AVON, CONN. -- Vimal Sukumaran's goal with 6:35 to play in the third period was the difference as Salisbury downed Avon Old Farms, 5-2, in New England Prep School Athletic Conference hockey action on Saturday afternoon.
The goal didn't come without controversy. What looked like an obvious icing call was waved off just a few seconds before the score. Salisbury cycled the puck until it squirted out to Sukumaran who slid it home.
It took a little bit of figuring out between the two teams for the game to start gaining excitement. After a scoreless first period Cole Poliziani swooped in for a rebound goal to put the visitors on the board first at the 3:35 mark.
Patrick Harper's first of two goals on the game evened the score for Avon with 6:28 to go in the second. The Winged Beavers were working the puck around the offensive zone well when Chase Zieky sent the puck from left to right to an open Harper, who roofed it into the back of the net.
Salisbury regained the lead with just four seconds left in the middle frame with a power play goal of its own. Sukumaran won the face-off to Tom Lee, who passed it back to the point. Jake Gobetz quickly sent a wrist shot through traffic and past Avon goaltender Tucker Weppener, who committed to Canisius College earlier in the week.
The Knights couldn't hold the momentum they gained at the end of the second period. Harper blasted up the left side before cutting in and backhanding one through the five hole of Salisbury goaltender Bailey MacBurnie to tie the score, 2-2, 9:37 into the final period.
However, just a few minutes later was when Sukumaran's controversial goal put the Knights up for good, 3-2. Kale Kane gave Salisbury insurance with 55 seconds left. He pushed home a goal after receiving a pass from Jordan Kaplan. Cornell recruit Mike O'Leary created the opportunity by strong work on the forecheck.
Anthony Vincent iced the game away with an empty-net goal with 23 seconds to go. The only assist went to Sukumaran.
Patrick Harper, AOF's '98 sophomore committed to Boston University, had two goals for the Winged Beavers. He is absolutely dynamic with the puck. He's quick, shifty, has unbelievable hands and just plain can make things happen with the puck.
The other Winged Beavers player who impressed the most on Saturday was '98 junior Jake Gresh. Listed on the roster as a forward/defenseman, he played mostly defense against Salisbury. He's very good with puck, is smooth on his skates and makes good decisions. A local kid from Avon, he's a player worth keeping an eye on.
Mike O'Leary had a really strong game for the Knights. He's a big-bodied winger who has a presence on the ice. He wins a lot of one-on-one battles and is strong on the puck. The Halifax, Nova Scotia native did a nice job setting up shop on the half wall during the power play. He's got a good stick and really moves the puck quickly.
Sukumaran, a Pierrefonds, Quebec native, had a nice afternoon with four points. He's not overly fast, but he's a good skater. He made a couple nice zone entries on the power play. A '96, he's creative and has good awareness of what's going on around him on the ice.
MacBurnie, a '95 post-graduate who is starting to garner some more serious interest from a few Hockey East schools, had a good game. He stopped a breakaway in the first period and made about five really good pad saves. He really had no chance on the two goals scored by Harper. He's athletic and quick. He's aggressive in the crease, sometimes coming out too far, but he challenges shooters and squares up more often than not. In addition to Maine and Merrimack, a few Atlantic Hockey Schools and an NCHC school are showing interest.
'98 junior forward Luke Israel stood out for his speed, shiftiness and keeping it simple with the puck. Gobetz, a '96 senior captain from St. James, NY, had a goal, but was strong throughout the game. He gets pucks on net and is solid defensively.
Jeff Cox covers college, junior and high school hockey, NCAA recruiting and NHL Draft prospects. Follow him on Twitter @JeffCoxSports.