Ian Clark's High School Hockey: Londonderry skaters drop Saint Thomas in a wild one
SALEM -- A MEETING between two of the top teams in Division I lived up to its billing.
Londonderry escaped with a 7-6 overtime win over St. Thomas in a wild game at The ICEnter Wednesday night.
The Lancers won for the eighth time in as many games to improve to 9-2-0. St. Thomas (8-2-1) lost for the first time since its season opener against Trinity.
Londonderry led 3-1 heading into the third period only to watch St. Thomas score five goals in the frame to take a 6-4 lead. But the Lancers scored twice in the final minute and then 1:38 into overtime for the win.
"I would imagine the public got their money's worth tonight. That was pretty interesting," said Londonderry coach Peter Bedford. "It certainly was fun to be a part of. No doubt."
Trailing 6-4 late, Londonderry pulled goalie Mitch Schirch for an extra attacker and got one goal back with 48 seconds remaining when Cooper Roy wristed home a rebound chance during a net-mouth scramble.
With 5.9 seconds remaining the Lancers tied the game at 6-6 when Mark Leach knocked in another rebound try from the left side.
"You can't really explain it," St. Thomas head coach Andrew Leach said of the crazy nature of the game. "That's hockey right there. We're protecting the lead, they pull the goalie and storm the net. Our guys didn't give up, they just got outworked and outmanned in front."
In overtime, Colby Austin drilled a slap shot from the high right wing boards that beat Zane Angelopolous glove-side for the winner at 1:38.
The strong finish for Londonderry erased what had been a dominant third period effort for St. Thomas. Trailing 3-1 to open the third, the Saints scored a power-play goal 31 seconds in when Aaron Garrison popped home a rebound.Glenn Wiswell slipped a shot through Schirch's five-hole less than a minute later to tie the game at 3-3.
Londonderry pulled ahead 4-3 on Eric Coburn's third goal of the game on the power play at 7:25.
But back came St. Thomas, building a 6-4 lead on goals from Isaac Leslie (finishing a two-on-one with Nolan Lavallee) at 9:19, Niall Foster at 11:20 and Ryan Benedetto at 11:36.
"They are a powerful and potent team when they want to turn it on. I think for two periods we did a pretty good job. Things just got away from us," Bedford said. "When they got us on our heels there was a little bit of discontent on our bench that I reined in. That's two good, top teams. Good skating teams that played hard against each other."
Angelopolous kept his team in the game early, making 20 saves in the first period alone.
"He's the backbone. He keeps us in it," Leach said. "He was on his game and has played like that all year. This was his first test where he's been peppered."
Londonderry scored one in the first. Jason Parker scored a power-play goal at 12:03.
St. Thomas tied the game at 1-1 22 seconds into the second period on a Wiswell tally. The Lancers got a pair of goals from Coburn to take a 3-1 lead into the third.
Gridlock for the girls: The race to the playoffs in the girls' ice hockey division should be entertaining. Eight teams will make the postseason tournament and entering play on Wednesday, the battles for the bottom slots were just as tight as those for the top.
Unbeaten Bishop Guertin of Nashua leads the way at 6-0. Powerhouse defending champion Hanover is next at 5-1. The Marauders have opted to play numerous out of state teams this season and their one loss came at the hands of Acton, Mass.
Oyster River (7-2), Berlin/Gorham (6-2) and Lebanon (6-2) round out a jam-packed top five that will no doubt be jostled by the head-to-head meetings looming amongst them.
And then the scramble for the last three spots is a logjam as well. Souhegan (4-4), Bishop Brady/Trinity (3-4), St. Thomas/Dover (3-5), Concord (1-6), Exeter (1-6) and ConVal of Peterborough (0-9) round out the lower half of the standings. Even ConVal, with seven games remaining, is not out of the race by any means.
Key upcoming games for the girls' division include St. Thomas/Dover at Souhegan Saturday, Berlin/Gorham at Bishop Guertin on Tuesday and Exeter at Concord on Wednesday.
What to watch: Today's top matchup in the boys' ranks is Salem (9-1) at Manchester Memorial (5-2-1) at JFK Coliseum at 4:30 p.m. Memorial will face another tough test Saturday at 1 p.m. when it travels to play St. Thomas at Dover Arena.
In Division III, first-place Belmont/Gilford (9-0) visits Souhegan (6-1) at Conway Arena on Saturday at 4:50 p.m.
Ian Clark covers high school hockey for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. His email is email@example.com.