By Tris Wykes

WEST LEBANON – These are hard times for Hanover High boys hockey. After Saturday’s 4-3 loss to visiting Pinkerton, the Marauders stumble into next week’s NHIAA Division I playoffs at 3-8, a record unbefitting their long, winning tradition.

“We had a good first period and then in the second period, when we started losing momentum, we just couldn’t get it back,” said 39th-year coach Dick Dodds, whose team went up, 1-0, on a Jack Gardner shot from the left point during the fifth minute. 

“I also liked the energy during the last 10 minutes. We hit some goal posts and had some other, good chances. On the flip side, we need to play with that energy right out of the gate.”

Hanover High goaltender Luke Ives watches action at the other end of the ice. Copyright Octopus Athletics. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to ctwykes@aol.com.

Hanover had a dreadful middle stanza, surrendering three tallies and appearing to have been left for dead. Pinkerton scored again early in the third period to go up, 4-1. The visitors began playing reserves and Astros goaltender Paul Lescovitz was howling happily from his crease, but the Marauders weren’t finished.

With 4 minutes, 33 seconds remaining, Jackson Fisher skated from the left side into the slot and ripped a wrist shot past Lescovitz. With 1:38 remaining, John Hill’s slap shot from the right point zipped into the net. 

Hill was awarded the goal on the score sheet, although teammate Casey Graham, who’d been loitering atop the crease, went into a one-knee sliding celebration that indicated he’d tipped the puck home. 

Hanover had two more scoring chances and the Astros (3-5) boarded their plush, coach bus knowing they’d avoided a crushing tie. The Marauders now visit Concord (12-2) in their playoff opener. The Crimson Tide has won its last six games, including back-to-back defeats of Pinkerton by a combined 15-1.

Hanover High defenseman Tommy Lyons is surrounded by Astros. Copyright Octopus Athletics. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to ctwykes@aol.com.

“We don’t have any pressure on us,” said Dodds, whose squad lost its season opener at Concord, 4-0. “We know what to expect. They’re a fast team that’s going to come at us hard. Our record’s not sparkling but we’ve gotten better since we played Concord and our kids are used to playing physical teams and executing against them.”

Without a startling, postseason revival, where does Hanover go from here? 

Nearly a dozen players who could be skating for the Marauders are playing elsewhere. At prep schools primarily, although junior hockey is another destination. Left behind is a program that’s gone 29-25-1 since winning the 2018 NHIAA Division I state title, its first in a decade but the sixth under Dodds.

Key among the defections was starting goaltender Ben Plottner, who departed on the eve of preseason practices and left backup Luke Ives to shoulder the load. After a 6-1 loss to Bishop Guertin that dropped the Marauders to 3-6, Dodds turned to first-year varsity netminder Dill Eisendrath, a junior who earned two more starts by virtue of keeping Hanover in a 3-2 rematch loss to the Cardinals.

Eisendrath and Ives split Saturday’s action, but the former surrendered one of his two goals against after dropping a shot for Pinkerton to convert. The Marauders graduate only two senior regulars in defenseman Tommy Lyons and wing Ben Wagner, but one wonders who’s next out the door. Perhaps Gardner and forward Jack Stadheim, who each have older brothers who elected for the prep school route. 

 “You have to play the next man up,” Dodds said. “But yeah, it’s hard, because I think kids can accomplish what they want to accomplish by staying in their hometown and growing up in their own house.”

Hanover High’s Angus Frew, left, chirps with Pinkerton’s Doug Barnwell. Copyright Octopus Athletics. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to ctwykes@aol.com.

Notes: Stadheim, a diminutive sophomore, sat out much of the season with a hand injury and Dodds said Saturday was the first time he thought the forward was at full strength… Stadheim’s older brother, Seth, left Hanover for Kimball Union Academy several years ago and is a freshman hockey player at Connecticut College, which didn’t compete this season because of Covid-19 concerns. Another brother, Owen, attends St. Paul’s School in Concord and is headed to play at Williams next winter… Rhys Jones, a Meriden resident whose sister, Elizabeth, played hockey and lacrosse at Lebanon High, is on the hockey roster at the New Hampton (N.H.) School, which is 2-4 thus far this season… Hanover resident Zach Miles is a ninth-grader for the Cardigan Mountain School in Canaan, which instructs seventh-, eighth- and ninth-graders. The Cougars, whose roster includes two South Koreans, have started their season 4-0… The Kimball Union JV roster includes Norwich resident Bridger Close as well as Cole Gueldenzoph (Meriden), Ian Marks (Hanover), Robert Masson (Hanover) and Jacob Rimberg (Norwich). The Wildcats’ varsity features Colby Boyce (White River Junction), Sean Donoghue (Meriden), Matt Gardner (Hanover) and Mica McGinley-Smith (Norwich). 

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Hanover High’s Jack Gardner, left, celebrates scoring with Jackson Fisher. Copyright Octopus Athletics. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to ctwykes@aol.com.