Sullivan Arena, St. Anselm College, Goffstown, NH.
Saturday, March 4, 2017.
Goffstown v. St. Thomas, 4:00pm. Quarterfinal.
MacLean and Grella, and throw in Vetter, and there is the answer to what ailed the Grizzlies all afternoon. The St. Thomas Saints came marching into Sullivan Arena on the campus of St. Anselm College, and rather methodically ended the Grizzlies hockey season. The Saints had finished the regular season winning their final seven games against Division II opponents. After an opening period that saw only 11 total shots, St. Thomas opened up the offense for final two periods. Before this Quarterfinal tilt began, a pleasant young lady with long hair of red, held the crowd in the palm of her hand, waiting on every word she said. Ms. Nen Horan, of Sandown, NH, stepped onto the ice, grabbed the microphone, and sang a wonderful rendition of our National Anthem. Nicely done!
St. Thomas took a lot of shots in the first period, but Goffstown blocked most of them, or the shots just missed the mark. Most of the shots were from a long distance anyway, so it didn’t seem as though the Saints were mounting much offensive pressure. The tale being woven though had much more to do with the other end of the ice. Goffstown mustered only 5 shots on goal themselves, and if there was such a thing as in-game foreshadowing, it was the Grizzlies’ inability to break out of their own end cleanly, consistently. Goffstown did get some opportunities from their shots. Several of the shots were low, and rebounded out to the front of the net, off of Chris Eno’s pads. However, the Saints cleared most of those chances away before the Grizzlies could pounce on them. Goffstown did score the only goal of the period, when Max Lajeunesse scored a beautiful goal up over Eno’s shoulder, in net for St. Thomas. Seniors, Nick Nault and Tyler Riendeau made consecutive passes to assist on the Lajeunesse goal. With no penalties, few shots, and a single goal, the first period flew by, and maybe even created a false sense of where the Grizzlies matched up for this Quarterfinal matchup.
Before I get to the rest of the game, I will mention an observation from the post game. As I went down the tunnel under the seating area to find a St. Thomas coach, and approached the St. Thomas locker room area, I failed to notice something I had expected. There was no loud celebration or carrying on by the Saints. It wasn’t silent, but it was more business like, measured, and focused than I had expected. I found the coach and delivered the game sheet. After a brief, friendly, discussion I was on my way. But so was St. Thomas. That was it, they were on their way to their next game, their next opponent. That was also how they played, especially in the second and third periods. Despite leading 1-0 after the opening period, the Grizzlies definitely knew they had to raise their level to get out of this game with a win.
If they didn’t know that, they should have. Within 2:08, the game was tied. Within 5:00 the Saints had already launched 13 second period shots at Curtis McKay. Within 9:03, the Saints had lost the lead, and then tied the game again. That’s how it went though. No big celebrations, not too high, not too low. St. Thomas just rolled along. At 2:08 of the 2nd period, Paddy Vetter and JoJo Grella used their speed and passing ability to create a 2-on-1, and turn it into a goal.
Vetter got the goal, but Grella’s great speed started the play, and created the odd man rush. St. Thomas was pounding the net with shots from every conceivable angle, to make matters worse for the Grizzlies, they weren’t letting Goffstown clear rebounds, or the puck. Then Sebastian Beal was called for interference on the weak side of the net while St. Thomas had Goffstown hemmed into their own end. Goffstown, and netminder, Curtis McKay, somehow kept the Saints off of the board during the power play. Even more incredibly, Noah Charron, who should have a warrant out for his arrest, committed highway robbery while shorthanded. Saints, captain, Brock Crowley curled to the middle of the ice, at his own blue line, perhaps thinking that he had already cleared the threat of Charron’s forechecking stroll. That might have been the only mistake Crowley made all day. Charron, doing his best Pavel Datsyuk (look him up, he became a legend on plays like this one), picked the pocket of Crowley, and cut hard in the opposite direction. Charron walked in alone and buried an accurate shot behind Chris Eno in net. Crowley did not get on the score sheet for the Saints but he was immense.
It seemed that every time I noticed the Grizzlies didn’t get a puck cleared, or a puck was won along the boards by the Saints, or even a good body check kept a Goffstown play from maintaining its flow, Crowley was the reason why.
