Sunday, January 24, 2016. 330pm @ Sullivan Arena, St. Anselm College, Goffstown, NH – Belmont-Gilford @ Goffstown.
Today reminded me of something from a quarter-century or so ago. I remember going to the old Boston Garden, the original barn, and buying obstructed view seats for $10 on matinée Saturday’s to watch the Bruins play. One of the things I remember most about those games was the fact that those matinée games seemed to always produce weird, high scoring games, or some other odd thing. There were at least a few games that turned out to be 6-5 or 7-6 when both teams just skated and offense ruled the day. Well, I had that same feeling walking into Sullivan Arena today. As it would play out, the Grizzlies would end up getting a 7-6 win before this wild affair was done.
This Goffstown Grizzlies team is young. There are three seniors and three juniors on the team, with the rest being first or second year varsity players. I point this out because sometimes younger teams aren’t quite as steady in the mental approach to the game. I don’t mean this as a bad thing, because I do believe the team is well coached and the players care very much for each other. It’s more about a consistency thing. My experience tells me that younger teams can be awesome or awful, and no notice is served as to which one will show up on any given day. I have seen this team fluctuate wildly in the energy they bring to games this season. Now, I will say that they almost respond to the lack of energetic starts by picking up their play as the game progresses. That said, let’s get to today’s action.
The Belmont-Gilford (B-G) team competes in NHIAA Division III hockey. They are defending State Champions and they are 7-1 this season against Div. III opponents. They boast, maybe the best line in their Division, with Caleb Drouin-Christian Karagianis-Dylan Treamer. That line showed they could play today as well, accounting for 5 goals and 3 assists in the affair against Goffstown.
The first period was more or less a track event that only one team really showed up for. Belmont-Gilford outskated Goffstown by a lot. They finished their checks. They drew two penalties just by winning battles to nearly every puck. They outshot the Grizzlies 15-4, and were it not for the long reach of Dylan Hyers and last-second stick checks from Mike Fortin and Brett Lassonde, they could have scored 5 or 6 goals in the opening period. As it was, they outscored the Grizzlies 2-1 in the period anyways. Caleb Drouin opened the scoring after B-G registered the first six shots of the contest. Despite being dominated by the Bulldogs, the Grizzlies did get on the board when Noah Charron redirected a slap shot taken by Colin Burke from the right point, tying the game at 1-1. B-G broke the tie quickly when Harrison Parent scored on a nice passing play from Ethan Becker and Hunter Dupuis. Remarkably the score would stay 2-1 for the final 7 minutes of the period even though the visitors had several point-blank looks at good shots. Goffstown goalie, Colin Holt would end up with not-so-good numbers on the day, saving 26 of 32 shots, but he came up HUGE several times throughout this game. If the Grizzlies didn’t personally thank Colin for the chance to be in this game, they should have. So, after one period, the Grizzlies only trailed 2-1 despite the skating, passing, and shooting clinic put on by Belmont-Gilford in the opening period.
Now, part of the first period dominance by B-G was a result of the Grizzlies not playing physical at all, and making it too easy for the Bulldogs to skate, move the puck, and set each other up for shots. There were numerous cross the slot, or cross the crease passes that were executed by B-G. That all started to change in the middle period. The Grizzlies moved their feet a whole lot better and the wake up call was answered. Goffstown would draw three penalties themselves and score on 4 of 12 shots they’d take. In my opinion, mostly having to do with the large change in the intensity of their skating. Passing and structure coming out of their own end continued to be a stumbling block for the Grizzlies but they kept skating and it paid off.
Goffstown tied the game right away when Noah Charron scored his second goal of the game on a set up from Ben Roy and Sebastian Beal. Nearly nine minutes later, Nick Nault gave the Grizzlies their first lead on a goal assisted by Dylan Hyers. The lead was short-lived as Caleb Drouin scored his second goal of the game, this time short-handed, assisted by Hunter Dupuis who would end up with 3 assists on the afternoon. Just 24 seconds later, on the power play, the Grizzlies would get the lead back when Noah Charron would feed Nick Nault who loaded up for a big shot that would redirect off of Dylan Hyers on its way into the net. Tyler Riendeau would get an unassisted goal to give the Grizzlies a 5-3 lead with 24.5 seconds remaining. Then, nine seconds later Riendeau would get called for a two-minute minor for hooking. The period would end with the Grizzlies in front, 5-3. Goffstown also owned a 12-7 advantage in shots on goal for the period.
