Hockey previews: Concord looking for more scoring options this season

Bedford forward Javin Manfield starts to celebrate the game-winning goal as Concord goalie Kalan Gaudreault reaches in vain to stop the puck in last year’s Division I semifinal at Manchester’s JFK Arena on March 8. The loss ended Concord’s streak of three consecutive championships.

Bedford forward Javin Manfield starts to celebrate the game-winning goal as Concord goalie Kalan Gaudreault reaches in vain to stop the puck in last year’s Division I semifinal at Manchester’s JFK Arena on March 8. The loss ended Concord’s streak of three consecutive championships. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor file

Concord hockey coach Dunc Walsh and Brooks Craigue hug after a season-ending loss to Bedford in overtime in the Division I semifinals on March 8. Craigue, last year’s D-I Player of the Year, graduated, leaving the Crimson Tide with some questions entering this season.

Concord hockey coach Dunc Walsh and Brooks Craigue hug after a season-ending loss to Bedford in overtime in the Division I semifinals on March 8. Craigue, last year’s D-I Player of the Year, graduated, leaving the Crimson Tide with some questions entering this season. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor file

Concord’€™s Trevor Brown (right) celebrates with his teammates after a Tide goal against Londonderry at Everett Arena on Feb. 1. Concord had a lot to celebrate last season, finishing as the No. 1 seed and a 19-1 record, but the Tide ultimately fell short of the championship.

Concord’€™s Trevor Brown (right) celebrates with his teammates after a Tide goal against Londonderry at Everett Arena on Feb. 1. Concord had a lot to celebrate last season, finishing as the No. 1 seed and a 19-1 record, but the Tide ultimately fell short of the championship. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

The No. 1 Belmont-Gilford Bulldogs (19-1) celebrate after their 4-1 victory over No. 2 Berlin-Gorham to claim the 2023 Division III boys’ hockey championship on Saturday, March 11, 2023 at SNHU Arena in Manchester. The Bulldogs had a dominant 2022-23 season, outscoring opponents 120-21 over their 20 games.

The No. 1 Belmont-Gilford Bulldogs (19-1) celebrate after their 4-1 victory over No. 2 Berlin-Gorham to claim the 2023 Division III boys’ hockey championship on Saturday, March 11, 2023 at SNHU Arena in Manchester. The Bulldogs had a dominant 2022-23 season, outscoring opponents 120-21 over their 20 games. Joshua Spaulding / Salmon Press

Belmont-Gilford’s Evan Guerin (6) carries the puck up the ice against Berlin-Gorham defenseman Boyd Poulin (16) during the Division III boys’ hockey championship game on March 11 at SNHU Arena in Manchester. Guerin scored a hat trick and had an assist in Belmont-Gilford’s 4-1 victory, and was an All-State First Team pick.

Belmont-Gilford’s Evan Guerin (6) carries the puck up the ice against Berlin-Gorham defenseman Boyd Poulin (16) during the Division III boys’ hockey championship game on March 11 at SNHU Arena in Manchester. Guerin scored a hat trick and had an assist in Belmont-Gilford’s 4-1 victory, and was an All-State First Team pick. Josh Spaulding / Salmon Press

Bishop Brady-Trinity-Londonderry forward Finley Hollenberg kicks up her skate after scoring the third goal against Concord during the second period at the JFK Arena in Manchester on March 3. The newly-formed three-team cooperative program defeated Concord, 5-2, in the quarterfinals.

Bishop Brady-Trinity-Londonderry forward Finley Hollenberg kicks up her skate after scoring the third goal against Concord during the second period at the JFK Arena in Manchester on March 3. The newly-formed three-team cooperative program defeated Concord, 5-2, in the quarterfinals. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor file

Pembroke-Campbell’s Cam Plumb (11) races up the ice after a puck during a Division III boys’ hockey semifinal game at Plymouth State in March 8. Pembroke-Campbell fell to Berlin-Gorham, 4-2, ending the best season in PAC history.

Pembroke-Campbell’s Cam Plumb (11) races up the ice after a puck during a Division III boys’ hockey semifinal game at Plymouth State in March 8. Pembroke-Campbell fell to Berlin-Gorham, 4-2, ending the best season in PAC history. Josh Spaulding / Salmon Press

By ERIC RYNSTON-LOBEL and DAN ATTORRI

Monitor staff

Published: 12-09-2023 8:36 PM

When Bedford’s Javin Manfield slid the puck past the outstretched reach of Concord goalie Kal Gaudreault to beat the Tide in overtime in last season’s Division I boys’ hockey semifinal, it felt like the end of an era of dominance for Concord boys’ hockey. The program hadn’t lost a postseason game since 2019, but it was about to enter a new phase – one with lots of uncertainty.

Entering the 2023-24 season after that 19-1 campaign, things are going to look quite different for the Crimson Tide. Brooks Craigue – who scored or assisted on nearly 75% of all of Concord’s goals last season – graduated, as did top defenseman Joey Tarbell and Gaudreault. Concord’s also dealing with several injuries already, to senior defenseman Jack Shoemaker and forwards A.J. Dow (senior) and Trevor Craigue (junior).

