Boys’ hockey: Concord bounces back from first regular season loss with win over Exeter

Concord junior Trevor Craigue pokes the puck away from Exeter’s West Vaillant during Wednesday’s matchup.

Concord junior Trevor Craigue pokes the puck away from Exeter’s West Vaillant during Wednesday’s matchup. CHIP GRIFFIN / Photos By Chip

Dawson Fancher (10) prepares to fire a shot on goal against Exeter goalie Trent Fujitani during Wednesday’s 5-2 win for the Tide.

Dawson Fancher (10) prepares to fire a shot on goal against Exeter goalie Trent Fujitani during Wednesday’s 5-2 win for the Tide. CHIP GRIFFIN / Photos By Chip

Alex Pelletier (center) celebrates his goal that gave Concord a 4-1 lead 56 seconds into the third period on Wednesday.

Alex Pelletier (center) celebrates his goal that gave Concord a 4-1 lead 56 seconds into the third period on Wednesday. CHIP GRIFFIN / Photos By Chip

By ERIC RYNSTON-LOBEL

Monitor staff

Published: 02-14-2024 11:48 PM

CONCORD – The Concord boys’ hockey team isn’t used to losing many regular season games. So when the Crimson Tide arrived at Everett Arena on Wednesday after a 4-1 loss to Hanover the day before, there was a renewed focus facing off against an Exeter team Concord had only narrowly beaten 2-1 on Dec. 20.

The Tide dominated the first period, cycling the puck around the offensive zone and firing shots at Exeter goalie Trent Fujitani. At the 10:16 mark, Concord senior Dawson Fancher buried a shot into the back of the net off a pass from junior Trevor Craigue to put the hosts ahead 1-0. 

Exeter tied the score at 1-1 just under four minutes into the second period on a goal from Cam Keaveney, but Concord subsequently responded with goals from senior A.J. Dow (Jaden Haas and Rowan Arndt assists) and senior Jack Shoemaker (Carter Doherty and Fancher assists) to make it 3-1. Then in the third, senior Alex Pelletier scored an unassisted goal 56 seconds into the period, and Exeter’s West Vaillant made it 4-2 less than three minutes later, before Craigue added some insurance for the Tide with a goal at 6:20 to put Concord ahead 5-2.

The Tide won by that score.

“Just making better decisions with the puck,” Concord head coach Dunc Walsh said of the biggest difference between Tuesday’s loss and Wednesday’s win. “Tonight I thought we were way better in our own end, made good decisions. We were really good in the offensive end cycling the puck and getting the forecheck going, really working it, making them work hard. I thought that was the key to the game.”

Also key to the game was Craigue’s presence on the ice. Playing in just his fourth game of the season, Walsh said he’s seen improvement each time out on the ice. Against the Blue Hawks, he and Fancher demonstrated a great rapport, setting each other up for two goals and several other scoring opportunities.

“It’s good to have Trev back,” Walsh said. “Tonight was definitely his best game so far. It’s only his fourth game. He gives us more depth and speed, and he’s good on the forecheck.”

Concord has just four games remaining in the regular season before the Division I playoffs begin on Feb. 28. At 12-1-1, the Tide still sit atop the standings, but it faces a tough matchup on Saturday with second-place Londonderry, a team that had Concord on the ropes when the Tide came back from a 5-3 deficit to win 7-5 on Jan. 31.

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But Walsh said he’s seen clear growth in his group as the season’s progressed. Take the two games they played against Exeter as an example: In December, Concord won a 2-1 nailbiter; on Wednesday, the Tide won far more comfortably.

“I think we’ve definitely improved,” Walsh said. “We practice so much the cycling and the offensive zone time. We’ve definitely gotten better at that. Defensively, we harp all the time, be good in our end. Everybody’s improved.

“But all the teams improve this time of the year. You gotta be ready.”