Back in December, at the advent of the prep hockey season, Dexter and Cushing tangoed for what would be the first of two meetings on the season. On that day, the two teams could not be separated as they played to a 2-2 tie. Fast-forward to March and despite the fact that Cushing outshot Dexter 39-20, Dexter was lucky enough to have great goaltending to see off the Penguins.
Both teams came out looking visibly nervous. Cushing's game plan was to shadow Dexter's Ryan Donato (Harvard commit) and Pat Daly by putting Dan Eruzione and Marc McLaughlin (St. Lawrence commit) on the two. Yet, it was the Dexter second-line that landed the game's big punch as Sam D'Antuono got it to defenseman Ryan McDougall who found senior Bryan Green whose shot flew by Cushing's Joey Daccord (Arizona State commit) and gave Dexter the early lead.
After Dexter grabbed the early lead, Cushing dynamic duo of David Cotton (Boston College commit) and Bailey Conger (St. Lawrence commit) started to get things going. Yet, Nick Lanni was equal to everything that the Penguins threw at him for the rest of the period. With Cotton and Conger flying down the ice on two separate breakaways, the Dexter goalie contorted his body in a way that I did not think was possible to stop the two Penguins.
The second period saw Cushing with two power plays that looked very ominous. Yet, they could not find a way past Lanni in net and were forced to enter the third period down 1-0.
The game's final period was very similar to that of the second period. Cushing fired off numerous shots but could never get any clear-cut opportunities that truly threatened Dexter. Ryan Donato and Jack Rathbone came the closest to increasing the Dexter lead but Joey Daccord made some huge saves. In the game's final minute, Cushing kept the puck in the Dexter zone and came very close to equalizing with about no time on the clock but today was Nick Lanni's day in net, he was not going to let any last-minute goals in.
Speaking with ESPN Boston after the game, Lanni was quick to praise his teammates, but even more eager to compliment his coach, Dan Donato, who he said "has done an amazing job of building the program here at Dexter." In 7 seasons at Dexter, Donato has 140 wins.
After today's win, #7 Dexter will meet #6 Gunnery in the semifinals. These two teams met at the Cushing Tournament on January 3rd with The Gunnery walking out 5-3 winners. The other Elite 8 semifinal will feature #5 Salisbury and #8 KImball Union.