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March 09. 2013 4:06PM

NHIAA girls' hockey: Defense finally rests after Hanover wins title


Hanover's Kelly Brigham attacks Oyster River's goaltender Emily Croot during the NHIAA girls' hockey finals held at the Verizon Wireless Arena on Saturday in Manchester. (THOMAS ROY/UNION LEADER)
MANCHESTER - It was defense that allowed the Hanover High School girls' hockey team to go undefeated during the regular season, and it was defense that carried Hanover to a 3-1 victory over Oyster River in Saturday's championship game.

Top-seeded Hanover held third-seeded Oyster River to 10 shots on goal, and limited the Bobcats to two shots over the final 15 minutes. The Marauders allowed 14 goals in their 20 games this season, and posted 12 shutouts.

"We lost five of our top six scorers from last season, so defense was our first priority," Hanover coach John Dodds said. "I'd say it was our No. 1 strength."

Freshman Kelly Brigham scored twice for Hanover, which completed its season with a 20-0-0 record. Hanover's Julie Montgomery, another freshman, capped the scoring by collecting an empty-net goal with one minute to play. Sophomores Sarah Wagner and Emma Malenka each had two assists.

"I think the girls did the best they could," Oyster River coach Jamie Long said. "We couldn't generate sustained offense. You hope that hard work can beat talent, but they have a lot of depth. Every (Hanover) player can skate."

Hanover led 1-0 after one period and 2-1 entering the third.

Junior forward Hannah Herz-Kahn scored for the Bobcats, who finished their season with a 15-5-1 record. Sarah Lessard collected the only assist on Oyster River's goal.

It was the fourth consecutive state championship for Hanover, which has won five titles since the NHIAA first held a girls' tournament in 2008. Hanover also beat Oyster River in the 2011 championship game.

It was also the third time Hanover beat Oyster River this season. The Marauders skated to a 4-1 victory at home, and posted a 1-0 victory in Durham.

Oyster River's Emily Croot, a sophomore, made 33 saves. Hanover goaltender Katie Fenton stopped nine shots.

Brigham opened the scoring with a power-play goal at 10:36 of the first period. She collected a rebound just outside the crease and swept the puck inside the right post.

Hanover doubled its advantage when Brigham scored her second goal 1:01 into the second period. Brigham, who entered the game as the team's fourth-leading scorer, tipped Wagner's shot from the right point past Croot.

"(Brigham) plays hockey the same way she plays soccer," Dodds said. "She's really aggressive. Always on the puck."

Oyster River got on the scoreboard at 7:40 of the second, when Herz-Kahn found herself alone with the puck in front of the Hanover net and beat Fenton to make it 2-1. It remained 2-1 until Montgomery scored into an empty net.

"I think the girls played as well as they can play," Long said. "We just couldn't generate any offense, even when we shortened the bench. You run your horses hard and see what's left in the tank. They're just a very sound team."

Girls' Hockey Championship

Hanover 3, Oyster River 1

AT VERIZON WIRELESS ARENA

Oyster River (15-5-1) 0-1-0-1
Hanover (20-0-0) 1-1-1-3

First period: H - Kelly Brigham (Sarah Wagner) ppg (10:36).

Second period: H - Brigham (Emma Malenka, Wagner) 1:01; OR - Hannah Herz-Kahn (Sarah Lessard) 7:40.

Third period: H - Julie Montgomery (Margeaux Baker, Emma Malenka) eng 14:00

Saves: Emily Croot (33). Katie Fenton (9).

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