SALEM — It comes as no surprise that Saturday’s matchup between Windham and Salem would have its fair share of chippiness. What else would you expect between two programs who reside only six miles apart?

Physicality and a lot pushing, shoving, trash talking and penalties ruled the afternoon inside the ICenter. In all, a total of 20 infractions were whistled. In-between all of the miscues was a hockey game. Scoreless through two periods, Salem was able convert a pair of goals in the latter stages of the third to pull out a 2-0 triumph.

“This is a good rivalry,” said Blue Devils coach Mark McGinn. “Games like this are what they are and nobody got hurt. Our kids played this like a playoff game. They played with heart, were blocking shots and did the little things. We’re happy to get this win before going into the playoffs.”

With neither club unable to do anything on its power play opportunities over the first two frames, the Blue Devils finally reversed that trend at 7:56 of the third. Playing with a 5-on-3 advantage, Anthony Survilas fired a shot from above the right circle over the left shoulder of Jaguars netminder Andoni Tsoukalas, breaking the deadlock. Less than a minute later Ryan Allard poked in a rebound giving the Blue Devils (8-9-1) their two-goal margin. Salem finished with 32 shots. Windham (4-14-0) had 27 attempts, all stopped by sophomore goaltender Brady Roux.

“It was a real intense game,” Roux said. “We all knew it was going to be a close game. They are a good team but we showed we can battle. We wanted to battle them the whole game and we showed it.”

To say it has been a tumultuous week for the Windham boys hockey program would be a vast understatement. The school was informed earlier in the week that its multiple appeals not to forfeit five earlier contests due to an ineligible player, and to allow that player to remain on the team, was denied by the NHIAA.

Therefore, the Jaguars, who self-reported the issue, were forced to vacate those games between Dec. 15 and Jan. 5, and saw them go 4-0-1 during that span. In addition the ineligible player could no longer suit up this season.

NHIAA By-Law, Article II, Section 20 states “schools using ineligible coaches or contestants shall forfeit all games in which the ineligible coach or student participate.”

Windham says the ineligible player, who is a Windham resident, tried out for the school that he attends but did not make the team. Therefore, it believes he should have been allowed to play for the Jaguars. The games he played for Windham were the ones forfeited.

Jaguars coach Shawn Dunn said the process was prolonged for nearly two months before the NHIAA handed down its decision on Tuesday.

“It’s been since the first week of January when this case came out,” said Dunn. “Usually decisions like that are done in an hour or two unless there is some discovery that needs to be done on the topic. There was nothing in these decisions that we received from them that would have let us believe that there was anymore investigation or digging the NHIAA had to do.

“They treated the wins and (the player’s) eligibility separately. When we went up for a meeting (a couple of weeks ago) we were told we would have a decision within 24 hours. It was 11 days later when we finally got their decision. Then we had to wait on their determination regarding those games. So it was seven- to eight-week process. Obviously the long wait put a cloud over our team and hampered some of our decision making. We were in limbo. I also know that our AD Bill Raycraft and the player in question’s family have been unfairly justified throughout this ordeal, which is completely wrong. Mr. Raycraft even told the NHIAA to blame him and punish him and to leave the team and player alone. But the NHIAA said nope and wouldn’t do that.”

Because of the ruling, Windham didn’t qualify for the Division I tournament.

Making the jump from Division II to Division I at the start of they year, the Jaguars showed they belonged with the big boys.

“We may not be the most-talented team in Division I but I think we could’ve won a game or two in the playoffs in our first year as a Division I program,” Dunn said.

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