Defending champion Bedford knocks off No. 1 Concord in D-I boys’ hockey semifinals

  • Concord’s Mike Stoddard battles for the puck. Rich Miyara / NH Sports Photography

  • Concord’s Spencer Burgess makes a save on a shot from the point. Rich Miyara NH Sports Photography

  • Concord’s Andrew Paquette takes a shot on the boards. Rich Miyara / NH Sports Photography

  • Concord’s Drew Livingston and Colin Kastle celebrate Livingston’s goal – Concord’s only score. Rich Miyara / NH Sports Photography

  • Concord’s Spencer Burgess stops a breakaway by Bedford’s Eric Flynn. Rich Miyara NH Sports Photography

Monitor staff
Friday, March 09, 2018

MANCHESTER – The Concord High boys’ hockey team came into the playoffs as the hottest squad in Division I.

Bedford put out the fire Thursday night in Manchester.

The fourth-seeded Bulldogs scored in the first period and never gave up the lead, pulling out a 3-1 win over No. 1 Concord in the Division I semifinals at JFK Coliseum.

Bedford senior netminder Conner Laurendeau backstopped the Bulldogs with 27 saves, highlighted by several close-range stops that kept the two-time defending champions in front.

The high-powered Tide offense couldn’t shake Laurendeau out of his groove as they had to several opposing goaltenders this season.

The Tide (17-3) finished the season with 105 goals, but one on Thursday wasn’t enough to keep Bedford from returning to its third straight championship game.

“They just seemed a little hungrier than we did,” said Concord coach Dunc Walsh, wrapping up his 28th year behind the Tide bench. “(Bedford is) a good team. Their goalie played well. We had some good chances.”

Bedford (17-4) will face No. 2 Hanover in the Division I championship game on Saturday at SNHU Arena at 12:15 p.m. Hanover dispatched No. 6 Bishop Guertin, 3-2, in the earlier semifinal game Thursday.

Concord senior goaltender, co-captain Spencer Burgess closed his high school career with a 21-save performance. Bedford scored two of their goals off turnovers in Concord’s end.

“We left him high and dry a few times,” Walsh said.

Concord trailed by two goals heading into the third period, harkening back to their season opener against Bedford where the Tide erased a two-goal deficit and won in overtime.

They couldn’t find the equalizer Thursday night.

Concord cut the deficit to one goal 3:09 into the third period when Drew Livingston sniped one by Laurendeau. The sequence was possible only because of a heads-up play by Colin Kastle deflecting an attempted clear by Bedford out of their end. The puck scooted over to Livingston, who picked his spot and hit the net.

But Concord’s bench, and the raucous contingent of Tide fans in attendance, were hushed two minutes later when Parker Roberto poked the puck by Burgess to put Bedford’s lead back to two goals.

Concord turned the puck over in their end before Roberto hit his shot.

“Can’t do that against good teams, can’t do that in the semifinals,” Walsh said. “You’ve got to take care of the puck.”

Walsh pulled Burgess for the extra skater with 2:16 left. The Tide fired away at Bedford’s net for most of the final two minutes, but Laurendeau continued to turn them away.

“It’s nice when your best player on the ice is your goalie,” Bedford coach Marty Myers said. “He made the saves he needed, and he made the saves he probably shouldn’t have even made.”

The Bulldogs took a 1-0 lead in the first period on a power-play goal by Jack Sylvain. They outshot the Tide in the opening period, 10-7.

“They definitely started out a little hotter,” Concord senior defenseman and co-captain Liam O’Brien said. “We got better as the game went on, but we didn’t get the bounces that they got and their goalie played well. He played probably the best game I’ve seen him play.”

Concord found better scoring chances in the second period. Devin Philbrick set up Michael Stoddard with a nice pass near the crease less than two minutes into the frame, but Laurendeau anticipated the play and made a clean stop.

A Bedford goal was waved off with 2:27 left in the second, but the Bulldogs made up for it 34 seconds later to pull ahead 2-0 when Eric Flynn scored on a close-range strike.

It is the second time in as many years that the Tide’s season has ended at the hands of Bedford. They were shut out, 7-0, in the championship game last year.

Concord played consistently as one of the top teams in the division throughout this season. O’Brien saw his teammates continue to grow as the wins piled up.

“This is a team I’ve seen a lot of improvement out of,” he said. “We weren’t bad, but we definitely got a lot better as the year progressed. I’m just really proud of what we were able to accomplish.”

(Nick Stoico can be reached at nstoico@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @NickStoico.)