Whittemore Center, UNH, Durham, NH.
Saturday, February 4, 2017.
Goffstown at Oyster River, 745pm.
Mauling and grabbing are not technically penalties in hockey. Holding, slashing, hooking, those are penalties. I point this out because whether you were at UNH Saturday night, or not, there were a lot of these things on full display. It didn’t seem to draw much attention to certain folks at the game, but judging by reactions I heard all around the cavernous confines, somebody noticed.
Let’s take this from the top. First period, just 48 seconds into the contest, Goffstown captain, Nick Nault created a breakaway opportunity after gathering a loose puck at center ice. The thing about this play was that Nault was held, hooked, and practically hauled down while trying to get to the net with the puck. Or maybe nobody else saw that.
Unfortunately for Goffstown, on Nault’s next shift, he tried to make a play up ice at the offensive blue line, but got caught up ice without the puck. This left Jake Noonan back on defense by himself, to defend Devin Kaya and Ethan Keslar on a 2-on-1 break. Kaya made a pass to Keslar on his right, as Noonan approached. Keslar had a clean breakaway with nobody near him, from the blue line in. Keslar made numerous dekes on Kyle LaSella in net, but Kyle was patient. With nobody back to provide any urgency for Keslar, he waited out LaSella and roofed a shot after the goaltender was down. Keslar’s goal came at 2:45 of the game, with Kaya getting the lone assist.
While Goffstown attempted to establish some offensive presence and retain puck possession, another invisible thing happened. First, Noah Charron and Sebastian Beal set up Griffin Cook right in front of Liam McNamara in the Oyster River net. Before Cook could get a shot off, he was cross checked in the back of the head, and dropped to the ice. The puck ended up on Matt Bishop’s stick who went down and scored to give the Bobcats a 2-0 lead over the visiting Grizzlies. It was Oyster River’s 3rd shot on goal. The goal was unassisted, at 7:05.
The period would end with Oyster River holding a 2-0 lead, despite being outshot 7-6.
The second period would be more of the same. Choppy. Ugly. Individual. Like watching someone trying to get out of quicksand, and they didn’t even notice the hard ground within arms length. Not to forget the idea of cause and effect, Goffstown had a well-drilled defensive opponent who was executing on their game plan at a nearly flawless level. No harm, no foul. This was exactly what Oyster River was hoping for, and they certainly did their part to keep the Grizzlies at arm’s length.
Many folks were wondering just how the Grizzlies would respond in the second period. As a sign of how the evening was unfolding, Sebastian Beal neatly stepped between a pair of unsuspecting Bobcats and stole the puck at center ice. Despite being held and hooked en route to the net, Beal ripped a shot that beat Liam McNamara cleanly, only to have one of McNamara’s best friends knock the puck away, as Beal’s shot rang off of the crossbar and stayed out of the net.
Then, at 6:19 of the second period, the officials called both, Noah Charron and Sam Dreher, for 5-minute major penalties for slashing. On the play, it looked like Charron was more the offender than was Dreher, but that wasn’t the whole of it. Seconds earlier, at the other end of the ice, Charron had been slashed and whacked in the head with a high stick, both of which were obvious, and perhaps invisible. Charron was still shaking his head minutes later. After these matching penalties were called, two things happened. One, the stick work, slashing, hooking, holding, definitely became less a part of the game. Two, with the reduction in the pre-2006 style of hockey that gripped North American hockey for about a decade and looked more like Greco-Roman wrestling, the Grizzlies dominated offensive chances, out shooting Oyster River 22-4 the rest of the way.
As the second period wore on, the Grizzlies looked to be playing better. After getting several chances while on the power play, Sebastian Beal’s luck showed up again. With just 5 seconds left on the man-advantage, Noah Charron made a beautiful move, and pass, to Beal in the slot. Beal got a quick shot off that again, got past McNamara, through the five hole. As the puck slid to the goal line an Oyster River defenseman cleared the puck to save the goal.
Then, as if the night couldn’t drag on any slower, or approach anything resembling continuity, an unfortunate thing happened. One of the officials, Kate Keller, was struck by an inadvertent Grizzlies stick up high, behind the play. As play moved to the far end of the ice, the other official noticed his partner was hurt. Play was blown dead at 13:04. After a delay, with Keller seeking medical attention in the runway behind the home bench, she was unable to return to the ice right away. With 1:56 to play in the period, the officials decided to clear the benches, cut the ice, take intermission, and add the 1:56 to the third period.
A few minutes into the final period, Kate Keller returned to the ice and received an ovation from all in attendance. Before she returned, the Grizzlies had killed a penalty, Oyster River’s Anson Thibault rang a long, hard shot off of the post to the left of Kyle LaSella, and the Grizzlies were returning to a recent trend.
The trend I mentioned refers to the number of shots the Grizzlies were getting, but how few passes were being made. Another part of it has been the shots are often one, and done. Meaning the shot is taken, the shot is saved, and even if there’s a rebound there’s no additional shot or sustained pressure. Liam McNamara is far too good a goaltender to be beat enough times to lose a 2-goal lead, if he sees every shot and rarely has to move side to side. The Grizzlies pounded the Bobcat net to the tune of 15-3 in the final period, with only one of those shots coming in the extra 1:56 added to the beginning of the period. However, most of the shots were from the point, in a straight line that bisected the angle McNamara had taken away. The Bobcats kept most everything to the outside, and pounced on players and rebounds when anything caromed off of their goaltender. They were perfectly content to win 2-0.
Nick Nault, Dylan Hyers, Colin Burke, and Brett Lassonde all had shots from the outside. Tyler Riendeau, Max Lajeunesse, Sebastian Beal, and Griffin Cook all had near misses. Tyler, Max, Griffin, and Mickey Bridgeman were nagging pests in the offensive zone, creating some chances, but everything up close was one near miss after another. The Grizzlies also got good shifts leading to chances from Maggie Fifield, Colby Gamache, Theo Milanes, and Brett Branscum. The Grizzlies ended up with a 31-12 advantage in shots on goal, but were never really close to tying or winning this game.
All night, the Bobcats sent one forechecker to pressure the puck, and the other four skaters played off of the first pass on the breakout. The Grizzlies tried pass after pass, unsuccessfully, as the center and off-side winger were outnumbered in the neutral zone. Tonight, a winger or defenseman for Goffstown was needed to carry the puck in order to create lanes and better angles. Despite the number of turnovers, and the number of unsuccessful breakouts, the Grizzlies kept coming on. Goffstown had pulled Kyle LaSella after calling their timeout with 2:25 to play. For the last 145 seconds, Goffstown did everything but score. Then again, not all acts of desperation are rewarded in success. Sometimes, it’s just one reminder after another, of how it was that we ended up in the predicament that we are in.
Saturday night’s loss drops Goffstown to 5th place in the standings, at 8-4. Keene, Bow, Windham, and red-hot Dover (started their 7-game win streak with an OT winner against Goffstown) hold the first 4 spots. The Grizzlies have a couple of days to get ready for the mighty Keene BlackBirds. Keene is 12-0, outscoring opponents, 80-8 thus far. Puck drop is at 7:30pm on the campus of St. Anselm at Sullivan Arena.
Goffstown (8-4) v. Oyster River (5-5)
2nd No scoring.
The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the individual contributors, mostly mine, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the schools, coaches, players, or characters listed in any of these blog posts. Or, maybe they do, but you would have to ask them directly. Either way, “It’s a great day for hockey” ~ the late “Badger” Bob Johnson.