Last season, St. Thomas Aquinas of Dover was 15 minutes away from reaching the Division I hockey championship game. But the Saints blew a 3-0 lead to eventual champion Manchester Memorial, losing 4-3 in overtime in the semifinals at JFK Coliseum.
“I know our seniors entered this season with a chip on their shoulder,” said Saints coach Andrew Leach. “That was a tough loss to take and you don’t easily forget it.”
This season the Saints are marching toward the postseason as a contender for the state championship. On Saturday, behind tallies from league-leading goal scorer Glenn Wiswell, Niall Foster and Dakota Pidgeon, the Saints topped the Marauders, 3-0, in Hanover.
In other Division I action, Concord defeated Exeter, 2-1, on Sunday. On Saturday, Nashua North and Bishop Guertin of Nashua played to a 1-1 tie. Memorial and Pinkerton ended up deadlocked, 3-3, and Londonderry blanked Bishop Brady, 5-0.
St. Thomas sports a 12-2-1 record, losing to only Trinity, 3-1, on opening day and Londonderry, 7-6 in overtime.
The Saints own the second-best offense in the league with 69 goals, one behind leader Londonderry (12-2). Goalie Zane Angelopolous, who notched his third season shutout Saturday with 28 saves, is 10-2 overall with a 2.01 GAA.
“We’re a stronger team than last season,” said Leach. “We have balance.”
And the Saints have Wiswell (23 goals), who is in the discussion for league MVP with Londonderry’s Erik Coburn and Curtis Harper.
“Wiswell can’t be stopped offensively,” said Leach. “You see it all time, coaches try to double and triple team him. But he’s proven there’s not a better goal scorer in the league.”
If there’s one team that matches up well with the Saints, Leach said, it’s the Lancers.
“Londonderry’s first line is similar to ours,” said Leach. “Defensively we may have the edge with Zane in goal.”
St. Thomas led Londonderry 6-4 with one minute to play, but ended up losing 7-6 in overtime. That loss may prevent St. Thomas from winning the regular season title, but Leach isn’t concerned.
“We’re not worried about where we land in the standings,” said Leach. “We want to finish the regular season strong and make sure we’re playing our best hockey entering the state tournament.”
Concord 2, Exeter 1: At Everett Arena, the Crimson Tide (6-9-0) moved closer to a playoff berth behind goals from Trevor Bickford and Bradley Murphy. Hagan Otto had two assists and goalie Ben Nelson turned back 38 shots. Ty Mezquita scored a second period goal and goalie Tyler Lucchini had 29 saves for 4-9-1 Exeter. Concord has won three of its last four games.
“We’ve got a very young team, but our kids play hard each night,” said Concord coach Duncan Walsh. “Our goal when the season started was to qualify for the state tournament and give our kids a taste of it. We still have three games left and we have a chance of hosting a first round game if we win out. Anything can happen, and because no one expects us to go far this year, we’re playing loose as a team.” Concord has lost four one-goal games and another by two goals to St. Thomas.
Memorial 3, Pinkerton 3: In Hooksett, Memorial was led by goals from Nick Burgess, Matt Fitzgerald and Zach Pelletier. Ryan Day led Pinkerton with two goals and Tyler Poole netted the other. Memorial goalie Aaron Shrum had 36 saves for Memorial and Pinkerton goalie Brendan Murphy registered 31. Memorial is 7-4-3 and Pinkerton is clinging to the last playoff berth in 10th place with a 4-7-2 record.
“We’re in a good place right now,” said Memorial coach Mark Putney. “We’re playing well, playing with confidence. We’re in position to get a first round bye and if Trinity (still has to play Salem and St. Thomas) drops a game or two, we have a chance to move into the top four. To me, any team can win the state title. There is no clear-cut favorite.”
Memorial will host Nashua South on Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. and plays Bishop Guertin in a makeup game Saturday at 7 p.m. at Skate 3 in Tyngsborough, Mass.
Bishop Guertin 1, Nashua North 1: At Skate 3, Max McCabe of Bishop Guertin (power play goal) and Jake Latham of Nashua North scored goals. BG goalie Griffin Scanlon had 29 goals and North keeper Jake Genest amassed 20 saves. BG (4-8-2) remains a half-game behind Pinkerton for the final playoff spot.
Make-up news: Central coach Brian Stone said his team will make-up its postponed game against Nashua South on Feb. 27 at 1 p.m. at Conway Arena. Trinity and Salem were postponed Saturday and Pioneers coach Mike Connell said that game will likely be rescheduled next week.