Preview capsule outlook of today’s high school tournament action
High school tournaments today
Division II championship
At Verizon Wireless Arena, Manchester
No. 3 Bow (16-3-1) vs. No. 1 Bedford (20-0-0), 2:30 p.m.
Previous tournament games: Bow blanked No. 6 Goffstown, 4-0, and nipped No. 2 Dover, 2-1. Bedford shut out No. 8 Lebanon, 6-0, and edged No. 4 Spaulding, 3-2.
head to head: Bedford swept the season series, winning 4-2 on the road and 4-1 at home.
Notes: Bow’s motto for the Division II final might as well be “the third time’s the charm.” If the axiom holds true, the Falcons will hand the Bulldogs their first loss of the season and take their first title since 2010. Bedford handed the Falcons two of their three losses this year, and Coach Tim Walsh knows the challenge his team is in for at the Verizon Wireless Arena today.
“They’re deep and they grind you down, and they finish around the net,” Walsh said. “When you turn the puck over in the neutral zone (against them), it’s usually in the back of the net. … We’ve got to play a perfect game and stay out of the box against them.”
Bow was searching for answers in those earlier matchups, but the team has changed in the months since. Jake Rand (25 goals) and Chris Fournier (18 goals), playing on the first line with Doug Champagne, remain the top contributors on offense, but the third line of Derek Gallagher, Austin Beaudette and Chris Mead has emerged as a playmaking group, as well, accounting for four of Bow’s six playoff goals and both scores in the semifinal win over Dover.
On defense, the Falcons have been sturdy all postseason, allowing only one goal, and will need to be on their game against a Bulldogs team that was the only one in Division II to top 100 goals. Blue-liners Nate Corriveau, Tyler Herrick, Brendan Ulrich and Josh Lacasse have led the unit, while the second forward line of Steve Panella, Devin Barker and Jeremy Duhamel has been strong defensively, as well. If defense and discipline meet, the Falcons could be the team that finally figures out the Bedford machine.
Division III championship
At Verizon Wireless Arena, Manchester
No. 5 John Stark-Hopkinton (12-6-1) vs. No. 2 Souhegan (17-2-0), 12:15 p.m.
Previous tournament games: John Stark-Hopkinton upended No. 4 Portsmouth, 3-2, and top-ranked Berlin, 4-3 in OT. Souhegan rolled past No. 7 Laconia-Winnisquam, 10-0, and No. 3 Belmont-Gilford, 7-1.
head to head: Souhegan swept the season series, winning 8-2 at home and 4-1 in Henniker.
Notes: Berlin tried to exact revenge for last year’s championship loss to John Stark-Hopkinton but was flatly denied. Now, Souhegan will be out for revenge for last year’s 7-2 semifinal ouster at the hands of the Generals. Reigning champion Stark-Hopkinton will be looking for another denial. Already this season, the Generals lost a pair of games to the Sabers, but the same was true against Berlin, whom the Generals turned the tables on two days ago.
Stark-Hopkinton will have its hands full with Souhegan’s offensive juggernaut. Six times this season the Sabers scored in double digits, led by Mike Hayden (18 goals, 34 assists), Joe Nutting (28-31), Matt Wilson (25-15), James Wilson (19-13), Alek Medic (16-16) and Riley Connor (8-17). That will make the job of Stark-Hopkinton blue-liners Cooper Bourque, Scott Olson, Alex Lajeunesse and Justin Bowen and goalie Josh Gagne all the more important. Gagne (3.03 goals-against average, .871 save percentage) stood on his head in the semifinals, notching 37 saves and keeping the division’s leading scorer, Connor Jewett, out of the nets. This time around they’ll be facing an offense that features two powerful lines, not just one powerful player.
On the other end of the ice, Stark-Hopkinton received scoring from all three lines in its semifinal win, something that had been lacking for much of the season. The Generals will look to continue that trend on the big ice at the Verizon Wireless Arena, a surface they’re familiar with after capturing their first state title a year ago. Jake Blanchette led the Generals in scoring this season with 21 goals and 12 assists, while Robbie Ferguson (16-14), Cal Loos (10-16) and Kyle Kolehmainen (13-10) have provided a strong offensive presence, along with Ryan Hawkes (7-9), Garrett Thomas (6-9), Peter Sawitsky (5-6) and Adrian McCarthy-Tiella (6-5).
“We’ve just got to stay positive,” said Thomas, the team’s lone senior who scored the game-winner in overtime in the semifinals. “Souhegan’s a great team, so it’s going to be a good match.”
Division II championship
At UNH’s Lundholm Gym
No. 2 Portsmouth (19-2) vs. No. 1 Pembroke (20-1), 3 p.m.
Previous tournament games: Portsmouth eased by No. 15 Milford, 62-21, and No. 7 Plymouth, 44-29, before topping No. 3 Lebanon, 49-43. Pembroke rolled past No. 16 Souhegan, 63-45, No. 8 Kennett, 44-22, and No. 4 Pelham, 62-40.
head to head: Portsmouth handed Pembroke its only loss of the season, 53-49, on Jan. 30, ending the Spartans’ 31-game winning streak.
Notes: After losing to Portsmouth back in January, the Spartans were understandably disappointed. But Coach Matt Alosa didn’t let them hand their heads for long.
“We were all down in the locker room for a couple of minutes,” said Pembroke Pat Welch, the senior guard who has scored more than 1,900 points in his four years at Pembroke. “And then coach came in and said … we’ve got to move on and not think about the loss and just keep going on with the season and we might get another shot at them, and look at it now, we’re getting another shot at them.”
Portsmouth used a box-and-1 defense to hold Welch to 15 points in that game. Kafani Williams added 16 for Pembroke, but the Spartans shot just 3-for-25 from 3-point territory for the game. That number that will have to improve today – either by attempting fewer outside shots or making a higher percentage of them – for Pembroke to effectively counter that box-and-1. Portsmouth senior Nick Mackey was sensational against the Spartans in the regular season, scoring 19 and taking turns on Welch with Donovan Phanor. The Clippers also have solid interior players in De-vonn Wilson-Miles and Pat Glynn, but Pembroke can counter with Dominic Timbas, Williams and Max Curran.