After settling for a split of two decisions against the Bishop Guertin Cardinals of Nashua during the Division I regular season, the Londonderry High ice hockey team knew that besting BG in a Division I quarterfinal-round tournament game at the Salem Icenter last Saturday night, March 8, wouldn’t be the easiest of feats.
They were right, it wasn’t, but coach Peter Bedford’s LHS skaters did wind up snaring a 4-3 victory over the Cards to advance to a semifinal-round battle with the rival Pinkerton Academy Astros at Manchester’s JFK Coliseum on Wednesday night, March 12, after Londonderry Times press time.
The score of the quarterfinal game – which was played on the Icenter’s smaller rink due to the fact that second-seeded Salem and seventh-ranked Pinkerton were playing on the larger sheet of ice in another D-I quarterfinal at the same time – was knotted up at 1-1 after one period, and at 2-2 after two. But Londonderry potted two huge goals during the first two minutes of the third stanza to claim the lead for good and all.
“I’m really pleased that at least we’ve made it back to the JFK for the third time in the last four years,” said Bedford. “One of the major things I wanted to accomplish when I took this job was to establish a culture of winning and to make us a consistent contender, and I think we’ve done that. We haven’t had much success getting past JFK, but that’s the next step for us.”
The third-ranked Lancers and sixth-seeded Cardinals faced off twice during the regular season, with Londonderry collecting a 7-5 win on BG’s home ice in mid-January and veteran coach Gary Bishop’s Cards following up by snaring a 3-2 win over the Lancers on their home ice in the final regular season contest for both sides on Feb. 26.
In the far more important quarterfinal-round battle over the weekend, Londonderry snagged a 1-0 lead a little more than five minutes after the opening faceoff when Curtis Harper sent teammate Brett Evangelista in on BG goalie Griffin Scanlon, and Evangelista didn’t miss.
But Guertin netted the equalizer with a minute to go in period one, and 1-1 was where the tally stood when the buzzer sounded.
Londonderry found itself with a power-play early in period two, but the locals couldn’t pot a goal and BG’s Max McCabe – whose penalty had made his team short-handed for those two minutes – came racing out of the penalty box and scored just six seconds afterward to give Guertin a 2-1 lead.
However, the Lancers knotted up the score at 2-2 with 5:05 remaining in the stanza when senior forward Eric Coburn’s sizzling wrist-shot from just above the right faceoff circle in the BG zone zoomed into the Guertin cage. Mark Leach garnered the lone assist.
Londonderry came flying out of its locker room with all kinds of fire in its collective belly for period three and potted the two quick goals that changed the complexion of the game for good.
Harper popped home a rebound from a tough angle to the left of the BG net just 50 seconds into the third stanza (assists to Leach and Mike Donlan) to make the score 3-2, and the Lancers enjoyed a nice bit of puck-luck almost exactly a minute later when a shot by Nick Donnelly ricocheted off the skate of a Guertin defender en route to the net and skittered into the netting. Evangelista had the assist and Londonderry had a 4-2 lead.
The Cardinals sliced their deficit down to one goal again with 1:27 left to play, but they’d get no closer than 4-3 down.