SALEM, N.H. -- Cushing Academy coach Rob Gagnon doesn't root against Avon Old Farms – his alma mater – very often, but he did Sunday.
That's when Gagnon watched his Cushing team punctuate it season with a 1-0 victory over Avon to win the New England Prep School's Martin/Earl Tournament in the second of three NEPSAC championship games at the Icenter.
It was the third time Gagnon has coached against Avon. The teams skated to a 4-4 tie last season, and a 2-2 tie in December.
“Anytime you play your alma mater and win it makes it more special, but it's not about me – it's about my kids,” Gagnon said. “I'm proud of the way we competed.”
Junior forward Shane Kavanagh scored the game's lone goal 24 seconds into the contest. A shot from the point hit Kavanagh, who collected the loose puck and beat Avon goalie Cody Doyle with a shot from the right faceoff circle.
“It was a faceoff and we didn't execute defensively,” Avon coach John Gardner said. “We missed a defensive assignment. It happens. They're not pros.
“I thought there might be a lot of numbers [on the scoreboard] after that start, but the Cushing goalie played particularly well.”
Cushing senior Mike Dion made 31 saves. Doyle stopped 20 shots.
“The team played really good defense,” Dion said. “They kept everything to the outside. They didn't have many good scoring chances. It was a good way to go out.”
Gagnon said he thought it was Dion's best game in a Cushing uniform.
“His rebound control was very good,” Gagnon said. “In the first period he juggled some pucks, but swallowed everything after that. I expected this to be a 3-2 or a 4-3 game, but you never know – that's why you play.”
Third-seeded Avon was playing without two of its top forwards: senior Vincent Russo (high ankle sprain) and junior Daniel LaFontaine (broken collarbone).
Avon, which beat sixth-seeded Choate (8-0) and second-seeded Thayer Academy (3-2) to reach the championship game, completed it season with a 16-9-4 record.
“We didn't get done what we wanted to this season, to be honest with you,” Gardner said. “We battled through a lot of injuries. We have a lot of tough kids.”
The victory raised top-seeded Cushing's record to 21-7-4. Cushing posted victories over eighth-seeded Governor's Academy (4-2) and fifth-seeded Phillips Exeter (6-3) earlier in the tournament.
“We wanted to prove to the critics that we are a good team,” Gagnon said. “We wanted the kids to come together at the end – and that's what they did. It's great to bring a championship back to Cushing.”