As is now traditional for the NHIAA Ice Hockey playoffs, Championship Day begins with the Girls’ Division 1 final, at 10:00 AM at Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester. This year’s terminal contest is different however, being for the first time ever, between Hanover and Lebanon. While the Raiders reach the championship game for the second time (losing to STD in 2009), the defending champion Marauders have advanced to, (and prevailed in) three of the four past NHIAA Girls’ Ice Hockey tournaments since the inaugural 2007-08 season. As the #1 seed, Lebanon will endeavor to win its first crown, while Hanover seeks its third consecutive and fourth in five years.
There are no secrets between these two teams who share Campion Rink as their “home ice”… each often taking the ice either immediately before or after the other for practice. Finishing first (Leb) and second (Hanover) in the divisional standings, they’ve split the two regular season games between them. They know each other’s strengths and weaknesses well. Indeed, many of the girls have played together from Mites through U-14 travel…and even have an old coach or two in common. Both are aware that they finished first (Hanover) and second (Leb) in the division in both total goals scored and fewest allowed during the regular season…and thus far through the playoffs. Each team features a fast-paced and aggressive, but clean style of hockey (they’re likely the two least penalized teams in the division) and whoever wins will be a worthy champion.
This promises to be a great matchup of #1 vs #2, as it should be, in the championship game…with the added attraction of a local rivalry, at a special venue. At Verizon, as at Campion, there is historically no significant advantage afforded to either of these contenders by jersey color or having the “home” bench. The season ends for all on Saturday…and whoever wins will earn it, with their “energy, passion and discipline.”. No matter the outcome, we will be proud of our girls’ talent and character. This is what you’ve played the season for…..to be even “Better tomorrow than today.”
Tomorrow is Saturday.
The Marauders return to Concord’s Douglas N. Everett Arena on Tuesday, playing consecutive games there, and their fourth semifinal in 5 years. In the early (5:30 PM) game, our girls (second seed at 14-2-0) will face off against the third place Oyster River Bobcats (13-4-0) who beat #6 STD in Friday’s quarterfinal at Durham. In the late (7:30 PM) game, first seed Leb (15-1-0) meets Concord (11-6-0), who earned their way back to the semis with a come-from-behind, overtime win against #5 Bishop Guertin.
Tuesday’s semifinal winners will advance to the 2012 Girls’ D1 final at Manchester’s Verizon Wireless Arena on Saturday, March 10th at 10 AM.
The 2012 playoff bracket (unofficial until next week) is now complete for the 5th post-season of NHIAA-sanctioned Girls’ Ice Hockey. As for the past three years, the same six teams have earned tournament spots… only their order has changed. Perhaps unlike the past three years however, any one of the top four teams might be capable of winning it all, as none is undefeated against the other three.
As the top two seeds, Hanover (2) and Leb (1) receive byes into the semifinal round on Tuesday, March 6th, at Everett Arena.
The two quarterfinals are scheduled for Friday, March 2nd; to be played at the home ice of the higher seed:
Now, there’s a week and a half for the Marauders to re-focus on fitness, first touch and finish, until their next game… back at Everett Arena on the 6th of March. Time to “pirate-up.”
Oddly, despite being a late-season contest between two top-four teams in the standings, neither this game nor Concord’s last one (with Leb on Saturday) will likely affect the playoff bracket. (The #5 and #6 positions are yet to be decided this week, while the top two seeds are set, and the middle order could change only under extraordinary circumstances.) Regardless, both teams looked for a strong outing against an opponent they could face again late in the post-season.
On Concord’s Senior Night, the Marauders prevailed in a tight battle with an inspired Crimson Tide…. lots of offense both ways, but no finish through two, mostly due to the standout play of both goaltenders. However, it was senior v. senior in the third, when Maddie Dewhirst took a pass (from Caroline Howell) in the high slot and fired an untouchable laser into the the top left corner for the game winning goal, past senior (and four-year starter) Ashley Godbout [30 saves.] Tessa Hill added a late tally to put the game out of reach. The Marauders again out-shot Concord by a wide margin, but Concord’s goaltender kept them in it, while our Kelly Gaudet made several crucial saves to preserve the shutout win.
Hanover finishes their regular season at 14-2-0, in second place, while Concord (10-5-0) will finish in fourth and close out their regular season at Campion against Leb (14-1-0) on Saturday afternoon.
The final home game of the regular season was a big one, on Saturday afternoon at Campion against Oyster River. The Bobcats (were currently in 3rd place at 12-3-0 ) had previously handed Hanover (12-2-0) their first loss of the season.
The Marauders dug deep to even the season series with a very chippy Bobcat team. Despite allowing the first goal, Hanover controlled the neutral zone and out-shot Oyster River by a 37 to 12 margin. The defense came to play today, nearly neutralizing OR’s most offensive player, while the Green line accounted for the first two scores (Kate Pattison and Hannah Lyons.) Another apparently good goal was called back. Maddie Dewhirst added the late tally (empty netter) to salt away the win. (She also served only her first penalty of the entire season.) Kelly Gaudet was solid in goal, earning the complete game victory.
With the win, the Marauders secure the second seed (bye) for the upcoming playoffs and have earned at least one win against all of the other teams in the Division. (Leb claimed the No. 1 seed today with their win at Berlin-Gorham.) Sadly (for me), this was the last game at Campion Rink for our five Seniors, of whom we are so proud. (They dodged the Zamboni to take their final skate together around the Campion ice in celebration of the win.)
Hanover’s final regular season game is on the road, (perhaps usefully visiting the perennial semi-final site), at Concord’s Douglas N. Everett Arena on Wednesday. Great win today. Go Marauders!
The final three games of the 2011-12 regular season loom ahead…every one important, as all three opponents will be tournament teams. The Marauders’ performance through the next two weeks will both determine their starting position in the playoffs, as well as portend how deep they might go.
All three lines contributed to the scoring (Madison , while Maddie, Tessa, Sarah Wagner and Emily Acker had one each), as the Marauders sailed past the Cardinals and never looked back at Skate 3 (leading 3-1 after one and 6-1 after two.) Kelly Gaudet (1st and 2nd periods) and Katie Fenton (3rd) shared the win in goal.
How time flies… At the penultimate home game of the 2011-12 season, our five seniors were honored for their years of contribution to Hanover High School Girls’ Hockey. The Marauders then took on Berlin-Gorham’s Lady Mountaineers (whose three seniors were also recognized.)
Earning perhaps an expected, but no less necessary win, the Marauders out-shot the young Berlin-Gorham team by a wide margin… controlling play in their defensive end for much of the game.
Maddie Dewhirst celebrated her Senior Day game with four goals, while Black Line-mates Madison and Tessa Hill each fired in one. All three lines produced some good offensive pressure and scoring chances, while team defense was solid. Freshman Katie Fenton got the start and complete game win in goal, making 10 saves.