MARAUDER HOCKEY — STACKING W'S

Sunday, March 11, 2018

HANOVER HIGH: EPICENTER OF THE HOCKEY UNIVERSE


So I guess we learned a few things today…
1. There will probably never be another Hanover boys hockey mullet or mohawk as long as Dick Dodds is the coach
2. The prognosticators at Hockey Night in Boston should probably concentrate their efforts on predicting the Bay State and skip New Hampshire – see below: 


HNIB NH Division 1 Preseason Top 10:

Rank
Team
PR*
W
L
T
1
Bishop Guertin
12
9
2
2
Bedford
19
1
1
3
Pinkerton
11
7
1
4
Concord
18
6
0
5
Londonderry
10
8
0
6
Salem
16
5
2
7
Hanover
16
7
0
8
Trinity
6
12
0
9
Bishop Brady
6
10
1
10
Central
10
10
0

 
3. Bedford is as classy a team as they are skilled – and they are extraordinarily skilled






4. The roof of a school bus can support the weight of 8 high school boys – but more on that later







      So comes the last blog on the final day of the 2017-18 New Hampshire boys hockey season.  When we last saw the Marauders, they were mobbing their senior star goalie Harris LaRock at JFK arena two days ago after he had just carried them (along with junior Duncan Bailey) to an improbable and unbelievable victory (or so probably thought the NHIB editors) over the evil empire BG Cardinals.  A gut-check, defensive masterpiece that had those Hanover hicks into the state final for the first time since 2011.  But that win did not come without a price for in order to beat BG, some of the Marauders had to literally leave their bodies on the ice, especially the defensive unit.  As the Marauders limped out of JFK arena that night to their bus, some of them looking more haggard than every NH team that has ever had to play the Hanover girls team – more on that later too – they passed under the Bedford student section sitting in the West end stands.  It must have been very disheartening for our boys to have to walk under that raucous mass of black-clad Bulldog supporters knowing that they might have to face Bedford in less than 48 hours.  A team that had already beaten them twice this season, including in the finals of the Manchester Christmas tournament, and a team that was extremely well coached, fast, skilled, and experienced (15 seniors and juniors on the team).  And by the way, they were the two time defending Division 1 NHIAA champions – yikes.

      So what did they do?  Well they had a practice, and they had a team dinner at captain Lehmann’s house and we heard through a reliable source that three of the defensive walking wounded – Braxton McNulty, Sy Oberting, and Matty Gardner – spent part of Friday night together soaking in the ice tub at Wayne’s World (all at once we understand – maybe captain McNulty taking the inclusiveness theme a bit far?)  And as they boarded the bus for yet another trip to the Queen City down I-89, passing the awesome GO HANOVER HOCKEY sign at Trumbull-Nelson as they pulled out of town, it’s hard to believe that this team of 4 seniors, 6 juniors, 6 sophomores and a freshman would be given a chance by anyone in the state today to bring home Hanover’s ninth state title and first since 2006. 

      But they believed – and they believed because they had been counted out so many times already this year by the preseason pundits, by the southern New Hampshire hockey mafia, and by those who said well only a few of those Hanover kids ever played youth hockey for the Avs, Monarchs, Spartans, Knights, yada, yada, yada and just didn’t have the talent to compete.  They believed because they knew it is hard to get beaten three times in a year by the same team.  They believed because they knew that they had two characteristics that had never failed them all year and had probably been elusive to so many of those kids who had played in whatever Boston-based league du jour that was in vogue this week – they believed in each other and they believed in their team.

      Into cavernous SNHU arena therefore came the Hanover Marauders – a town team – with a whole town behind them. A big sheet of ice, a warm arena, and a hyped-up Hanover student crowd made some of the Hanover partisans think that maybe this would be enough to give us just half a chance as the black-clad Bulldogs took to the ice.  What a sight it was to see the whole Bedford team’s blond hair contrasted with their intimidating black uniforms.  However, unlike the jealousy exhibited by some of the Hanover players over the luscious locks worn by the Londonderry players in the quarterfinal game, I have my doubts that any of our players would have wanted to trade their flows for the peroxide salad sitting across the neutral zone.

2018 New Hampshire Division 1 Champions
      So the puck dropped on the 2018 Division 1 State Championship game at around 12:30 with everyone knowing that in the next 90 minutes, history would be made.  Would it be the Bulldogs taking their third straight title – a feat not achieved since the 1996-99 Concord Crimson Tide?  Or would it be Hanover, which had won a title in every decade since the 1970s, giving Dick Dodds and his staff their first in 12 years?

