EXETER — The opposing locker rooms at Phillips Exeter Academy's hockey rink are across from one another, separated simply by a narrow hallway.
After Wednesday’s Division II boys hockey game between St. Thomas Aquinas and Winnacunnet, a 7-2 win by the Saints, the music was blaring in one locker room, and the coach was praising his team for its effort.
Just a few feet away, in the other locker room, the lone voice that could be heard came from the head coach urging his team it had to play better.
One would think that the mood from the respective locker rooms would indicate who had won the game — that was not the case.
St. Thomas, which lost in last year’s Division II state championship game, scored seven of the game’s last eight goals and skated off with its second straight win.
“The boys, between the second and third period, thought this one was over,” St. Thomas Aquinas second-year head coach Wayne Sheehan said, “and we’re playing a very physical team. (The Warriors) worked extremely hard, and we’re not going to get to another championship game if we take our opponents lightly.”
Winnacunnet lost its third straight game to start the season, but head coach Jude Logue was proud of how his team played.
“We were ready for these guys,” Logue said. “Saint Thomas is one of the best teams in the state and without looking at the score, I really felt we hung in that game with them. We may have gotten a little bit of respect from the hockey people out there. Things are looking up, that was a decent loss and I’ll take that. The kids fought hard, and our guys held in, they scrapped, they fought and I think they may be getting a bit of respect out there. I am happy with the way they played. It’s something we can build on.”
The Warriors scored the game’s first goal halfway through the first period, but the Saints scored seven of the next eight goals and took a 5-2 lead into the final period.
Michael Somerset and Zach Talbot each scored two goals for the Saints, while Matt Barnes, Alex Anderson and Will MacLean all had one. Mathis Savard had three assists in the win.
Junior captain Braeden Logue scored both goals for Winnacunnet.
The Warriors took a 1-0 lead with 7:39 left in the first period on Logue’s power-play goal, assisted by freshman Thomas Vaziri and junior Chaz Ziolkowski. Vaziri later left the game with an injury and watched the final period from the bench in street clothes.
The Saints bounced right back with three goals in the final 4:34 and took a 3-1 lead into the first intermission.
Somerset scored the game-tying goal on assist by Patrick Vetter.
The faceoff was to the right of Winnacunnet goalie Jack Ellis and the Warriors couldn’t clear it out, Vetter centered a pass to Somerset who was camped out in front of the goal and poked it past Ellis for the goal.
Talbot, from Savard, gave the Saints a 2-1 lead with 1:59 left in the first, and Barnes scored with 46 seconds left in the period, thanks to assists from MacLean and Savard.
Ellis had 20 saves in the first, 16 in the second and finished with 44, while counterpart Hannes Demegard had just 11 saves through the first two periods and 16 for the game.
The Warriors threatened in the opening minutes of the second period. Vaziri gained control of a puck near center ice and came in alone on Demegard. Vaziri made a move to his right and flipped a wrist shot at the goal, but Demegard made a nice glove save.
A minute later, Vaziri had another golden scoring bid denied by Demegard at the right post.
Winnacunnet went on its second power play with 10:30 left in the second, but couldn’t get a shot on Demegard.
The Saints extended their lead to 4-1 with 7:31 left in the period as Somerset, from Talbot and Savard, scored his second of the night.
Logue, just 33 seconds later, got the Warriors back to within two, 4-2, with his second goal of the night.
The momentum wouldn’t last for Winnacunnet. St. Thomas answered with an Alex Anderson power-play goal, from Luke Grella, with 5:07 left, and the Saints regained a three-goal lead, 5-2.
Talbot, with both teams down a man, broke in alone on Ellis and slipped one between the pads, giving the Saints a 6-2 lead with 11:52 left.
MacLean, from Chase Gagnon, finalized the scoring with 1:34 left.
Winnacunnet hosts Merrimack on Saturday (6 p.m.) and Dover on Wednesday (7:45 p.m.). Both games are at Phillips Exeter Academy.