MANCHESTER — Manchester Central’s offensive struggles continue, but the defense is clicking on all cylinders right now.
Senior goalie Ian Beliveau turned back 20 shots and Jon Mathieu popped home the lone goal to lead the Little Green to a 1-0 Division I ice hockey decision over Bishop Brady of Concord Tuesday at JFK Coliseum.
Granted, they haven’t played the iron yet (beating winless Pinkerton, Brady and Exeter), but the Little Green’s defense has quietly done its job. Central has allowed four goals in four games, posted consecutive shutout wins and enter Saturday’s 6:30 p.m. Division I championship game rematch against rival Memorial at JFK Coliseum with a 3-1 record and momentum.
“Right now, we’re a team built around defense with a goalie who is overlooked in our league,” said Central coach Brian Stone. “Ian is one of the top goalies in our league. We don’t get to the state finals last year without him. He’s just a solid goalie and like last year, he’s keeping us in games and giving us a chance to win.”
The Central defense is formidable behind seniors Tim Tetrault, Anderson Parker and Ross Lougee, along with junior Jake Clark and sophomore Jack Cavanaugh. “If we can hold teams to two or three goals, we’ve got a chance of winning those games,” said Stone. “Right now we’re struggling on offense. Today we just didn’t move the puck enough to create more offense.”
Still, Central got 30 shots on net and, had it not been for some excellent saves by Brady netminder Kyle Jalbert, the margin of Central’s victory could have been four or five.
In the scoreless first period, Central attacked the Brady cage 13 times. Devon Sprague broke in free on a shorthanded bid, but was denied by the post. Logan Pacheco’s partial breakaway was thwarted by Jalbert.
Mathieu, a junior forward, scored the game winner 5:52 into the middle frame. He gained possession of a loose puck outside Brady’s blue line, split the defense and beat Jalbert with a nifty backhander. “Jon has a knack of creating shots in close,” said Stone. “He got the goalie to commit before shooting it.”
Central nearly scored again in the second period as Patrick Berry skated in alone with teammate Cody Lappas. Berry fed Lappas in front only to see Jalbert maneuver across the crease and block the shot with his chest. Central held a 23-13 shot advantage after the second period and had only one goal to show for its effort.
The Green Giants (0-4) were awarded a four-minute power play (two roughing penalties) with 2:56 remaining in the regulation, but Central’s defense held the fort, limiting Brady to just two shots on net. “We played hard, played to our potential but just couldn’t get enough shots on net,” said Brady coach Randy Manni. “Jalbert played well and put us in position to win the game. Unfortunately, we just couldn’t generate enough offense, especially on that power play.”