Concord girls’ hockey falls in semifinals to Exeter, 6-1

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  • Concord defenseman Amy Cohen falls after colliding with a Exeter player during the first period at Everett Arena in Concord on Tuesday, March 5, 2019. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Concord defenseman Maria Armaganian and Exeter forward Madison Ganley fall after colliding in the second period at Everett Arena on Tuesday, March 5, 2019. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Concord defenseman Maria Armaganian lays out to get the puck during the third period at Everett Arena in Concord on Tuesday, March 5, 2019. Concord lost 6-1 against Exeter. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Concord forward Nicole Jones (16) skates back to the bench as Exeter players celebrate their fifth goal at Everett Arena on Tuesday, March 5, 2019. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Concord’s Maria Armaganian skates back to the bench as Exeter players celebrate at Everett Arena in Concord on Tuesday. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 3/6/2019 12:44:41 AM

Entering Tuesday’s semifinal, the Tide knew they would be facing one of the best starting combinations in the state.

No. 3 Concord (14-6-0) was hoping its season with a program-high 14 wins would continue on another day, but No. 2 Exeter’s top line, anchored by Player of the Year selection Carissa Towlson, was too much for the Tide, ending one of the best season’s in program history with a 6-1 loss at Everett Arena.

“It’s one of the better groups of five in the state,” Concord head coach Patrick McDonough said, referring to the Blue Hawks’ starting lineup. “If you can shut them down you can shut the team down ... We knew the hockey gods were either going to bless us or bless them and unfortunately it didn’t shake out our way, but I’m really proud of how we competed today.”

Although the top line of Towlson (two goals, two assists), Shauna Vadeboncoeur (two goals, assist) and Dakota Markey (goal, two assists) padded the scoresheet for Exeter (15-4-1), they were kept off the board in the first period.

Concord senior captain Emily Forward and her fellow defensemen, sophomore Maria Armaganian and freshman Amy Cohen, did a great job breaking up plays and tying up Exeter’s top forwards in Concord’s end, and the Tide outshot the Blue Hawks, 7-6, in the first 15 minutes, but Exeter’s Sarah Gallo found the back of the net at 5:14 for a 1-0 lead through the first period.

Junior netminder Abby Corbett (26 saves) had already made a few good stops against Towlson early in the game, but Exeter’s top scorer found the five hole 3:56 into the second to give the Blue Hawks a 2-0 lead.

Things started to unravel for the Tide in the middle of the period when Armaganian and Cohen received tripping and hooking penalties with 8:36 and 8:08 remaining in the period, and Towlson scored on the 5-on-3 advantage to give Exeter a 3-0 lead with 7:24 left in the second.

The Blue Hawks also outshot Concord, 11-4, in second period.

Corbett stopped a pair of Towlson breakaways in the first few minutes of the third and also made a fantastic glove save fired in from the high slot, while her teammates put some pressure on the Blue Hawks’ net, but First Team All State goaltender Isabelle Day (15 saves) was up to the task.

Vadeboncoeur finished off a pretty tic-tac-toe play on a three-on-one break with 9:24 left to give Exeter a 4-0 lead, but the Tide played out the rest of the game with the intensity of a team with all still to play for.

“This is one of the best groups of competitors that I’ve ever had the opportunity to coach,” McDonough said. “Every shift we gave ourselves an opportunity to at least get back into it. That’s all we asked of them, to give us a fighting chance moving forward.”

The scrappy play paid off when the Tide drew its first power play with 6:40 left and freshman Kaitlyn McKinnon wasted no time, netting a goal for Concord nine seconds later off an assist from All-State Honorable Mention sophomore Jaelyn Kelleher.

“We know throwing (our power-play unit) out there, that puck is going to end up in the back of the net sooner or later,” McDonough said. “For them to be rewarded and to get a stat to note how much they worked, it was nice to get that on our side. I’m very proud of how well they competed every single shift. No matter the score, we wanted to get the next one.”

Vadeboncoeur and Markey, the latter a Second Team All-State selection, scored goals with 2:41 and 2:04 remaining to wrap up the 6-1 victory, but Concord played hard down the to last shift with Forward tying up Exeter’s top players in the neutral zone, Armaganian throwing her body on the ice to block a pass and Corbett stopping yet another breakaway with a quick glove all in the final 90 seconds of the season.

“I thought we gave it our best effort,” Forward said. “There were a couple of bounces that didn’t go our way, but overall I’m happy with how it went. I think overall a lot of lessons were learned (this season). It was tough losing our first game after our 10-game winning streak, but we had a lot of fun and we had a good run.”

Thanks to the 10-game winning streak to open the season, Concord tied the program record for best regular season (13-5), set the record for most wins in a season (14) and made the program’s fifth appearance in the final four.

The 2018-19 campaign also marks an improvement over last year’s season, McDonough’s first year as Concord’s head coach, that ended with a 10-10 record and a loss in the quarterfinals to Exeter

“We’re very proud of that,” McDonough said. “We’re trending in the right direction.”

Exeter, which has been the runner-up the past two seasons, will play No. 1 Hanover, the nine-time defending champions, at SNHU Arena in Saturday’s final.

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