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Salisbury downs Dexter for Third Straight NEPSIHA Elite 8 Championship

Salisbury players celebrate the school's third straight Elite 8 Championship.
Salisbury players celebrate the school's third straight Elite 8 Championship.

Manchester, NH -- Salisbury School is the New England Prep School Ice Hockey Association Elite 8 champions for a third consecutive season. The Knights methodically defeated Dexter School, 3-1, on Sunday at Sullivan Arena on the campus of Saint Anselm College.

More overall team speed, making quick decisions with the puck, more depth and terrific goaltending from post-graduate Bailey MacBurnie were the reasons for Salisbury's win.

As Knights head coach Andrew Will said after the game, this Salisbury team lacked the superstars it had in past seasons, including last year's where the Smith brothers could change a game with their offensive prowess. There are still good players on this Salisbury team, but the thing that stood out yesterday and all season was that no matter what line was rolled out, the Knights didn't miss a beat.

MacBurnie, a '95 who played his high school hockey for Mark Lee at St. Mary's of Lynn (Mass.), was "outstanding" all game long to steal the adjective of his head coach after the game. He really set the tone early on with a nice save on Matt Brazel who was barreling in on a two-on-one 1:20 into the game.

A Beverly, Mass. native, his highlight save in the second period was a stop on Boston Bruins draft pick and Harvard bound Ryan Donato. He went post-to-post to kick out Donato's shot on the two-on-one rush. Additionally he made a big save 4:35 into the third period with Salisbury clinging to a 1-0 lead.

Yesterday he didn't allow any rebound opportunities. He showed good explosiveness going from post-to-post, made a few nice glove saves and flashed the pads a few times. He's quick to challenge shooters and play at the top of the crease. He's a competitor who was always a pretty good goaltender, but has developed into a very good goaltender this season.

MacBurnie will probably be in the BCHL, NAHL or USHL next season and has offers to play already in the NAHL and USPHL.

He's starting to garner more serious attention from college coaches, according to one source, and it is well-deserved. He has an offer on the table from an Atlantic Hockey, but a few Hockey East schools have been in the picture the past few weeks.

The only goal he allowed on Sunday came on a five-on-three with his team up 3-0. Ryan Donato's one-timer whistled past him as he tried to get over to the other side, but there was nothing he could do.

The Knights took a 1-0 lead just 2:10 into the game when Cole Poliziani finished off a nice sequence of quick puck movement. Vimal Sukumaran and Jordan Kaplan assisted on the goal.

Salisbury gave itself some breathing room 7:19 into the third period on a play that was somewhat of a microcosm of how the whole game went. The Knights' speed and experience paid off. Making a nice read on the play Kaplan sensed what the Dexter defenseman was going to do at the blue line. Kaplan pick-pocketed Luke McInnis at the Salisbury defensive blue line and went in all alone on Dexter goaltender Nick Lanni. He made one quick move before sliding the puck into the far side of the net.

Dayne Finnson gave the Knights a 3-0 lead with 7:56 to play in the game on a power play tally from the left circle. Poliziani and Sukumaran assisted on the goal.

There were no legitimate prospects for the 2015 NHL Draft playing in the game, but it wasn't void of players to watch for future drafts. Cornell recruit Mike O'Leary is an early favorite to be a top two or three round for the 2016 NHL Draft. Luke McInnis plays an aggressive game from the blue line and is a little turnover prone, but he skates well, makes nice outlet passes and can quarterback a power play.

'99 Jack Rathbone is starting to fill out and has the physical tools that should make him a player to watch for 2017. He's a great skater and has good puck skills.

An older player that could be more of a last minute pickup for a college is Dexter '96 right wing Patrick Daly. The junior had a breakthrough season and has good speed.

The top two uncommitted forwards on Salisbury are Vimal Sukumaran and Kale Kane. Both have good speed and nice offensive creativity. Sukumaran, a '96 from Quebec, is a heady player who reads plays and anticipates well. He's always around the puck and just makes things happen. Kane is reportedly pursuing options to play next season in the BCHL.

Unquestionably, the better team won and the Knights are the three-time defending champions entering next season. Ironically, yesterday's title came at the expense of Dan Donato's new team, the former coach of Salisbury.

Salisbury Line Combinations:

Jordan Kaplan - Vimal Sukumaran - Cole Poliziani
Tom Lee - Mike O'Leary - Kale Kane
Luke Israel - Anthony Vincent - Sean McCarthy

Quincy Gregg - Brett Stirling
Dayne Finsson - James Gobetz
Ray Seebeck - Nathan Ellis

Bailey MacBurnie

Dexter Line Combinations:

Kevin Hock - Ryan Donato - Patrick Daly
Sam D'Antuono - Matt Brazel - Bryan Green
Jack Donato - Austin O'Malley - Jay O'Brien

Luke McInnis - Jack Ouellette
Andrew Olevitz - Sean Keohan
Ryan McDougall - Jack Rathbone

Nick Lanni

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Jeff Cox covers college, junior, high school and prep hockey, NCAA recruiting and NHL Draft prospects. Follow him on Twitter @JeffCoxSports.