MANCHESTER - The Bauer Christmas Hockey Classic didn't get off to the start Manchester Central expected, both for the team itself and its backbone in net. But both rebounded nicely.
Central lost to Trinity, 8-3, on Thursday. It was a rough start to the tourney for Little Green senior goaltender Ian Beliveau. But Beliveau responded with a 16-save effort in a 5-1 win over Merrimack on Friday and a perfect 18 saves on 18 shots playing most of the game in a 5-2 win over Goffstown Saturday at JFK Coliseum.
The win pushed the Little Green into Sunday night's consolation game against Hanover at 5:30. The championship between Bedford and Trinity is set for 7:30 p.m. Bedford defeated Hanover 7-1 to take first place in the McDonough Division at 3-0 and Trinity beat Merrimack, 4-1.
"He had a tough start at the beginning of the tournament, but the last two games he came back focused and solid. That's what I expect and that's what he did last year and there's no reason he can't do it this year," said Central coach Brian Stone of Beliveau. "Everybody has bad games. It's just another game and you move forward. He's been solid the next two. We had a chat and it went well. He's definitely our backbone for sure."
The win gave Central a 2-1 record in Tafe Division play. Trinity finished 2-1 as well, but the head-to-head tiebreaker belonged to the Pioneers thanks to the 8-3 win Thursday.
Beliveau was happy with the way his teammates responded in the wins on Friday and Saturday.
"The second game we came out a little stronger and then (Saturday) we did a lot better," Beliveau said. "It was a very nice growth curve for the team, both physically and I think more mentally. We looked good towards the end."
On Saturday, Central took a 1-0 lead 4:48 into the game on a wrist shot goal from Devon Sprague. Jake Clark and Logan Pacheco added goals to give Central a 3-0 lead after two periods. Sprague struck again at 2:29 of the third and Jon Mathieu made it 5-0 at 7:29.
Beliveau made 18 saves and came out of the game with 5:29 remaining when Stone sent senior goalie Brendan O'Neil in to mop up. Goffstown scored two (from Nevin Houle and Oliver Gunski) but could pull no closer than the 5-2 final.
One of the top high school goalies in the state, Beliveau helped lead Central to the Division I state championship game last year, falling to Memorial. That leaves some unfinished business for Beliveau and the Little Green.
"I feel like this year, it's going to be tough. It's going to be a grinding year. As long as we don't let the successes of last year overshadow us, it's going to be a great year," Beliveau said. "As long as we don't let the pressure get to us, I believe we're going to have a good year."
Trinity 4, Merrimack 1: Trinity got a pair of goals from sophomore Drew Merrick in the third period to break open a tight game and earn its way into the championship. Merrick tallied at 4:43, putting a rebound shot in and later scoring on a slap shot at 11:16.
Senior Mitch Myers gave Trinity a 1-0 lead 7:00 into the first period, scoring off a quick rush from the other end. Freshman Tyler Chipman made it 2-0 at 7:19 of the second period, sliding a rebound shot home after Patrick Swanson was stopped by Matt Brewster on the initial shot.
Merrimack cut the lead to 2-1 with a goal from freshman Jeff Gerhard at 10:40 of the second. Pioneers freshman goalie Curtis Wirbal made the first save but the puck popped in the air and Gerhard banged it in, but the Tomahawks (1-2) could pull no closer.
Bedford 7, Hanover 1: The Marauders led 1-0 just 2:24 into the game on a Ben Acker goal, but it was all Bulldogs after that. Bedford was led on offense by Asa Palker (two goals), Mike Dee (two goals), Neil Soucy (goal, assist) and Nate Boyd (two assists).
"I thought we played well and playing in that extra (championship) game is going to be exciting for the kids," said Bedford coach Marty Myers. "They've played well so far and we hope to play well for the final game of the tournament."
Division II member Bedford got all three of its wins in the tournament against Division I teams: Hanover, Memorial and Concord and will face one more in the championship game.
"We enjoy playing different teams. We played earlier in a jamboree down in Dover and played teams we normally wouldn't play," Myers said. "It's good. It makes us compete and makes us earn everything. It was fun."
Memorial 3, Concord 1: Memorial got its first win of the tournament after spotting the Crimson Tide the first goal in the late game at JFK.
Connor Beatty put Concord on the board at 3:19 of the first period. Memorial's Bryer Bilodeau tied it up at 9:14 of the second. Two minutes later, Nick Burgess put the Crusaders up for good. Jeff Simpson's tally in the third period iced it for Memorial, who went 1-2 in the tourney.
Ben Nelson had 24 saves in the Concord net. The Tide finished the tournament 0-3. Memorial goalie Jarrod Broussard made 21 saves.