HOOKSETT - The Manchester Central High School boys' hockey team wants what Pinkerton Academy of Derry has and on Wednesday it proved it's got what it takes to do just that.
The Little Green opened the season on the Division I reigning champs' home ice and showed why they should be considered a serious contender this year with a 5-2 win at the Ice Den.
"It's huge," Central coach Brian Stone said. "They're going to be defending champs all year. That's what you want to do to start off the year right."
Central's top line of Austin Sprague, Mitchell Fortin and Trevor Malgrem accounted for four of the team's five goals and combined for seven points. Fortin had two goals and an assist, Malgrem had a goal and two assists and Sprague scored the game-winner after the Astros had tied it up in the third period.
"I thought Central controlled the game pretty much the whole time," Pinkerton coach Casey Kesselring said. "We were really lucky to be in it at the end of two. Our goalie played really good."
Central was busy on offense all day and outshot Pinkerton 35-21. Astro goalie Nate Mitchell finished with 30 saves and Little Green net minder Ian Beliveau had 19.
The Little Green (1-0) took control of the game early on with two goals in the first period from Andrew Kehas and Fortin. Then the Astros (0-1) chipped away to eventually tie it up.
Dominic Corsetto made it 2-1 when he scored with 5:48 left in the second period and Devin Moore made it 2-2 with his goal 44 seconds into the third.
After that it was all Central.
Sprague gave the Little Green the lead for good with a beautiful move to beat a defender and Pinkerton goalie Nate Mitchell. Sprague somehow got the puck around a defender then tucked it quickly to the near post to beat Mitchell and make it 3-2 with 10:54 remaining.
"I just put it through (the defender's) stick and shot it short side on (the goalie's) blocker," Sprague said. "That's about it."
Malgrem gave the Little Green a 4-2 edge when he streaked into the Astro zone and deked around Mitchell with 5:13 left and Fortin added an empty netter to round out the scoring.
Corsetto was robbed of two great scoring bids by Central goalie Ian Beliveau. The first came on a two-on-one in the second period when Beliveau seemed to be beat when Moore passed to Corsetto, but Beliveau dove across the crease and made a glove save.
The second was on a penalty shot in the third period. This time Beliveau got a piece of the shot by Corsetto with his glove and redirected it off the crossbar.
"I never like to think about the puck going in," Beliveau said. "I like to think about myself making the save and then I can hopefully do what I can to make the save."
- - - - - - - -Mark Quirk may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.