NHIAA Hockey: John Stark/Hopkinton wins showdown with Belmont/Gilford
HENNIKER - The hockey teams of John Stark/Hopinkton and Belmont/Gilford went into Wednesday's game looking to prove they deserved to be considered among the favorites in Division III.
After playing two of the weakest schedules in the division to start the season, the Bulldogs and Generals got down to business at New England College's Lee Clement Arena and both acquitted themselves well as John Stark/Hopkinton skated off with a 2-0 win to remain undefeated.
"Both teams brought their A games," B/G coach Jay Londer said after his team dropped to 5-2. "It was a lot of fun."
The difference was a rebound goal by Kyle Kolehmainen late in the first period for what proved to be the game winner and the goaltending of junior Connor McDonald. The junior was rock solid, making 23 saves, including a couple of standout saves in the second period when the Generals (7-0) were still holding on to a one-goal advantage.
The first stop came with about five minutes left in the period when a JS/H defenseman lost sight of the puck and B/G Andrew D'Amour snuck in front and got off a close-range shot. Somehow McDonald found the puck through a forest of bodies to make the save.
The second came with 10 seconds left in the period and this time it was Jeremy D'Amour - Andrew's brother - barreling in on a breakaway. D'Amour put a shot on goal that bounced off and over McDonald and somehow floated off to the side.
The Generals got an insurance goal on the power play at 5:17 of the third period when Keith Galli stuffed a loose puck past B/G goalie Calvin Davis.
Davis was pretty good himself for the Bulldogs, making 25 saves, but gave up both goals on rebounds.
"Both goalies played well," JS/H coach Denis Kolehmainen said. "They kept their teams in the game."
A defensive battle was probably not expected considering the teams had outscored their opponents by a combined 88-22, but that was generally against the lower tier of the division.
Each team had only played on team with a winning record going in; JS/H beat Souhegan of Amherst and B/G lost to defending champion Kennett of Conway.
"Anytime you see one of the top teams, you're going to get a real hockey game," Londer said.