Girls Hockey Preview: Hockey crown up for grabs as Hanover rebuilds
Christina Drake for Lebanon, scores the only goal for her team against Kelly Gaudet, goalie for Hanover in a 5-1 victory for Hanover, during NHIAA hockey championships on Saturday at the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester. (Thomas Roy/Union Leader)
This could be the year.
With league powerhouse Hanover admittedly in the midst of a "remodeling" year and Lebanon returning a lot of firepower, this could be the season another team rises to the top of the Division I high school girls' hockey ranks.
The Marauders have won four of the five championships since girls' hockey became an NHIAA sport including the last three in a row. They beat Lebanon 5-1 in the title game last season. The only other squad to win a title was St. Thomas Aquinas - Dover in 2009.
Hanover took a significant hit from last year's championship team, however. It lost six players to graduation including a bulk of its offense in Maddy Dewhirst, and Tessa and Madison Hill.
"We're starting over," Hanover coach John Dodds said. "I think we're going to have to be a little bit patient."
Compounding that problem is the loss of starting goalie Kelly Gaudet for at least the start of the season. Gaudet had surgery on her hip in the offseason, but Dodds said she should be back some time this month.
She was key in the Marauders' title run, allowing just four goals in the last five games of the season. She finished with a 0.89 save percentage.
"She was clutch in the semis and finals," Dodds said. "She has been solid for us."
Another key player returning for Hanover is defender Katrina Menard, who captains the team along with Gaudet.
Although he lost a lot of offense, Dodds feels he has the talent to put up some goals with players the likes of sophomore center Sarah Wagner.
It might just take a little while for the scoring to come around.
"It's just a matter of who develops and what we get with our combinations," Dodds said.
Brad Shaw doesn't have that problem with his Raiders. He returns two of his top three scorers, Christine Drake and Amelia Gage, as well as a strong group on defense.
"We're hoping to be right there in the thick of things," Shaw said.
The team also returns its starting goalie, Erika Moffit, as well as defenders Aubrey Mazurek and Micaela Schones.
Concord, one of the other semifinalists last season, lost six seniors but does have leading scorer Annie Mullen back at forward. And the final semifinalist from last year, Oyster River, should be strong defensively with its goalie tandem of Jess Pitroff and Emily Croot returning as well ass all-state defender Sandra Strogen.
There are two new teams this year, ConVal and a combined Bishop Brady-Trinity squad. Some coaches think Bishop Brady-Trinity will be an immediate contender.