By Tris Wykes
Copyright Octopus Athletics 2021
WEST LEBANON – Despite the valiant efforts of its management and hourly workers, Campion Rink is showing its age. The public-address system is out, replaced by a single, portable speaker hung on netting over the 34-year old facility’s penalty boxes.
During Wednesday’s Hanover High boys hockey game, the puck shot through a gap at the base of the boards and on to the surrounding cement. A few feet away sat a Zamboni ice resurfacer that recently had to be pushed off the ice by skaters after it broke down.
The good news? The Marauders are showing their age as well, and in a more favorable fashion.
Gone are last winter’s Marauders, who staggered to a 3-9 record, the storied program’s worst mark in recent memory. Back is a core of roughly a dozen, experienced players who gave Concord, the defending NHIAA Division I champion, all it could handle Wednesday during a 2-0 loss.
“The intensity level was real high and our fight level increased a lot as the game progressed,” said 40th-year Hanover coach Dick Dodds, whose team dropped to 2-4. “We’re a veteran group with a lot of kids who lost to Concord three times last year. They’re really disappointed because they thought they had a chance to win a signature game and put us back on the map.”
The Crimson Tide (8-0) scored during the 14th minute and again into an empty net during the final seconds. Hanover suffered its fifth consecutive loss to its rival during the last two campaigns, but gave a strong account of itself a day after Dodds returned to the ice for the first time this season after suffering a heart attack last month.
“We got off to a slow start, but I’m really proud of how we fought during the second and third periods and I think we showed we can play with anyone,” said forward Alex Rockmore, one of his team’s top players Wednesday. “We’ve got to be harder on pucks and go harder to the net and better things will happen.”
Rockmore said his team was unhappy with suffering three consecutive setbacks in the Manchester holiday tournament, the annual event’s high level of competition notwithstanding. After losing that final contest, the Marauders were back on the ice the next morning at 6 a.m.
“I don’t think anyone in the locker room thought we played our best hockey,” said Rockmore, noting that the Marauders made some tactical changes after the tournament. “But each week, you’re seeing it, that we’re getting a little better.”
Concord’s Dawson Fancher provided all the offense his team needed Wednesday after he dug the puck out of a four-man scrum along the left sideboards. The left-handed shooter cut down the nearby circle’s right side and approached diminutive goaltender Luke Ives from the along the goal line, firing the puck high and inside the far post.
“They forced a turnover and that kid took two, hard strides and put it right under the bar,” Dodds said. “It was a beautiful shot and we need to do the same thing. Don’t hesitate. Get to the front. Most of our shots were from the outside and we didn’t even have many of those.”
Concord sent line after line of maroon-clad shock troops over the boards, each featuring mid-sized players displaying speed, balance, hustle and grit. The Crimson Tide has no obvious stars but virtually no weaknesses, combining a vigorous forecheck with swooping neutral-zone play and well-positioned defense.
“They forecheck hard and make it really difficult for teams to get a clean breakout,” Dodds said. “When you do get the puck out, you’re so tired from doing it that you need to change. They’re the team to beat.”
During many seasons of his four-decade reign over the Hanover program, Dodds’ teams have been the one to beat. The sandy-haired legend played for the Marauders during the 1970s and returned after graduation from St. Lawrence University to serve first as an assistant and, since 1982, the head coach. His teams have won more than 500 games and six state titles.
When Dodds experienced chest tightness and pain while teaching a morning adult hockey class on Nov. 4, he knew exactly what was happening. Aided by several friends, a phone call to his doctor and a 911 operator, the 62-year old was rushed to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center by ambulance and later had a stent implanted to aid in blood flow.
Dodds, who graduated from cardiac rehabilitation ahead of schedule on Tuesday was able to coach his current team from the very start of practice late last month. However, he was limited to standing on the bench, which didn’t work particularly well for a boss accustomed to being the middle of the swirl, making adjustments and using hands-on methods.
“I felt a little wobbly,” Dodds said of his first skating strides in more than two months. “It had been a long time and it’s nice to be back.”
Assistants Dean Cashman and Alex Dodds, the coach’s son, have handled much of the actual coaching thus far, while Dick Dodds reminds himself of his doctors’ orders not to shout. He hopes to be back playing hockey himself in the next six months and is currently working about 30 hours per week at his daytime job as Campion Rink manager.
“I’ve got tremendous support,” Dick Dodds said, thanking his family, his employers at the Hanover Improvement Society and his medical team. “But I couldn’t have done it without this group of kids.”
Rockmore said the Marauders, relatively young though they might be, realize how hard their coach has worked to regain his health and that he’s done so in part for them.
“He’s such an inspirational guy and when you see that your coach wants (progress) so badly, it’s a matter of time before everyone buys in,” the senior said. “He’s even-keeled, but he’s a pretty intense guy and that rubs off. It’s up to us to execute, but he shows every day why he’s won so much.
“He’s been here for 40 years but every day we’re out here, it seems he has more energy than the last. So here’s to another 40.”
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