High school hockey preview: Crimson Tide eager to get another chance at title

  • Concord’s Joanna Dustin skates to the bench after scoring the first goal during a 2020 Division I girls’ hockey semifinals at Everett Arena last March. Concord hung on for a 4-3 win to advance to the championship against Berlin-Gorham, but that game was canceled when the coronavirus pandemic shut down the winter athletic season. Dustin, now a senior, is back for the Crimson Tide this season. RICH MIYARA / NH Sports Photography

  • Concord’s Jaelyn Kelleher (center) celebrates after scoring a short-handed goal in the third period of Tuesday’s Division I semifinals at Everett Arena to give the Concord girls’ hockey team a 4-0 lead against 10-time defending champ Hanover. That goal proved to the game-winner as Concord hung on for a 4-3 win to advance to the championship against Berlin-Gorham, but that game was canceled when the coronavirus pandemic shutdown the winter athletic season. Kelleher, now a junior, is back for the Crimson Tide this season. RICH MIYARA / NH Sports Photography

  • Concord’s Tyler Coskren (center) celebrates his second-period goal that gave the Crimson Tide a 3-0 lead in in last season’s season-opening win against Windham. Concord earned the No. 1 seed in the Division I tournament and advanced to the championship before the season was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Crimson Tide returns a ton of talent this season, including Coskren, and hopes to finish where it left off last year.   RICH MIYARA / NH Sports Photography

Monitor staff
Published: 1/15/2021 8:05:52 AM

They had both earned top seeds, advanced to their finals and were the favorites to win. But just before the Concord High boys’ and girls’ hockey teams got a chance to skate for championships on March 14, 2020, the coronavirus pandemic canceled the winter season.

The Crimson Tide was named co-champion (with rival Bedford on the boys’ side, Berlin-Gorham for the girls), but mostly Concord was left disappointed and waiting for next year. The wait is over as the high school hockey season opens across the state this week, and even if the players are now masked and the stands are nearly empty, the Tide is happy to be back on the ice.

“Fortunately they’re letting us play,” said Dunc Walsh, now in his 31st season as the head coach for the Concord boys’ team. “We’re following all the protocols and doing everything we’re supposed to do because these kids really want to play, especially after last year and the way it ended for us. We had such a good year and these kids are pretty motivated to get back there and try to do what they didn’t get the opportunity to do last year.”

The Tide has a ton of talent back from last year’s team that finished 19-1 and seemed poised to win the final against Bedford, the team that had knocked the Tide out of the last three Division I tournaments. That talent starts with defenseman Ryan Philbrick, who Walsh called, “the best player in our league.” Philbrick, who was a First Team D-I pick last season as a sophomore, headlines a ‘D’ group that is five deep with senior Alex Forward (Honorable Mention D-I in 2020), juniors Colin Nelson and AJ Fennelly, and freshman Jack Shoemaker.

Concord may be even deeper at forward. Sophomore Brooks Craigue is a dynamic skater and playmaker and will center the first line between junior Joe Ala, a high-scoring center for the Tide last year, and junior Parker Fredrickson, who played for Concord as a freshman before moving to the junior program last season.

The Drew brothers, junior center Zach and senior wing Noah, are both crafty and productive and will skate on the second line together with junior Tyler Coskren, a physical presence and scoring threat who has been logging big minutes for the Tide since his freshman season. Concord’s third line played together last year and the combination of center Cam McGonigle and wings Colin O’Brien and Joey Tarbell put some goals on the board for the Tide. Walsh can even roll out a promising fourth line with junior Donovan Hayes centering freshmen AJ Dow and Dawson Francher.

There are big skates to fill in the net with the departure of First Team D-I goalie Parker Taylor. The competition between juniors Will Pegnam and Kevin Jones has been even so far and Walsh said both of them will get playing time this season.

There are more holes to fill for the Concord girls’ team, which finished 18-2 last season after beating 10-time defending champ Hanover in the semifinals. Not only did the Tide girls lose five players to graduation and four more to prep schools or other full-season programs, they lost their head coach, Patrick McDonough. He will be replaced by Tim Herbert, who will still have a talented core of players to work with despite all the departures.

