From Sullivan Arena on the campus of St. Anselm College –
In recent years, it seems that whenever Goffstown is scheduled to play Lebanon-Stevens in hockey, either the game is snowed out, or the game is played closely contested, with a pinch of physicality. This afternoon when Lebanon-Stevens (0-1) came into the Grizzlies Den to play Goffstown (1-0), things played out like they usually do. At least the weather was nice though.
Before I get to the game action, I am going to share a few thoughts that were rambling through my mind, before, during, and since the game. First, Lebanon-Stevens came into Sullivan Arena with a returning player in Nate Chickering who is considered by most, to be one of the better offensive players in Division II this season. Also, Ian Garland is back after scoring a robust 21 goals last season. By the time the game was done, both players had certainly left their mark on the game after being shutout in their opening game. Then, I was wondering how Goffstown’s squad would come back from a nice, but not beautiful, opening night victory against Portsmouth-Newmarket, despite being caught out of position defensively several times.
This thought too was reinforced in this afternoon’s game as Grizzlie defensemen were repeatedly caught up ice, allowing for odd man rushes against goaltender Madeline Sage and the rest. Even so, the Grizzlies have been finding ways to score, to the tune of 9 goals on 45 shots in two games. It’s tough to win if you can’t score. Lastly, of the thoughts I’ll share here and now, I wondered how quickly the tide in this game turned, exactly, and why. Well, let’s put it this way; Goffstown scored 3 goals in 5:20 to start the game, on their first 7 shots on goal. Instead of changing goaltenders, Lebanon-Stevens simply denied the Grizzlies many more chances to get a shot on goal. Over the final 39:40 of this game, Goffstown only mustered 12 more shots on goal, and one of those was at an empty net in the final minute of the game. But hey, it’s early in the season and players, plans, and chemistry will come together. On to the action we go.
For the second game in a row, the Grizzlies jumped out to an early lead when Max Lajeunesse scored on a nifty backhand shot after being set up by Colby Gamache. The goal came just 1:29 into the contest, on their second shot on goal. Then it was Brett Branscum’s turn to score when he put a rebound of Colin Burke’s shot that rang off of the post, into the open net. Lajeunesse made a nice pass to Burke who stepped in from his defensive position and ripped a shot that bounced straight off of the post. Branscum made no mistake and buried his first goal of the year at 4:36 of the 1st period. Just 44 seconds later, freshman Grady Chretien walked in, picked his spot, and blew a wrist shot over the shoulder of Andrew Friend in net for Lebanon-Stevens. The Grizzlies led 3–0, and the rout was on. Not so fast. Goffstown led 3-0 on the scoreboard, and 7-1 in shots, but that all started to change, and quickly. For the rest of the period, Goffstown and Lebanon-Stevens each collected just 4 shots apiece, the game started to get a little more physical, and the space in which to operate for the Grizzlies shrunk.
Moving to the second period, I thought out loud, “I hope Goffstown doesn’t pick up where they left off”. Because by the end of the first period, Grizzlie legs were not moving like they were, and risky offensive forays were being exploited by the opponent. Well, my thought became reality as Goffstown was penalized when Sebastian Beal was out of position in trying to make a hit on a Lebanon-Stevens player and was whistled for interference. The visitors made quick work of the opportunity, and scored just 17 seconds later on the power play. Ethan Daly was given credit for the Lebanon-Stevens goal, with assists to Jack Sandmann and Aiden Yates. Either way, the play was like a jailbreak where the visiting Raiders flooded the offensive zone and swarmed the net eager to get back into the game. Some five minutes later, it was déjà vu all over again. This time Brett Lassonde had been called for a tripping penalty, and again, Lebanon-Stevens closed the gap, scoring another power play goal. This time, Ian Garland scored the goal after being set up by Nate Chickering and Jon Cloud. Just like that, the score was 3-2 in favor of Goffstown, and the game was on. Goffstown was outshot and outplayed in the period by the visiting Raiders, but the Grizzlies managed to score a huge goal before the period ended. Sebastian Beal slammed his second goal of the season home at 13:31 of the period. Evan McCuaig and Noah Charron made nice passes to send Beal in on net all alone. After two periods, the Grizzlies led 4-2, but this game had become a full-on battle.
