Alex Hall's High School Hockey: Emotional times for the Bearcats
THIS SEASON is Shane Maurice’s first as head coach of the Somersworth/Coe-Brown boys’ hockey team but he said his players still feel like his predecessor is leading the team. The Bearcats are playing this season in honor of their former coach, the late Bryant Lausberg, who died of a drug overdose last May at the age of 27.
Lausberg played football, hockey and baseball at Somersworth High, from where he graduated in 2007.
Maurice and Lausberg grew up together and became friends when they were 5 years old. Maurice served as an assistant coach on Lausberg’s staff the past two seasons.
“They feel like he’s still the coach,” Maurice said. “He’s still with us playing and they play hard for him and themselves. And they want to prove (that) because of everything and the way everything went down that he was a great coach and great person to be around.”
Bearcats senior center Joel Boulanger has thought about Lausberg before every game this season. Boulanger, an assistant captain, said Lausberg often worked with him before practice because Lausberg felt Boulanger played a similar style to his.
Somersworth/Coe-Brown dedicated its first home game to Lausberg. Both Boulanger and linemate Casey Pridham told Maurice before the game they each wanted to log six points in remembrance of Lausberg, who wore No. 6 in hockey.
Pridham, a senior assistant captain, and Boulanger both registered six-point nights in the contest, a 9-3 victory over Monadnock of Swanzey on Dec. 18.
“It was kind of a surreal feeling to do that,” Boulanger said.
The Bearcats have won all but two games since their triumph over Monadnock and own an 11-2-1 record in their first Division III campaign. The team is jockeying for a top-four playoff spot and has already secured its first winning season in five years.
Maurice credited Somersworth/Coe-Brown’s success to the work the players have done over the past few seasons while working with himself, Lausberg and the other coaches.
“We’ve continued the systems and what (Lausberg) preached,” Maurice said. “It’s sad he doesn’t get to see what the kids are putting in because it’s really what he’s done the past two years and we’re seeing the culmination of it now.”
The Bearcats have outscored their opponents 90-32 behind the efforts of senior Casper Marott and Kevin Baker in goal and an aggressive group of forwards. Pridham, Boulanger and their linemate, Griffen Bono, are among the top four scorers in Division III.
Pridham leads the division in points with 42 on 23 goals and 19 assists. Boulanger is tied for second with 34 points (16, goals, 18 assists). Bono is fourth with 32 points (16 goals, 16 assists).
Marott and Baker have combined for four shutouts. Boulanger said this is the first time in the past three years that the team has not had to play a goalie who was new to the sport or the position.
“It all comes back to goaltending, realistically,” Maurice said. “It allows us to be aggressive offensively. Casper and Kevin, having them allows us to be a lot more efficient on the other side of the ice.”
Perhaps the Bearcats’ biggest strengths, though, cannot be quantified. Boulanger said the team has become more of a family than it was in recent years in part because of Lausberg’s passing. Maurice said the seniors have all embraced their respective leadership roles on the team.
“A coach once told me, ’If you have a good goaltender and a great senior class, you’ll win championships,’” Maurice said. “It can’t be more true.”
A championship is exactly what the Bearcats have their eye one. Maurice said the team’s goal since the preseason has been to reach the state title game.
“If we get to that game, emotions will be so high,” Boulanger said. “If we get to that game, we’ll be a scary team to play against. I think we have what it takes.”
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PERHAPS the most impressive victory on the Hanover High girls’ hockey team’s resume so far did not come against an in-state opponent. The Marauders traveled to North Reading, Mass., last Saturday and knocked off Austin Prep, the reigning MIAA Division I state champion, 1-0.
Hanover received a power-play goal from junior forward Briland Laycock late in the second period and held on for the win. Sophomore goaltender Cici Barton earned her ninth shutout with 37 saves.
“That was a big win for the program, no question about it,” Marauders coach John Dodds said. “This year, we faced them up in our Christmas tournament. They beat us 4-1. It was a nice turnaround.”
Dodds likes scheduling tough out-of-state competition to challenge his team each season. One of the main reasons Dodds does it is to better prepare the Marauders for the NHIAA postseason.
Hanover has six games against out-of-state foes on its schedule this year, all of which count toward its record in the NHIAA standings. The Marauders have won their first four contests against non-New Hampshire competition. They will travel to play Acton-Boxborough (Mass.) on Saturday.
“To actually go down to some of these rinks and beat them on their home ice, that’s the tough thing,” Dodds said. “They’re all two or three hours away so the girls have got to be focused and committed and they’ve done a good job of keeping on track this year.”
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THE PINKERTON ACADEMY of Derry boys’ hockey team has raised more than $2,600 for the Special Olympics of New Hampshire since beginning its fund-raising efforts Feb. 4. Astros freshman Matt Gilliland, senior captain Eddie Welch and senior assistant captain Chris Gile participated in the Penguin Plunge at Hampton Beach Feb. 4 with the Pinkerton Athletic Leadership Council team.
Pinkerton and the Ice Den in Hooksett also donated a portion of ticket sales from Pinkerton’s 1-1 tie with Trinity of Manchester Feb. 4 to the Special Olympics of New Hampshire. The Astros are still raising money for the organization.
The High School Hockey column runs Fridays during the season. Alex Hall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.