That means more opportunities early for some of the other returning players, head coach Dunc Walsh said, pointing to senior Dawson Fancher, junior Rowan Arndt and sophomore Carter Doherty. He also highlighted sophomores Tyler Morin and Chad LaRiviere as players who didn’t play much last year but who will certainly see quite a bit of ice time early.

Still, replacing Brooks Craigue will be no easy challenge.

“If we’re healthy, we have eight of our top nine forwards back, but those guys are going to have to do a lot more this year on their own because (Craigue’s) not out there to do the work,” Walsh said. “It’s going to be different, and guys will be in roles that they haven’t been in. … I still think the goals are going to come hard because we don’t really have a true scorer out there. Brooks just accounted for so much of that.”

Concord will also have a new goalie this year, sophomore Luukas Mayer who’s played just one game in his career for Walsh.

After graduating a senior class last year that lost just five games in four years, Walsh said it’ll take a lot more legwork this season to get to the level of play the program’s used to seeing.

“I think we can be a good team,” Walsh said, “but it’s going to take more collective effort from everybody to be a good team, where last year, we probably relied on Brooks too much.”

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The Tide open with a home game against Windham at Everett Arena on Wednesday.

BOYS BISHOP BRADY-MV-CCA

Division: I

Coach: John Thomas (3rd year).

Last year: 0-18, did not make tournament.

Top returners: Cam Chevarie, sr., F; Brayden Hussey, sr., F; Wesley Johnson, sr., F; Jason Doyle, jr., D; Tyler Carter, jr., F.

Top newcomers: Roman Shtepa, sr., F; Bronson Taylor, sr., F; Luke Bedard, fr., D/F; Colin Reardon, so., F; Chase Thomas, fr., F; Justin Doyle, fr., G.

Outlook: The Brady Valley Kingsmen – a cooperative program with players from Bishop Brady, Merrimack Valley and Concord Christian Academy – is back for its second season after MV and CCA merged with Brady’s team a year ago. The Brady Valley Kingsmen are looking to make a name for themselves after a winless season where they were outscored 141-15.

“I am looking forward to seeing how this year’s team shakes out,” coach Thomas said. “With several players returning from last year and new additions, this team should be competitive. These young men are working hard in preparation for this coming season. Our goal moving forward is to continue to develop our skills and tactical proficiency on both the player and team level. This team has a lot to prove to themselves and to the league.”

BOW

Division: I

Coach: Tim Walsh (23rd year)

Last year: 10-9, reached prelims

Returning starters: Brodie O’Neil, sr., D; Billy Smethurst, sr., F; Owen Webber, jr., F; Luke Virta, sr., F; Luke Hartshorn, jr., F; Patrik Jurcins, jr., D; Mason Marquis, sr., G.

Top newcomers: Kian O’Leary, so., G; Adam Lafferty, fr., F; Alex Cheney, so., D; Gavin Szafran, fr., D.

Outlook: The Falcons are coming off their best season since moving up to D-I eight years ago, winning five straight games to close out the regular season after starting out with a 1-6 record.

Bow’s starting goalie will be Marquis, who has played in nearly every game since his freshman year and “should give us a chance to win every night,” according to Walsh. The Falcons have a sophomore backup in Kian O’Leary who has been impressed in preseason scrimmages. Captain O’Neil anchors the blue line along with Jurcins for a solid top defensive pairing, with young players Massimo Palelli, Cheney, Cyrus Labrecque and Szafran adding depth.

Captain Smethurst at center, and assistant captain Webber and Hartshorn on the wings will be Falcon’s top forward line, “one of the best in the state,” according to Walsh, but “The key for us will our second line chipping in with scoring and playing solid in all three zones.”

Assistant captain Virta will play in the middle, with Aidan Labrecque and Landon Wescott on the wings, and Will Raisty contributing to that line as well.

“We are looking to build off the success of last year’s first winning season in D-I, but we know we have to earn it all over again,” said Walsh. “We have high goals and aspirations of playing at the big arena in March.”

Teams to beat: Windham, Exeter, Concord, Bishop Guertin, Pinkerton, Londonderry.

SOMERSWORTH/COE-BROWN

Division: II

Coach: Fred Strum (2nd year).

Last year: 10-9, reached quarterfinals

Top returners: JR Norris, sr., F; Gio Green, sr., F; Tully Keefe, sr., F; AJ Kozlowski, so., F; James Sawyer, sr., D; Dylan Burovac, sr., D; Owen Perra, sr., D; Dylan Cossette, sr., G;

Top newcomers: Chris Matthews, sr., D.

Outlook: The Bearcats are a veteran-laden squad led by senior captains Norris (10 goals, six assists last season), Green (16 goals, five assists) and Sawyer.

