HOOKSETT -- Salem got off to a sluggish start but warmed up as the game wore on, eventually earning a 2-1 win over Pinkerton Academy of Derry at the Ice Den Wednesday.
Salem remained atop the boys’ Division I standings at 14-1-1 while Pinkerton dropped to 7-8-2.
“The first period has been a struggle for us all year. We don’t give up many in the first, we just don’t start well and we’re still trying to figure it out,” said Salem head coach Mark McGinn. “The third period, we played more defensive and threw it in and cycled and did what we had to do.”
The game was tied 1-1 heading into the third. Salem netted the go-ahead goal 1:23 into the period on Cody Soucy’s second tally of the game. Alex Ring jumped up to keep the puck in the zone and then fed the puck to Soucy deep on the right side. Soucy cut to the front of the net and stuffed a shot past Astros goalie Brendan Murphy.
The Blue Devils held on from there, killing a late power play chance for Pinkerton. Junior goalie Sam MacDonald made 27 saves in the game, 12 in the third.
“There was a little flurry on the power play and right after,” McGinn said. “Sam made a really nice save, one or two there and he’s done great all year.”
Salem had an empty net goal waived off due to an offsides ruling, but closed out the win, 2-1.
“I’m proud of my guys. We played well, played hard and took the puck to the net but I think the biggest thing was blocked shots,” said Pinkerton coach Joey Lee. “I think they had seven or eight blocked shots in the third period alone. That’s something Mark and his Salem team has always done. That blue collar style of way to win.”
Pinkerton led 1-0 just 23 seconds into the game on a power-play goal from junior Ethan Landry, who forced a puck through MacDonald’s pads with a couple whacks at the left post.
“We weren’t happy with the one 30 seconds into the game as a team. The penalty kill just wasn’t executing,” McGinn said. “We don’t want to start that way. I’m tired of it.”
Salem tied the game at 1-1 with the only goal of the second period. Paul Antowiak’s shot from the left point was tipped in by Soucy at 7:34. Games to watch: Saturday is the final regular season day for NHIAA hockey and several playoff spots will be rearranged.
A key game in Division I features Bishop Brady (0-16-0) visiting Pinkerton at 7:30 at the Ice Den. The Astros are trying to climb out of the No. 7 spot to earn a first round bye.
“We need a little help to get into the sixth spot,” Lee said. “We need (Manchester) Central to beat (Manchester) Memorial to slide into sixth.”
In Division II, Dover and Bow are still scrapping for the No. 2 seed behind two-time champion Bedford. Dover (12-3-0) will host Kingswood of Wolfeboro (6-10-0) at 4 p.m. at Dover Arena. Bow (13-3-1) will host Somersworth/Coe-Brown (6-10-0) at 5:30 p.m. at Everett Arena in Concord.
At the top of the heap in Division III, Souhegan (13-1-0) and Belmont/Gilford (14-3-0) will go head-to-head at 2:15 at Laconia Ice Arena. Collison Course: In the girls’ hockey ranks, four-time defending champion Hanover (14-1-0) appears to be on a collision course with No. 2 Berlin/Gorham (13-3-2) for the state championship on March 15 at Verizon Wireless Arena. Hanover has won both meetings between the teams this season, 2-1 and 3-1 on Saturday.
And don’t count out No. 3 Lebanon. At 12-5-1, the Raiders have given some solid games to Hanover and Berlin/Gorham. Lebanon lost to Hanover 5-0 in the first meeting, but closed the gap in a 2-1 loss earlier this month. Against B/G, Lebanon fell 3-1 early in the season but tied B/G 1-1 Monday.
Ian Clark covers high school hockey for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. His email is email@example.com.