SNHU arena, Manchester, NH – 03/11/17
#2 Bow (17-2-1) vs. #1 Keene (18-0) – Division II Championship
Mettlesome and gritty are a pair of words that come to mind when I look to describe the Bow Falcons in their game this afternoon. See, Bow entered the tournament as the #2 seed, and they owned an awesome regular season record of 15-2-1. As these kind of things often work themselves out, the pair of losses for Bow came at the hands of this afternoon’s opponent, the Keene BlackBirds. Bow lost to Keene 3-0 just before Christmas, and then they lost again, 5-3 in mid-February. In today’s Division II State Championship game, the #1 BlackBirds (18-0) looked to remain undefeated, and cap their perfect season with their first ever hockey title. Though, as we have learned over the years, in sports, and in rivalries, it is very difficult to beat a good opponent three straight times, especially in the same season. Today was no different.
It certainly wasn’t the quickest start to a hockey game, but the pace of play did ramp up after a few minutes. Nearly four minutes into the game, Keene lost track of Bow’s Doug Champagne in the offensive end. Champagne worked himself and the puck to the front of the net and let a shot go that was aimed at Keene goalie, Myles Ditkoff’s stick side. Ditkoff didn’t over commit to either side, and made a nice save on Champagne’s shot. 90 seconds later, Keene’s Marcin Maleski made a nice little maneuver to get himself free for a close range shot, only to be denied by Nate Carrier in net for Bow. Bow had their skating legs going long before Keene did, and Champagne sprung free again, on a break away this time, but Ditkoff was on point again, making a big save. Later in the period it was Champagne who was whistled for the game’s first penalty on a tripping call. The Falcons killed the penalty, and 24 seconds later turned it into a goal. Bow’s Chris Mead created a beautiful play when he meandered through Keene defenders before getting the puck to Doug Champagne in the slot. Champagne made no mistake, and buried the shot, giving Bow a 1-0 lead at 11:44. Bow swarmed the net on the following shift, leading to a wild scene in front of Myles Ditkoff. First, Ditkoff made a huge save on Ryan Tobeler’s point-blank shot, but the effort left Ditkoff’s net exposed, as he fell, out of position. The save left a rebound that Tobeler also grabbed, and fired back at the net. The shot was true and headed toward the top half of the net until Keene defenseman Luke Plumley alertly got to the crease and made a body save, before clearing the puck with his hand, then skate. The period would end with Bow leading 1-0, and out shooting Keene 11-5.
The second period started, and I expected to see the high-flying BlackBirds elevate their game. But, it was Bow that beat them to it. Keene possessed the puck in the offensive end before Conner Murphy lost the puck at the right point. Bow’s Ryan Tobeler was right there applying pressure, and in the blink of an eye, he was gone up ice on a breakaway. Tobeler lit the lamp at 1:27 and the Falcons had a 2-0 lead on the undefeated Keene BlackBirds. Honestly, after the goal, Bow didn’t get many more chances to score for the rest of the period. Ryan Roof from Keene leveled a huge hit in front of the benches. The hit really could have been a charging penalty but wasn’t called. It almost seemed to be a sign of the pressure Keene was feeling, or at least the frustration of being down two goals to this pesky opponent. Play started to favor the BlackBirds. With some pressure in their offensive end, Keene forced Bow to mishandle the puck and the little black disk found its’ way onto the stick of Nate Darwin. Darwin, a premiere forward in the league, ripped a quick shot at the net, but Nate Carrier was equal to the task, making the save at 2:59. Then, at 5:31, Jason Langevin made a brilliant rush up ice and set up Griffin Kane with a beautiful pass. Kane was ready for the pass and blasted a shot on net, only to see Carrier make the save. Carrier came up huge again when he snagged another shot off of a Darwin blast at 8:17. Keene was mounting the offensive charge, but Carrier was stopping everything. To get a sense of the way things were going, Nate Carrier made a ridiculous save on Hunter Gallant while Cody Shield was literally sitting on Carrier’s shoulders as he was hunched forward and Shield had been pushed back towards the netminder. After all was said and done, the period ended with Bow holding on to their 2-0 lead. Keene had 8 shots to Bow’s 6 in the period.
