HOOKSETT - On paper, the Londonderry High School's ice hockey team is in a class above neighboring Pinkerton Academy of Derry.
In rivalry games, however, the action on the ice rarely aligns with quantifiable logic, and that proved true once again when the 3-6-1 Astros provided the visiting Lancers all they could handle before LHS hung on for a 4-3 victory during a Saturday matinee at the Ice Den.
"(Londonderry) is a top team in the state and I think that's what we can take away from this. We can play with the top teams in the state, do our best, keep playing the way we're going," said Pinkerton coach Joe Lee. "We're going to get into the tournament and then hopefully we can create an identity where we're not going to be a desirable first round matchup."
"They're record isn't indicative of the type of team they have," said LHS mentor Peter Bedford. "I think the matchup ... you know, they're quick, they're fast, so defensively, I think, that put us on our heals a little bit. I'm not saying we're the best team, but I think teams are showing up now to play their best hockey against us."
Londonderry, which entered the contest in second place in Division I with a 9-2 record, was paced, as usual, by standouts Curtis Harper and Eric Coburn. The senior duo combined for eight points in the contest, including a hat trick from Harper, who notched the first goal of the game when he found the back of the net off a powerplay rebound from Coburn with 3:05 remaining in the first period.
The second frame followed suit, with Harper lighting the lamp twice in the first six minutes. The second goal came on a cross-ice pass from Coburn and the third came off another man-advantage rebound from the senior captain. Junior Roy Cooper assisted on both tallies.
The hosts scored for the first time less than two minutes later with senior Ryan Christie redirecting a well-timed behind-the-net pass from junior Tyler Poole. They drew to within one with 1:54 remaining in the period when junior Giovanni Corsetto lifted a pass from classmate John Hamilton over LHS goalie Joseph McGrath's glove-side shoulder.
"The second period, they outplayed us," said Bedford. "They came inane pushed back hard ... you know, we were up 3-0 and I think our guys thought they could just sit back and relax and that obviously wasn't the case, and I love the fact these teams battle to the end."
The ice leveled in the third period, and Coburn scored on a Harper assist with 10:25 remaining in the contest.
PA proved resilient, though, and junior Ryan Day was rewarded for a diving effort when he tipped a Poole pass with 1:32 on the clock to once again draw within one. The Astros kept the pressure on the last 90 seconds, but couldn't punch in the equalizer.
"The first 15 minutes I think we played to their game ... we found our game more in the second and carried it over to the third," said Lee. "Penalties hurt us, especially in the first. They had two on the power play and that was the difference in the game."
"I don't think there's a whole lot of difference between us and a Pinkerton this year, there just isn't," said Bedford. "It's just that we seem to have played a little more consistent through the season where they've had inconsistency that's made it a bit of a bumpy ride for them. If it comes down to a playoff game, I'm not sure I'd necessarily like to face them."