      Just like in the first Bedford game in the Manchester tournament, the play was pretty even in the first.  Lots of back-and-forth on the wide open ice.  And although Bedford led in the shots total at 7-4, none were really that threatening with the exception of a dipsy-doodle flip at the near circle off a deflection that LaRock controlled easily.  What was clear however, was that whatever worries there were about Hanover being flat, hurt, tired, just happy to be there, etc were obliterated in that first period.  The Stadheim, Lehmann, Goff line was flying and each line appeared to get stronger and stronger as they rolled out under the direction of coaches Doherty and Cashman.  It was as if coach Wayne – making his first appearance behind the bench of the year – was squeezing in a month of workouts into each player to get them stronger as they waited for their next turn on the ice.  And even as the speedy Bedford forwards came crashing through the neutral zone, the defense held (you think coach Sutton would allow a breakdown?) with every sort of check imaginable – body, stick, hip, prayer – to keep them off of LaRock.  This wasn’t the same game as with BG in the semi-finals – less physical, more skilled, less grind, more speed. 

Hardware for the Trophy Case
      As the period neared it conclusion, Hanover got the puck luck that any team needs to go as deep as these boys did this year.  Owen Stadheim received the outlet on the far boards at the redline and forced his way via speed and skill (Did you know Owen had a faster gear all season?  I thought it impossible but he had it today) to convert a 1 on 2 into a great unobstructed look from the high crease.  His shot sailed just wide and high but he trailed the play, collected the puck behind the net and found line mate Goff whose pass to the charging Lehmann found the captain in the low slot.  With a backhanded flip he five-holed Bedford goalie Connor Laurendeau to give Hanover a 1-0 lead just before the period’s end.

      So what do you tell your team during the first intermission when leading the two-time defending champion and favorite and have just scored a late period goal – you tell them to score again.  Lehmann and Stadheim must have been listening and not been fantasizing about the upcoming March intensive because just 37 seconds into the second, a bang bang sequence had Stadheim again find his line mate crashing with Lehmann calming beating Laurendeau on the forehand for a 2-0 lead.  Now it was getting interesting, because as the student sections exchanged chants across the ice (the Bedford students stopped the exchange as soon as the Hanover fans pointed out the Bulldog’s deficit with the always-quieting “scoreboard” chant) the Marauders pounded Bedford in the neutral zone.  There were two penalties on each team, all of which were killed, but the Marauders definitely got the better of play, outshooting Bedford 15-10 in the period.

Our Biggest Fan Missy
      Now everyone knew what would happen in the third – either Hanover protects their two goal lead (all together now repeat after me “the two goal lead is the most dangerous in hockey” – good job class)  or Bedford comes out like they did in their second game and just takes it to the tired Upper Valley boys.  Starting the period on the kill, the Marauders handled it easily, but the wheels began to wobble as Bedford ratcheted up the pressure.  With 12:25 left, Parker Roberto, a surname well known in the New Hampshire hockey youth circles, struck on a pretty backhander in close to make is 2-1.

      Now Einstein once explained his theory of relativity like this (not quite verbatim) – “When you are courting, an hour seems like a second.  When you put your hand on a hot stove, a second seems like an hour.”  Clearly, Einstein was not as smart as everyone thinks because the better analogy for his theory of relativity should have been this, “When you are scoring goals against Bedford, an hour feels like a second.  When you are trying to prevent goals by Bedford (especially for 12 minutes and 25 seconds), a second feels like an hour.”  Hence the Hanover players learned a lesson in the theory of relativity this afternoon, which is keeping with the NHIAA mission statement read before the game that sports are an extension of the classroom experience.

      So we writhed, and we moaned, and we cursed and we implored that clock to wind down with every rush from the Bulldogs.  But as hyped as we were in the crowd, it seemed like the players were having just a good old Saturday skate as they kept calm and carried on.  LaRock was a beast on every shot thrown his way and the back and fore-checkers just kept frustrating the bulldogs into mistakes in the neutral zone which were cleared by the defense.  A Hanover time out at 5:34 left just to get everyone together for a how ya doin and then it was under five minutes, then four, three and then two.  Bedford fans were silent, Hanover fans were exuberant, and then Bedford took its timeout with 1:08 left and pulled their goalie.

