By Tris Wykes

WEST LEBANON – The few folks allowed inside Campion Rink on Saturday evening didn’t need to look at the scoreboard to know how the NHIAA game between host Lebanon-Stevens-Kearsarge and Hanover was progressing. They could listen to the shouts of Raiders coach Mike Sheehan as his team spent much of the teams’ season opener in its own end.

“Ice the puck!” Sheehan bellowed repeatedly. “Ice it!”

Hanover High’s Greta Schutz, left, is congratulated by Kaye Lindsay (17) and Sophia Brackett after scoring her team’s fifth goal.

A year after playing the Marauders closer than they had in many seasons, the revamped Raiders fell back into their traditional role as overmatched underdog in the rivals’ long-running series. Hanover senior Sage McGinley-Smith scored twice and freshman Lorelei Seelig contributed a goal and an assist. Paige Hoegler made 41 saves for LSK, which trailed, 2-0, after a period and 4-0 at the second intermission.

“We had three or four freshmen who played a lot tonight and it’s a big step up for them,” said Sheehan, his voice a low growl after all the hollering. “This isn’t bantam hockey anymore; you’re playing against girls three and four years older than you.”

Neither squad has the luxury of depth, for Lebanon features 15 players and Hanover 14. The Marauders, however, are an established program whose loss in last year’s state semifinals snapped a string of 10 consecutive championships. Saturday, they held a 47-4 shot advantage.

John Dodds, Hanover’s 16th-year coach, has never had fewer varsity players, but he has a strong leader and an imposing power forward in McGinley-Smith, whose shot velocity wouldn’t look out of place on the boys team.

“She’s been a true competitor since the start of her freshman year and she plays soccer the same way,” Dodds said. “In practice, she sprints back to line after a drill is done and she works so hard to be in shape so we can double-shift her at center with our three sets of wings.”

Another offensive cog for Hanover is wing Kaye Lindsay, who presents a paradox in that she’s a preternaturally gifted skater – when she’s not falling to the ice. Saturday, the junior displayed the quickness, balance and determination to repeatedly swoop around defenders with the puck. Physical contact doesn’t deter Lindsay, but it too often tips her over. The Marauders need her upright and shooting harder and more often.

“Kaye’s coming along,” Dodds said of his third-year varsity player. “She’s always been one of our fastest players and she wins a lot of loose pucks and her hockey sense has grown. We just need to get her to start (scoring) a little bit more.”

Hanover High’s Gail Morse (8) splits Lebanon-Stevens-Kearsarge’s Greta Barber (17) and Makayla Maccioli (19).

Sheehan’s current concerns are at the other end of the ice.

“The biggest problem was defensive-zone coverage; we were kind of all over the place,” said the former New Jersey resident, in his second season at the Raiders’ helm. “There was a lot of puck watching and not winning battles. We can’t be afraid to get our noses dirty and not let them dig at our goalie at will. We have to move our feet and push back and get a little grittier.”

The Raiders broke out of their zone well during the first period but were often pinned in it during the second stanza. LSK played only three defenders, with two centers rotating between three sets of wings. Three of its eight forwards, however, are converted rearguards. 

“That’s a tough transition,” Sheehan said. “We showed our youth tonight. It’s never easy to open against that team and they made us pay for our mistakes.”

McGinley-Smith scored during the fourth and sixth minutes and Makenzie Liu and Gail Morse struck during the second period. Greta Schutz and Lorelei Seelig tallied during the final frame. Danielle Rudd had two assists and Natalie Morhun, Maeve Lee and Lindsay had single assists. Rebekah Rudd made four saves.

“We started out a little tight, which is understandable,” Dodds said. “After a couple of shifts, we started moving the puck more freely and making better decisions with it. It’s hard to practice (for three weeks) and not have another team to measure yourself against.”

Hanover High defenseman Lily Seelig (5) skates the puck laterally under the watch of Lebanon-Stevens-Kearsarge’s Emma Leute.

Dodds credited defenders Morhun, Lily Seelig, Danielle Rudd and Kali McDonnell for poise and strong puck movement on the attacking end. Hanover lost all its experienced defenseman to graduation before last season, leaving the blue line an area of concern.

“It was a real question mark and now, after having a year under their belts, they’re the strength of the team,” Dodds said. 

Notes: Security was tight at Campion, where fans are not allowed, although several parents manned the penalty boxes and scorekeeper’s booth. Jeff Graham, president of the Hanover Improvement Society, which manages the facility, and rink manager Dick Dodds monitored the entrance… McGinley-Smith has been accepted to Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif., via early decision. Stanford accepts 4.3 percent out of its roughly 50,000 annual applicants. The school is listed sixth among American universities by U.S. News and World Report, trailing only Princeton, Harvard, Columbia, MIT and Yale… Lebanon played without junior defenseman Lily Gogan, who’s been sidelined since late last February, when she suffered a serious knee injury while skiing. Gogan said she hopes to begin skating before the season ends… Hanover’s next listed contest is Feb. 3 at Concord and Lebanon’s is Jan. 23 at Oyster River, but virus numbers and concerns could change that… Lebanon-Stevens-Kearsarge has one player, Makayla Maccioli, from Stevens and two, Paige and Lily Hoegler, from Kearsarge… Raiders freshman defender Olivia Pollard is the daughter of former Lebanon athlete Chris Pollard, who has served stints as the school’s head golf coach and assistant boys hockey coach.

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Hanover High co-captain Sage McGinley-Smith addresses her team during the second intermission.