John Stark-Hopkinton dethrones Kennett, wins D-III boys’ hockey title

  • John Stark-Hopkinton players, led by captain Brett Patnode (38), storm off the bench in celebration as time expires in the Division III boys’ hockey championship Saturday at SNHU Arena in Manchester. John Stark-Hopkinton prevailed over Kennett, 6-2. Rich Miyara / NH Sports Photography

  • The John Stark-Hopkinton boys’ hockey team gathers after winning the Division III championship on Saturday at SNHU Arena in Manchester. Rich Miyara / NH Sports Photography

  • John Stark-Hopkinton’s Tyler Scordo (22) shoots and scores in the first period. Rich Miyara / NH Sports Photography

  • John Stark-Hopkinton goalie Jameson Bourque (30) makes a save. Rich Miyara / NH Sports Photograpy

  • John Stark-Hopkinton’s Benny Madden (32) celebrates after scoring a third-period goal. Rich Miyara—

Monitor staff
Saturday, March 10, 2018

MANCHESTER – Jameson Bourque goes through the same routine after every game.

At the final horn, the John Stark-Hopkinton junior goaltender turns around, takes a swig from his water bottle cradled on top of the net, and throws it across the ice toward his team’s bench.

But when the buzzer sounded at the conclusion of Saturday’s 6-2 win in the Division III championship, Bourque didn’t have a chance to get his drink.

“In that moment, I just saw a wave of blue coming at me,” Bourque said.

That wave was the collective burst of John Stark-Hopkinton players coming off their bench and crashing into their goaltender as they reveled in their first championship since 2013.

Powered by Nolan Sauer’s two goals, the second-seeded General Hawks never played from behind and pulled out a win, dethroning the defending champions from Kennett.

Coming off his first shutout of the season in the semifinals, Bourque made 25 saves against the top-seeded Eagles (20-2). He allowed just three goals through as many games in the tournament.

Sauer, a freshman forward, scored the game-winning goal with 2:35 left in the second period, giving the General Hawks (16-3-2) a 3-2 lead heading into the third.

Jake Cole shuffled the puck to Sauer in the high slot, keeping it away from a reaching Kennett skater. Sauer gripped the puck on his tape and ripped his shot past John Biggio’s glove.

He added a second goal in the third period for insurance and a 4-2 lead.

Before he found the net, Sauer, third on the team in points, wasn’t skating at the pace his coach was looking for. Stark-Hopkinton coach Denis Kolehmainen pulled him aside midway through the second period.

“I got on him about how he was playing and he responded great,” Kolehmainen said. “And then he got those goals and they were huge.”

Stark-Hopkinton took its second lead of the night earlier in the period, but Kennett answered quickly to tie it back up.

Tyler Scordo held the puck on the bottom edge of the left circle as Paul Molnar skated on the other side of the slot, setting up a possible one-time play. Biggio knew Molnar was there and Scordo waited for the netminder to bite. When a little bit of space opened, Scordo aimed and fired for a 2-1 lead 3:49 into the second period.

Scordo’s goal was unassisted, but the play was possible because Benny Madden broke up a Kennett clear along the left-side boards.

The lead didn’t last for long this time.

Miles Woodbury brought Kennett back even 22 seconds later. Woodbury pickpocketed the puck before Stark-Hopkinton could escape their own end and beat Bourque with a quick, low shot.

The Eagles were playing from behind for the first time this season but responded each time Stark-Hopkinton surged ahead in the first two periods.

“We were always playing catch-up today,” Kennett coach Michael Lane said. “We never played with a lead, which is what we’ve done all season. Just playing from behind the whole night. … In the third period I think we just ran out of gas.”

Madden and Joe Sawitsky added two more goals to Stark-Hopkinton’s lead in the third, bringing the score to its final 6-2.

Sawitsky used all 200 feet and scored on the an empty net from the other end of the ice with 1:38 left.

Kolehmainen charged his players to use every bit of energy they had left. As Kennett’s proverbial gas tank started to run low, the General Hawks were able to get a few more miles out of theirs.

“Skating, effort, those things, you’ve got to do it,” Kolehmainen said. “You’re in the championship game. You’ve got to go 100 percent, especially in the third period. Your tank will be empty when this game is over.”

Kennett and Stark-Hopkinton were deadlocked, 1-1, after the first period.

Noah Chapman (goal, two assists) gave the General Hawks their first shot on goal and a 1-0 lead 3:31 into the game. After gathering the puck in the corner, Chapman cut toward the net while stick-handling behind the red line. Nearing the right post, Chapman threw the puck onto his backhand and flipped a shot by Biggio.

Mackenzie Murphy answered for the Eagles about three minutes later. Murphy shielded the puck away from a Stark-Hopkinton skater as he approached the net. At the last second, Murphy switched to his forehand and wristed a quick shot far side by Bourque’s blocker.

After watching Kennett take a two-goal lead in the first three minutes of their 6-1 semifinal win over Belmont-Gilford on Thursday, the General Hawks were well aware how important it would be to score early against the Eagles on Saturday.

“This whole season, Kennett never trails in a game,” Bourque said. “To get the first one on them and force them to make adjustments, that was huge for us.”

Bourque eventually got his drink of water. He would have preferred to maintain the tradition of taking a sip after the horn.

“It’s what I normally do,” he said.

An exception had to be made on Saturday, and Bourque seemed to be okay with that.

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