Benjamin Looking Sharp
      The last minute of the season, for some the last time they would put on skates for a meaningful hockey game in their lives, and it all came down to 1:08.  Then it was one minute, thirty seconds and then fifteen and with Bedford coming down the near board for one more rush, it was McNulty, who in a play that sums up this Hanover team, laid out flat and took a slapshot right in the chest with five seconds left.  5-4-3-2-1 done and STATE CHAMPIONS!

       A few immediate observations – bedlam on top of Harris as he was tackled in front of his goal on the crease, Hans Williams – a hero for this team this year – acting like the cherry on top and launching himself on the pile probably much to the horror of his orthopedic team, tears in the eyes of many of the parents, and “We are the champions” playing overhead.

      There were many great moments in the time to follow.  One that will always ring true is the class with which the Bedford team collected their medals and each one of them came to shake the hands of the entire Hanover team – class act.  There were the Dodds brothers standing at mid-ice having their pictures taken with their state championship trophies.  There was the team pinning their trophy on the glass in front of the student section.  There were the boys coming up from the locker room and walking into the arms of their adoring fans.

       Said Dodds “I am so proud of these kids obviously because they are state champions but also because of the way they achieved it.  They were unflappable, they blocked out all of the pageantry and they stuck to the game plan.”

      With the 2-1 win, Hanover finished the year with a record of 18-3 in NHIAA play (21-3 overall).  They are a team that made their families proud, their coaches proud, their town proud, but most of all themselves proud.  Along with the girls team they are half of the only tandem in the history of New Hampshire hockey to win the boys and girls crowns in the same year.

Champions and Knuckleheads
      As I sit here and write the final paragraph in the blog for the year, I think it might have finally dawned on me how this team was able to accomplish this feat in the face of so much doubt and it occurred to me as I was watching Mr. T’s bus come lumbering around the corner down Lebanon street to the high school.  On top of that bus were several players and the one who was completely out of the safety hatch, standing fully on top of the bus in complete violation of any known traffic law, was Harris LaRock with his arms raised in victory.  And I thought about that kid who sat and bided his time for three straight years waiting his chance to play one minute of varsity and when he had the chance, became the best goalie in the state.  Perhaps that’s what it takes – desire, humility and when given the chance, you pounce on it and make it yours.   A lesson that goes well beyond the hockey rink.

      Congratulations Marauders and thank you.

 
 

 

