Sullivan Arena, St. Anselm College, Goffstown, NH.
Tuesday, February 14, 2017.
Goffstown v. Belmont-Gilford, 700pm.
Margin: a gap, an amount by which a thing is won, or falls short. The margin tonight, I thought was minimal, when looking at the full 45 minutes of play. Belmont-Gilford has played in the last two Division III State Championship games, winning in 2015. This year, they lost the first game of their season, back in mid-December, and they haven’t lost since. They are poised to make another deep run in the D-III Tournament. Last season, the Grizzlies hosted the Belmont-Gilford Bulldogs in an epic, offensive display of hockey, with Goffstown winning 7-6. Tonight, the Grizzlies managed to beat the Bulldogs 5-3, despite being outplayed for a long stretch, or two, during the game.
The home team from Goffstown hadn’t been on the ice together since Friday morning at 5:30am, thanks to mother nature. Despite the unexpected break in the rhythm of ice time, the Grizzlies came out of the gate skating, and playing well. They moved the puck fairly well, and created some good chances. Goffstown could not sustain much pressure though. They were able to capitalize when they did get chances, scoring twice on just 6 shots in the opening period. Goffstown laid the lumber in the hitting department as well, making it tough for the visiting Bulldogs to get much going offensively. Goffstown challenged every shot, and when one did get through, Kyle LaSella was there to make the save, as he did on all 6 shots he faced in the period.
Noah Charron got the Grizzlies on the board first with an even-strength goal that was set up by line-mates, Brett Branscum and Sebastian Beal. Then, Colin Burke gave Goffstown a 2-0 lead just 21 seconds later, at 7:58. Burke buried a shot that was set up by Colby Gamache. The Grizzlies wouldn’t get much more offense out of the first period, and a small shift in play had started. The Grizzlies would take two penalties before the end of the period, when Dylan Hyers and Sebastian Beal were whistled at 12:52 and 14:14, respectively. This pair of penalties gave the Bulldogs a brief 5-on-3 advantage, and a power play that carried into the next period. The period ended with Goffstown leading 2-0, despite the shots on goal being even at 6-6.
The second period started with Belmont-Gilford (B-G) turning up the intensity. At 1:10 of the period, one of the Bulldogs forwards, rang a shot, loudly, off of the goal post behind Kyle LaSella. Then, at 5:01 of the period, the Bulldogs used their speed and quick puck movement to create a 3-on-2 headed up ice. Thanks to a hustling, back-checking, Tyler Riendeau, the play was broken up at the last possible second, right in front of LaSella. Dylan Hyers, was called for another interference penalty, giving B-G their 3rd power-play in less than half a period of play. Just when the tide appeared turned, the Grizzlies turned things around. On a single, short-handed rush up ice, Goffstown drew a tripping penalty and a slashing penalty before creating a shot on goal at 6:35 of the period. It took only 14 seconds for the Grizzlies to score a power-play goal when Noah Charron scored his second goal of the game with the assist going to Colin Burke. Goffstown led 3-0. Less than two minutes later, on a very high energy play by Goffstown, Tyler Riendeau scored a goal set up by Noah Charron at 8:45. Goffstown led 4-0, and it looked like this game might get away. Then again, this Belmont-Gilford team didn’t get to back to back title games without putting up a fight.
Over the next 12 plus minutes the Bulldogs would almost completely shut the Grizzlies down. B-G got 8 of the next 10 shots on goal, scored a power-play goal, and added an even-strength goal. Goffstown has been subject to what I call ‘chasing the hit’ at times this year. This is when the physical part of the game has been working, or the defensive core primarily, are trying to set a physical tone, and start to lean, lunge, or take straight lines to set up a hit. The problem I have seen is that, the fast forward lines (Bow, Keene, Nashua South, and Belmont-Gilford) make Goffstown pay as their intensity increases. Then what was once difficult to play against, turns into hits that are no longer there because the opponent is flying up and down the ice. This, to me, is when solid positional team defense would be better served. I love big hitting and being difficult to play against, but it’s also nice to combat speed and skill by always being in the right spot to defend. Hits present themselves as a result of moving your feet first.
Contributing to the B-G domination over this 12+ minute span, Mickey Bridgeman was whistled for an elbowing penalty at 15:00 of the second period.
So, Goffstown had to open the final period with a 4-0 lead, and also kill a penalty. Then, with just 2 seconds left to work through, Hunter Dupuis scored on the power-play after being set up by Harrison Parent, at 1:58. 4-1 Goffstown. B-G cut into the lead again, less than two minutes later. The goal was controversial to say the least.
James Buckley took a pass from Nate Shirley and ripped a shot that beat Kyle LaSella but appeared to glance off of the crossbar and into the opposite corner. The official that was trailing the play, pointed, and called a goal immediately. So, even though there were several folks on the ice, and nearby, that thought the shot hit the bar and never entered the net, the play was called a good goal at 3:41. Now the score was 4-2, and Goffstown was not getting any offense.
The Bulldogs had turned up their speed, and they were even hitting some. Kyle LaSella was pressed into more and more action. At 10:57 of the period, LaSella made a remarkable left pad, more like a left toe, save on high-flying Hunter Dupuis. Dupuis beat two Grizzlies’ defensemen who were not fast enough to pin down the speedy forward, and raced to the net for his grade A scoring chance, only to be denied by LaSella. Just a dozen seconds after calling their timeout, B-G scored again, at 13:51, to cut the Grizzlies lead to a single goal. This time Dupuis did get the goal, his second of the night, on a nice set up from Ethan Becker. 69 seconds to play, and the Grizzlies 4-0 lead was now just a bad bounce from being no lead at all.
The Bulldogs pulled goaltender, Bailey Defosie, who had made 11 consecutive saves, for the extra attacker, with 29 seconds to play in the game. After some scary moments for Goffstown, Nick Nault picked off the puck at center ice, and released a quick shot the hit both posts before finding a home in the back of the net. Nault’s goal came at 14:56, and gave the Grizzlies a 5-3 victory.
Belmont-Gilford outshot Goffstown 24-21 in the game, and came storming back to almost completely eliminate a 4-goal deficit.
That’s what good teams do, they battle. That’s also what Goffstown did, they battled. They did what they had to do, to get the win. The Grizzlies improved to 9-5 on the season, while Belmont-Gilford dropped to 12-2-1, losing for the first time in two months.
Goffstown takes their game to Skate 3 in Tyngsboro, MA tomorrow (Wednesday) night when they play the Alvirne Broncos at 5:50pm.
Goffstown (9-5) v. Belmont-Gilford (Div III: 12-2-1)
February 14, 2017. 7:00PM Start:
Goffstown: 6-6-9 = 21
3rd Goffstown at 14:56. Empty Net. Nick Nault unassisted.
Goffstown Power play: 1 for 2.
Belmont-Gilford: Bailey Defosie 16 of 20.
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.