There’s nothing anywhere in the rules of ice hockey which state that a victory has to be a work of art. That is to say, a stylistic success with almost nothing but smooth play and pretty goals and goalie saves.
And the Londonderry High hockey team’s recent 2-0 defeat of the Manchester Memorial High Crusaders certainly wouldn’t fit anybody’s definition of an artistic success. But it was a success, and one which the Lancer icemen wanted quite badly.
The slim shutout victory – which came on Londonderry’s home ice at the Tri-Town Arena in Hooksett last Wednesday afternoon, Feb. 21 – placed the Lancers’ 2017-18 Division I record right back at the .500 mark at 8-8-1 as tournament seedings were still being battled for in that tough league.
The now 4-11 Crusaders came into that game playing fairly well, having won two of their previous three games. Londonderry has gone all season looking for consistency, as partly exemplified by the fact that the locals had only won consecutive divisional games once going into their regular season-closer last weekend, tallying a three-game winning streak very early in the campaign.
With the 2-0 success against Memorial, coach Peter Bedford’s LHS bunch had gone 4-4-1 in its last nine games with one regular season contest remaining at Salem the following Saturday, Feb. 24.
The centerpieces of the Londonderry/Memorial game were the play of goalies Cam Donovan of LHS and Chuck Degust of Memorial, and the host Lancers’ ability to kill off a bunch of penalties. Of course, the second period goals potted by Londonderry’s Patrick Murphy and Jack Thompson were certainly decisive as well. But if Crusaders’ keeper Degust hadn’t played as well as he did, this certainly could have been a 5-0 or 6-0 game with Donovan doing his fine work in his squad’s third shutout of the season.
The home-standing Lancers thumped some 10 shots on opposing keeper Degust in the scoreless first period, while Londonderry goalie Donovan only had to come up with three stops.
The hosts had their best span of offensive chances late in that first period, with Murphy getting stopped by Degust on a 2-on-1 chance with 3:25 to go and Anthony Federico getting robbed shortly thereafter when he attempted to zip the puck between the leg pads of the Memorial keeper with Degust coming up with another big stop.
The visiting Crusaders had enjoyed the first of the six power-plays they’d have in the contest in that opening stanza, but they couldn’t do much with it.
Londonderry finally potted the only goal it would end up needing when Murphy was set up by Federico with 9:13 to go in the second stanza. And Jack Thompson added an insurance marker less than two minutes later when he took a pass from Pat McKinnon and whipped a stinging wrist shot into the netting behind Memorial’s goalie.
The Crusaders had an absolutely glittering chance to pot their first goal and perhaps even knot the score with 3:29 left in the second when Londonderry drew two minor penalties at once.
Skating 5-on-3, Memorial put five testing shots on Donovan but didn’t manage to get one past him.
The Crusaders went on another power-play with just 8.5 seconds left in that stanza, virtually assuring themselves of starting period three a man up.
But the Queen City team wasn’t able to do anything with that man-advantage, nor the one they enjoyed starting with 9:49 left, nor the one which they got with 3:50 to go, and certainly not the one which they received with just 11.3 seconds remaining in regulation time.
Memorial enjoyed man advantage after man advantage, and LHS goalie Donovan and the penalty-killers around him stood up tall and assured their team of the shutout.
Of course, LHS coach Bedford and his nerves certainly could have done without that much penalty-killing time for his squad, but his Lancers rose to the occasion and claimed the important if somewhat lackluster win.
Donovan finished with 16 saves in the LHS success, while Degust made 24 in his net.
“One of the highlights for us over the last seven or eight games has been the play of Donovan,” said Bedford. “He has been very solid, and he was very good again today.”
So it was on to the Salem Icenter for the Lancers three days later, with the locals facing the chance of ending the regular season over .500 and with a chance for good placement in the D-I tourney setup if they could best the host Salem High Blue Devils.
In that pivotal game, the Lancer contigent ended the regular season with a 2-1 win over their host, the Blue Devils on Saturday, Feb 24.
The LHS crew finished the season at 9-8-1 and will move on to the playoffs with a two game winning steak. They now head into the playoffs as the number seven seed and will play at Hanover, number two seed, on Saturday, March 3 at 4 p.m.