MANCHESTER – The third time’s a charm, and no one knows that better these days than the Bow High hockey team.
It was the third and final time the seniors had a chance to bring home a state title after finishing as the runner-up in 2014 and 2016. It was also the third and final time Bow had a chance to beat Keene after losing both of the regular-season meetings.
Doug Champagne is one of those seniors who suited up as freshman in 2014, and he saw his team lose again last year. He couldn’t fathom letting it happen a third time.
Champagne scored two goals and freshman Austin Scarinza had two points (goal, assist) to lead the Falcons to their second state championship with a 4-2 win over previously undefeated Keene at SNHU Arena on Saturday.
Bow (18-2-1) led 3-0 early in the third period but Keene (19-1) cut it down to a one-goal game with less than five minutes to play.
“I was thinking to myself, ‘This can’t happen, this can’t happen, we can’t lose a third time here,’ ” Champagne said, smiling with a champion’s medal dangling from his neck. “And then our freshman (Scarinza) came out on top and got us one at the end.”
That’s when reality began to set in on the Falcons bench that it might finally happen this time.
Gaetano Delonge was charged with cross-checking less than two minutes after bringing the Blackbirds within one goal. It gave the Falcons a power play with 2:55 left and Scarinza cashed in 36 seconds after Delonge sat down in the penalty box. Colin Tracy was credited with an assist.
Scarinza was called for hooking with 1:23 left and Keene Coach Kyle Macie pulled his goaltender, Myles Ditkoff (21 saves), for an extra skater. But the Blackbirds’ couldn’t solve the Falcons’ penalty kill and came up empty on their fifth power play of the night as Bow skaters clamored over the boards at the sound of the final horn.
“It’s very rewarding for these kids,” said Bow Coach Tim Walsh, now a two-time champion behind the Falcons’ bench. “We’re the coaches but the kids have to do it, they have to be the ones on the ice and they bought into what we asked them to do.”
Champagne gave Bow a 1-0 lead, flying out of the penalty box to score off a rebound from Chris Mead with 3:16 left in the first period.
Keene took time to regroup in the first intermission, but a goal by Ryan Tobeler just 1:27 into the second period doubled Bow’s lead and put the Blackbirds back on their heels.
It happened again in the third when Champagne scored his second goal 1:45 into the period, assisted by Scarinza, to give the Falcons a 3-0 cushion.
“We’re really cognizant of not letting up after a goal,” Walsh said. “The whole game we talked about not letting up, not letting up for one second, not losing concentration for one second because that one second with a talented team like (Keene) can hurt you.”
“It’s hard to be in that situation for (Keene),” Walsh said. “It’s not easy going in and not losing all year long. All the pressure was on them and our guys played pretty free today.”
No one seemed more comfortable on the ice than Bow netminder Nate Carrier (22 saves), who allowed only three goals in three games this postseason, including a 2-0 shutout in the semifinals against last year’s champion Windham.
“We had some breakdowns, but Nate was big in net,” Walsh said. “Nate was loose, Nate was free, Nate was relaxed. Sometimes he gets too worked up but tonight he was very calm, laughing and joking before the game. That’s a good sign for Nate.”
Keene had only trailed for 20 seconds of a game all season before Saturday’s puck drop. After Champagne scored in the first and another was added early in the second, the Blackbirds found themselves in an odd and uncomfortable position. On the other bench, the Falcons felt their grip tighten.
The Blackbirds showed signs of life in the third with goals by Tim Greenwood and Delonge, but the urgency came too late.
“The best hockey teams win when their best players are playing at their best and it seems like (Bow’s) guys stepped up when they needed to,” Keene assistant coach Chris McIntosh said. “It was a weird, almost awkward game for us.”
The high school hockey season is over for everyone in the state, and for some it’s been over for a couple weeks. Many of the seniors have taken their final strides as competitive puck-slappers, and only a handful could do it with a championship on their resume.
For Bow’s eight seniors, this is the peak they’ve been waiting and working toward.
“It’s incredible,” Champagne said. “I wouldn’t ask for anything different, to end my high school career winning the state championship with those guys. It’s unbelievable.”
(Nick Stoico can be reached at 369-3339, email@example.com or on Twitter @NickStoico.)