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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

NH girls hockey gaining strength

Hockey Journal

Is the state of New Hampshire high school girls hockey any better than it was a year ago?

Many will say yes, simply because two new teams have been added, with Bishop Brady and Trinity forming a co-op team and Con-Val producing a varsity. Now there are 11 girls teams in the state. ...

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Is the state of New Hampshire high school girls hockey any better than it was a year ago?

Many will say yes, simply because two new teams have been added, with Bishop Brady and Trinity forming a co-op team and Con-Val producing a varsity. Now there are 11 girls teams in the state.

But is the quality any better? Coaches say it is. The sport is still dominated by the Hanover-Lebanon area, Hanover having won the last three titles after topping Lebanon in the finals last year. The Marauders are undefeated with Lebanon 8-2 in second place.

But keep an eye on the 7-3 Cardinals of Bishop Guertin. They were in the finals back in 2010, but have been itching to get back since, losing to Hanover in the semis in 2011 and Concord in the quarters last year.

The Cardinals shooters, like sophomore Brianna Bermingham (Groton, Mass.) and junior Brooke Pearson (Nashua) are able to knock an apple off the crossbar with their accuracy. Bermingham has 20 points, a dozen goals to lead the team.

“That’s the biggest improvement this year, what I’ve noticed anyway,” Cards coach Myia Yates said. “When we have the opportunities to score, we’re taking advantage of it and we’re putting the puck in the net.

“We’ve had some success in the past doing that, but this year we’re really doing that.”

“Overall definitely the game has gotten better,” Concord coach Stacy Boudras said. “There’s always great feeder programs up in the Hanover-Lebanon area, and down (in the Nashua area), obviously.”

But Concord has been down this year, and Boudras says it’s a numbers/experience thing.

“In the Concord area, we’re having a little trouble getting girls,” she said. “I don’t know (why). I guess there’s not a lot of girls going out and
playing hockey. We have 10 girls on our team this year that have never played hockey before.

“We’re building a program, whether it starts in high school or a little later in youth hockey, we’re going to build it back up. That’s what we’re going to try to do.”

Guertin has taken advantage of the Tide’s down year, with two wins. What is also different for the Cardinals this year is the fact they got off to a great start, winning six of their first seven, getting great goaltending from freshman Julia Pelletier and scoring up front.

“Just right from the get-go, we were just moving the puck well and clicking as a team,” Yates said. “We’ve had some falloffs where we had some bad games but we’re going to work on that and try to be a little more consistent.

“But as far as overall, we’re pretty consistently playing pretty well as a team. We just need to continue and improve on that.”

Guertin’s three losses are to Hanover twice (3-0 and 3-2) and Lebanon (3-1), and they host Lebanon again on the last day of the regular season. So by the scores, the Cards are almost there. Six teams make the tournament, and if they can’t finish in the top two to get a bye into the semis, the Cards at least want to
play a home quarterfinal game.

The last two weeks of the season will tell a lot, with two games against Oyster River, one with St. Thomas/Dover and then Lebanon.

“We have to play a little stronger defensively, and just do the little things right,” Yates said. “Just dump and chase. Hanover and Lebanon are very good teams, very aggressive teams, play good systems. So we have to play our best hockey when we play them. We have it in us. We just need to do the little things right, and just get better and better every game.”

Because the competition is getting better.

“Our league is growing,” Yates said, “and that’s great.”

Scramble at the top

Division I boys ice hockey is a jumble in a couple of spots, but three teams right now are stealing the show: 8-1 Manchester Memorial, 8-1-1 Salem, and 7-2-1 Londonderry.

“Memorial is deeper than everybody,” said Concord coach Duncan Walsh, who lost to the Lancers on Monday 3-1 after beating Guertin and is 3-4-2.

The Tide and BG (4-5) are below the middle of the pack, strange to see.

“They’re missing the same thing we are,” Walsh said of the Cards. “They don’t have a scorer or anybody (one player) they can go to. … Us, Guertin, Hanover, Trinity, we might have one line that maybe gets some chances but it just drops off quicker.”

Featured games

Mondays aren’t blah days in high school hockey coming up, thanks to the weather. Two games last week postponed due to weather have been rescheduled for Mondays, one huge, one mildly interesting.

Bishop Guertin will take on Memorial next Monday at 4:30 p.m. at Manchester’s JFK Coliseum. That one has lost a little bit of luster thanks to the Cards three-game league losing streak.

Meanwhile, the big Merrimack-Dover game at Manchester’s West Side Arena will now be played on Monday, Feb. 11 at 4 p.m. Will the Tomahawks (9-0) be unbeaten still by then? Spaulding, at 8-0-1, may have something to say about that, hosting Merrimack in another biggie
Saturday night.