Preview capsule outlook of today’s high school tournament action
High school tournaments today
Division II semifinals
No. 4 Pelham (17-3) vs. No. 1 Pembroke (19-1), 7:30 p.m.
Previous tournament games: Pelham eliminated No. 13 Merrimack Valley, 57-41, and No. 5 Bishop Brady, 79-66. Pembroke had its way with No. 16 Souhegan, 63-45, and No. 8 Kennett, 44-22.
head to head: Pembroke beat Pelham, 63-49, back in December.
Notes: The defending-champion Spartans haven’t been truly challenged in their first two playoff games, but things probably won’t come so easy against Pelham, a team that always plays with high intensity. The first time these two met, the Pythons led by eight after the first quarter and still held a one-point lead at halftime before Pembroke pulled away for the 63-49 win. Senior guard Pat Welch had 17 of his team-high 21 points in the second half of that game. Pelham did not use a box-and-1 defense on Welch, like so many other teams have done, and if the Pythons continue with that strategy expect another big game from Welch, especially on the big court at UNH.
“Pat Welch loves it there in Durham, he loves that big court,” Pembroke Coach Matt Alosa said. “He thrived on it last year.”
The Spartans, as usual, will have a size advantage, so Kafani Williams (20 points and 10 rebounds against Pelham the first time around), Dominic Timbas and Max Curran should all have opportunities to contribute. The Pythons will try to make up for the size differential with tenacity, and they have the kind of scorers in Keith Brown (25 points and 16 rebounds against Bishop Brady) and Jake Vaiknoras to keep them close in most games.
Division II semifinals
At Rinks at Exeter
No. 3 Bow (15-3-1) vs. No. 2 Dover (16-3-0), 5:30 p.m.
Previous tournament games: Bow blanked No. 6 Goffstown, 4-0. Dover went to overtime to beat No. 7 Merrimack, 3-2.
head to head: Bow beat Dover, 6-3, in early January.
Notes: These two teams know each other. The Falcons knocked off the Green Wave in last year’s quarterfinals, which rejuvenated a rivalry that peaked when Dover beat Bow in three straight semifinals between 2004 and ’06. The Falcons seem to have gained the upper hand, however, evidenced by their handling of Dover in January’s matchup. Bow boasts an able offense, led by seniors Jake Rand (25 goals) and Chris Fournier (18 goals), the latter of whom had a hat trick in last year’s playoff win over the Green Wave, while a tough, blue-collar defensive corps led by Nate Corriveau and Tyler Herrick has stifled opponents at nearly every turn. That defense will be tested by a Dover offense that has six double-digit point scorers – none more dangerous than Cam Crowley, whose 27 goals and 44 assists during the regular season led the team.
Division III semifinals
At Everett Arena
No. 3 Belmont-Gilford (16-3-0) vs. No. 2 Souhegan (16-2-0), 5:30 p.m.
Previous tournament games: Belmont-Gilford overcame No. 6 Kennett, 3-2 in overtime. Souhegan routed No. 7 Laconia-Winnisquam, 10-0.
head to head: The teams split during the season, with Souhegan winning at home, 4-3, and Belmont-Gilford taking the rematch on its home ice late in the season, 4-2.
Notes: Belmont-Gilford met its drama quota for the tournament with its tension-filled victory over Kennett, but the team is armed to keep its postseason march going. Caleb Drouin, who scored the game-winning goal against the Eagles, is the team’s top scorer with 21 goals and 10 assists from the regular season, while Darryl Cahill (14 goals, 13 assists) and Andrew D’Amour (11 goals, 16 assists) pack a punch as well. The defense is stout as well, allowing the second fewest points in Division III, but therein lies a problem. The only team to allow fewer was the Sabers, and with Joe Nutting (24 goals, 26 assists), Matt Wilson (21 goals, 13 assists) and Mike Hayden (15 goals, 27 assists) leading the way, they’ll have plenty of firepower to test the normally staunch Bulldog blueliners.
No. 5 John Stark-Hopkinton (11-6-1) vs. No. 1 Berlin (17-2-0), 7:30 p.m.
Previous tournament games: John Stark-Hopkinton upended No. 4 Portsmouth, 3-2. Berlin rolled over No. 8 Con-Val, 10-1.
head to head: Berlin beat John Stark-Hopkinton on consecutive days in late February, winning 5-2 and 7-4 in Henniker.
Notes: How familiar. To get back to the Division III final, the Generals will have to beat the team they knocked off in that game last year. It won’t be easy; no team in the division scored as often as Berlin, and the Mountaineers weren’t slowed in their previous tries against the defending champions. Only one Division III team (Souhegan) has held Berlin under five goals this season, so the Generals will need their playmakers to be on their game from the opening puck drop. That means big games from Jake Blanchette, a 20-goal scorer during the regular season, Robbie Ferguson (14 goals), Kyle Kolehmainen (12) and Callahan Loos (10). The Generals will also need a strong effort from goalie Josh Gagne, who posted a .863 save percentage and 3.15 goals against average in his first year as starting netminder. The Berlin squad he’ll face has only four double-digit goal scorers, but don’t be deceived – one of them is Connor Jewett, whose 51 goals and 77 points led the division during the regular season.