“We are very excited about our season ahead,” Strum said. “The team feels we have three solid lines with good depth. We feel the team is strong in all areas on the ice and off the ice, focusing on being good students, role models and hockey players. Our goal is to play a tough, hard style of play. Battle every shift and always move forward in our development. Finishing with a playoff spot and continuing to hopefully be playing in the last game of the year (are the team’s goals).”

BELMONT-GILFORD

Division: III

Coach: Jason Parent (7th year).

Last year: 19-1, D-III champions.

Returning starters: Adam Ribeiro, sr., F; Evan Guerin, jr., F; Jaxson Embree, jr., F; Nate Gerbig, jr., D; Aidan McKenzie, sr., D; Carson McGreevy, jr., G.

Top newcomers: Coltan Byars, D; Jaxson Lien, F; Cam McClary, F; Ben Girard, F; Ethan Girard, D.

Outlook: The defending champion Bulldogs have a veteran defensive core, led by All-State Honorable Mentions McKenzie and McGreevy. Belmont-Gilford has four returning forwards who can put the puck in the net, including Guerin, a First Team selection, but the Bulldogs graduated Owen Guerin, last year’s D-III Player of the Year.

“We definitely need to fill a couple of holes and hope the freshman can step up and compete as the season goes on,” Parent said.

Teams to beat: Pembroke-Campbell, Berlin-Gorham, Kennett.

JOHN STARK-HOPKINTON/HILLSBORO-DEERING

Division: III

Coach: Denis Kolehmainen (12th year)

Last year: 6-12, did not make tournament.

Top returners: Lucas Arlen, so., G; Tad Stokes, so., D; Finan Murphy, so., F; Tyler Andrews, so., F; Kip Hedquist, so., F; Chris Gagnon, jr., D; Lucas Gagnon, sr., F; Jackson Lochmandy, jr., F/D; Ryan Podsadowski, jr., F; Avery Condon, sr., F; Mason Brock, sr., F; Carter Lavoie, sr., F; Soren Puc, sr., F/D; Thaddeus Maughan, sr., D; Wyatt Puza, so., D; Colton Murphy, sr., D; Jeffrey Irizarry, so., F.

Outlook: “This year we had a surge in numbers to the program making us very heavy in the freshman and sophomore classes,” said Kolehmainen, whose roster is currently at more than 30 players. “Our returning players have improved and our incoming players are showing a lot of potential to get us back in the playoff race.”

PEMBROKE-CAMPBELL

Division: III

Coach: Marc Noel (23rd year)

Last year: 15-5, reached semifinals

Returning starters: Liam Cripps, sr., G; Cam Plumb, sr., F; Logan Daigle, sr., F; Patrick Chamberlain, sr., D

Top newcomers: Caden Mix, sr., F

Outlook: PAC returns 11 seniors following the best season in program history – including First Team goaltender Cripps and Second Team forward Plumb. Also rejoining the team is Mix, who played on PAC as a freshman, but played with the Junior Monarchs for two years. Mix will add a powerful punch to an already strong top line that includes Plumb and Daigle.

“Our goaltending is strong and our team is solid at the blue line, as well as goal scoring,” Noel said. “We have a solid four lines with a lot of competition occurring for the top six on the blue line every week.”

Teams to beat: Pembroke-Campbell, Kennett, Berlin-Gorham, Belmont-Gilford.

GIRLS CONCORD

Coach: Kate Billings (1st year)

Last year: 13-6, reached quarterfinals.

Returning starters: Julia Kirrane, sr., D; Ayva Walsh, sr., D; Andie Moreira, jr., D; Abby Colby, jr., F.

Top newcomers: “We have nine newcomers to the team, which is the most we’ve had in a long time,” Billings said. “We’re excited about their potential and ability to make an impact on this ice this season.”

Outlook: After a disappointing 5-2 loss to Bishop Brady-Trinity-Londonderry to close last season, the Tide are hoping to make a deeper playoff run this year.

“We want to build on some of the successes we had last year, but improve on some of our weaker areas,” said Billings, who served as an assistant coach for the past few years. “There’s already a lot of excitement among our team, especially from our returning players and we see a lot of potential in our newcomers which will help us put the puck in the net and find some success this year. We have a number of players who are strong on both ends of the ice which will let us be more flexible and creative with our lineup from game to game.”

Teams to beat: Bishop Guertin, Oyster River-Portsmouth, Hanover

BISHOP BRADY-TRINITY-LONDONDERRY

Coach: Dan Earley (13th year)

Last year: 14-5, reached semifinals.

Top returners: Madeline Sousa, jr., F; Kylie Palmeter, jr., D; Ali Pelletier, so., F; Meghan Schmidt, jr., D; Kacey Yorston, jr., G; Josie Whitson, so., F; Finley Hollenberg, sr., F.

Top newcomers: Camdyn Despres, F; Kylee Dumais, F; Morgan Heise, F; Kloe Perry, F.

Outlook: With only 11 players on the roster, led by captains Hollenberg and Schmidt, “all players will make an impact,” Earley said.

Teams to beat: “Our league has gotten more competitive every year and so has (this) list,” Earley said