Like an entirely unwelcome late holiday spirit, frustration visited the Londonderry High ice hockey squad right after Christmas as the local icemen allowed costly, late goals in each of their first two contests in the 2015 Blue Devil Holiday Classic at the Salem Icenter.
New coach Dan Legro saw his Lancers drop a 3-2 decision to Windham on a tally in the final two minutes of regulation time last Saturday night, Dec. 26. And the next night Londonderry dropped a 3-2 decision to the Thornton Academy (Saco, Maine) contingent, with the deciding goal coming in the final seconds of overtime.
In the tight loss to Windham, the Lancers played that opponent to a scoreless deadlock in the first period but saw Windham bust that tie by scoring in period number two.
But Nick Donnelly was set up by teammate Merrill Neiman for the tying tally before the second stanza ended, and when it did come to a close, the score sat right there at 1-1.
The Lancers claimed their one and only lead of the night when Mike MacKenzie was set up by Neiman and Colby Austin in the third. But Windham knotted the score and then potted the game-winner with just 1:37 showing on the game clock and ended up claiming the 3-2 victory.
“I think Windham out-hustled us in the last period and a half. Our guys didn’t come out as prepared as they should have,” said Legro.
And the bad taste that lingered in the Lancer coach’s mouth following that slim loss was back following the overtime defeat suffered at the hands of the Maine opponent the next evening.
Thornton Academy netted the game’s first goal a mere 10 seconds after the opening face-off, but Londonderry rebounded well and was the better of the two teams through the remainder of the first stanza. However, that strong play didn’t produce a goal, and the Lancers trailed 1-0 until a little more than seven minutes remained in the second and defenseman Neiman’s wrist shot from the right point in the opposing zone was accidentally redirected by a Thornton defenseman right through his goalie’s legs.
But the Mainers reclaimed the lead a little more than two minutes later and carried that 2-1 advantage into the break between the second and third stanzas.
The Lancers began the third period with a minute worth of power-play time and ended up with three more man-advantages before the stanza was over. And during those 15 minutes of play, the locals enjoyed a huge 19-2 advantage in shots on net, but most importantly snagged the game-tying goal with both squads playing at equal strength with 9:47 showing on the game clock.
The goal that made it a 2-2 contest came off another Merrill Neiman shot from the right point of the Thornton zone, but this time it was his fellow Lancer Sean Cotter who tipped the blast en route and was credited with the important tally.
That deadlock stood up, to the Lancers’ ultimate frustration, until just 21.9 seconds remained in the five-minute overtime period, when the Mainers busted it on a clean breakaway.
LHS goalie Cody Baldwin made 17 saves in the defeat.
The Lancers then closed out their involvement in the holiday tournament this past Monday afternoon by taking on the Belmont, Mass., icemen.
But the outcome was a 5-1 loss to the Bay State bunch as Londonderry finished without a win in three holiday tourney battles.
Belmont bagged a single goal in the first period and two each in the second and third stanzas, while the Lancers’ lone score came in period two when Troy Muldoon was set up by Nick Donnelly as LHS stayed alive.