Boys’ hockey: No. 11 Exeter stuns No. 3 Concord in overtime, knocks Crimson Tide out of the playoffs in the quarterfinals

The Exeter hockey team gathers to celebrate after scoring the game-winning goal in 4-3 overtime victory in the Division I quarterfinals at Everett Arena on Saturday night.

The Exeter hockey team gathers to celebrate after scoring the game-winning goal in 4-3 overtime victory in the Division I quarterfinals at Everett Arena on Saturday night. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

The Exeter hockey team celebrates after scoring the game-winning goal in a 4-3 overtime victory in the Division I quarterfinals at Everett Arena on Saturday night.

The Exeter hockey team celebrates after scoring the game-winning goal in a 4-3 overtime victory in the Division I quarterfinals at Everett Arena on Saturday night. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

Trevor Craigue (right) consoles Concord teammate Dawson Fancher after the Tide was defeated by Exeter in overtime, 4-3, on Saturday in the quarterfinals.

Trevor Craigue (right) consoles Concord teammate Dawson Fancher after the Tide was defeated by Exeter in overtime, 4-3, on Saturday in the quarterfinals. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

Concord leftwinger Cam Chandonnet (right) stretches out to secure the puck during the second period against Exeter on Saturday, March 2, 2024.

Concord leftwinger Cam Chandonnet (right) stretches out to secure the puck during the second period against Exeter on Saturday, March 2, 2024. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Concord right winger Jaden Haas duels with Exeter player Joe Crowe for control of the puck during the second period at Everett Arena on Saturday, March 2, 2024.

Concord right winger Jaden Haas duels with Exeter player Joe Crowe for control of the puck during the second period at Everett Arena on Saturday, March 2, 2024. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

By ERIC RYNSTON-LOBEL

Monitor staff

Published: 03-02-2024 11:21 PM

Modified: 03-03-2024 9:24 AM


CONCORD – Concord keeled over in disbelief.

It hadn’t yet been five seconds since a shot from Exeter’s Ryan Wallace found the back of the net at 12:03 of overtime to win the game for the Blue Hawks, 4-3. The stark reality already set in. The Tide (14-4-1), which at one point had a 3-0 lead, would have its season end on its home ice in the quarterfinals of the Division I playoffs.

“We should’ve just stepped on the pedal and kept it going,” head coach Dunc Walsh said. “We played hard. Just lack of execution in front of the net. Just couldn’t finish. We knew that they’re good. (Exeter’s Cam) Keaveney had two goals, and their (goalie) played pretty well. He made a lot of saves. Very disappointing. Our kids left it all out there, but leaves a bad taste certainly.”

There were two key areas of focus for No. 3 Concord entering Saturday’s quarterfinal against No. 11 Exeter (10-10-0): crashing the net for gritty goals and settling things down on the power play. For the first 16 minutes or so of game action, Walsh couldn’t have been happier.

Just 2:08 into the game, senior captain Dawson Fancher poked in a goal off multiple rebounds in front of the net to put the Crimson Tide ahead 1-0; roughly two minutes later, senior A.J. Dow scored on the power play, and 1:15 into the second, sophomore Carter Doherty scored to give Concord what felt like an insurmountable 3-0 advantage. The team that entered Saturday having scored just four goals over its last three games looked to have finally turned the page and rediscovered its offense in time for the postseason.

Then, the Blue Hawks soared back. Less than a minute after Doherty made it 3-0, Exeter’s Eddie Hannan fired a seemingly harmless shot on net that trickled under the arm of Concord goalie Luukas Mayer and into the back of the net. 3-1 Concord.

Ninety seconds later, Exeter’s Keaveney – who earlier in the week Walsh referred to as the top player in the division – scored. 3-2 Concord.

Then just 3:03 into the third period, Keaveney scored again. 3-3.

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Wallace’s overtime winner sealed the comeback – or from Concord’s perspective, the collapse.

“You work so hard all season to get to this point. Home ice. We just didn’t get it done,” Walsh said. “It wasn’t from lack of effort. Our kids played hard, but just a couple rebounds if we could’ve knocked in or a couple 2-on-1s we had, if we could’ve made the right play, but we didn’t, and Exeter hung in there.”

Entering the season having lost Brooks Craigue, who contributed to roughly three-quarters of the team’s offense last season, Walsh conveyed measured expectations. He projected his team would be good but probably not as dominant as in recent years. Then Concord jumped out to an 11-0-1 start to the season, and it looked like the Tide would be more than fine, even without Craigue.

But the program endured some turbulence in February, losing to Hanover on Feb. 13 and then back-to-back games against Keene and Hanover to close out the regular season. It was the first time Concord had lost consecutive regular season games in seven years.

And then Saturday, blowing a 3-0 lead at home created a reality that just hasn’t existed for Crimson Tide boys’ hockey for quite some time. The program expects to reach the semifinals each year, at the very least. Yet, Saturday served as a brutal reminder that success is fleeting. 

“It’s just disappointing because the kids work hard, and they’re not used to not going to the semifinals,” Walsh said. “Just a bad taste, but our kids played hard. Just didn’t finish when we needed to.”