Senior Joanna Dustin, Concord’s leading scorer last year and a First Team D-I pick, is back and gives the Tide a dangerous scoring threat. She’ll get plenty of offensive help from senior forward Jaelyn Kelleher and juniors Elizabeth Brown and Kaitlyn McKinnon. Senior Maria Armaganian, a Second Team D-I selection last season, returns to lead the ‘D’ along with sophomore Greta Norton, who saw lots of important ice time last season as a freshman.

The Concord girls’ team also will have to replace a talented goalie with the graduation of Abbie Corbett, an Honorable Mention last season. Juniors Lily Hillsgrove and Taylor Lamb will be competing for the spot and both of them have impressed Herbert in the preseason, as have freshmen defense Ayva Walsh and Julia Kirrane.

The Tide boys will open their season Saturday against Bishop Brady, which went 2-15-1 last year and missed the playoffs in what coach Joshua Vega called a rebuilding season. The Giants do have 16 players returning with varsity experience, and that’s a solid foundation for team building.

Senior captain Darren Earley is a good two-way player and senior Ben Marceau can snipe goals for the Giants. Juniors Peyton Vachon and Ethan Piotrowski will lead the defense in front of junior goalie Owen Currier, who saw a lot of rubber last year in Brady’s net.

The Brady girls’ team, which is a cooperative with Trinity and Manchester West, will be led by senior goalie Emily Senko, a First Team D-I pick last year. She’ll have a strong and deep defense group in front of her as seniors Kate Shoemaker and Bella Payne and junior Vern Landry all return from last year’s 8-8 team that lost in the quarterfinals. They will be joined by promising freshman Grace Orr.

Coach Dan Earley, now in his 11th year, will be looking for goals from the line of juniors Courtney Ingham and Ashley Brust and freshman Ali Verani. Senior Lauren Beitler will center a line with senior Annabelle Watson and freshman Finley Hollenberg that Earley will use to shut down the opposition.

Despite the size of the school, the Bow boys’ team will continue to play up in D-I. The Falcons made their first D-I playoff appearance last season and finished 7-12 after losing to Bishop Guertin in the first round. Coach Tim Walsh, now in his 20th season with Bow, likes what he has on the blue line this year in junior Cole Billow, sophomores Finn Benoit and Cooper Joscelyn and freshman Brodie O’Neil. Their talent and experience will come in handy in front of freshman goalie Mason Marquis.

The Falcons have more holes to fill on the offensive side of things, where they’re hoping for big seasons from returning forwards Ethan Tobeler, Josh Billow, Dominic Jurcins and Mike Anderson.

Division III

Pembroke-Campbell went 4-14 last season and missed the D-III playoffs, but PAC has already put that season in the rearview mirror with Wednesday’s season-opening 4-3 overtime win against Monadnock. Sophomore Zach Sonia scored the first and last goals for PAC, connecting on the game-winner 2:40 into overtime at Everett Arena. Freshman Cameron Plumb, senior Matthew Dexter, sophomore Cooper Fisher and sophomore Nathan Perry also got in the scorebook for Pembroke-Campbell.

Dexter, Plumb and Perry are the team’s top line, while Sonia is part of the third line along with senior Max Lemaire and sophomore Joey Sullivan. Senior Andrew Durfee and freshmen Caden Mix and Logan Daigle make up PAC’s second line, and Nick Cohen, Bryden Caron and Declan Sullivan are on the fourth line.

“This is the first time in a long, long time we’ve had four lines,” said coach Marc Noel, who is now in 20th season with the team. “So, I’m pleased with that and I’m excited for this season because I think we have a pretty good team. They’re going to have to work hard to make up for some lack of size, but they’re smart and they’re skilled.”

Fisher, junior Matt Tetreault and freshman Gavin Currier are the top defensemen for PAC, and the team returns goalie Adam Omundson, a reliable backbone.

John Stark-Hopkinton finished 13-6-1 last year after losing to Berlin-Gorham in overtime in the D-III semifinals. The General Hawks did lose a lot of players to graduation and some left for other reasons, but coach Denis Kolehmainen has consistently put a solid team on the ice during his nine years on the JSH bench.

The team returns some good offensive players in seniors Bobby Arnold, Tyler Scordo and Cooper Rivers and junior Ethan Molnar. The defense has a few more question marks, but the General Hawks do bring back senior goalie Caysen Allard and defensemen Hal Stokes, Nick Osborne and Bridget Lynch.

“Luckily we don’t have a full 18-game schedule,” Kolehmainen said, “because our smaller team will need less games or more practice to be ready for the playoffs.




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