It seemed improbable at the moment, that Goffstown was leading 2-1.
The goal was unassisted at 8:34, and a brilliant reward to an outstanding effort. The Grizzlies were shorthanded, being dominated in time of possession, shots, and badly failing the eye test in the middle period. St. Thomas calmly responded 29 seconds later when JoJo Grella and Matt MacLean finished a play started by Keegan Youngclaus. Goffstown defense pair, Nick Nault and Brett Lassonde both responded to the puck, and players on the near side of the net, leaving MacLean standing all by himself to McKay’s left. Youngclaus found Grella down low in the left-wing corner. Grella, without hesitation, centered a pass to the wide open MacLean who fired and scored. At 9:03 the game was again, tied. The final five minutes or so, the Grizzlies picked their game up some, drawing penalties at 11:21 and again at 14:37 of the period. The period ended though, with the score tied at 2-2. The Saints had outshot the Grizzlies 23-6 in the period.
Feeling like Goffstown may have weathered the storm and managed to still be tied in the game, was a silver lining if one looked hard enough. Then, on the power play, Noah Charron scored again after a pair of nice passes from Dylan Hyers and Tyler Riendeau. The goal came at 1:26 of the third, and the Grizzlies were back on top, 3-2. As I said before, not too high, not too low. St. Thomas answered 1:53 later with a goal of their own. This play looked like the thousands (it seemed) of breakouts that the Saints ran flawlessly on Saturday afternoon. Paddy Vetter gets the puck at his own blue line, looks up immediately, makes a rink wide pass to the weak side, with Matt MacLean flying up the ice. Vetter and Youngclaus follow suit in a foot race to the offensive end. Two-on-ones and three-on-twos were moving like they were on sale or something. At 3:19 Youngclaus scored, from MacLean and Vetter. Game tied, again. At 8:50 of the 3rd, Curtis McKay made a huge save on Vetter. Goffstown lost an offensive zone faceoff 140 feet from their own net, then in seconds, MacLean and Vetter were up the ice for a clean shot on McKay.
It wasn’t too long before Vetter broke free again, and wired a slap shot at point-blank range, only to be denied again, by McKay.
Then, the final blow came. For roughly 45 seconds, which seemed like a full week, the Grizzlies were stuck in their own end. Nick Nault had lost his stick, and he never picked it up, nor did a forward hand a stick down to him on defense. He tried to play the body when he could, but St. Thomas is too quick for that. So with Brett Branscum, Mickey Bridgeman, Griffin Cook, Dylan Hyers, and Nault stuck on the ice, in their own end, after McKay kicked out another four shots, the straw finally broke the camel’s back. Paddy Vetter got the game-winner at 14:15 from Ben Coate and Matt MacLean. Goffstown pulled McKay with just about 30 seconds left, and did get a couple of quick looks at shots to tie the game, to no avail. Tyler Riendeau was called for tripping at 14:46, doing everything in his power to keep the Saints from clearing the puck toward an empty net.
The final horn sounded and just like that, the season was over. Goffstown had been held under 20 shots on net in an entire game, just once this season, at Bow, when they collected just 13. Today, they were outshot 38-16 by St. Thomas. Only Bow (36) and Keene (34) had registered more than 30 shots on net against the Grizzlies in a single game this season.
The Grizzlies ended their season with a 13-9 overall record, going 12-7 in regular season and postseason play. The Grizzlies advanced to the Quarterfinal round of the tournament for the second season in a row. Meanwhile, St. Thomas moves on to play Keene (beat Spaulding 4-0) at 7:30pm on Wednesday night out at The Rinks at Exeter. Bow beat Portsmouth-Newmarket 3-1, out shooting them 52-18. Windham beat Dover 4-1, and will play Bow at 5:30pm on Wednesday night out in Exeter.
#4 Goffstown (12-7) vs. #5 St. Thomas (12-7)
St. Thomas Power Play: 0 for 2.
Goffstown Power Play: 1 for 2.
The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the individual contributors, mostly mine, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the schools, coaches, players, or characters listed in any of these blog posts. Or, maybe they do, but you would have to ask them directly. Either way, “It’s a great day for hockey” ~ the late “Badger” Bob Johnson.