Again, the next period started, and I was looking for that spark from Keene, like the one Jason Langevin had provided in the semifinal with his memorable rush up the right-wing. And again, it was Bow that stole the thunder. Keene was hemmed in their own end before having a few chances to clear the puck. However, they could not get the puck past the blue line, and of course, today, the puck came to Doug Champagne. Champagne scored again, with the assist going to Austen Skarinza. The Bow faithful in attendance erupted as their Falcons had a 3-0 lead on the undefeated, #1, Keene BlackBirds with 13:15 to play. Finally, at 6:11 of the final period, Tim Greenwood scored a goal up over the shoulder of Nate Carrier on a nice play set up by Nate Darwin, and Keene was on the board. It was 2:02 later when Alex Killion was called for a cross-checking penalty to put Keene on the power play. On the play Keene gained a man advantage but lost a huge piece of their team. BlackBird senior captain, Jason Langevin was writhing in pain, laid out on the ice in the corner, before the whistle stopped play. It turned out that Langevin had separated his shoulder on the play, and I did not see him return to the game. While Keene had the extra skater, Hunter Gallant was whistled for interference when he tied up a Bow player near the net while the Falcons were looking to score shorthanded. As a result of the penalty, both teams skated 4 per side for 1:06. With the additional open ice available, Keene’s Marcin Maleski skated beautifully up the right-wing boards, weaving around defenders before cutting to the net and rifling a shot on goal. Nate Carrier had the angle cut in half and made the save on the scoring bid. Then, at 10:12 of the period, Gaetano DeLonge fired a shot into the net off of a Griffin Kane feed. Keene had cut a 3-goal deficit down to a single goal. Just more than a minute later, Myles Ditkoff made a brilliant save when Bow created a scoring chance out of a 2-on-2 bid.
Gaetano DeLonge lowered the boom on a Bow player in the corner, dropping him to the ice. The play resulted in a cross-checking penalty assessed to DeLonge. And on a day, when Bow forced mistakes, and capitalized on most of them, they would do it again. On the power play for just 26 seconds, Bow’s Mr. Everything, Colin Tracy carried the puck with a smooth elegance of his own and delivered a perfect pass to Austen Skarinza on the right-wing side of the crease. Skarinza, wearing the hockey legend’s’ #9, found the back of the net, sending the Falcons fanatics into an immediate frenzy. Bow led 4-2 with 2:29 to play. At 13:37 it was Skarinza who was called for a hooking penalty to give Keene their last gasp of a chance. The BlackBirds called timeout, and returned to the ice without their goaltender. The extra attacker, plus the man advantage, allowed Keene to set up their power play. Keene appeared poised to get another goal, and possibly find more magic in this remarkable season for BlackBird hockey. Then, maybe in a single moment, a summary of an entire afternoon was captured when Chris Mead dove headlong with his stick fully extended and barely chipped the puck off of the Keene players’ stick, and out of the zone. Keene had to retrieve the puck and never really did get set up to mount a comeback again after that. Time wound down, until finally, the horn sounded. Bow had simply won more battles and executed on more plays than their opponent. Keene scored less than 3 goals for the first time this season. Bow learned lessons in their two previous meetings against Keene, and today they won the spaces between past losses and what was needed in today’s victory. The goaltenders were solid for both sides, as this game could have been much higher scoring were it not for Myles Ditkoff for Keene and Nate Carrier for Bow. I know that Colin Tracy only showed up on the score sheet once, but he was immense in this contest. He may have even been the difference in this one. For all of the attention that Champagne, Mead, Tobeler, etc. get, it was Tracy that was the puck toting defenseman, offering Bow a fourth forward on any given shift, that gave the BlackBirds some matchup issues. The Keene offense did get chances, but they had to be equally aware of Bow’s attack, which kept them honest, that ultimately favored Bow. Keene did get 11 shots in the final period, to Bow’s 8, but today that wasn’t going to be enough.
Congratulations to the Bow Falcons, who finished 18-2-1 en route to their second Division II State Championship in hockey. Also, the Keene BlackBirds are to be commended for their consistency and excellence all season, as they finished with an 18-1 record. It was a tremendous season! See you all in December.
Goals: Bow: 1-1-2 = 4 Keene: 0-0-2 = 2 Shots: Bow: 11-6-8 = 25 Keene: 5-8-11 = 24 Saves: Bow: Nate Carrier 22 of 24 shots. Keene: Myles Ditkoff 21 of 25 shots. Powerplay: Bow: 1 for 3. Keene: 0 for 4.
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.