Thursday, March 8, 2018

TRUE GRIT


      Way back three months ago, during the blog season preview meeting, coach Dick Dodds mentioned that his team would be playing a whole lot of games at JFK arena during the regular season and specifically made mention that this would be important for his team given the NHIAA Division 1 semifinals would be held there in March.  Perhaps this seemed a bit farfetched at the time given the 11 departed seniors from the 2016-17 team and the wealth of inexperience taking the ice for the Marauders this year.  But here we found Hanover in the semifinals on a snowy, wet, dank night in the Queen City, squaring off against rival Bishop Guertin for the second time this season in front of a large crowd of BG supporters which conservatively outnumbered the Hanover fans 10:1.
Total Team Effort
      So again the boys from those small rural towns way up in the Connecticut River Valley with names like Hanover, Norwich, Lyme and Strafford took the ice against the large, private school in Nashua.   A school with the ability to recruit hockey players from anywhere, even across the state line into Massachusetts.  A school with a schedule that played teams out of state, perhaps so they would have more competition during the regular season in preparation to play against the in-state New Hampshire teams that can’t recruit. A team that started five senior skaters all looking to make the Hanover 3-1 victory 6 weeks ago look like a complete aberration.  This was going to be a green and gold stomping that would end with a trip around the corner to SNHU arena for a state title match-up on Saturday.
      And there were our local boys – townies really.  Kids who played together growing up in that old-school Campion rink.  Many of them and their families getting hooked on the game with the oh-so-enticing 8:00 am learn-to-play ice time (that’s how they suck you in by the way).  Kids who sometimes made the white team, sometimes the green team, and even occasionally the blue team.  There were tournaments in which they played knee hockey in the halls, invaded the hotel breakfast buffets, and lost more than once because of too much pool time.  And they played this weird thing in the spring called “Dick Dodd’s Spring Fling” which kept them on the ice through April and introduced them to the legend that would someday get them here to the Queen City on this dark, March night.
      So as the warm-ups concluded, the anthem wrapped up, and the boys got ready to start their first shift, the BG team with their mullets and mohawks were whacking their sticks on the boards in preparation for the Hanover hick beat down.  The Marauders (17-3 and 20-4 overall), well they didn’t yell and scream and bang their sticks, they just came out with a calm confidence as the action opened on the first of the Division 1 NHIAA semifinal games.  And perhaps they knew a few things that no one else did in the rink, namely:
  1. We had Harris LaRock
  2. We had Duncan Bailey
  3. We had one incredibly gritty team
      As the starting five for both teams took the ice and an unusual line-up came out for the Marauders, there was one other thing that Hanover knew:
  1. We had one heck of a game planning coaching staff
      As expected, BG came out big, mean, physical and skilled.  Really for the first two minutes of the game, the puck lived in the Hanover defensive zone.  It was only at the 2:00 mark that the Marauders were able to get their first shot on Cardinal goalie Colin Freitas and surprisingly, the net did not find its way off its stanchions.  With perhaps the confidence knowing that they would not be shooting on a moving target, the second Marauder rush of the night came up with the game’s first score.  With sophomore Owen Stadheim dangling around the net, he and linemate David Lehmann came crashing in on Freitas and with a quick forehand in the middle of the scrum on an assist from Stadheim, Lehmann put the Marauders out in front 1-0 at 2:30.  And it was almost as if a giant sucking sound could be heard coming from the BG stands as if to say –Holy moly, here we go, could a loss really happen?
      For the most part for the remainder of the first, it was almost all Cardinals, with Hanover holding on for dear life behind LaRock’s steady leadership in the net.  And the first period featured one of the key differences between Hanover and most of the teams in New Hampshire hockey this year – absolutely dominant special teams play.   Going a man down on (surprisingly) the only penalty of the first period, the Marauders killed off the stout BG powerplay beginning with 1:37 left and giving them the lead at the first intermission.
      Coming out to start the second, all the Hanover partisans knew that they just had to get through 23 seconds to finish off the man-down and then everything would be OK.  Well they did that, but then with 14 minutes left in the second, in what was one of the worst minutes for the Marauders this season, first Matty Gardner and then Braxton McNulty went down with leg injuries.   To add insult to injury, McNulty was called for a penalty on the play putting the Marauders once again on the man down.  Two injuries, needing a penalty kill, in a hostile environment, on the road.  Hanover needed something bad or their season would end on this night to a merciless Cardinals team sensing sudden vulnerability.  And then in stepped Bailey, and along with sophomore Sy Oberting, himself battling a hip injury, these two killed off the most important penalty of the year – true grit.  With the kill, Hanover suddenly had some spring in their skates and still clinging to the 1-0 lead, went up on the powerplay with 8 minutes to play.  But BG was too strong to go down two goals and on a clear from deep in their zone, 6’6” senior Doug Barker collected the pass at the red line behind the pushing Hanover D and walked in alone on LaRock to make it 1-1 with 7:40 to go. 
