By Tris Wykes
CONCORD – The outcome of Tuesday’s late NHIAA girls hockey semifinal could be easily discerned by the activity surrounding a pair of school buses in the Everett Arena parking lot around 10 p.m.
The Bishop Guertin High vehicle, its interior lights ablaze, literally rocked from the jumping, screaming players it contained. The Cardinals had just escaped with a 5-4, overtime victory over Hanover, whose skaters filed silently into their darkened coach 50 yards away.
“That’s a good team; they’re going to be hard to beat in the finals if they play like that,” said 16th-year Hanover coach John Dodds, whose 12-2 team was outshot, 34-14. “They’re pretty quick and they didn’t give us a lot of space and we didn’t really take advantage of some of the chances we were getting.”
Kathryn Simpson scored at the unguarded right post 4 minutes and 46 seconds into extra time. Her goal followed a scramble in the low slot where Hanover’s Rebekah Rudd made a pair of saves but wound up on the ice at the opposite pipe.
“We didn’t have enough energy to get them out,” said Dodds, whose squad spent much of the third period having to retrieve pucks dumped in below its goal line, thus having to skate the rink’s length to create offense. “We were missing a couple of people and it might have affected us a bit. We didn’t have the jump I’d normally expect us to have.”
One of those absent was reserve goaltender Katie Smith, whom Dodds said became ill Tuesday. The other was speedy freshman forward Rory Seelig, who missed her second consecutive game. The Marauders usually skate two centers between three sets of wings, but Seelig is quarantined after virus contact tracing in a gym class forced her and dozens of her peers into preventative quarantine.
Seelig’s absence essentially made Hanover a two-line team up front and that brought fatigue for a squad that had previously been able to get its wings more rest.
Bishop Guertin “did a good job of dumping pucks in and we didn’t contest them much in the neutral zone,” Dodds said. “We work on getting back there quickly and getting the puck on your forehand… but I think there were times in the third period where we slowed down.”
Nonetheless, Hanover could have absolutely won the game. Roughly 20 seconds into overtime, defenseman Lily Seelig, who’d already scored once from the left point, cranked off a similar shot and watched it hit goaltender Sarah King and then the post. So close was the play that numerous occupants of the Hanover bench, including Dodds, had their arms up to start a celebration.
“How did that not go in?” yelped Seelig.
Said Dodds: “You always want to get the lead and we hadn’t been (behind) much this season. Maybe a couple of times.”
Hanover’s only losses this season were to Bishop Guertin (16-0). During any other winter, the Marauders would have played half a dozen games against strong foes from Massachusetts and New York, clashes that harden them for New Hampshire’s postseason. Covid-19 concerns prohibited that this year.
“It certainly would have helped,” Dodds said. “We use those game to be challenged and usually those games are all battles and you’re lucky to come out with a win.”
Bishop Guertin opened the scoring during the fourth minute when Julie McLaughlin shot softly and low from the right sidewall. Hanover’s Danielle Rudd equalized on a similar play two minutes later and the teams entered the first intermission at 1-1.
The Cardinals won a faceoff and pushed the puck to Simpson at the far post, going up, 2-1, three minutes into the second stanza. Lily Seelig forged a 2-2 tie with her shot from the blue line little more than a minute later. Bishop Guertin regained the lead at 3-2 with eight minutes remaining in the period when Brooke Yabroudy tallied after the visitors had multiple short-range chances.
Maeve Lee’s shot, almost an instant reply of the game’s first goal, but from the opposite side, created a 3-3 tie four minutes before the second intermission. King isn’t a particularly strong backstop and there was a feeling that if Hanover could have tested her even three or four additional times, it might have come out victorious.
“They were blocking us out in front today,” said Hanover’s Natalie Morhun. “The long shots were working for us, I just wish we had more.”
Bishop Guertin’s Jenna Lynch cashed in a pass from behind the net with 53 seconds remaining in the second period. The tall sophomore stood out not only because she wore the yellow helmet of her club team, the East Coast Wizards, but because she was always around the puck.
Hanover pulled Rudd with a minute to play in the third period. Gail Morse passed from below the goal line on the left side to Morhun in the circle and the senior fired at the net with hopes of creating a rebound. Instead, the puck deflected across the goal line.
“We tried to change the point of attack and it was a lucky shot,” Morhun said. “It must have ricocheted off the goalie’s pads or something. I just wanted to send us into overtime and give us another chance.
“I thought we had it today. We gave it all we had and we have nothing to be ashamed of. We made the most of what we had this season.”
Notes: No penalties were called during a somewhat rough-and-tumble contest that featured three on-ice officials… Hanover athletic trainer Cassie Lapple arrived moments into the game after tending to basketball practice and strength and conditioning sessions for other Marauders athletes… Bishop Guertin, which faces St. Thomas-Winnacunnet-Dover in the finals, has outscored its opponents, 102-27, this season. The Cardinals have posted six shutouts and scored at least seven goals 11 times… Hanover, with roughly 740 students, is the smallest school in NHIAA girls hockey. The Marauders had won 10 consecutive state titles before last season… Also forced into Covid quarantine by Hanover’s situation is physical education teacher Todd Bebeau, who’s also Hartford High’s boys hockey coach. Bebeau had to miss a Hurricanes game this week, the first such absence of his lengthy career.
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