Sometimes it’s difficult to remember that these high school hockey players are teenagers and that not every night is their best night. It’s also hard to forget previous teams, results, trends, and simple to get caught up in the numbers of all things tracked. Last season the Saints from St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Dover, NH ended the Grizzlies hockey season with a 4-3 win in the NHIAA Tournament Quarter Final round.
This season, each team entered play with an 8-1 record in league play. It would be safe to say that St. Thomas held the pre-game edge or the power ranking over Goffstown just because they already had wins over Keene and Dover this season, and they had a week to prepare for the Grizzlies. Apparently, nobody told the Goffstown Grizzlies who marched to a 6-3 win against the Saints, in front of the largest student body crowd (by far) this season.
So, where do we go from here? Last time the Saints and Grizzlies met, the loser went home. St. Thomas went on to lose 4-1 to, then undefeated, Keene, in a game that was closer than the score. This season, both Goffstown and St. Thomas have plenty of hockey to play before the tournament begins in 5 weeks. St. Thomas has a whole bunch of landmines laying in wait on their remaining schedule, Windham again, Dover again, Portsmouth-Newmarket twice, Oyster River, and Lebanon-Stevens. The Grizzlies still have to play at Kingswood, Keene, and Windham, as well as play Oyster River again, the team that gave Goffstown its own blemish thus far.
After the first period tonight, the shots were even at 11 apiece, and Goffstown led 2-1 on the scoreboard. On paper, or Twitter, as it were, this looks pretty even. Looking closer, if you were there to see it, Goffstown was leading the play. They were cycling the puck and possessing the puck for longer periods of time. Anyways, St. Thomas got off to a quick start just 1:39 into the game when Will MacLean fired a shot from deep, out by the blue line, past a screened Madeline Sage, just inside the post.
The lone assist went to Matt MacLean on the Saints goal. A few minutes later Goffstown responded with one of the prettiest goals you might see all season. The CBC line struck when Griffin Cook worked the puck to Sebastian Beal behind the net (Gretzky’s office). Beal carried the puck along the boards, behind Aidan McLoughlin in-goal for St. Thomas, from the goaltender’s right to left, as everyone moved in the same direction as Beal with puck, Beal fired a pass back in the direction from whence he came. Standing all alone with the puck on his stick, and a yawning expanse of net, was Griffin Cook who followed the play from the corner. Cook netted the goal from Beal and Colin Burke, and the game was tied 1-1. At 8:53 of the period, while on the power play, the Grizzlies took a 2-1 lead. Max Lajeunesse scored the PP goal on a nice passing play from Sebastian Beal and Noah Charron. Goffstown took back to back penalties late in the opening period when Michael Fortin and Colin Burke were called for minor penalties. St. Thomas even had 38 seconds of 5-on-3 advantage during the period. Goffstown would dive, lunge, and skate their way to killing off both penalties, with a lot of help from Madeline Sage in net for the Grizzlies.
In the second period the Grizzlies took a look at the adjustments the Saints made, and then largely imposed their will. Goffstown got a pair of goals from their second line, the MGM line, and outshot the Saints 10-5 in the period. The Grizzlies scored just 32 seconds into the period when Michael Fortin slammed a goal home on a play set up from Colby Gamache on the offensive zone faceoff. Much later in the period, it was Gamache who roofed a beauty of a shot just under the crossbar off of a faceoff win from Fortin that gave Goffstown a 4-1 lead at 9:30. It was at this point in the game when Head Coach Wayne Sheehan decided to make a change in net and insert Chris Eno between the pipes for the Grizzlies. Eno would go on to make 8 saves on 9 shots overall. However, at 10:55 of the middle period, Griffin Cook sent a nice angled pass off of the boards and up the left-wing to Noah Charron who burst into the offensive end with Sebastian Beal in the middle on a 2-on-1 break. Charron drew the defender to him, slipped a pass to Beal, and the lanky winger found himself completely alone with the puck in front of Eno. Beal deposited the shot into the twine, and Goffstown had a 5-1 lead.
Another pair of late penalties to the Grizzlies seemed to end any offensive momentum they may have been feeding on. After two periods, Goffstown led St. Thomas 5-1.
In the third period the hometown Grizzlies looked gassed, or looked like they thought the game was already over. St. Thomas came out and pressed a little bit more, kept skating, and tried to utilize their best asset, speed/skating. All together it added up to a pair of Saints goals just 57 seconds apart. At 3:40 of the third period, Patrick Vetter scored from Matt MacLean to cut into the deficit. Then it was Brendan Tursolo scoring from Ben Coate and Jake McGuire, after Goffstown could not get the puck out of the zone, at 4:37 of the period. Now the score was 5-3 and Goffstown seemed to get the message that this game was far from over. Several minutes later the Grizzlies finally got a shot on goal, and a few pucks deep. The Saints were called for a penalty at 9:08 for interfering with a Grizzlies forward on the half-wall while the puck was in the corner. The penalty also seemed to help the tiring legs of the Goffstown team.
After calling a timeout at 13:02 of the period, St. Thomas was poised to attack, and to pull Chris Eno from the net to get the extra attacker on the ice. At 13:38 the Saints pulled Eno. At 14:07 Max Lajeunesse buried a shot from his own blue line, dead center into the open net after a scrum for the puck. The goal was unassisted, but the Grizzlies now led 6-3 with less than a minute left to play. Goffstown would hold on to win, 6-3, despite the Saints holding a 9-5 advantage in shots over the final fifteen minutes. The Grizzlies used an ample amount of offense, layers of defense, and clogged up shooting lanes that the Saints were trying to open. With many St. Thomas shots errant because of team defense, Madeline Sage was able to play her angles and made 22 saves to backstop the 9-1 Grizzlies to the win.
Goffstown goes up to Wolfeboro to play at Pop Whalen Arena against Kingswood on Saturday night for a 7pm tilt. Kingswood has played pretty well on home ice this season. St. Thomas has another week off before playing at Oyster River on Feb. 1st.
Goffstown (9-1) vs. St. Thomas (8-2)
Sullivan Arena, St. Anselm College, Goffstown, NH
January 24, 2018. 7:15PM Start:
St. Thomas: 1-0-2 = 3
St. Thomas: 11-5-9 = 25
St. Thomas Power Play: 0 for 4.
Goffstown: Madeline Sage 22 of 25.St. Thomas: Aidan McLoughlin 12 of 16. (played 24:30)
Around NHIAA Hockey tonight:
Concord 8-1 win over Manchester Memorial.
Londonderry 7-4 win over Nashua North-Souhegan.
Nashua South Pelham 10-3 win over Manchester Central.
Pinkerton stays undefeated with a 4-1 win at Salem.
Windham (8-2) won at Bow, 8-0.
Keene (7-1-1) beat Kingswood 6-0.
Dover (7-3-1) won at Timberlane, 3-0.