TWO dynasties extended their runs, a champion was dethroned and a program returned to glory after a 33-year drought.
Those were the storylines after Saturday’s grand finale of NHIAA ice hockey action for 2013-14.
In the girls’ hockey ranks, Hanover won its fifth consecutive state title and sixth in seven years with a 5-1 win over Berlin-Gorham. Bedford completed a 21-0-0 season and won its third straight Division II boys’ crown with a 3-1 win over Bow. Souhegan of Amherst knocked off defending Division III champion John Stark-Hopkinton 5-4 and Manchester Central defeated Londonderry 3-1 to win its first Division I state championship since 1981.
The win for Central came on a day when the Little Green boys’ basketball team had captured the Division I championship for that sport and completed a memorable day.
“Central’s been going through some hard times and we get a pretty bad reputation, but I think after a basketball state championship and a hockey state championship in the same day, it speaks a lot about the school and the students,” said Central senior Ross Lougee, who scored the winning goal Saturday. “On Friday, we got together with the basketball team and were talking about it. We wanted to capitalize on it. Two championships in one day is incredible.”
Central won eight straight games to close the season.
“We really started with Concord. We told them from there on, every game was a playoff game because we were wanting to move up in the rankings,” said Central head coach Brian Stone. “That’s where we started it. We turned it on in the Memorial game (a 2-1 win to close the regular season).”
For runner-up Londonderry, head coach Peter Bedford knew there was very little difference between the top eight teams in the division and any of them were capable of winning. What Bedford saw in Central was a team that came together.
“They settled down. They started to become a cohesive unit,” Bedford said. “When a team finally decides that that’s the way they’re going to play, when they become unselfish and they look at each other and they say ‘OK, you’re going to help me and I’m going to help you and we’re pulling on that same piece of rope’ it moves mountains.”
In Division III, Souhegan claimed its first state championship since winning three in a row from 2006-2008. The Sabers had to come back from a one-goal deficit three different times against Stark-Hopkinton before scoring late in the third period to knock off the defending champions.
Much like Central, Souhegan came together late in the year. Although the Sabers did it by going 15-2-0 in the regular season.
“The kids just worked so hard. They don’t talk a lot, but they work hard. Harder than any other team I’ve coached and you could see the momentum by the middle of the season,” said Souhegan head coach Dan Belliveau. “That was the plan, don’t peak too early and just keep working hard and build and build and build to this. That’s where we ended up, right here (with a title).”
For Bedford High, the Bulldogs will need to start all over next year. Three straight championships will be the end of the line in Division II because the Bulldogs will make the jump to Division I next season.
Bedford will not only have to adapt to the step up in level, but also the loss of 13 seniors who graduate from this championship squad, such as goalie Steve Tempesta, scoring threats Nate Boyd and Harrison Voloshin and blue line leader Mike Dee.
“We move up to Division I next year, so that will be different,” said Bedford head coach Marty Myers. “We’re losing so many seniors this year, so that will give us a new team. We have a great JV program and a lot of kids in the system. We look forward to getting them into the system, getting them some experience and our goal will be the same.”
And then there is Hanover, ruling the girls’ division once again. The Marauders lost just once this season and that came at the hands of the Acton, Mass., squad. Head coach John Dodds will be looking for even more out-of-state competition next season to push his team harder.
“We’re trying to play a tough schedule,” Dodds said. “We’re really pushing the girls and we’re asking for a couple more games next year.”
For Hanover, the development program is key, but the participation numbers are also a major factor for the team, which boasts a deeper roster than any other in the state.
“We had goals from three different lines and a pair of D,” Dodds said of the title game. “We typically roll three lines and we have another set of wings. We’re just one forward short of four lines. It’s something we do all year. They’re out there and they’re developing.”
Ian Clark covers high school hockey for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. His email is email@example.com.