The frantic pace of this game would take no break in the final period. 1:24 into the period, Sam Greenwood would give the Grizzlies a 3-goal lead despite being shorthanded. Max Lajeunesse would pick up the assist on Greenwood’s goal, his fourth of the season. B-G would cut the Grizzlies’ lead to 6-4 when they put together an absolutely beautiful power play goal. Alex Muthersbugh would send a pass from out high down low to Dylan Treamer in the right circle. Treamer without hesitation and without looking would make a perfect pass across the slot to Caleb Drouin on his off-wing side and in one Stamkos-esque motion would bury the puck in the net. It was Drouin’s third goal of the game and it also gave him a power-play goal to go with his shorthanded and even strength goals. It wasn’t too long before the Grizzlies struck again. Showing good possession time in the offensive zone, Sam Greenwood worked the puck back to the left point for a shot from Mike Fortin. Fortin made a nice move to get inside the winger defending him but lost the puck off the toe of his stick. As if it was planned, the puck went right into Tyler Riendeau’s wheelhouse and he made no mistake, giving the Grizzlies another 3-goal lead with 4:44 to play. Mr. Drouin would help set up the next goal for B-G when he and Alex Muthersbugh would make consecutive passes to wide open, undefended Christian Karagianis at the side of the net. Karagianis took the perfect feed and deposited it into the open side of the net, and the score read 7-5 Grizzlies. Dylan Hyers would get whistled for a cross-checking penalty with 2:36 left, when he stood up to defend himself against a pending hit as he was playing the puck along the boards. The Grizzlies would kill the penalty but a shift in the momentum which started after Riendeau’s goal continued to grow with B-G on the power play. I don’t know if it was the return to a 3-goal lead at 4:44 that led to the Grizzlies letting off of the gas some, or if it was the resiliency and fight in defending champs from Belmont-Gilford that allowed them to dominate play in the final minutes of the game. Killing the penalty was nice, but the Grizzlies were hemmed in for most of that two minutes. Then with 0:27.6 left Drouin struck for his 4th goal of the game on another beautiful pass by Dylan Treamer, with the other assist going to Hunter Dupuis. It was hold your breath time for the home crowd in Sullivan Arena because it was now 7-6 in favor of the Grizzlies, but the Bulldogs pulled back-up goaltender, Cody Hodgins, in favor of the extra attacker. Belmont-Gilford would not score again and the Grizzlies would earn the victory despite a questionable 5-minute boarding call against Dylan Hyers with a few seconds remaining. The Grizzlies would be outshot 10-6 in the final period, and 32-22 for the game. As it turned out, some strange things happen in these matinée games, and today was no exception. The Grizzlies and Bulldogs played a thoroughly entertaining game, even if you were cheering one-sidedly for one team or the other. The game featured 11 penalties, 13 goals, 54 shots that found goalies or backs of the net, a mouthguard warning, and referees running the clock down as well as adding additional time. It was a little bit wild and crazy for sure. B-G goaltenders, Bailey Defosie saved 7 of 11 shots, while Cody Hodgins would snag 8 of 11 shots he faced.
Belmont-Gilford is a good team, and Caleb Drouin showed that he is a fantastic talent. Goffstown started slowly but showed its’ own resiliency by generating 6 goals and 18 shots in a 24 minute span during the middle of the game. The Grizzlies improved to 5-4 on the season, while B-G dropped to 7-3 with two of their three losses coming against Division II opponents.
The Grizzlies return to home ice on January 30th at 4pm when they play host to the red-hot Bow Falcons (currently 8-1-1 on the season). Until then, enjoy the week between now and then.