MANCHESTER - City rivals, a rematch of last year's state championship, two packed student sections at opposite ends of the rink and a physical contest. High school hockey games don't get much better than that.
Manchester Central emerged as the winner, knocking off defending champion Manchester Memorial by a 3-0 score at a raucous JFK Coliseum packed with an estimated 400 fans. Central senior goalie Ian Beliveau made 28 saves to earn the shutout.
"Our whole team had a great game. The defense was playing amazing in front of me," Beliveau said. "When we get city games like this, they're always fun. Every game is fun."
After two scoreless periods, Central (4-1-0) broke through seven seconds into the third with a power-play goal. Devon Sprague pounced on a loose puck in the slot and took a whack, chipping it up and over the glove of Memorial junior netminder Brandan McKenzie for a 1-0 Central lead.
The Little Green extended to a 2-0 lead at 4:33, once again connecting on a power-play chance. Central moved the puck well on the man-up and had McKenzie on the move with a barrage of shots. Jon Mathieu cashed in, sniping from the slot to beat McKenzie (30 saves).
Central added one more for good measure with 2:08 remaining. Mathieu made a nice pass from behind the net to Colin Pacheco all alone in the slot. Pacheco skated in and then snapped a high shot into the cage for the 3-0 score.
"I asked the kids to start fresh from here and bring it from here and we knew we needed a good effort after (Memorial's) strong win over Nashua North," said Central head coach Brian Stone. "That third period we finally got some things rolling and the power play worked real well."
The game was penalty filled, with 16 different infractions whistled. In the end, Central's special teams came out on top.
"We couldn't get any momentum going (in the third) and lost our focus. They skated harder and played harder in the third," said Memorial head coach Mark Putney, whose team dropped to 4-2-1. "We got very little flow going and had to shorten the bench. It's a learning experience and we'll get back to the drawing board Monday."