Saturday, January 16, 2016. 5pm @ Keene Ice, Keene, NH – Goffstown @ Keene.
The Goffstown Grizzlies came to Keene after a week of practices, playing their first game since blowing out Timberlane last Saturday. As of late, Keene has been red-hot! They entered play with a 6-1 record, and had scored 40 goals in their last 5 games, all wins. Goffstown came in 4-1 in Division II, but is still trying to figure out where they fit as they have earned blow-out wins against Timberlane and Pembroke, but lost to Merrimack who hasn’t won since. Let the game begin.
Keene came out energized by the home crowd, their new barn, and the confidence that comes with six straight wins. It was apparent early that Keene has some size, some speed, and some skill. They played fast and aggressive right from the start. The Grizzlies were forced to play a little faster than they wanted to, or at least, faster than they were comfortable with. Despite the speed, the period would end scoreless, thanks mostly to Colin Holt in net for Goffstown. Keene ripped off 13 shots on goal while Goffstown managed just 4 shots on Myles Ditkoff at the other end. Goffstown had more chances than the four shots on goal, but chances were rushed and shots missed the net or were a second too late in being taken and didn’t materialize. With 2:10 to play in the period Keene’s Cody Bragg broke in nearly alone on a great chance to get the Blackbirds on the board but his shot went just wide of the net. Sam Greenwood was called for the only penalty of the period but Goffstown was able to kill the penalty on strong play from Nick Nault, Colin Burke, Sebastian Beal, and Noah Charron, among others.
In the second period the intensity grew a little bit more. It seemed that the Blackbirds and their home fans weren’t happy with no goals being scored yet, and the noise grew. Just 48 seconds into the period, Goffstown’s Nick Nault and Keene’s Hunter Gallant battled to matching penalties, called for cross-checking and high-sticking respectively. Then, 12 seconds later, after losing the defensive zone faceoff, the Grizzlies fell behind. Nate Darwin (who gave the Grizzlies trouble all night) scored on a rebound after a scramble in front of the net following Colin Holt’s initial save. Assists went to Tim Greenwood and Cody Bragg. The Grizzlies mounted some good chances throughout the period, including two power play chances, but couldn’t get on the board. Finally, on a nice rush up the ice by Nick Nault, the Grizzlies scored. Nault fed a pass to the front of the net from the left-wing boards, and the puck was deflected into the net with 1:34 to play in the period. Max Lajeunesse was credited with the goal, his third of the year, with the other assist going to Tyler Riendeau. After two periods, the score was tied 1-1. Keene led the shot margin 24-12 through two periods.
The third period featured even more intensity, more hitting, and more shots from Keene. There would be just three penalties called in the period, but there probably could have been a dozen or more. Early in the period it was obvious that Keene was out for the win on home ice. Keene tried to hit everything that moved, some were good hits, some were perfect visuals of how certain penalties should be called, like contact to the head, along the glass to Goffstown’s Sebastian Beal who only played another shift or two after showing symptoms of a concussion. Then there was the perfect example of how charging would be defined if you were teaching someone what to look for when a Keene player took five or six strides from the middle of the ice to try to bury Kainen Lassonde along the boards. But in this period, those things weren’t called. Later in the period which was dominated by Keene, after a hold, a hook, some interference, and maybe even some wrestling moves between players on both sides, the puck came out high to Keene’s Gaetano Delonge. Delonge delivered a perfect wrist shot just above Colin Holt’s left pad, and Keene led 2-1 with just 1:26 to play. The Grizzlies would pull Holt for the extra attacker with 1:11 to play after an icing call on Keene. The Grizzlies would make some good plays but either try to stickhandle once too many times, or pass up a shot to try for a better shot, and get nothing to the net. The only recorded shot for the Grizzlies in the period came from Dylan Hyers who ripped a wrist shot that hit Ditkoff’s blocker before he even moved, but the shot bounded away from harm for the Blackbirds. Final score would read 2-1 in favor of Keene. They outshot Goffstown 37-13 in the game. They are the better team. This was a good road experience for the Grizzlies to get under their belt, against one of the better teams in Division II. As I watched the way several of the Keene players screamed for some other reason than joy directly into the face masks of Grizzlie players after the final horn sounded, I thought of the upcoming Senior Night at the end of February when Keene visits Goffstown. Who knows what things will look like then.
The Grizzlies return to the ice for another road game on Monday (Martin Luther King Jr. Day) versus Oyster River, at the Whittemore Center on the campus of UNH. Game time is set for 4:30pm.