From the Whittemore Center on the campus of UNH –
I find that as I am getting older that I may be getting a little more critical in some areas. Even though my playing days are well behind me, it turns out that I still have this deep sense of competitiveness that bubbles up inside me. My mind is still in tune (as far as I know) with preparation, process, and the effort it takes in tirelessly crafting the skills of anything I ever wanted to compete in. With that mindset and background I watch the Goffstown Grizzlies play every shift, of every game, and work very diligently to be observant while accurately sharing the game as I see it. My mom always told me that if I didn’t have something nice to say, that I should say nothing at all. So, instead of being too brief, I am looking for the silver linings to the dark clouds that always seem to hover over the Whittemore Center every time the Grizzlies visit the Bobcats of Oyster River.
The analytical, critical side of my coaching background says that the Grizzlies effort tonight was much closer to careless than it was careful. The intense, perfectionist side of the former athlete thinking in me wonders where the focus on details (fundamentals) and team concept is with this group. The observant, fair, open-minded perspective would say that Oyster River thoroughly outplayed their opponent for most of the night, if for no other reason than by executing the fundamentals of hockey better than the visiting team, and then, repeating that again and again.
Goffstown did have scoring opportunities, without question, and they actually led in this game 2-1 despite being outshot 14-7 at the time. When the CBC line of Charron-Beal-Cook were together in the offensive zone, leading the play from the front, there were shots to be had for sure. Same thing with the Lajeunesse-Gamache-Branscum line, they controlled the puck well once they were able to establish possession in the offensive zone.
The Grizzlies were whistled for 5 penalties in this game (one never posted as the Bobcats scored on the delayed call) and whether anyone agrees with a single call or not, the Bobcats simply got the job done on the power play. Oyster River was 2-4 on the power play advantages. The two power plays that they scored on only used a total of 1:39 out of the 4:00 advantage they were awarded. And in those 99 seconds they pounded the puck towards Madeline Sage with 9 shots on goal leading to the pair of goals. It was like a free-for-all in front of the freshman goaltender. Make no mistake, Ms. Sage played very well in net for the Grizzlies, but when a team is allowed to take a shot roughly every 11 seconds, with a man advantage, goals end up being scored. Sage ended up making 21 saves on 24 shots overall, and made 12 of 13 stops when the teams were at even strength. Nick Milano played well in net for the Bobcats as well, making 18 saves on 20 shots faced. Milano was also the benefactor of more blocked shots than I can count. In typical fashion, Oyster River defends their end pretty well. Layers of defenders getting in shooting lanes, blocking shots, and cluttering the middle of the ice. This team defense, especially in their home building, is quite effective in keeping opponents to the outside with little space to move the puck across the crease/slot area.
When Noah Charron was able to play on the offensive side of the puck, as in quarterbacking the rush, he showed that he can create lots of space and scoring chances for the Grizzlies. Max Lajeunesse and Colby Gamache continued to improve together on the same line, add in Brett Branscum, and this line cycled the puck well while piling up puck possession time in the offensive end.
Theo Milanes, Grady Chretien, Sebastian Beal, and Griffin Cook also had some great chances to score but Milano and the Bobcat team defense were up to the task. Evan McCuaig played well on the defensive end, and showed quite a few people, this kid can skate. Goffstown is counting quite heavily on younger players this year to really give them an advantage in depth and skating ability. Will these younger players, who are good players and well coached, be able to step up and give consistent contributions night in and night out.
Oyster River made most of their breakouts with relative ease by using proper spacing with pinpoint passing, converting on Grizzlie turnovers, or trapping Goffstown defensemen way up the ice in order to create odd-man rushes and offensive advantages all over the ice. Goffstown struggled mightily in this area tonight. Many breakouts never happened at all as passes were well off-target, or remarkably were unable to get by the first player forechecking for the Bobcats.
At times it appeared that Goffstown defensemen were actually trying to hit the Oyster River forwards applying the pressure with the puck. From my vantage point it did appear that there was ample time and space to make plays out of the defensive end, but the desired result was not often realized. When they did break out, Goffstown had all kinds of offensive chances. The Grizzlies did manage to get a pair of goals in the second period from seniors, Noah Charron and Max Lajeunesse (power play). Colby Gamache, Griffin Cook, and Colin Burke were credited with assists.
In other NHIAA action, not too far away, St. Thomas routed Spaulding 10-2 to run their record to 3-0 on the season which matches Windham and Dover who are also 3-0 already. The Grizzlies dropped to 2-1, and Oyster River improved to 1-0 in their first game of the season.
The Grizzlies practice Tuesday night before playing on Wednesday night in Salem (ICENTER) against the Owls of Timberlane (0-1).
Goffstown (2-1) @ Oyster River (1-0)
Whittemore Center, UNH, Durham, NH
December 18, 2017. 6:10PM Start:
Goffstown: 0-2-0 = 2
Oyster River: 1-2-1 = 4
Oyster River: 10-13-2 = 25
1st Oyster River at 13:29. PPG. Zach Leichtman (1) from Max Carpenter (1) and Liam Spurling (1).
2nd Oyster River at 9:58. PPG. Shane O’Connell (1) from Max Carpenter (2).
2nd Oyster River at 14:07. Even. John Kell (1) unassisted.
Oyster River Power Play: 2 for 4.
Goffstown: Madeline Sage 21 of 24.
Oyster River: Nick Milano 18 of 20.