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Save, And A Beauty! Licata the difference as ‘Hawks edge North-Souhegan

By Tom King - Staff Writer | Jan 31, 2023

Merrimack goalie Matt Licata tries to knock the puck off the stick of Nashua North-Souhegan's Jacob Landry during Monday's 4-3 Tomahawks win at West Side Arena in Manchester. (Telegraph photo by TOM KING)

MANCHESTER – After his team fell behind Merrimack 3-0 on Monday, Nashua High School North-Souhegan coach Ashton Rome may have figured his Saber Titans had the Tomahawks exactly where they wanted them.

After all, didn’t North-Souhegan rally from three down to beat Goffstown last week?

Yes, but they weren’t facing Merrimack goalie Matt Licata.

The Tomahawks netminder was fantastic, making 29 stops – including three in the final minute, one with five seconds left – as the Tomahawks prevailed, 4-3, at West Side Arena.

True, North-Souhegan (3-5) rallied to tie the score early in the third period, but Merrimack got the game-winner when Kyle Dunn stuffed home a power play goal with exactly four minutes left.

But without Licata, it might have been a different story.

“Their goalie was awesome,” North-Souhegan coach Ashton Rome said. “He was the difference maker. It pretty easily could have gone our way. He made some huge saves. … Right in front of the net, some shots. Their goalie was outstanding.”

“Matt’s been playing great for us, but it is a team effort,” Merrimack coach Dan Belliveau said, his team now back to .500 at 5-5 in Division II. “But when your goalie can make saves for you like that, you can win some games.”

Also when you jump out to a 3-0 lead in the first period. It started with a power play goal by Owen Miner at 4:02, followed by Pat Caffrey with a Jackson Woods assist just 56 seconds later. Cam Bellemore made it 3-0, beating N-S goalie Zach Veilleux, assisted by Will Farrell, at 9:13. It put North-Souhegan, who have lost four one-goal games, in an immediate hole.

“We started the game on the penalty kill and they scored right away,” Rome said. “It’s (too many penalties) something we’re trying to fix. It’s killing us. And we’re giving teams three goal leads.

“We’re working our way back, but it’s not enough. We’re playing two periods, and we need to play three.”

The comeback for N-S began when Jake Dodge’s blast from outside deflected and found the net, assisted by brother Will Dodge, at 4:39, for Dodge’s first career varsity goal. The Saber-Titans made it 3-2 on a Jacob Landry power play goal, assisted by Chase McBride, to cut things to 3-2 after two periods.

They tied it on a McBride goal, assisted by Dodge, at 8:47 of the third. But their second penalty of the day proved costly, as Dunn poked home the puck when Veilleux was flat on his back for the game-winner.

But Licata’s saves were the tipping point. He robbed Landry twice who was alone in the crease, and later, with just five seconds left, got a piece of McBride’s quick one-timer. It should have gone to overtime, really.

“I have to give North credit,” Belliveau said. “They don’t quit, they keep working hard, and they created their own opportunities. Credit to them for coming back.”

Merrimack has had their share of comebacks, too – they sent Saturday night’s game with St. Thomas to overtime with one second left before losing in OT, so Belliveau knows a little of North’s frustration. But he feels his team has turned the corner.

“I think we’re in a good place,” he said. “We’re poised to make a pretty good run here. Basically tonigh was the halfway mark for us.

“If we continue to play well in front of our goalie who’s playing well, and maybe tighten it up a little defensively, we’ll be good to go.”


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