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February 12. 2013 9:54PM

Mark Quirk's High School Hockey: Trinity finds stingy hockey is winning hockey

DON'T LOOK now, but the Trinity High School of Manchester hockey team is starting to heat up.

The Pioneers are in the midst of an eight-game unbeaten streak that has propelled them all the way to the No. 2 spot in the Division I rankings at 10-3-1, behind only Manchester Memorial.

Trinity hasn't lost a game in more than a month, a 3-1 decision it dropped to Salem on Jan. 6. The Pioneers will have a chance to avenge that loss tonight against the Blue Devils at the Icenter in Salem. That game is scheduled for 8:10 p.m.

The Pioneers have been winning, but they haven't been blowing teams out. Their largest margin of victory during that stretch is three goals, 6-3 over Nashua North and 4-1 over Nashua South.

The biggest thing is the Pioneers haven't been giving up many goals. The most they have given up in the streak is three to the Titans.

"Defensively we're playing really well," Trinity coach Mike Connell said. "And our goaltending, obviously. Everybody wants a good goaltender. We're lucky to have two."

Ryan Slatky has played the majority of the season in net for the Pioneers. He has a 2.03 goals-against average and a .925 save percentage. Jacob Zimmerman has also seen some time in net. He has a 1.25 GAA and .905 save percentage.

One concern early in the season was the inexperience up front. And although Trinity hasn't been scoring a ton of goals, it is getting them at just the right time.

Junior forward Mitch Myers has had a flare for that lately. He scored a big goal in the Pioneers' win over Hanover and had the team's only two goals in a win over Exeter.

"He has a knack this year for putting the puck in the net," Connell said. "He's scoring the goals we need when we need them."

Myers is second on the team in scoring with 22 points. Kyle Valliere leads the team with 26.

They are also getting a strong contribution from freshman Drew Merrick, who is third on the team with 13 points and one of three freshman skating on the team's top two lines.

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Saturday will bring to us another edition of what I consider the best rivalry in the state regardless of sport when the Spaulding of Rochesterhockey team travels to Dover to take on the Green Wave.

These two are bitter rivals in every sport, but they bring it to a whole new level on the ice. Part of that is due to the success the two squads have enjoyed since Division II was created in 1995.

One of them has appeared in the Division II championship 11 of the 17 years, including nine of the last 11. They have met in the title game four times, splitting them 2-2. The most recent was in 2008, a 3-2 win for Dover.

Get there early for a good seat. The students always come out for these games and the stands are always packed. There is no love lost between the two squads and it's always an intense atmosphere whether it be at Dover Arena, Rochester Arena or at a neutral site.

Dover was 8-4-1 and playing Alvirne today and Spaulding was 12-1-1 and playing Bedford on Tuesday. The game on Saturday is scheduled for 6:15 p.m.

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Not only did Merrimack forward Dom Valluzzi score a hat trick in his team's big win over Dover earlier in the week, he did so using somebody else's stick.

Valluzzi broke his stick early in the game and needed to borrow a teammate Mark Feeney's for the rest of the game. All he did after that was net three goals of his own and assist on two others.

"I'm going to give it back," Valluzzi said. "But I'm probably going to go and get one after this."

The Tomahawks remained undefeated with the win at 13-0.

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One of the most important traits coaches at the next level look for in high school players is size, and one player who certainly has it is Londonderry junior forward Eric Coburn.

At 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, he has the size, and he also has the skill. Coburn leads Division I in scoring with 29 points and has shown the ability to do more than just grind it out in front of the net.

The big guy skates well, is a great puck handler and has incredible hands. He is dangerous both in the open ice and in crowds.

"He's a man-child," said Londonderry assistant coach Paul Vanasse. "That's the best way to describe him."

And he also has some of the best goal celebrations in the league.

Mark Quirk covers high school hockey for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. He can be reached at mquirk@unionleader.com.


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