At the end of two periods of its Wednesday, Jan. 17 home game against the Salem High Blue Devils at the Tri-Town Arena in Hooksett, the Londonderry High ice hockey squad had reasons to believe that it was about to bring its frustrating three-game losing streak in Division I to an end.
The Lancers had played two great periods against the visiting Blue Devils, with the second of those being among the LHS contingent’s very best of the 2017-18 campaign to date. And with two periods completed, the hosts grasped a solid 4-1 lead and were looking to put the final touches on a pleasing success. Alas, it wasn’t to be.
The Lancers instead saw a three-game losing streak in D-I turn into a four-game winless skid in the division. That alteration came about by Londonderry having all sorts of trouble with penalties during the final 15 minutes of regulation time, with Salem scoring three power-play goals to knot the score at 4-4.
The game-tying tally came with just 58 seconds left in regulation time with the Blue Devils having pulled their goalie in order to get a 6-on-4 advantage, and the Lancers trying to kill off their fourth penalty of the period.
The 4-4 deadlock wasn’t broken either during the last 58 seconds of regulation time or during the eight minutes of overtime, so the game went into the record books as a tie.
One quick look at the Lancers’ body language as they exited the ice after overtime told even the least observant fan that the hosts were none too pleased with having the victory – and an important one at that – slip away.
Londonderry moved to 3-4-1 in Division I with that outcome, while Salem landed at 3-3-1 with a 1-2-1 record in its last four contests.
“Like I just said to the kids, we played two periods well but then had a third period that obliterated what we’d done in those,” said LHS coach Peter Bedford.
Bedford’s bunch drew 10 minutes worth of penalties – including a double-minor – in the 15-minute third period and unquestionably gave Salem the chance to drive back into the fray after the opponent stepped into stanza three facing a huge hill to climb.
“You’ve got to stay out of the penalty box,” said Bedford. “Now we can stand here and complain about this penalty or that penalty, but the officials do the best job they can and you have to play disciplined.”
The Lancers claimed a 1-0 lead extremely quickly in this game – on just their second shot with only 41 seconds having been played – when freshman defenseman Zach Rheault zipped a wrist shot from the right point in the Salem zone which found its way through the Blue Devils’ keeper and into the netting behind him.
But the LHS lead lasted a mere two minutes as the Blue Devils got their second shot of the night past Londonderry veteran goalie Cam Donovan with 12:21 remaining in the period.
However, the Lancers regained the upper hand with just 2:18 to go in the initial stanza when sophomore defenseman Austin Cardosi whipped a shot from the high slot in front of the Salem cage and junior forward Patrick Murphy tipped it en route. The redirected puck sailed past the Blue Devils’ keeper.
Londonderry’s second period performance was one which coach Bedford would surely love to bottle and then pour out at the start of each and every remaining 2018 contest his team plays.
The Lancers pelted 19 shots on the Salem cage, held the Blue Devils to just four on Cam Donovan, and potted two scoring attempts to push their lead to 4-1.
The hosts rolled their lead up to 3-1 on a power-play goal with 11:19 left when Jared Tuccolo smacked home a rebound. And the Londonderry advantaged bulged to three goals with just 35.2 seconds to go in the period when Murphy – who had been stoned by the Salem goalie on a couple of shorthanded breakaway attempts earlier – stole the puck from a Blue Devils’ defender, went in alone, and didn’t miss on his third try.
That, however, would be the hosts’ last moment of celebration as their penalty-prone ways in the third period opened the door for Salem power-play markers with 11:09 left in regulation time, with 8:44 to go, and finally with just 58 ticks of the clock to go on the aforementioned marker with the Blue Devils’ goalie on their bench in favor of an additional skater.
Londonderry enjoyed a 9-5 advantage in shots on net in the overtime period, and both sides had power-play opportunities. But the 4-4 deadlock would not be broken.
The hosts wound up with a pretty substantial 41-31 advantage in shots on net over the 53 minutes of play, with keeper Donovan making some 27 saves. But the win would have been so much more welcome.
And in the wake of the tie, the Lancers had to have to wait over a week span to return to action on Wednesday Jan. 24, when they played host to the Nashua North after Londonderry Times press time.