Cloudy
63°
Cloudy
Hi 89° | Lo 64°

John Stark-Hopkinton hockey team headed back to title game

  • John Stark-Hopkinton's Robbie Ferguson battles Berlin's Nathan Trull for the puck during the Division III boys hockey semifinals at Everett Arena on Thursday, March 13, 2014.  John Stark-Hopkinton defeated Berlin in overtime 4-3.<br/><br/>(ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)

    John Stark-Hopkinton's Robbie Ferguson battles Berlin's Nathan Trull for the puck during the Division III boys hockey semifinals at Everett Arena on Thursday, March 13, 2014. John Stark-Hopkinton defeated Berlin in overtime 4-3.

    (ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)

  • From left: John Stark-Hopkinton's Alex Lajeunesse, Garrett Thomas, Scott Olson, Callahan Loos and Adrian McCarthy-Tiella celebrate their overtime win in the Division III boys hockey semifinals at Everett Arena on Thursday, March 13, 2014.  John Stark-Hopkinton defeated Berlin in overtime 4-3.<br/><br/>(ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)

    From left: John Stark-Hopkinton's Alex Lajeunesse, Garrett Thomas, Scott Olson, Callahan Loos and Adrian McCarthy-Tiella celebrate their overtime win in the Division III boys hockey semifinals at Everett Arena on Thursday, March 13, 2014. John Stark-Hopkinton defeated Berlin in overtime 4-3.

    (ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)

  • John Stark-Hopkinton's Cooper Bourque, left, and Adrian McCarthy Tiella celebrate their overtime win in the Division III boys hockey semifinals at Everett Arena on Thursday, March 13, 2014.  John Stark-Hopkinton defeated Berlin in overtime 4-3.<br/><br/>(ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)

    John Stark-Hopkinton's Cooper Bourque, left, and Adrian McCarthy Tiella celebrate their overtime win in the Division III boys hockey semifinals at Everett Arena on Thursday, March 13, 2014. John Stark-Hopkinton defeated Berlin in overtime 4-3.

    (ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)

  • John Stark-Hopkinton's Robbie Ferguson battles Berlin's Nathan Trull for the puck during the Division III boys hockey semifinals at Everett Arena on Thursday, March 13, 2014.  John Stark-Hopkinton defeated Berlin in overtime 4-3.<br/><br/>(ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)
  • From left: John Stark-Hopkinton's Alex Lajeunesse, Garrett Thomas, Scott Olson, Callahan Loos and Adrian McCarthy-Tiella celebrate their overtime win in the Division III boys hockey semifinals at Everett Arena on Thursday, March 13, 2014.  John Stark-Hopkinton defeated Berlin in overtime 4-3.<br/><br/>(ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)
  • John Stark-Hopkinton's Cooper Bourque, left, and Adrian McCarthy Tiella celebrate their overtime win in the Division III boys hockey semifinals at Everett Arena on Thursday, March 13, 2014.  John Stark-Hopkinton defeated Berlin in overtime 4-3.<br/><br/>(ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)

A five-minute major penalty with 4:54 to play shifted John Stark-Hopkinton’s chances to defend its Division III hockey title from slight to almost non-existent.

Then, a slick backhander on the shorthand from Ryan Hawkes boosted the Generals’ chances to 50-50. And when Garrett Thomas, the team’s lone senior, banked a shot off the Berlin goalie 6:51 into sudden-death overtime last night, Stark-Hopkinton’s improbable comeback was complete and the defending champion Generals (12-6-1) were headed back to the title game, a 4-3 winner over top-ranked Berlin (17-3-0).

Fifth-seeded Stark-Hopkinton will take on No. 2 Souhegan in tomorrow’s championship at 12:15 p.m. at Manchester’s Verizon Wireless Arena.

“When I saw the five go up, I thought this is the end,” John Stark-Hopkinton Coach Denis Kolehmainen said of the major penalty for boarding.

But even with the odds stacked against them, the Generals kept fighting.

“We’ve got to attack, because we’re going to lose anyway if we play defensive,” said Kolehmainen, who went with three forwards and one defenseman on the penalty kill.

But with Berlin’s Connor Jewett, who scored twice as many goals as any other player in the division this year, weaving his way across the ice, playing with one defenseman was a gamble. Generals goalie Josh Gagne made it a safe bet. Gagne made 16 of his 37 saves in the third period alone and kept Stark-Hopkinton in the game long enough for Hawkes to score the equalizer off an assist from Robbie Ferguson with 1:58 to play in regulation.

Then in overtime, Gagne flashed his pads for saves on back-to-back shots through a screen. He stoned a dangling Jewett, and he stopped a slap shot from Trevor Labrecque and smothered the follow-up from Jewett. In between, defenseman Alex Lajeunesse dove to poke the puck away from Owen Dorval on a breakaway.

“Every time the puck comes my way it needs to stay out of the net,” Gagne said of his approach to overtime. “The puck just went my way this game.”

“He stood on his head. That’s the type of game we needed,” Kolehmainen said of his goalie. “… To see how he played, it was totally ridiculous. There were shots I knew were goals and he made the save. Are you kidding me?”

Berlin dominated the first six minutes of overtime, outshooting the Generals 7-2, but that third shot was the only one that mattered for Stark-Hopkinton.

Thomas, who minutes before had been helped off the ice after a nasty leg check, gathered the puck along the backboards and tossed it toward the crease, bouncing it off Berlin goalie Brenden Williams and into the net.

“I had two options, so I decided to just go through the middle,” Thomas said. “I had a teammate that was open and I had an opening. If I missed, my linemate would get it, and if I hit, it was going in.”

And when it went in, it sparked a celebration reminiscent of a year ago, when the Generals handed Berlin its only loss of the season in overtime in the championship game.

“We have some tough battles, that’s for sure,” Kolehmainen said.

The Generals lost to Berlin twice late in the season, and it looked like a probable Berlin sweep when the Mountaineers led, 2-0, after two periods on goals by Justin Vien and Dom Morse.

But after going 0-for-3½ on the power play through the first two periods, Stark-Hopkinton made good in the final minute of its fourth power play to start the third period.

Thomas sent the puck to Kyle Kolehmainen at the top of the crease, and though Williams (25 saves) blocked the initial shot, Kolehmainen swiped at the puck while lying flat on his belly and gave the Generals new life at 2-1.

“At the end of the second we told them we need to get ugly,” Coach Kolehmainen said. “Follow the puck to the net, drive to the net.”

Labrecque restored the Mountaineers’ two-goal lead midway through the period, pounding in the rebound of his own shot, but Jake Blanchette answered just 13 seconds later, flipping the puck over Williams’s glove with assists from Hawkes and Cal Loos to set up the unlikely finish.

“It’s just joy,” Gagne said. “We’re going to the finals.”

(Sandy Smith can be reached at 369-3339 or ssmith@cmonitor.com.)

Related

Preview capsule outlook of today’s high school tournament action

Friday, March 14, 2014

High school tournaments today Boys’ basketball Division III semifinals At Southern NH University No. 5 Campbell (17-3) vs. No. 1 Hopkinton (19-1), 8 p.m. Previous tournament games: Campbell eased past No. 12 Fall Mountain, 58-38, and No. 13 Raymond, 69-54. Hopkinton rolled by No. 16 Somersworth, 68-41, and No. 8 Mascoma, 64-44. head to head: Hopkinton beat Campbell, 53-37, in … 0

There are no comments yet. Be the first!
Post a Comment

You must be registered to comment on stories. Click here to register.