---- — SALEM – The Blue Devils heard some promising news between periods, and the good tidings spurred them to their best 15-minute stretch of the afternoon.
Jake Pappalardo then made the hard work stand up, slamming home the game-winning goal with 51.4 seconds left as Salem climbed back into first place with a tenacious 5-4 victory over Londonderry at the Icenter. The win was Salem’s seventh in eight outings.
The final score came on a scrum in front of the Lancer net immediately after a Londonderry icing penalty resulted in a right-circle faceoff.
“(Cody) Soucy got (the puck) to the front of the net and we were all banging at it,” Pappalardo said. “The puck got knocked loose and I was just there and poked it in.”
It was Pappalardo’s second goal of the period and gave him a hat trick for the match. It also helped the Blue Devils (10-3-2 overall, 9-2-1 in Division I) regroup after a tough one-point loss to Manchester Memorial that vaulted the Crusaders past Salem into first place. It took just seven days for Salem to reclaim the top spot.
“Someone had told us (after the second) that Memorial lost (to Nashua North) so it gave us a chance to get back up in first place,” Salem coach Mark McGinn said. “We just had to tighten things up.”
The Blue Devils played from behind the whole game. Londonderry (8-4-1, 7-4-1) took advantage of Salem penalties to score three power-play goals and the Lancers led by two early in the second after an Eric Coburn goal. But Salem rallied from deficits to force a tie three times before taking control in the final frame.
“We’d given up some power-play goals and we knew if we picked it up, we’d take it to them and win the game,” said Pappalardo, who also assisted on Salem’s first goal and now has 15 goals and a team-high 30 points. “We were all over them in that third period. And now we’re back in first and nothing’s better than being in first place.”
After a tough opening two periods, Salem goalie Nick Phair came up big in the finale, stopping all eight shots he faced, including a short-handed breakaway by John Gomes with 4:41 left.
“That was gigantic,” McGinn said. “Nick let in four (goals) today which is uncharacteristic of him, but when we needed him, he stood tall and gave us a chance to win.”
Pappalardo’s performance helped Salem overcome a strong outing by Coburn, who scored twice and added a pair of assists.
“We both have similar records and I think we’re similar teams,” Londonderry coach Peter Bedford said. “But their best player certainly had a tremendous day.”
Salem 5, Londonderry 4
Salem (10-3-2, 9-2-1): 1 2 2 — 5
Londonderry (8-4-1, 7-4-1): 2 2 0 — 4
Goals: S — Jake Pappalardo 3, Kyle Svenson, Paul Antkowiak; L — Eric Coburn 2, Brett Evangelista, Curtis Harper
Assists: S — Pappalardo, Svenson, Cody Soucy; L — Coburn 2, Harper, Griffin
Saves: S — Nick Phair 18; L — Joe McGrath 22