Perhaps there are times in sports, even in everyday life, when we make mistakes but never really pay for them. Or at least we pay no more than the cost of listening to the taunting of our conscience and its innermost voice. Then, of course, there are times when our mistakes lead to immediate consequence and even seem to be plastered on a larger than life wide-screen for everyone to see.
And that leads me to tonight’s hockey game out at Pop Whalen Arena against the Kingswood Knights. The Goffstown Grizzlies took their 9-1 record on the road to face the 2-5-1 Knights. Kingswood just got blown out, 6-0 in their last game, by Keene. That didn’t seem to matter to Kingswood, they seemed to fully understand that they were playing the #1 team in the standings. Then they proceeded to play like they needed to, to win.
Make no mistake, Kingswood played fast. They played hard. They won battles. They kept coming, there was no quit. In a classic example of a closer look at why things turn out the way they do, especially in hockey, there was a Knight player quickly closing the gap in the spaces that lead to the one on one battles throughout the game. I can’t say they executed better than the Grizzlies because Goffstown certainly won the puck possession contest and even hammered 38 shots on goal, not including at least 4 more that clanged off of one post or the other. It was in those spaces that needed filling where Kingswood wanted it more and took the game while Goffstown was left to watch.
I heard folks representing both teams murmuring about goaltending tonight. Goaltending is obviously huge in hockey and very visible. I’ll try to explain how I saw it as follows. If you take pictures with a camera that has a removable lens you know that the further you extend the lens away from the camera, the closer objects appear. They are magnified. Conversely, as you retract the lens the view widens and perhaps some details become less obvious.
Thus is the plight of a goalie on a night like tonight. For the Grizzlies, as the lens extended it magnified opportunities that were missed in all three zones, until they were fully focused on the backstop.
Kyle LaSella started in goal for the Grizzlies, and even though I am sure he would say it wasn’t his best game, he was the focal point at the end of Goffstown short comings up and down the ice. At the other end of the spectrum, Robbie Fuller made 34 saves for Kingswood and the lens retracted enough to not be so focused on the amount of time that Kingswood spent in their own end, or how difficult a time they had breaking out of their zone, or even that Goffstown was able to storm the offensive zone virtually all night. In fact, Fuller maybe made his best save of the night at 12:31 of the final period, against Goffstown’s third line, when he went post to post, right to left, to rob a Grizzlie bid. That sentence alone speaks volumes if you follow high school hockey. So, yes goaltending was huge, but no more so than the things that were happening up and down the ice. Honestly, there were numerous times when the Knights had all five skaters rallying to the defensive end, below the face off dots to defend their end and support their goaltender.
Pop Whalen Arena, as you may or may not know, is a very cold rink (built early 90’s) tucked into a little bowl of land that has a swamp out front and backs up to Abenaki Ski Area which is the oldest small ski area in the United States. The entire property is surrounded by bodies of water and the hills of central eastern New Hampshire. So even on a milder than normal evening in late January a frozen swamp, lit ski hill, and icy cold rink contributed to the wintery setting for a high school hockey clash in the Granite State.
The MGM line (Max-Gamache-Michael) has been getting stronger play over the last couple of weeks as chemistry has improved and noticeably Michael Fortin has shaken the rust off of his game after a year off from hockey. Shortly after a beautiful backcheck by Michael Fortin to break up a Kingswood bid, Goffstown got on the board first when Fortin scored from Max Lajeunesse and Brett Lassonde at 4:30 of the first period. Brett Lassonde made a nice little pass from the defensive end which gave Lajeunesse some room to operate before making a nifty move up the boards and laying a perfect pass out to a wide open Fortin skating his lane. But something seemed as if it wasn’t quite right all night. Maybe it was just me, but I had been saying for a couple of weeks that going into this barn, against this team, was not going to be easy.
Then as if the rink, and it’s exposed rafters came into play, a fluttering pop fly of a shot sailed off of the stick of fleet skating defenseman, Burke Ruel, all the way from his own blue line and over the shoulder of Kyle LaSella into the back of the Goffstown net. The goal came at 6:21 of the period and the score was tied 1-1. At 10:23 Kingswood struck again. Sean Harrington netted his first of two goals in the game, from Sam Danais, after Danais handled the puck through several poke check attempts before spinning and lacing a perfect pass to Harrington for the one-timer. Goffstown would answer, and even take the lead with the CBC line getting involved in the offense. Griffin Cook scored at 10:39 after Sebastian Beal hit Noah Charron with a pass allowing Charron to sprint to open ice and rifle a shot off of the near post. The three linemates converged, as if funneled toward the goalmouth, and Cook banged in the carom to bring the Grizzlies even on the scoreboard, at 2-2. It was some two and half minutes later when Charron, Beal, and Cook each took their turn with puck before Cook scored again, from Charron and Beal. The play started as a defensive zone faceoff. Charron won the faceoff to Beal, back to Charron, ahead to Cook, cross ice to Beal who gets off a heavy shot, rebound, Cook scores! Goffstown led 3-2 at the break, leading in shots 14-9, but nothing was settling about the effort, except the score.
