The Londonderry High ice hockey team continued its efforts to find consistency early in the 2014-15 season by playing in the 15th annual Blue Devil Holiday Classic at the Salem Icenter recently.
Coach Peter Bedford’s LHS bunch had its ups and downs in its three contests in the tourney, winning a pair and dropping one.
The Lancers defeated teams from Massachusetts and Maine in their first two matches before dropping a tight decision to the Merrimack High Tomahawks’ squad that is now coached by Bedford’s former Londonderry High assistant Matt Davis.
The Lancers and their fans had reason to think they’d been fortunate to walk away from Salem’s Icenter with a 5-4 nipping of a tough Belmont (Mass.) Marauders’ squad in the first holiday tourney game for both squads last Friday, Dec. 26.
Following a sluggish start to the first period, the Lancers ended that stanza all knotted up with Belmont at 1-1.
Londonderry grasped a 3-2 advantage at the end of two periods, but the contest was tied up twice in the third period before senior forward Lucas Poulin provided the locals with what proved to be the winning goal with a little less than nine minutes remaining on the game clock.
Londonderry didn’t wind up with any shortage of shots on net in the tight victory after hammering 38 blasts on the opposing net. And LHS goalie Colby Joncas faced the comparatively small number of 22 Belmont blasts in three periods of play. Joncas came up with several noteworthy saves down the stretch – finishing with a total of 18 – as he and his teammates worked intently to preserve the 5-4 lead that ended up being the final score.
The Bay State team snared an early lead – scoring a mere 3:07 after the opening faceoff – to claim the 1-0 advantage.
Londonderry got the tying goal with 8:49 left in that opening period thanks to a strong fore-checking effort by Cooper Roy, who stole the puck from a Belmont defender and shot five-hole successfully on the Marauders’ keeper.
The Lancers then flashed their offensive prowess during the first five minutes of the second period, receiving consecutive goals from Mike MacKenzie (from Chris Marrello just 2:41 in) and Alex LaPlante (from Cooper Roy only 1:27 later) to claim a 3-1 lead.
The Marauders got one of those goals back with 34.8 seconds to go in the period, and it was a one-goal game going into the final 15 minutes.
Londonderry had a 15-7 advantage in shots on net in the second period and had a 27-12 lead in shots over those first two periods, but their lead on the scoreboard was more than a little tenuous as the third period commenced.
And once the puck got dropped in the third stanza, it didn’t remain a 3-2 game for long. Belmont knotted the score at 3-3 less than two minutes in, but LHS reclaimed the upper hand less than a minute after that when Poulin set up LaPlante to make it a 4-3 contest.
But the Bay State boys tied the score at 4-4 a mere 2:03 after that, and it was anybody’s game once again.
However, Poulin did the honors on the eventual winning goal with 8:49 remaining when he made a solo rush up the ice and was stopped by the Belmont keeper at the right post of his net. But as the Lancer veteran swooped around to the left post of the opposing cage the puck wobbled his way and he didn’t miss on his second shot at the netting.
Then on Saturday evening, Dec. 27, the Lancers continued their involvement in the tourney by facing off against a Biddeford, Maine team that had been thumped by the Pinkerton Academy Astros in a 9-0 blowout earlier in the day.
Londonderry didn’t manage that kind of outcome against the Biddeford bunch, but the locals did collect a 5-3 victory nonetheless.
The contest was knotted up at 1-1 after one period, the Lancers led 2-1 after two stanzas, and Bedford’s bunch outscored its opponent by a 3-2 margin in the third period to bag the win.
Troy Muldoon, Merrill Neiman, LaPlante, Nate Andrews, and MacKenzie each scored, Danny Bears, Jacob Parilla, and Pat Maloney registered assists, and goalie Cody Baldwin made 17 saves.
But despite peppering the Merrimack net with 36 shots in the tournament’s final game this past Sunday night, the LHS bunch ended up dropping a 3-2 decision to Davis’ Tomahawks.
The first period was scoreless, with Merrimack senior goalie Matt Brewster turning aside a dozen Lancer shots while the Tomahawks managed to get only two shots on LHS keeper Baldwin.
Merrimack broke the scoreless deadlock on a power-play goal just 3:11 into the second stanza, and the Tomahawks went up 2-0 on a second man-up marker with only 1:59 to go in the middle period.
Young LHS defenseman Merrill Neiman got his side back to within a goal in a short-handed situation with just 21.9 seconds left in the stanza, and 2-1 was where the score stood heading into the third period.
Londonderry knotted the score at 2-2 a mere 2:16 into the final stanza when Roy was set up by LaPlante, but Merrimack potted the eventual game-winning goal with 6:17 left.
Tomahawks’ keeper Brewster wound up making 34 saves in his team’s pleasing win, while LHS goalie Baldwin tallied 16 in a decision which could have gone differently.