EASTON — An early lead.

It’s something Saints Peter and Paul High’s ice hockey team has been chasing this season, and finally got Friday night.

It’s also the thing that may have sparked Easton.

The Sabres’ lead lasted all of 31 seconds before Kai Kelly scored to begin a string of seven consecutive Warrior goals, as Easton dominated Sts. Peter & Paul, 7-1, to win the Delmarva Cup at the Talbot Community Center.

“Every year, it doesn’t matter where each team is in the standings, it’s just because everybody knows everyone on the other team,” Easton head coach Tim Nowak said of the annual rivalry between the two Easton schools, which wasn’t played last year because of the coronavirus pandemic. “It’s just a good battle. It’s never anything out of the ordinary; nothing dirty. It’s just total respect for each side.”

And the side that scored first was the Sabres (3-3), when Tyler Watson crossed a pass from left wing that Jackson Stepp tapped past Warrior starting goalie Alexander Taliaferro for a power-play goal 4:35 into the game.

“We wanted to jump out to a lead,” Sts. Peter & Paul head coach Sam Gerdano said. “That’s something we’ve not been able to do in our last few games, but we were able to do it tonight. But we just really couldn’t sustain much offensive pressure. It was in our D zone and we faced a lot of shots.”

Easton (3-1), which outshot the Sabres 42-4, answered just 31 seconds later, when Trice Weems and Owen Newnam connected to set up Kelly’s equalizer.

“I don’t know if they weren’t settled in yet, but that might have been a good thing them scoring and our guys realizing, ‘OK, it’s time to go to work,” Nowak said.

The Warriors needed just another 1:24 to move in front to stay, as Kelly (two goals, two assists) found Weems (two goals, two assists) who gained control of the puck in front of the goal and backhanded a shot past goalie Taylor Price (28 saves) for a 2-1 lead.

By the time Easton was done working in the first period it had expanded its lead to 4-1. Kelly scored unassisted with 3:22 left in the first, then together with Kelly, set up Newnam’s goal with 19 seconds remaining.

It was the second straight game the Sabres were without injured senior star defenseman and leading goal scorer Hunter Hoffman.

“He’s a total game-changer for us,” Gerdano said of Hoffman. “He’s somebody who can (be a) one-man breakout. He can just take it the whole way if he wants to. You can tell we really miss him because we’re struggling to get the puck out of the zone.”

Easton put 16 more shots on goal in the second period, but couldn’t get anything else past Price or Maddie Maloney (10 saves), who took over in goal with 7:34 left in the period. But the Sabres mounted little offense and spent the better part of the period trying to weather a barrage in hopes of staying within reach.

“You can tell we really miss him because we’re struggling to get the puck out of the zone,” Gerdano said of Hoffman.

The Warriors widened their lead 1:23 into the third period when Sabin Long set up Ethan Finlay, who stuffed the puck past Taylor for a 5-1 lead. Easton continued to keep the puck in the Sabres’ end, and stretched its lead to 6-1 with 6:27 left, as Jack Taliaferro and Bill Newcomb set up Wesley Morgan’s goal before Weems scored unassisted with just under 5 minutes left.

“Guys are making great decisions,” Nowak said of his team. “Coming together as a team. Everyone cheering everyone on, supporting everybody. Just making the simple play. That’s a big thing. Sometimes the simple play is the right play as opposed to taking a chance on a play that’s a 50-50 battle, you’re losing and your going down to the other end.

“Everyone wants to contribute to the team,” Nowak continued. “They want to be a piece of the puzzle and that makes it so easy to have everyone going full (tilt).

Follow me on Twitter @Bill_Haufe. Email me at bhaufe@stardem.com

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