      So here we were, all of the momentum in BG’s favor, halfway through the game.  Hanover needed something, anything to break the cycle – enter Bailey.  Taking a pass from Rowan Wilson at the point, Bailey fired a rope from just inside the far blue line that will be the centerfold in this month’s edition of “Bar Down Magazine”.  The most important goal of the season to put Hanover up 2-1at 10:09.  And just like that, all of a sudden those nasty Hanover forecheckers – Elias Zinman, Charlie Plottner, Cameron Woods, Peter Warhold, Patrick Daly and Wilson came alive.  For the remainder of the period they were like a pack of mad dogs, nipping and biting at the Cardinals to keep them away from LaRock and the beleaguered defense.  And as McNulty and Gardner came back on the ice, each doing their best Willis Reed imitations, Oberting, Bailey and LaRock stood tall and kept the score in Hanover’s favor in the face of the BG student section’s well wishes coming from behind the net.  However, all of that hard fore- and back checking work paid off because it frustrated BG, and led to late-hit call that put Hanover on the power play deep in the second period.  With a play that has paid off more dividends this year than Berkshire Hathaway stock, Gardner found Stadheim on the far circle who fired across the crease to the waiting Lehmann who calmly rocked it past Freitas at the back door, just before the sophomore goalie knocked the net off the stanchions (yes, this did happen).  Not this time and Hanover went into the final period up 3-1.
      We’ll never know what was said or done in that Hanover locker room between periods – Torodol injections, team massage, playing of Herb Brooks’s miracle speech about being “our time” – who knows.  What we do know is that everyone in that rink tonight knew a dogfight would be on and as seemingly half of the Marauders team came out of the locker room behind nursing home walkers, it would come down simply to who wanted it more.
      Well for sure Harris LaRock wanted it and was not going to end his senior season watching BG celebrate over the Marauders in the playoffs for the second straight year.  Facing more heat than a Death valley summer, LaRock stared down every Cardinal blast thrown at him.  The most amazing part of his performance was the lack of rebounds he gave up as the big, BG forwards came charging in repeatedly.  As you may recall, LaRock’s only penalty of the year was in the first BG game when he introduced Barker’s facemask to his glove hand deep in the third.  But as the Marauders showed all year long, their restraint in the face of aggression was one of their greatest assets.  Not even at 8:55 gone by when BG closed to within 1 on a Liam Nye blast from the right circle that somehow found its way through LaRock, did he or the Marauders become rattled.  As the clock ticked down to the 5:40 mark, and the rink filled to capacity with the Bedford and Concord fan contingents here to watch the second NHIAA semifinal, Hanover found itself yet again on the kill when Bailey made a game saving slash to keep a 2 on 0 from coming in on LaRock.  With the game in the balance, the aggressive Hanover forecheck kept BG at bay and the defensive rotation continually went down to block BG blasts.  At 3:30 left the Hanover partisans breathed a huge sigh of relief only to nearly choke when a dubious hooking penalty on Lehmann had Hanover on the man down again with 3:14 left.
      This was the moment – the moment for why you wake up at 4:30 am to go to practice, the moment for why you don’t get your mullets, the moment for why you engender a spirit of inclusiveness and not egoism, the moment for why you play for your town, the moment for why you play hockey.  This moment will never be seen in the scoring sheet, but is the moment that won Hanover the right to play on Saturday.  Sometimes it is said that the best thing you can do late in the third when you’re up a goal and your team is running on fumes is to take a penalty, because at least then you can ice the puck and give your team a rest - David probably knew this all along.  So, as BG pulled their goalie for the 6-4, Hanover killed it off with tenacity, some luck, lots of deep dumps into BG territory, fortitude and most importantly, true grit.
      With the final buzzer, LaRock was mobbed by his teammates after turning in the most clutch performance this blogger has ever seen in a goalie - 31 saves, with 10 critical stops coming in the third.  But this was a team win through and through that was much more impressive than will ever be seen in the scorer’s column. It wasn’t a pretty win – far from it – but it was a great win.  It was a great win for the young Hanover Hockey kids in the audience, it was a great win for the parents and families, it was a great win for the Marauder alumni hockey players and especially last year’s seniors, it was a great win for the best coaching staff in New Hampshire hockey (What flavor gum was Rowan Wilson chewing Petterson?), it was a great victory for town hockey in a place where this still matters,  but most of all it was a great victory for those Hanover hick players who won this game because they wanted it a hell of a lot more than their opponent.  By the way, plenty of good hockey teams to play right here in New Hampshire BG.
      Said Dodds after the game “Tonight was a total team effort.  It was nice to get out to a one goal lead and Duncan’s goal right after Guertin scored gave the team a big lift because everyone loves Duncan. And of course Harris was huge tonight.”
      One could say that it doesn’t matter how this season turns out on Saturday at 12:15 at SNHU arena – it’s only one game, our players are hurt and tired, it’s been a long season, etc.  Except it does matter, to the players, to the coaches, to the families, to the school and to the town.  It will be the first trip to the finals for Hanover since 2011 – see you Saturday.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

