South-Pelham has final word

NASHUA – The one thing about a Nashua North-South hockey game, even with Souhegan and Pelham along for the ride, is that it’s never dull.

The two teams certainly didn’t disappoint on Saturday at Conway Arena in their season finale, as South-Pelham rode Matt Diprizio’s hat trick en route to a 7-5 win over North-Souhegan in an up-and-down game in front of a large, loud crowd.

“The guys played well, I’m happy,” Kings coach Shawn Connors said. “This was huge. The guys have had a rough year all year. I think they needed a boost, especially our seniors. It’s a hell of a way to go out for them, that’s what we wanted.”

Connors’ team, which also got three assists from Nolan Harvey, was fighting uphill for the last month to try to get a tourney spot but fell short, finishing at 4-14. The Saber-Titans needed the same boost, but didn’t get it in the end, losing for the 16th straight game (1-17). Led by Jeremiah Latham’s two goals, they did everything but keep the puck out of the net when it mattered most.

“It’s the same old story,” N-S coach John Coughlin said. “I think we improved, we had a really strong week. …It’s hard playing from behind, it’s hard having to always come back. But I’m real proud of these guys.”

Early on, it looked as if North-Souhegan had something. The Saber-Titans had taken a 2-1 lead at 11:27 of the first period on a breakaway goal by Matty Eskenas, assisted by Dean Paquette, and held that lead into the dressing room.

However, the Kings scored three unanswered, beginning with Vincent Annicchiarico from Harvey at 3:34 to tie it, and Bobby Haverty’s power play goal at 4:43 (Harvey assist) that gave them the lead for good (3-2). But the killer was Tony Columbus’s shorthanded talley two minutes later (Kyle Joyce assist) for a 4-2 edge at 9:57. It was at the start of five-minute power play for the Saber-Titans.

“That was huge,” Connors said. “That turned the tables right there for us.”

“I was trying to crash the net,” Columbus said. “It was my senior night, and I knew it was Joyce’s senior night too. He and I were talking about how we wanted to connect right there in that five minute penalty. We had to do something to change the momentum there. I was shooting that far side, and I just had to poke it home.”

It set the tone as part of a crazy second period. The Saber-Titans came back with a Brendan Martin power play score just four seconds later (Jeremiah Latham and Paqeutte assists), but the wild middle period ended when Diprizio got the Kings’ two-goal lead back, assisted by Harvey and Mike Hagen. That made it 5-3 after two.

The third period was nearly as wild, but King’s goalie Adam Gagnon (16 stops) was sharp enough to help his team stay in front. “We were thinking of going half and half (also playing goalie Nate Radin), but Adam stepped it up so we didn’t,” Connors said. Meanwhile, Diprizio’s third score beat Saber-Titans goalie Robbie Morel (12 saves) five-hole at the nine minute mark, making it 6-3. Latham’s first of two in the period, assisted by Jon Gaffney, cut things to 6-4 at 10:26, but Kyle Joyce clinched it on a pretty tip of a Riley Nutter feed at 13:34.

“That was it, get your points, get it on net, crash the goalie,” Connors said.

The Kings followed that plan from the start as they scored on their first shot of the game, a line drive by Columbus beating Morel at 1:12, but the Saber-Titans got the equalizer by Paquette (Martin assist) at 4:36.

It was just the beginning of a wild day of scoring that ended with Latham’s second goal with 8.9 ticks left. Now it’s on to 2017-18.

“We’ve got 21 potential returnees, so that’s good,” Coughlin said. “No days off, just try to get better.”