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Nashua hockey showdown one worth seeing

Telegraph photo by TOM KING The Battle of the Bridge hockey game between North-Souhegan and South-Pelham drew a great student crowd art Conway Arena, and the rematch set for this Wednesday with perhaps a tourney spot on the liine should as well.

We’re starting to hit the home stretch of the high school hoop and hockey regular seasons, so here’s a few things to consider:

First, the winter Battle of the Bridge is probably the most fun series of events of the local sports year, certainly of the icy months.

Why? The enclosed atmosphere. You wish every high school game could be like some of the ones between Nashua High Schools North and South a couple of weeks ago.

Consider the words back on night of the North-South basketball doubleheader by Titans girls coach Curt Dutilley after his first Battle of the Bridge

experience:

“It’s a great atmosphere, feels like a playoff game,” he said after his team lost a close one to South. “I’d rather play 20 of those than anything else. It makes it fun, it makes it memorable, the kids enjoy it, it’s always an experience that they’ll never forget. Just an awesome thing to be a part of. It’s a great event, absolutely.”

It’s a nice touch that the spirit teams get involved as the tiebreaker in the state competition next month, but don’t forget that in a game that doesn’t count for the Bridge, the South-Pelham and North-Souhegan hockey teams have a rematch on Wednesday night. If this is anything like the 2-1 Saber-Titans win two weeks ago, it will be a treat. That game had a great crowd and was a nail-biter until the final buzzer. Be there Wednesday at 6:10 p.m. at Conway Arena.

“It’s great,” North-Souhegan coach Matt Osgood said. “It’s my first experience with North-South, and it’s a playoff game. I’m sure (Wednesday) it will be another playoff game. We’ll take that. We feed off that stuff.”

Who doesn’t? But Osgood is right in that it will have playoff type atmosphere again. That’s because both teams will likely need the win to stay alive in the race for the 11th and final spot in the Division I tournament. It looks like the Kings will have to win out – they face Trinity tonight, no easy task – while the Saber-Titans could clearly use a win over the Kings and then Manchester Memorial this Saturday to get them in.

See you Wednesday, Puckheads.

– Doing anything Thursday afternoon? Skip lunch, get out early and head down to Franklin, Mass.to see theoretically the two best girls high school basketball teams in New England square off.

Bishop Guertin will take on Franklin High School at 4 p.m. in a battle of unbeatens, the top teams in their respective states. Yes, it’s a day game as it’s school vacation week in Massachusetts plus their regular season ends that day and all results have to be in by 6 p.m. Thursday.

Franklin is 19-0 after a 58-41 win Saturday over perhaps its biggest challenger for the Division I title, Bridgewater Raynham. The Panthers are a big team, led by 6-4 senior Ali Brigham, and their deliberate, slower game offers a contrast in styles to BG’s run and gun, press to distress constant attack mode.

Basically, the Franklin game replaced the Cards’ matchup with Braintree that took place last year. The two squads actually met in the finals of a jamboree at Assumption last summer with the Panthers winning by three. Afterwards, Franklin coach John Leighton and BG coach Brad Kreick got together and decided to schedule a regular season game. Kreick thinks the Panthers may be the best team Guertin will see this year.

“I’m not so sure they’re not as good as Miam Country Dade,” he said, referring to the nationally ranked school the Cards lost to in the Naples (Fla.) Shootout back in late December. “This is going to be a great game.”

You can feel that flu coming on now, right hoop fans?

– It would be great to see local girls high school hockey get a boost. Talents like the graduated Souhegan sniper Shannon Paquette and Bishop Guertin’s all-around skater Lindsay Hult play in a game like the one that took place at Everett Arena on Saturday night.

That was a 1-0 Hanover win over Concord in a battle of theoretically the top two teams in Division I, a game in which Concord outshot Hanover 23-8, had a goal disallowed, and didn’t convert a penalty shot. By all accounts it was a fabulous game and certainly could be a great rematch in the finals next month if that is how it shakes out.

Teams have taken turn as the challenger to Hanover’s dominance (11 of 12 state titles), Exeter being the latest. Now it’s Concord’s turn. Souhegan and Bishop Guertin have been very competitive the last few years. The Sabers have made incredible strides from what was basically a club team mentally a decade ago, when Guertin last made the finals (2009). Guertin is always in the tourney hunt, but it’s been awhile since the Cards made the semis. However, they did lose a close one as well to the Marauders on the road, 3-2.

So maybe they’re close. It’s nice to see Hanover being challenged, and hopefully at some point the Sabers or Cards – or both – will be that title challenger.

Either way, games like the other night are great for the sport that is far more advanced in Massachusetts than it is in New Hampshire.

Tom King may be reached at 594-1251,tking@nashuatelegraph.com, or@Telegraph _TomK.

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