PLAYOFF FEVER


      A year ago this week, the Hanover Marauders boys hockey team found themselves on the losing end of a 6-2 Bishop Guertin victory that unexpectedly and excruciatingly knocked them out of the 2017 NHIAA Division 1 playoffs.  With 11 seniors graduating last year, pre-season hopes were a bit tempered for this year’s team, with several new faces, several inexperienced returning players, and a goalie who had never played a minute of varsity hockey. With the preseason expectations a bit low, the Marauders took to the ice on December 13th to play the Londonderry Lancers in front a raucous partisan Londonderry crowd at Tri-town arena in what was the first varsity game for many of the Upper Valley boys.

      And something funny happened back on that cold night in Hooksett almost three months ago – Dick Dodds’s Marauders came in and stole one from the favored Lancers 4-1.  There was captain David Lehmann with two goals and captain Braxton McNulty setting up two others – almost expected results from the most experienced and seasoned of the Hanover players.  There was sophomore Owen Stadheim, who had made a big splash as a freshman as the up and coming Marauder star, playing hurt but creating all sorts of scoring opportunities.  However, perhaps unexpectedly, there were names like Zinman, Williams, Goff and Plottner – all junior returning players - showing that they would be a force this year.  In addition, new on the forward line names like Wilson, Woods, Correa and Warhold – playing their first full-time varsity minutes - looked like they could contribute as well.  The returning blueliners, in addition to McNulty, had the names Bailey and Seelig and they gave quality minutes that night.  Oberting and Gardner were the new defensive contributors, and they got some time too, but could you really count on a first year varsity sophomore and freshman to protect an inexperienced goalie?  And finally there was this kid LaRock, biding his time between two senior goalie studs last year who looked awfully strong that first game, but c’mon could this senior with the pink tape on his stick be counted on to backstop this team to the playoffs?  It was a nice win that night, but there was no way coach Dodds and his assistants Cashman, Doherty and Sutton could keep this up – even with 36 years of doing this and a NH Legends of hockey membership to his name.  You just can’t lose 11 seniors, throw a ton of inexperience into the mix, and count on a rookie senior goalie to carry you game in and game out.

      Or can you?


Team
      Fast forward now 21 games – 17 of them wins – and you find the Marauders facing Londonderry again, although this time it is in the quarterfinals of the NHIAA tournament, on Campion home ice, in front of a huge crowd.  So what happened?  Well you had coaches and senior captains setting a tone of inclusiveness and selflessness where everyone on the team contributes.  You had the team having the hockey intelligence and restraint to take very few penalties and the skill to capitalize on their powerplay opportunities.  You had the inexperienced senior goalie morphing into (in this blogger’s opinion) the top net minder in the state and not only lead all NHIAA Division 1 goalies in goals per game average, but also tie the Marauder record for most shutouts in the season.  But most of all, you had a team that seemed to like and respect each other not only on, but perhaps most importantly, off the ice.  Even the playoff mullets and mohawks were sacrificed this year, much to the joy of most of the Marauder moms.

      So into the playoffs came Hanover in the most important hockey game to be played in the Upper Valley this evening.  In addition, they were playing a very, very good Londonderry team with eight seniors, seven juniors, and one hell of a team hair showing that perhaps caused a little jealously in the hometown Marauders during the helmets off playing of the national anthem. A team that while they did not have a signature NHIAA win this year, had hung tough with all of the big boys in the league.  This was not going to be an easy win for either team, and as the national anthem concluded over the PA system, a kind of nervous calm (OK and maybe a little Lancer hair envy) enveloped the arena as the puck dropped to begin the 1st period.

      Just as they have done all year, the first shift starters set the tone for the game as line after Hanover line came out fast and furious on Lancer goalie Cameron Donovan.  In fact, it was not until the fourth minute that Londonderry had their first shot on LaRock (22 saves).  Pounding away, but to no avail with several strong Donovan saves, Hanover eventually got the opportunity it was looking for at 6:08 when it went on the power play for the first time.  Working the umbrella like Mary Poppins, Lehmann found a seam at the left circle and fired into a screening Zinman whose tip made it to Gardner in front.  The looping deflection off the freshman’s stick found its way over Donovan to make it 1-0.  Exactly the start Hanover needed.  About three minutes later, Gardner’s pass to Stadheim along the near boards found the sophomore streaking down through the offensive zone wide and his centering pass found Lehmann all alone in the slot.  The senior captain calmly delivered and Hanover was up 2-0 at 10:07 in.  After killing off an interference penalty to conclude the first period, the Marauders felt good heading into locker room #4 for the first intermission.

      This blog has mentioned repeatedly that the most dangerous lead in hockey is the two-goal lead and that the third goal is always the most important.  Lacer coach Peter Bedford probably imparted these words to his players just before the start of the second because less than a minute in, senior Peter McKinnon streaked up the near boards and his blast from the right circle found it way through LaRock to make it 2-1.  And from that point on, the Lancers played a furious brand of second period hockey that featured big hits, fast rushes and multiple nerve-rattling opportunities on LaRock.  However, as he has done so many times this season, LaRock was unbreakable and kept his team in front despite being under more pressure than Freddie Mercury (look it up for those under aged 25).  As the Lancers pounded Hanover, and the first period confidence slowly drained from the Marauder faithful with each Londonderry rush, everyone knew that Hanover needed a big play.  Enter Stadheim, whose puck-on-a-string control behind the net found Zinman whose shot off Donovan rebounded to Woods at the doorstep.  In the midst of a sea of Londonderry blue jerseys the sophomore beat Donovan low to make it 3-1 with 54 second left in the period.  Big sigh of relief as the horn went off to end the second.