At 4:10 of the final period, Nate Chickering scored a goal for Lebanon-Stevens that should probably have never even resulted in a shot on goal in the first place. The Grizzlies were unable to clear the puck out of the zone, and despite knocking Chickering off of his feet, not a single Grizzlie defender could get the puck out of the slot area. Chickering simply out-willed his opponents, returned to his skates, gathered the loose puck, and beat Madeline Sage with a shot as if the Red Sea had parted specifically for him to get the shot away. Bang! 4-3 Grizzlies with under 11 minutes to play. Goffstown senior, and two-time team leading scorer, Noah Charron came to the rescue for the Grizzlies at 7:32 of the 3rd period when he scored a goal that was set up by Brett Lassonde. Then again, seemingly inviting drama til the end, Goffstown’s exuberance was short lived. It took only 25 seconds for Nate Chickering to answer again, cutting the lead to 5-4 after a nice feed from Aaron Damren. The next six minutes had folks on the edge of their seats. Lebanon-Stevens came within an inch or two of tying the game at 9:26 when Ian Garland pounced on a loose puck some twenty-five feet in front of Madeline Sage. Goffstown defenders had carelessly left the puck in the slot like milk and cookies for Santa, when Garland leaned into a tremendous wrist shot that practically dented the crossbar before harmlessly resting in the protective netting above the end boards. At 13:25 Lebanon-Stevens called their timeout and returned to the ice with six skaters and no goalie. At first, it looked like the strategy may pay off as the Raiders possessed the puck in the offensive zone, and benefited from the Grizzlies icing the puck while shooting wildly at the empty net from their own end. Then, after a nice play by Max Lajeunesse to finesse a pass to Noah Charron coming out of the defensive end, Charron gained the red line to take icing out of the play, and buried a difficult shot through traffic into the empty net at 14:16. The Grizzlies held on to win 6-4. Madeline Sage made 14 saves in the win, and she played well even when coverage broke down around her.
As the Grizzlies get set to play their first road game of the season on Monday evening out at the Whittemore Center, I am left scratching my head as to what to expect. Competition will get better, and this loose style of handling the puck without purpose or precision will add up and haunt the stingiest of defenses. Defensive players skating unencumbered into spaces where forwards generally rule the domain, will lead to more pucks in the back of the net for sure, but in whose net? Then again, power has shifted. Dover is 3-0 including a Division I win, and a victory over defending champs, Bow already. Windham is 2-0 and they haven’t allowed a goal yet while scoring 13 goals themselves. St. Thomas is 2-0 and looks to be as good as we thought they might be. Goffstown is 2-0 and really doesn’t show up on anyone’s radar, and I mean anyone’s. Oyster River is next, on the Olympic sized sheet, and recent history has shown that this combo doesn’t bode well for the Grizzlies. But, that’s why they play the games.
Lebanon-Stevens (0-2) @ Goffstown (2-0)
Sullivan Arena, St. A’s, Goffstown, NH
December 16, 2017. 1:00PM Start:
Leb-Stevens: 0-2-2 = 4
Goffstown: 3-1-2 = 6
Leb-Stevens: 5-7-6 = 18
Goffstown: 11-4-4 = 19
1st Goffstown at 1:29. Even. Max Lajeunesse (1) from Colby Gamache (1).
1st Goffstown 4:36. Even. Brett Branscum (1) from Colin Burke (3) and Max Lajeunesse (1).
1st Goffstown 5:20. Even. Grady Chretien (1) unassisted.
2nd Leb-Stevens at 3:31. PPG. Ethan Daly (1) from Jack Sandmann (1) and Aiden Yates (1).
2nd Leb-Stevens at 8:55. PPG. Ian Garland (1) from Nate Chickering (1) and Jon Cloud (1).
2nd Goffstown at 13:31. Even. Sebastian Beal (2) from Evan McCuaig (1) and Noah Charron (1).
3rd Leb-Stevens at 4:10. Even. Nate Chickering (1) unassisted.
3rd Goffstown at 7:32. Even. Noah Charron (3) from Brett Lassonde (1).
3rd Leb-Stevens at 7:57. Even. Nate Chickering (2) from Aaron Damren (1).
3rd Goffstown at 14:16. Empty. Noah Charron (4) from Max Lajeunesse (2).
Leb-Stevens Power Play: 2 for 2.
Goffstown Power Play: 0 for 0.
Leb-Stevens: Andrew Friend 13 of 18.
Goffstown: Madeline Sage 14 of 18.
For more photo coverage of the Goffstown vs. Lebanon-Stevens game, check out this link put together by Karen Charron.
Here’s an article from the Manchester Union Leader I thought you’d want to read: Today’s paper