Mark Quirk's High School Hockey: Central, Bedford carry hot streaks into playoffs
ALL THE TALK early in the season was about how good the hockey is in the Manchester area this season and now, with the regular season over, it's more of the same.
The two hottest teams in the state are local squads. In Division I it's Manchester Central and in Division II it's Bedford.
The Little Green closed out the regular season on a six-game winning streak, with four of those wins coming against playoff teams. The last one was a 4-1 decision over rival Manchester Memorial, the preseason favorite and the No. 1 seed for the tournament. Central finished No. 2.
"We definitely have a chance to do something (in the playoffs)," Central goalie Ian Beliveau said. "Whether or not we're the best, that will show through events to come."
They have outscored the opposition 41-12 during the stretch and knocked off playoff contenders Salem (5-4), Hanover (9-1), Concord (6-3) and Memorial (4-1).
Part of it has to do with the Little Green getting healthy. They haven't been at 100 percent for almost the entire season because of injuries and they still aren't there, but over the past couple of weeks they got some key components back. They are captain Mitchel Fortin, a forward, and defenseman Parker Anderson.
The Bulldogs are riding a five-game unbeaten streak that culminated with back-to-back wins over previously unbeaten Merrimack.
It all happened after two straight losses to Dover and Spaulding of Rochester, two of the league's elite. Bedford then tied Bow, another elite squad, before ending the regular season with four wins last week.
It opened the week with a win over Keene and then downed Goffstown, a team that beat the Bulldogs earlier in the season.
Next they handed the Tomahawks their first loss of the season and made it two a couple of days later for good measure.
"We had a couple of rough games against Dover and Spaulding. They got us, they had our number so unfortunately that knocked us down in the standings," Bedford forward Chris Viola said. "We came to Merrimack (on the schedule). Merrimack has always been our biggest competition, always had the best games with them."
The Bulldogs haven't given up more than two goals in any of their last five games and are the defending champions.
"I want to take it all in perspective as far as we're coming together great," Bedford coach Marty Myers said. "Our second season is starting. I want to take that momentum in. Beating Merrimack is a big accomplishment, but I don't want it to end there."
SPAULDING had a chance to clinch the top seed in the Division II tournament with a win on Saturday, but the Red Raiders failed to do so with a 1-0 loss to Oyster River of Durham.
Their reward for finishing second is a possible rematch in the quarterfinals with the Bobcats.
Four of Oyster River's five losses were by two goals or fewer. The only other loss was a 5-0 decision against the Tomahawks.
THE QUESTION in Division III is if anybody can beat Berlin. My answer is probably not.
The Mountaineers are the only undefeated team in the state with an 18-0 record and beat the No. 2 seed for the tournament, John Stark-Hopkinton, 8-2. One team that could pull the upset is Souhegan of Amherst, which lost to Berlin twice but played it tough both times.
The Sabers lost the first meeting 4-3 and the second, 6-3.
Mark Quirk covers high school hockey for the New Hampshire Union Leader and New Hampshire Sunday News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.