12-0-2 record with 4 shutouts and a 94.1% save percentage. In addition, the top-defensive pairing of Luke McInnis (Boston College commit) and Jack Ouellette has been a massive threat offensively. Salisbury's big guns of Vimal Sukumaran, Michael O'Leary (Cornell commit), and Kale Kane are going to need their A-games today as the Dexter offense, led by Ryan Donato (Harvard commit), Pat Daly, and Kevin Hock, is sure to test Bailey MacBurnie in net. For me, the key to this game is the goaltending. You have the two hottest goaltenders in New England squaring off against each other and they couldn't be more different. Salisbury's MacBurnie is a lanky, 6-2 20-year-old who has a big reputation while Dexter's Nick Lanni is a burly, 6-0 17-year-old that only began to play consistently about a month ago. It is sure to be a battle, and for me, it is too close to call. Just get up to St. Anselm's and enjoy the hockey!