Robbie Fuller and Sam Danais from Kingswood won the second period. Danais got an unassisted goal at 2:50 of the period which tied the game at 3-3. That’s how the period would end, but not before Goffstown squandered a pair of power play opportunities and a dominating 15-4 edge in shots on goal. Throughout the game Goffstown had three lines rolling, all of whom showed tremendous abilities to manage the puck and also to create scoring chances. The CBC line, the MGM line, and the line of Theo Milanes, Brett Branscum, and Grady Chretien, they all played well with the puck in the offensive zone.
In perhaps a false sense of security Goffstown jumped out to a 4-3 lead at 0:27 of the third period. Sebastian Beal and Noah Charron essentially willed themselves to a goal with Charron getting the score from Beal. First Noah Charron picked off a clearing attempt, and fed a pass to Beal in the slot. Beal’s shot missed wide right, but Charron who had continued to skate his lane, picked up the puck off of the end boards and circled the net and stuffed the puck in before Fuller could get to it. But the mishaps up and down the ice continued. Okay, maybe not all mistakes, but it was like watching as the bully took their school lunch money and the Grizzlies seemed to be unable to do anything about it. For the Goffstown faithful who all anticipated that the St. Thomas Saints were going to fly up and down the ice this past week, well that’s what the Knights did and the Saints didn’t. They flew up and down the ice, while Goffstown looked slow or tired, or mesmerized or I am not sure what. At 2:13 Kingswood tied it, Sam Danais from Burke Ruel after LaSella made a great first save. At 3:14 it was over. The Knights scored the game winner when Logan McEvoy was left wide open to skate full speed into a one-timer that he crushed into the top left corner, up under the crossbar where momma hides the good cookies. The Grizzlies wingers were both out wide and the middle of the ice was as open as the pregame skate. The play was set up by smooth skating Cole Emerson who handled the Goffstown reaching stick check attempts with ease to gain the blue line, and the ever present Sam Danais. Folks, Burke Ruel might not be the best defenseman against the boards but if he gets his shoulders turned up ice with the puck, you better hit him square or line someone up in front of your own net because you’re not going to catch him.
Oh, and there’s a term in hockey that some folks use, it’s simply “puck luck”. I am not big on luck, good or bad, especially in sports. If there is such a thing, I would say it’s largely a result of desire, effort, and will. I am sure every single Goffstown player would answer the question appropriately were they asked whether they wanted to win or not, but the Kinsgwood Knights, tonight, wouldn’t have stuck around long enough to answer the question because they were on the ice speaking in their actions. After the teams each called their timeouts, and Goffstown pulled Madeline Sage from the net (she relieved LaSella at 3:14 of the 3rd and played 10:32, saving 3 of 3 shots), the final horn sounded. The Knights stormed the ice, and mobbed Robbie Fuller in front of his net. I don’t know if this was the best game Kingswood played this season, but it was a fantastic win for them either way. Looking forward, perhaps this will go down as a fantastic loss for the Grizzlies, because now it’s up to them and how they respond. The competitor in me would not soon lose the image in my mind of the celebration at Pop Whalen tonight, because every competitive fire needs a little fuel now and then.
“…Life is a road, it’s a motorway. And the road gets rocky along the way. But if it gets too smooth it’s time to call it a day…” Maybe the road had been a little too smooth for the Grizzlies, but then we will see how it goes from here.
Goffstown plays their next game at Sullivan Arena, on the home ice at St. Anselm College against D-II defending champions, the Bow Falcons who gave Windham all they could handle tonight in Concord. The game is Wednesday night at 7:15pm.
Goffstown (9-2) vs. Kingswood (3-5-1)
Pop Whalen Arena, Wolfeboro, NH
January 27, 2018. 7:16PM Start:
Kingswood: 2-1-2 = 5
Kingswood: 9-4-7 = 20
1st Goffstown at 13:14. Even. Griffin Cook (9) from Sebastian Beal (13) and Noah Charron (12).
2nd Kingswood at 2:50. Even. Sam Danais unassisted.
3rd Goffstown at 0:27. Even. Noah Charron (16) from Sebastian Beal (14).
3rd Kingswood at 2:13. Even. Sean Harrington from Burke Ruel.
3rd Kingswood at 3:14. Even. Logan McEvoy from Cole Emerson and Sam Danais.
Goffstown Power Play: 0 for 2.
Kingswood Power Play: 0 for 2.
Goffstown: Kyle LaSella 12 of 17. (played 33:14)
Goffstown: Madeline Sage 3 of 3. (played 10:32)
Kingswood: Robbie Fuller 34 of 38.
Around NHIAA Hockey tonight:
- Concord grabbed a 7-1 win over Manchester Central.
- Bedford held on to beat Exeter 7-5.
- Hanover got their second straight shutout, blanking Trinity 5-0.
- Nashua South-Pelham earned their 3rd consecutive win, 3-2, over Manchester Memorial.
- Pinkerton remained undefeated, beating rival Londonderry 3-1.
- Salem earned points in their fourth game of the last five with a 3-1 win against Nashua North-Souhegan.
Friday night: Oyster River improved to 5-2 after a 5-4 win over Portsmouth-Newmarket with Liam Spurling getting the game winner with 6 seconds left in regulation.
- Windham (9-2) had all they could do to beat Bow, 4-2.
- Spaulding jumped all over Alvirne, 6-1.
- Dover (8-3-1) beat Merrimack, 7-1.
- Timberlane beat D-III Pembroke 4-1.
- Lebanon-Stevens won their 7th game in 8 tries, beating Winnacunnet 7-2.