Press Release: December 4, 2013
December 1: Kearsarge 4 @ Henniker 3
For me it would be the second of three New England college towns that youth hockey took me to for the weekend. This stop was in Henniker, NH and the picturesque scene of New England College. Complete with the covered bridge to adjoining athletic fields, and the ice coated banks of the Contoocook River winding gently through the small campus. We pulled up to the rink to drop our 13-year-old player at the front door. Being early, which in itself is a rarity, my wife, the twins, and I decided to take a walk in the woods along some of the trails featured throughout the campus. Not to get carried away, it was a blast, and the twins had us laughing as always. Maybe I will share that half hour of time some other time.
Okay, here we are in the old rink, ready for a game with Henniker. The atmosphere inside was quite festive if I was not mistaken. The teams were warming up in their own version of a pre-game skate while music played. Parents seemed remarkably happy to see me for a second day in a row. It must have been my wife and the twins. Anyhow, its funny how just 18 hours or so can make such a difference in the energy, approach, and perception of a group of teenagers. Let’s get to the game, shall we.
The first period ended in a 1-1 tie. Henniker outshot the visitors 7-3 in shots that actually reached the respective goaltenders. Both teams scored early, like really, too early. Things settled in but the first 90 seconds looked like it was going to be scoring at the escalated pace of an NCAA football game in overtime. Kearsarge scored their first goal when Sebastian Beal made a pass to center ice and onto the stick of Nicole Kimtis (we will hear more from her). Nicole got the puck over to Max Phillips who calmly buried his shot behind the Henniker netminder. We will also hear from Max again who was playing up to the Bantam level from his Pee Wee team.
The second period saw the Kearsarge group, whom less than a day before had looked so spent on the outdoor ice of Durham, kick it into a higher gear and dominate the middle period. The visitors won the period 2-1 on the scoreboard and also held a sizable advantage in shots on goal with a 9-3 margin in the stanza. After two periods, the see-saw battle was led by Kearsarge, 3-2. First, Mr. Phillips struck for his second goal of the contest assisted by Ms. Kimtis and also Nick Ducharme, after their line persisted on puck possession, working the puck free from the corner. Nick fed a pass across the goalmouth to a wide open Nicole Kimtis who fired a shot that was nicely turned away, but unluckily for the goalie came right to the stick of Max Phillips who wasn’t firing blanks, not on December 1st. The next goal procured the ‘natural hat trick’ for Max Phillips as he eliminated the middle man, taking a pass from Sebastian Beal and finishing the play himself. Secretly I blamed the netting above the glass for the reason that I didn’t throw my hat onto the ice. That and I love my Bruins hat.
The third period was evenly played although it was apparent that Henniker was not going to go away quietly. They pressed, turned up the pressure, and created more offense. Beal, Alfie Rylander, Ashley Thompson, and Noah Newton met the challenge defensively and wave after wave of offense was met by this quartet of players playing sound defense. When the effort broke down, Corey Henault was sharp in net, saving most everything thrown at him. Finally, half way through the final period, Henniker scored to tie the game at 3-3. Just when the team could have retreated, called it a good effort, and let things finish as they may, they instead picked up their own game and finished strong. Three and a half minutes after surrendering the game-tying goal, Nicole Kimtis was set up beautifully by Matt Jarvis and Noah Newton, and she did not miss. Game-winning goal, Kimtis! With 150 seconds left to play, Kearsarge banded together, in some cases literally erecting a human wall of defense in front of Henault. Marissa Pickman and Kirsten Westeberg skated their shifts right to the finish, dumping pucks in deep and disrupting everything they could defensively. The final score showed 4-3 in favor of the visitors from Kearsarge. What a difference a day makes, and it probably didn’t hurt to be one more day removed from the turkey feasts enjoyed by all just 72 hours earlier.
As I hurried to wait for my son to emerge from the locker room, I heard more than one victorious yell of satisfaction escape from the visiting locker room. I smiled and thought back to the days of being on the those teams with my friends, all of us with bigger things in life to attain, but for that afternoon, it was us against the world, and the kid beside me mattered as much as the kid in my uniform. Then the moment vanished as quickly as it had come when my 3-year-old son bolted out the front door of the arena with a birch stick in his hand, headed for lands unknown. I actually had to run. Til next time.