NHIAA Div. II Boys' Hockey: Merrimack gets title shot at Bedford
EXETER — Bedford High School is the only Division II hockey team that Merrimack didn't beat this season. The Tomahawks will get another shot at the Bulldogs on Saturday.
Junior forward Connor Powell and senior forward Domenic Valluzzi each scored two goals to help top-seeded Merrimack knock off fourth-seeded Bow, 5-2, Wednesday night in the Division II semifinals.
Merrimack will play third-seeded Bedford for the Division II championship Saturday (2:30 p.m.) at the Verizon Wireless Arena. Bedford, last year's Division II champion, advanced with a 5-4 victory over Spaulding in Wednesday's other semifinal. Bedford handed Merrimack its only two regular-season losses.
"That's kind of who we were hoping for," Merrimack coach Kurt Mithoefer said. "That's who we wanted to see in the final. Bow is a good team and had a great season. We just showed up today and took care of business."
Valluzzi scored a power-play goal and an empty-net goal for the Tomahawks, who raised their record to 18-2-0. Merrimack received a short-handed goal from Powell, who has a team-high 34 goals and 23 assists this season. Tyler Brewster collected Merrimack's other goal.
Merrimack's only other appearance in the Division II title game came in 2011, when it dropped a 5-1 decision to Dover.
Charles Smith and Jake Rand provided the offense for fourth-seeded Bow, which completed its season with a 12-4-4 record.
"Disappointed," Bow coach Tim Walsh said. "The biggest disappointment is we didn't give ourselves a chance to win because of the way we played in the first two periods. We haven't played like that the last two months."
"It wasn't a lot of goals, but you can't spot a team like that the momentum. It's unfortunate it had to end like this because we didn't make the playoffs last year and these kids have come a long way."
Powell opened the scoring at 12:22 of the first period. After Smith tied the game at 4:54 of the second, Merrimack added goals by Powell and Valluzzi to take a 3-1 lead after 30 minutes.
Brewster increased Merrimack's lead to 4-1 at 1:36 of the third, but Bow responded with a goal from Rand with 7:51 to play. Merrimack secured its third matchup with Bedford when Valluzzi scored into an empty net with 3.5 seconds remaining.
Bedford beat Merrimack 2-1 and 3-1 earlier this season.
Walsh said Bedford's size will be tough for Merrimack to overcome.
"I think it is a bad matchup for Merrimack because Bedford plays so physical," Walsh said. "That's the style they play and that's how they beat them the first two times."
Bedford 5, Spaulding 4: Bedford made life tough on itself Wednesday night.
The third-seeded Bulldogs surrendered two goals in the game's first four minutes, but fought back to beat second-seeded Spaulding of Rochester, 5-4, in the Division II semifinals at The Rinks at Exeter.
Spaulding made it a 5-4 game on Alexander Turgeon's goal with 36.7 seconds to play, but couldn't force overtime despite a 6-on-4 advantage for the final 20 seconds.
"They came out on fire," Bedford coach Marty Myers said. "They put two on us pretty quick, but we still felt pretty good. The kids stayed focused and did what they needed to do."
Bedford took its first lead when senior forward Benjamin Philbrick scored to make it 4-3 1:16 into the final period. Senior forward Kurt Mitchell collected Bedford's final goal at 3:41 of the third.
"I've been around long enough that I don't get too worked up about a (2-0) lead," Spaulding coach Paul George said. "They're a championship club. They have some pride."
Senior forward Brian Collins scored twice for Bedford. Junior defenseman Michael Dee also scored for the Bulldogs, who raised their record to 15-3-2.
Sophomore forward Zander Allen, senior forward Zachary Poisson and sophomore forward Brent Phillips scored Spaulding's other goals. The Red Raiders ended their season at 16-3-1.
Bedford received 25 saves from junior goaltender Steven Tempesta. Spaulding's Derek Scott stopped 23 shots.
The Red Raiders led 2-0 after one period. Allen opened the scoring at 2:31, and Poisson doubled Spaulding's lead at 3:48.
Bedford made it a one-goal game when Collins collected the rebound of his own shot and scored 2:07 into the second, and then tied the game on Dee's power-play goal at 7:02 of the second.
Spaulding regained the lead when Phillips scored at 7:41 of the second, but Collins answered with his second goal at 13:47. It was 3-3 after two periods.
"When it was 2-0 that next goal was huge," Myers said. "That probably changed the tempo a little bit. It was back and forth. I'm not surprised it was a one-goal game."