Boys Ice Hockey

Salem suffers tough loss to Concord in state title game

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Salem High hockey’s dream season had anything but a storybook ending with a state championship on the line.
Playing for their first state title in 17 years, the Blue Devils saw Concord strike for four goals in a devastating first period, and could not recover, falling to the Crimson Tide 7-0 in the New Hampshire Division 1 state championship game Saturday night at the JFK Memorial Coliseum. 
“We got out-shot all season, and somehow found a way to win games,” said Salem coach Mark McGinn. “But we ran into a buzzsaw tonight. They got a few bounces and breaks and took advantage, and we couldn’t recover. The better team won today. We only had 10 shots for the game. We wish we could have found more shots and played better, but it didn’t happen today.”
The Blue Devils (13-2-0) entered the contest looking to win their first state title since the 2003-04 season. It was their first state title appearance since the 2004-05 season.
After struggling with slow first periods throughout the season, a sluggish start proved disastrous for the Blue Devils on Saturday.
Concord (16-2-0) — the New Hampshire 2019-20 co-state champs after the title game was cancelled due to COVID-19 — came flying out of the gates. The Crimson Tide controlled the opening minutes with crisp passes and big hits, then grabbed the lead 7:23 into the contest on a shot that was deflected in front of the net.
The Tide continued to dominate, and took a commanding hold on the game by scoring three goals in the final 6:03 of the first to make it 4-0 at the first intermission. 
Meanwhile, the Blue Devils were limited to four total shots in the first period.
“It’s so tough to try to recover when you have a team like Concord that can move the puck and get it into our offensive zone fast and keep the pressure on,” said McGinn. “You have to get shots on goal. At the end of the first period, they had four goals and we only had four shots. If all of our shots went in, it was tied.
“Once you go down like that, you’re scrambling and taking chances. They got it out of our zone too easily. We couldn’t catch up. Hats off to them.”
Salem was able to slow Concord some in the second, but the Tide added another goal to make it 5-0 after two period.
The Blue Devils were again limited to four shots in the second, but did manage two strong chances, both on the stick of defending Eagle-Tribune MVP Ryan Pappalardo. First, he crashed the net on a shorthand bid, but the goalie was able to hold his ground for the save. Then, with Salem on the power play, Pappalardo had a rebound chance that was just covered up.
Concord again cushioned its lead with a goal 1:22 into the third period, then after a Salem player was whisted for a misconduct penalty, added one more score with 1:53 left to ice the win. 
The score tied the mark for the most lopsided in a New Hampshire boys hockey title game since 1994. Concord lost to Bedford 7-0 in 2017.
Despite the loss, Salem finished with its best winning percentage (.867) since the 2014-15 season (20-1-1), Pappalardo finished his career with 126 career points (second in school history) and 58 career goals (fourth in school history).
“This doesn’t take away from everything this team did,” said McGinn. “It’s special getting here. I’d rather win than lose, but somebody has to lose. 
“After everything we’ve been through, you can’t take away that we made the state championship and only loss two games. It’s tough to accept today, but tomorrow will be easier and I’m still very proud of these guys. 
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