Previews of local schools’ NHIAA playoff matchups
High school tournaments today
Division II semifinals
At Rinks at Exeter
No. 4 Bow (12-3-4) vs.
No. 1 Merrimack (17-2-0), 7:30 p.m.
HEAD TO HEAD: The Falcons lost to the Tomahawks, 3-1, on Jan. 2.
Previous tournament games: Bow beat No. 5 Dover, 4-2. Merrimack beat No. 8 Goffstown, 7-1.
Notes: Any thoughts that Merrimack, which dropped its last two games after winning 16 straight to start the season, may have been ripe for the picking were dispelled after the Tomahawks crushed Goffstown in their playoff opener. Instead, Merrimack looks exactly the way it did during the regular season, like a powerful team that can score goals with the best of them and keep them off the board, as well. The Tomahawks have several players who can handle the load on offense, but particularly a pair of top-notch players in Connor Powell, who has a team-high 34 goals and 57 points, and Dom Valuzzi, who scored 21 goals and also led the team with 24 assists during the regular season. To get the upset, Bow will need big-time production from its balanced offensive corps, led by Hunter Berke (10 goals), Derek Tillotson (12 goals), Mike Fanaras (eight goals) and Chris Fournier (10 goals), who had a hat trick in the win over Dover, while goalie Connor Simpson (1.68 goals-against average, .940 save percentage) will need to be on his game against a Merrimack offense that will be sure to keep him busy.
Division III semifinals
At Everett Arena
No. 3 Souhegan (14-5-0) vs.
No. 2 John Stark-Hopkinton (17-1-1), 5:30 p.m.
HEAD TO HEAD: John Stark-Hopkinton swept the regular season series, winning 4-3 on the road and 5-2 on home ice.
Previous tournament games: Souhegan dropped No. 6 Hollis-Brookline, 6-2. John Stark-Hopkinton cruised by No. 7 Moultonborough/Inter-Lakes, 7-1.
Notes: John Stark-Hopkinton combined stingy defense (only 14 shots allowed) and balanced offense (six players scored) to dominate its quarterfinal, and now faces a bit stiffer challenge in Souhegan, a team with similar credentials. Stark-Hopkinton holds an advantage on the stat sheet, averaging 6.4 goals per game while yielding an average of just 2.05 per game, compared to the Sabers scoring 5.3 per game and giving up an average of 2.7. But if the first two meetings are an indication, it should be a competitive affair. Kyle Kolehmainen found the back of the net twice in the quarterfinals and is one of five players with at least 10 goals this season for Stark-Hopkinton, including Garrett Thomas, Simon Becka, Jake Blanchette and Robbie Ferguson. Three other players have nine goals, giving the team plenty of production from all its lines. Just three players have scored the bulk of Souhegan’s goals, so John Stark-Hopkinton will need to keep close tabs on Joe Nutting (29 goals, 23 assists), Mike Hayden (19 goals, 37 assists) and Matt Wilson (23 goals, 24 assists) to make life easier for goalie Connor McDonald (1.75 goals-against average, .903 save percentage) as the team tries to make the title game for just the second time.
Division II first round
No. 16 St. Thomas (5-13) at
No. 1 Pembroke (18-0), 7 p.m.
HEAD TO HEAD: The teams did not meet during the regular season.
Notes: The perfect regular season complete, Pembroke now looks to start a perfect postseason, and an unknown opponent is a good way to keep the team from being overconfident. The Saints’ record won’t scare anyone, but they seem to be playing some of their better ball down the stretch, having won two of their last three. Pembroke simply needs to play its game, and if it can jump on St. Thomas early, it might make for an easy night. Rene Maher runs the show from the point, Matt Persons and Pat Welch are threats from the perimeter, and Jordan Williams and Dominic Timbas can dominate in the paint for Pembroke, which finished the regular season with five competitive games, a perfect schedule to get it ready for the rigors of the playoffs.
No. 11 John Stark (9-9) at
No. 6 Bishop Brady (11-7), 7:30 p.m.
HEAD TO HEAD: John Stark beat Bishop Brady, 55-46, in Weare on Feb. 5.
Notes: When the teams met a month ago, John Stark used a tenacious defense that forced 19 turnovers to hold the Giants to their third-lowest point total of the season. Brady held a three-point lead in the fourth quarter of that one, so the Giants know it’s anyone’s game in the rematch. After a tough midseason stretch, Brady has won four of its last six, with the only losses coming to undefeated Pembroke and by a single point to No. 3 Lebanon. Look for players like Jourdain Bell, Joe Bell, Brendan Johnson, Steve Desmarais and Aaron Svendsen to set the tone for the Giants. John Stark stumbled a bit down the stretch, losing four of its last five games, but two of those losses were to No. 4 Hollis-Brookline. If the Generals are to right the ship, they’ll need strong outings from players like seniors Zach Grattan, Nic Lloyd, Nic Simeone and Joe Nelson.
No. 13 Coe-Brown (8-10) at
No. 4 Hollis-Brookline (14-4), 7 p.m.
HEAD TO HEAD: The teams did not meet during the regular season.
Notes: After starting the season at 8-3, Coe-Brown went on a seven-game slide in February. Part of that can be attributed to the schedule – four of those losses were to the Nos. 1, 2, 5 and 7 teams in Division II. And the Bears played No. 1 Pembroke to within six points and No. 5 Oyster River to within two points. Seniors Andrew Langdon, Chris Laurion and Josh Jackman have been key players for Coe-Brown throughout the season, and they’ll need to come up big in the postseason if the Bears are to upset the Cavaliers, who have won nine of their last 10 games.
No. 14 Merrimack Valley (7-11) at
No. 3 Lebanon (14-4), 6:30 p.m.
HEAD TO HEAD: MV lost at Lebanon in its regular season finale, 65-41.
Notes: After playing Lebanon just nine days ago, the Pride knows what it’s up against. One of the keys will be containing 1,000-point scorer David Hampton, who drained six 3-pointers in the second quarter alone to lead the Raiders against MV. Lebanon has won seven of eight entering the postseason, with the one loss coming to top-ranked Pembroke. MV has been up and down this season, but a win over Kingswood and close losses to Bishop Brady and John Stark late in the season have the Pride playing some of its better ball. Look for MV’s trio of seniors – Andrew Alicea, Joey Brochu and Dylan Baer – to lead the way.