EXETER — The Red Raiders lit the lamp first. The Bulldogs lit it last.
Undefeated Bedford, the two-time defending state champion and Division II top seed, was challenged from start to finish by 13-4 Spaulding, but held on for a 3-2 triumph Thursday night in the NHIAA ice hockey semifinals at the Rinks at Exeter.
Bedford will now face third-seeded Bow Saturday at 2:30 p.m. at the Verizon Wireless Arena for the Division II crown.
Bedford's game winner came with 3:04 left in the third period, when senior Nate Boyd tipped in a perfectly-timed Jeremy Myers pass that eluded Spaulding freshman goaltender Ben Toussaint.
"Entering the third period, going into a tied game, we wanted more pucks to the net ... and the other thing we wanted to do was start driving the net," said Bedford head coach Marty Myers. "That play was a great pass, (Boyd) was driving the net, he got a deflection, and it went in."
After a scoreless opening period, Spaulding senior Brent Phillips got the scoring started 26 seconds into the second frame.
The Bulldogs responded two minutes later when junior defenseman Andrew Connelly forced a turnover and dished it to classmate Brett Silva, who made a pass to a streaking Asa Parker, who sent a laser through Toussaint's legs to knot the game at 1-1.
Bedford went ahead with 8:42 remaining in the second period on a goal from Myers on Patrick Gagliardi helper, but Phillips provided the equalizer for the Red Raiders, scoring on a Nicholas Bennett pass with 2:37 left in the period.
Senior Stevan Tempesta made 14 saves for the victors, while Toussaint made 23 saves.
Bow 2, Dover 1
In the other D-II semifinal, Bow had one more shot than Dover, and the Falcons made it count.
On a team full of veterans, it was freshman Christopher Mead who notched the game-winning goal, driving the puck past Dover goalie Luc Ravenelle with 7:52 remaining in the contest to secure the 2-1 victory for third-seeded Bow.
"Chris has really come into his own the last couple weeks here ... he's just a bull and he got to the net against Goffstown and then again tonight. He scored the game winner both nights," said longtime Bow head coach Tim Walsh. "You know, that's our third line and they're just buzzing."
The Falcons took an early lead in the back-and-forth contest when Mead's linemate, Derek Gallagher, who later contributed on the game-winner, scored with 7:02 remaining in the first period. Austin Beaudette and Jeremy Duhamel assisted on the tally.
Dover freshman Steven Constas buried the equalizer three minutes later with assists to Greg Stohrer and Mitchell Welch.
The two teams then skated to a draw through the second period and eight minutes into the third before Mead lit the lamp.
Bow junior goaltender Robert Margeson was challenged several times during the third period, but kept the puck out of the net, stopping a total of 17 shots in the contest. Ravenelle also made 17 saves for Dover.
Now the 16-3-1 Falcons move on to the Division II championship game for the second time in program history. They won the 2010 state crown.
For 16-4 Dover, the No. 2 seed, it was the second loss of the season to the Falcons.