John Habib's City Sports: Central's Stone focusing on title
HAVING covered him as the New Hampshire Union Leader's high school hockey beat reporter during his playing days at Manchester High School Central 30 years ago, I can attest to Brian Stone's fierce competitiveness.
Today as head coach of the Little Green, Stone maintains that same quality. He hates to lose, especially to his city arch-rivals.
Last March, Memorial defeated Stone's Central team, 3-2 in overtime, for the Division I championship at Verizon Wireless Arena. Then, during last month's Bauer Christmas Hockey Classic, Memorial hung its 2013 championship banner at JFK Coliseum.
Painful as it is to see that banner every day when Central practices or plays a game at the JFK, Stone is hoping to use it to motivate his program.
"That's what we want to be: state champions," said Stone. "We came so close last year. One goal away. It should have been us.
"But you know what? We come back, work hard each day, earn a playoff berth and find a way to win it all. We just find a way. I'm never going to be satisfied until we're the last team standing."
Today at 6:30 p.m., Memorial (3-1-1 in NHIAA Division I play) and Central (3-1-0) clash at JFK Coliseum. The game will be televised live on Manchester Public Television.
BEFORE the season started, Memorial boys' basketball coach Jack Quirk declared Central and fellow city rival Trinity the two most talented teams in Division I and predicted that one of them would finish the season unbeaten.
After his team's 64-61 overtime win at home against Bedford last Monday at the Simon Gym, Central coach Doc Wheeler addressed Quirk's statement.
"I told my team not to pay any attention to it," Wheeler said. "(Quirk) may believe it, but I don't. I've been coaching for a long time, and I know how hard it is to win any game in our league. Bedford just gave us a great battle, and I'm sure we're going to face many more battles this season.
"Don't get me wrong; we embrace the challenge of being the team everyone wants to beat. We're just not going to let other people set our expectations. Myself, my coaching staff — we'll set our own expectations for Central this season."
IN ADDITION to tonight's Central-Memorial hockey game, Manchester TV also plans to broadcast Monday's 4:30 p.m. hockey game between Central and Nashua South from JFK and Thursday's 6:30 p.m. girls' basketball game between Manchester West and Bishop Guertin of Nashua from West's Quinn Gym.
"City Sports" is published Saturdays in the New Hampshire Union Leader. Email staff reporter John Habib at email@example.com.