Mark Quirk's High School Hockey: Manchester's JFK Coliseum should be rockin' for Div. 1 semis
On Wednesday, the seating capacity of the JFK Coliseum could be tested for the first time this high school hockey season when it plays host to the Division I semifinals.
The biggest reason that might happen is both Manchester Memorial and Manchester Central are playing in separate games. The Crusaders are the top seed and play No. 4 St. Thomas Aquinas of Dover at 7:30 p.m., while the Little Green are the second seed and play No. 3 Londonderry at 5:30 p.m.
"There's going to be so much intensity there," Central coach Brian Stone said. "It's what we've been looking forward to all year."
A couple weeks ago the arena was about two-thirds full when Memorial and Central played against each other in a regular-season game. Cars were parked along the streets around JFK because the parking lot was so crowded.
This event should draw even more spectators and could be a sellout.
"I would think they might (be at capacity)," Manchester Athletic Director Dave Gosselin said. "They haven't had something like this for a long time."
One thing that could keep some fans away is the admission fee. Ticket prices online are $7 for adults and $5 for seniors and students.
The semifinals typically bring with them the best environment of the season. All four championships will be held at Verizon Wireless Arena on Saturday, which isn't as intimate as the neutral semifinal sites. Those barns are hopping, especially during the period of time late in the first game and early in the second when the two crowds overlap.
"I think it will be a great atmosphere," Memorial coach Mark Putney said. "We should have a lot of support."
And if both the Crusaders and Little Green win on Wednesday, it would be the first time two Manchester public schools faced off in the title game. Memorial and Trinity of Manchester did play in the 1991 championship, however, a game won by the Crusaders.
It would be like a reunion at Verizon if that were to happen and it would serve as a rubber match as the two squads split their two regular-season matchups.
"That would be ideal," Stone said. "I hope we both do it."
THE LINE between a dominant performance and rubbing it in can be a blurry one, and it was put to the test on Saturday when top-seeded Berlin downed No. 8 Portsmouth 17-2 in the Division III quarterfinals.
The Mountaineers led 5-0 after one period and 10-2 after two. Then they scored the most goals of any period in the third when they added seven more for the 17-2 final.
"We knew it was going to be a David and Goliath event," Portsmouth coach Al Brandano said. "But we never imagined losing like that."
Berlin coach Mike Poulin said he felt some of the Portsmouth players were getting very physical with his kids and "were looking to do more than just play hockey."
"It's not what I wanted to happen but it happened and I'm glad it's over with," Poulin said.
Brandano said he's impressed by how his kids kept their cool and "honored the town they played for" with their actions. He also said his players have good memories, and all but one of them will return next year.
"I won't be surprised if they come back with a vengance, not just for Berlin but for the whole league," Brandano said.
Poulin said he played four lines the whole game and things ended amicably when the teams shook hands after the game.
TOP-SEEDED Merrimack got back to its winning ways with a 7-1 victory over No. 8 Goffstown in the Division II quarterfinals on Saturday.
The Tomahawks won their first 16 games before dropping two in a row to defending champ Bedford to end the regular season. It seems the week off helped Merrimack regroup and get ready for a strong run at the title.
Josh Roy and Connor Powell scored two goals each for the Tomahawks, who will take on No. 4 Bow in the semifinals at The Rinks at Exeter on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.
Mark Quirk covers high school hockey for the New Hampshire Union Leader. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.