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March 15. 2014 6:24PM

Div. III Hockey Championship: Souhegan rallies to claim crown


Souhegan's bench clears as they celerate their win over John Stark-Hopkinton during NHIAA Division III hockey championship at the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester on Saturday. (Thomas Roy/Union Leader)

MANCHESTER - First he won the faceoff. Then he won the game.

Joe Nutting won a clean draw back to Alex Maresco in an offensive zone draw late in the Division III high school boys' hockey championship on Saturday.

Then Maresco sent a perfect pass right to the stick of Nutting, who redirected the puck in for a goal to give second-seeded Souhegan a 5-4 win over No. 5 John Stark-Hopkinton for the title at Verizon Wireless Arena.

Nutting told his coach he wanted to be on the ice for that faceoff and he delivered.

"It was a pretty clean win to Alex Maresco," Nutting said. "It was a great, low shot and I just got lucky and got a tip on it."

It was the first championship for Souhegan (18-2) since 2008. The Generals, who won it all last season, finished with a record of 12-7-1 after a run that saw them knock off No. 4 Portsmouth and top-seeded Berlin.

"They play tough and they get better throughout the year," John Stark-Hopkinton coach Denis Kolehmainen said about his squad. "That's what we look for."

John Stark-Hopkinton nearly tied the game up with 1:20 remaining when Alex Lajeunesse beat Souhegan goalie Connor McCall (14 saves) with a shot from the blue line, but the goal was not allowed because the Generals were whistled for a penalty before the shot.

The teams skated to a 1-1 draw after one period of play. Then they exploded for a combined six goals in the second, each team scoring three to make it 4-4 heading into the final frame.

The Generals held the lead three times. The first was on a goal by Peter Sawitsky just 21 seconds into the game, then on goals by Ryan Hawkes and Jacob Blanchette in the second. Hawkes made it 2-1 and Blanchette made it 3-2.

The Sabers responded with the next two goals and didn't trail after that. Riley Connor tied it up 3-3 with 7:06 left in the second and James Wilson scored a power-play goal just more than a minute later to make it 4-3.

Garrett Thomas tied it up for the Generals, who got 20 saves from Josh Gagne, on the power play with 4:32 left in the second before Souhegan netted the game winner in the third.

"I like to look for that, the tips in front," Maresco said. "I don't know if it's a set play but it worked."


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