      But Londonderry did not get the message in terms of the momentum swing coming out in the third and at 6:05, despite Hanover playing a much better period than they did in the second, the Lancers struck first on a Patrick Murphy tally to make it 3-2.  Just like that, it was another swig of Pepto-Bismol for the Marauder fans as the game momentum seemingly was about to take another shift toward the visitors.  As the teams continued to battle to the 10 minute mark it appeared that the Lancers committed a too-many-men penalty that was not called.  However, as their lines transitioned, the puck rolled down behind their goal and as they tried to clear, Patrick Daly stripped the puck on an all-out hustle play and fired backwards to a streaking Zinman in front whose one-timer delivered that all important two goal lead at 10:54.  From there it was only Braxton McNulty’s angled clear from deep in his own end off of the Zamboni door into the empty net with 17 seconds left to seal the win 5-2.

      This was a thriller and a tremendous amount of credit is due to the Lancers who came into Campion and gave the Marauders a tough game, especially in the second period.  However, credit needs to go to the Marauders as well, as they punched their ticket to the semifinals.

      Said Dodds after the game “I was really proud of the kids and how they responded.  The playoffs are a different game and we showed a little grit tonight – something we need to have to move forward.”

The mullets weren't that cool anyway
      So with this victory, the Marauders will face Bishop Guertin in the NHIAA Division 1 semifinals on Wednesday night at 5:30 at the Queen City’s JFK arena.  Back on January 20th, Hanover beat BG 3-1 in a close, physical nail biter on BG’s home ice.  Most pundits would expect the same kind of contest this week.  However, if the Marauders do have an advantage, it’s that they have played at JFK arena many, many times this season – 6 to be exact with the barn probably best characterized as their home away from home.  But it is going to take more than just rink familiarity to beat a very good BG squad. At least the Hanover fans won’t need directions.

      The 2017-18 Marauder season therefore rolls on into its final week, with a trip to SNHU arena and the state finals awaiting the victor on Wednesday night.  There will be four stout teams in Manchester on Wednesday night, all deserving to move on - why not us?

       


Saturday, February 24, 2018

SENIOR NIGHT


     With a big, partisan Senior night crowd in attendance at Campion, the Hanover Marauders finished off their 2017-18 regular season campaign with a convincing 5-0 win against the 4-13 Bishop Brady Giants Saturday night.  With the win, Dick Dodd’s boys completed NHIAA Division 1 play with a 15-3 record (18-4 overall) and clinched the second overall seed in the upcoming state tournament.

      It was a very special night, as the four Hanover seniors – Peter Warhold, Harris LaRock, Braxton McNulty and David Lehmann were honored in a pre-game ceremony with flowers, on-ice parent hugs and posters filled with photos in the lobby that showed the boys in all stages of their hockey careers.  Adding to the nostalgia on the night was that the Hanover girls team had their senior night just before – so lots of hugs and well wishes to go around.

David Lehmann
Harris LaRock
      Interrupting all of the festivities however was a hockey game to be played, so with a little bit of a lump of sadness in their parent’s throats, the four senior starters took the ice for the last time in the regular season and then the puck dropped.  And make no mistake, this was an important game because throughout New Hampshire this evening, players, coaches and fans of NHIAA hockey were watching closely to see where the final seedings would land.  For Hanover, which was locked in a second place tie with Pinkerton (but owned the tiebreaker due to head-to-head) this was a critical contest to lock up the second seed.

      So perhaps the Marauders were thinking about the cake and punch waiting for them post-game in the locker room or looking forward to the traditional senior skate around the rink following the last regular season game, but the first half of the first period was dominated by the Giants.  However, it was LaRock, and his legendary pink stick tape, that stoned the Giants on a several good scoring chances in deep early.  Finally at 10:38, sophomore sensation Owen Stadheim took a behind–the-net pass from Joey Goff (from Sy Oberting) in the mid slot and finished past Brady goalie Nathaniel Pushee for a 1-0 Hanover lead.  It was all they would need.

