NHIAA Div. II boys' hockey: Bedford skates past Merrimack to title
Merrimack goaltender Brett Glenye is in trouble out of the net with Bedford's Christopher O'Hara attacking during the NHIAA Division II hockey finals at the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester on Saturday. (THOMAS ROY/UNION LEADER)
The third-seeded Bulldogs knocked off the top-seeded Tomahawks, 5-2, in the NHIAA Division II boys' ice hockey championship game at Verizon Wireless Arena on Saturday and were the only team to beat Merrimack all year.
They finished the regular season with back-to-back wins over the Tomahawks, who came into the series undefeated, and then used its size and senior leadership to grind out its second straight title.
"Sometimes teams just match up well with each other" Bedford coach Marty Myers said. "Fortunately we're the team that had their number."
The Bulldogs trailed 1-0 after one period of play then scored two goals 54 seconds apart early in the second to take the lead for good. Kurt Mitchell scored the first to tie it up 1-1 at 1:13 and Christopher Viola gave Bedford the lead with his goal at 2:07.
"Going into the second period we knew we had to come out flying," Bedford senior forward Christopher O'Hara said. "We had to come out a lot harder than they would. The second period, that's our period, we came out and took that momentum away from them."
Those were just two of four unanswered goals by the Bulldogs, who led 4-1 when O'Hara scored a shorthanded goal with 12:20 left in regulation to make it 4-1.
It was a swing in momentum the Tomahawks couldn't recover from. They pulled back within two when Connor Powell netted his second of the game with 11:26 left to make it 4-2, but that's the closest they got.
"The kids didn't quit," Merrimack coach Kurt Mithoefer said. "They (made it close). Then when I pulled (goalie) Brett (Glendye) to get an extra skater on the power play it bounced over a kids stick and went right in."
That empty-net goal by O'Hara rounded out the scoring at 5-2 with 1:25 remaining.
Bedford ends the season with a record of 16-3-2 and Merrimack finishes up at 18-3.
The Tomahawks, who are top heavy with talent and roll just two lines for the most part, were the better team early. They went up 1-0 when Powell beat Bedford goalie Stevan Tempesta (23 saves) at 2:22 of the first.
It was 1-0 after one and things were looking good for Merrimack when goalie Brett Glendye (28 saves) robbed Bedford's Joseph Morin with a diving glove save.
Less than a minute later Mitchell got things going for the Bulldogs with his goal.
"I'm not the fastest skater and I don't know how I split those defensemen," Mitchell said. "There was no hole for the goalie and I just kind of pushed it in."
It was downhill from there for Merrimack. Bedford started to assert itself physically and it seemed to take a toll as it racked up the 4-1 lead that was overwhelming for the Tomahawks.
Division II Championship
Bedford 5, Merrimack 2
AT VERIZON WIRELESS ARENA
Bedford (16-3-2) 0-3-2-5
Merrimack (18-3) 1-0-1-2
First: M - Connor Powell (Josh Roy) 2:22
Second: B - Kurt Mitchell (unassisted) 1:13 ppg; B - Christopher Viola (unassisted) 2:07; B - Neil Soucy (Jason Campbell, Michael Dee) 11:10
Third: B - Christopher O'Hara (unassisted) 2:40 shg; M - Powell (Ryan Downie) 3:34 ppg; B - O'Hara (unassisted) 13:35 eng
Goalies: B - Stevan Tempesta 23; M - Brett Glendye 28