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February 04. 2013 10:41PM

Mark Quirk's High School Hockey: Salem enjoying a Phair amount of success

ANY QUESTIONS about who will be the No. 1 goalie for the Salem boys' team seem to have been answered.

Nick Phair started the season in a battle with Sam MacDonald for the position, but it's Phair, a senior, who has been handed the reins over MacDonald, a sophomore.

Blue Devil coach Mark McGinn said MacDonald is capable of taking over the position if needed, but for now it's Phair's time.

"If you look over the history of how I coach, (Phair) is a senior and (MacDonald) is a sophomore; I give the benefit to the senior," McGinn said. "Next year it will be his game. It's no drop off; he's a very good goalie."

Phair leads Division I regulars in goals-against average at 1.38 and save percentage at .946. He has a record of 7-2-1.

Jacob Zimmerman of Trinity of Manchester has a 1.33 GAA but has started only three games and played 135 minutes. Phair has played 458 minutes.

Phair has given up more than two goals in a game just twice, against Manchester Memorial and Londonderry. He surrendered four in each of those.

One tell-tale moment of how Phair's season has been going came on Saturday. Salem was tied 4-4 with Londonderry in the third period, and the Lancers had a two-on-none break with less than five minutes left. Phair stopped the break, and the Blue Devils scored with less than a minute remaining to win the game and take over first place in the Division I standings.

"We've always had pretty good goaltending, which is fortunate," McGinn said. "We've just got to keep the shots down and stay out of the penalty box."

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WHEN TRYING to figure out how he was going to replace the offense when he lost four of his top five scorers from a year ago, Hanover girls' hockey coach John Dodds didn't have to look any further than his own blue line.

This year, the defending champion Marauders are getting big contributions on offense from their defense, and at 13-0 they look poised to win their fifth title in the six years girls' hockey has been a varsity sport.

Dodds says Caroline Howell has emerged as one of the best defenders in the state and Margeaux Baker has stepped up her game in the offensive end. The team also returned Emma Malenka and captain Katrina Menard at the blue line.

"I really think we've got a couple of the best defensemen in the state," Dodds said. "And they're contributing on offense."

Hanover hasn't been blowing out the competition, which makes good defense even more important. It has three one-goal wins so far this season, including 3-2 over Bishop Guertin of Nashua, 1-0 over Oyster River of Durham and 3-2 over rival Lebanon, a game in which both Howell and Baker scored.

The Marauders also have been infused with some good freshman talent up front, including Kelly Brigham and Matti Hartman, both of whom scored in their 2-0 win over Lebanon on Saturday.

And it also helps that they are getting solid goaltending. Sophomore Katie Fenton has filled in admirably for senior Kelly Gaudet, who had surgery just before the season. Gaudet has played but still isn't 100 percent.

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SOME good news and some bad news for the Manchester Central boys. The good news is captain Mitchel Fortin could get the cast off his broken arm as early as this week, and there is a possibility he could play for the Little Green again this season. They could also get defenseman Parker Anderson back soon.

The bad news is, Andrew Kehas is back on the injured list. Kehas suffered a concussion in a 10-1 win over Concord on Saturday, and coach Brian Stone said it was pretty serious. Will Lyons suffered a concussion in the game, as well, and will likely miss 10-14 days.

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IT'S A BIG WEEK for the Bedford boys' team, which has games against two of the top four teams in Division II. The Bulldogs host Dover on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m., and they are at West Side Arena in Manchester to play undefeated Merrimack at 4 p.m. on Saturday.

The Tomahawks are 11-0 and Dover is 7-3-1. Bedford is 9-1-1.

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MANCHESTER MEMORIAL, considered the preseason boys' Division I favorite by many, has dropped two games in a row and will look to get back to its winning ways on Wednesday when it travels to Dover to take on St. Thomas Aquinas. The Saints handed the Crusaders an overtime loss last Wednesday, and then Memorial lost to Nashua North on Saturday.

The Crusaders out-shot their opponents 72-33 in those two games.

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NASHUA NORTH is starting to roll. After dropping five in a row to some of the top boys' teams in the state, the Titans have put together a three-game win streak and are now 4-8. They started the streak with back-to-back 5-0 wins over Bishop Brady and Exeter and then downed Memorial 3-2 on Saturday.

North will be challenged to keep that streak alive this week against Salem and defending champion Pinkerton Academy of Derry, not an easy task for the Titans.
Mark Quirk covers high school hockey for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. Email him at mquirk@unionleader.com.

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