A couple of months ago, the idea of the Pinkerton Academy ice hockey team advancing to the Division I tournament semifinals by beating the Salem High Blue Devils or just about any other quality team for that matter was far-fetched in the extreme.
But first-year varsity coach Joey Lee’s academy crew has come a long way over the last several months, and the seventh-seeded Astros did knock off the second-seeded Salem High icemen by a 2-0 count last Saturday night, March 9, on the Blue Devils’ home ice to advance to a semifinal-round meeting with the rival Londonderry High Lancers at Manchester’s JFK Coliseum on Wednesday night, March 12, after Nutfield News press time.
Juniors Steve Leonard and Ethan Landry provided Lee’s determined crew with the two goals it netted in the huge quarterfinal contest, and the Pinkerton bunch extinguished Salem’s championship hopes by taking a page out of the Blue Devils’ own highly-effective play book.
“(Salem coach) Mark McGinn’s system is so disciplined and so successful when implemented correctly, and we basically took a page out of their book and did what they have done so successfully against them for 45 minutes of hockey tonight,” said a proud Lee. “We imitated them and beat them.”
Defenseman Leonard not usually known as an offensive force for PA potted a highlight-reel goal with 4:27 left in the first period to hand his squad the only goal it would end up needing to take the huge tourney game.
Leonard rushed the puck from his team’s zone all the way down into the Salem defensive zone and roofed a shot on Blue Devils’ standout goalie Sam MacDonald to make it a 1-0 game.
And that was where the score stood with both contingents working intently to make it otherwise until a mere 48.2 seconds remained on the game clock and after Salem had pulled keeper MacDonald out of his net in favor of another skater when Landry scored unassisted to hand his side an insurance marker.
Junior goalie Brendan Murphy a transfer to Pinkerton from Minnesota who answered the Astros’ need for a starting keeper turned away 24 Salem shots to claim his first PA shutout at precisely the right time.
The Astros had advanced to the tough, quarterfinal-round match with Salem by besting the number 10 Hanover High Marauders by a 5-2 tally in a first-round contest at The Ice Den in Hooksett on Wednesday, March 5.
The Astro crew had hammered Hanover on its home ice by a 9-2 tally early in the regular season, but the Astros knew that wouldn’t happen again against a Dick Dodds-led Marauders’ contingent in the tourney.
Period one was scoreless, though both teams put pressure on the opposing net. The Astros enjoyed an 11-8 advantage in shots on net during those 15 minutes of play.
The hosts finally went up 1-0 mid-way through the second stanza (8:47 left) when Gio Corsetto slid a pass out from behind the Hanover net to teammate Landry in the slot, and Landry didn’t miss. Bailey Walsh joined Corsetto in registering an assist.
The Marauders knotted the score at 1-1 with 4:49 to go in the period, but Pinkerton jumped back into the lead just 1:49 later when versatile freshman Josh Barton made a superb play to get the puck over the Hanover blue line and set up teammate Ryan Monte, who scored.
And 2-1 was where the score sat when the teams rolled into period three, during which the Astros advanced their lead to 4-1 with tallies by Tyler Poole (assist to Tim Cronin) and Corsetto (from Steve Leonard) in the first 13 minutes of play.
The visitors got back to within two goals with just 1:48 showing on the game clock, but Ryan Christie’s open-net marker with 1:01 to go put the final touches on the 5-2 victory.
Pinkerton keeper Murphy contributed 17 saves to the strong PA effort.