Big arena, big stage for today's high school hockey finals
NHIAA hockey finalsToday at Verizon Wireless Arena, Manchester
Division I: Londonderry vs. Manchester Central, 4:30 p.m.
Division II: Bow vs. Bedford, 2:30 p.m.
Division III: John Stark/Hopkinton vs. Souhegan, 12:15 p.m.
Girls': Berlin/Gorham vs. Hanover, 10 a.m.
Now Bow, one of those unsuccessful challengers, has a third and final shot at the unbeaten and defending champion Bulldogs. The opportunity comes on the season's biggest stage, in the Division II championship game Saturday at Manchester's Verizon Wireless Arena.
Here's a division-by-division look at the four title games:
Fourth-seeded Central (13-7-0) upset No. 2 St. Thomas Aquinas of Dover in the semifinals to reach the final for the second consecutive year. The Little Green lost the title game to city rival Manchester Memorial a year ago.
No. 3 Londonderry (16-4-0) defeated Central 3-2 in a regular season meeting in mid-January, but in a one-game, winner-take-all scenario, past results don't mean much. Just ask St. Thomas, which routed Central 9-3 in their regular-season meeting.
Stone, who felt that his team performed even better in a 6-2 quarterfinal win over No. 5 Trinity of Manchester than it did in its upset of St. Thomas, said the Little Green have to contain Coburn and otherwise continue doing what they've been doing during their winning streak: playing grind-it-out hockey in all three zones.
Though top-seeded Bedford, 20-0-0 in its quest for a third-straight D-II crown, defeated No. 3 Bow (16-3-1) twice during the regular season — 4-2 at Bow on Jan. 18 and 4-1 at home on Jan. 10 — Bedford head coach Marty Myers said he's not taking the underdogs lightly.
"We didn't break away from our system, even at the end of the game, when it was kind of panic time, we stayed in our system, we clogged up the middle," he said. "The last minute and a half was unbelievable. We clogged up the neutral zone, we didn't let them come through, and we were blocking shots when we needed to."
"If we just come to play, and do everything right, and we play a perfect game, yeah, we're fully capable of it," he said. "This is a resilient group."
"Every team has its own dynamic and this team, I think, is more defensive focused than offensive focused," he said, "so that's why we always try to keep the games tight because we know we don't want to get into shootout and we prefer to play a little tighter so we can win by a goal, or two, preferably."
The matchup should a tight one as Souhegan (17-2-0) and John Stark/Hopkinton (12-6-1) are evenly matched despite being separated by five wins and three seeds.
Berlin-Gorham (14-3-2) will hope to play giant-killer and slay mighty Hanover (18-0-0), winner of four straight state championships and five of the six ever crowned in the state.
"Hanover has always been good, but each game is different and you never know who is going to bring what. We're just going to bring our game," said Berlin-Gorham head coach Tanya Rosenberg. "We made it this far, and this was our focus all year as a team, and we did it together to get where we want to be."