Peter Warhold
Braxton McNulty
      As they have for the most part all season, the Marauders came out for the second determined to put the game out of reach early.  After several good opportunities thwarted by Pushee, a blast from the right point from McNulty found a screening Cameron Woods in front to put Hanover up 2-0 five minutes in.  With a back and forth between the two squads throughout the middle of the period featuring man-up opportunities from both, Woods finally scored that all important third goal, nicely controlling a McNulty saucer pass at the offensive blue line on the man-down and skating it in on Pushee for a 3-0 lead.  If there was one aspect of the game which went especially well for Hanover tonight, it was their special teams, and Stadheim put Hanover up 4-0 again on the man-down at 13:21 when he took advantage of an unfortunately timed defensive zone Giant broken stick to steal the puck and go in untouched.

      The third period had Lehmann firing in his last regular season goal of his career to make it 5-0 at 3:30 off a nice across the slot pass from Goff.  Despite being up a bunch, Hanover kept pushing and it was Warhold’s nice deke at the blue line to go wide that almost had the senior hitting the score sheet with the best opportunity to finish the third.

      With his fifth shutout of the year, LaRock had 10 saves and tied the Hanover High record for the most shutouts in a season – maybe all of the Marauders should adopt the pink stick tape moving forward. 

      Said Dodds in the Campion lobby after the game as the team milled around the senior’s posters and especially admired the sporty bifocals Harris wore as a kid, “It was a nice way to send the seniors off.  They’ve done such a nice job leading this team with the four seniors being responsible for the great chemistry of the team on and off the ice.”

      And what a successful year they have had.  In NHIAA play they outscored their opponents 76-27, by far the fewest goals allowed in Division 1 which is a credit to LaRock and the tough Hanover defense.  And the scoring output has been well-balanced, led by leading scorer Lehmann, with everyone contributing.

      So the platitudes on the regular season are nice, but now really mean nothing going forward  - as Dodds said this evening “now every team is 0-0”.  So the second, and by far the most important, season gets underway this week.  As of this writing, it was unclear whom the playoff bracket would have the Marauders facing next Saturday night for the final home game of the year.  No matter what, Campion should be amped up a week from now to welcome the underdog to town.  Rest up Marauders, stay away from the flu, and don’t forget what happened in the quarterfinals last year.
 
 
 

Friday, February 23, 2018

Hanover Hockey Hair Spotlight: David Lehmann

(Bloggers note: Each week during the season we will feature a “Hanover Hockey Hair Spotlight” hairstyle of the week.  This will be published on Fridays)


Player:  Captain David Lehmann

Hair Nickname(s): Epic

The Story Behind the Hair:  When I was younger, I got one buzz cut ever year and then let it grow out over the next year. I have not continued to do that because spring is baseball season and I like it short.

Hair Product(s):  Home – Head and Shoulders 2:1.  At the rink - Old Spice 3:1.

Hair Primping Secret(s): I try to shampoo it every other day.  If it is looking flat, I take a two day break. I rely on the 2:1 as my got to.

One Word to Describe Your Family’s Feelings about Your Hair:  My mom loves the long hair but my sister and brother could care less.

Teammate Whose Hair You Would Most Like to Have: Rowan – I’ve always been curious about what I would look like as a blond and his hair is always so long and luscious.

Rink Talk:  There is a reason we saved David for the last regular season hair spotlight. When we had the preseason meeting with the captains back in early December, one could predict his hair’s flowtential, but like the smart, heady player he is on the ice, he deferred his glamour shot until his salad had some more time to develop.  So while his younger teammates basked in the adoration that comes with a feature in the hair spotlight, the wise senior waited patiently all season biding his time, steadfastly fertilizing his lawn with the head and shoulders 2:1 every other day.  As the flowvolution matured, David’s ferocious play on the ice ran in tandem with the masterpiece growing under his helmet.  There was the play of the year candidate strip and assist behind the net against BG to make it 2-1, the hat trick, and most recently the otherworldly goal in the third Concord game.  Furthermore, as the hair grew, so did his number of points on the stat sheet.  Coincidence?   We don’t think so, because you can have all of the speed, strength and stick skills in the state, but if you don’t have the hair, well you might as well just be getting short-shifted in the third period playing for Squirt Blue.  We present in our opinion the flow of the year, the standard by which all hair should be measured, and the one belonging to your captain and top scorer.  Congratulations captain Lehmann on your season, your Hanover career, but most of all, congratulations on your epic flow.