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Div. II Boys' Hockey Final: Overtime goal sets off historic Keene celebration

New Hampshire Union Leader

March 11. 2018 12:37AM
Keene beat St. Thomas Aquinas 3-2 in overtime during the NHIAA Div. II Boys' Hockey Finals held at SNHU Arena on Saturday evening. Keene reacts to their win as St. Thomas players collapse nearby. (Allegra Boverman/Union Leader)

MANCHESTER - Less than 24 hours after sending the Keene High School boys' hockey team to the NHIAA Division II championship game, Joe Walsh came through again for the Blackbirds Saturday at SNHU Arena.

Walsh, a sophomore, scored the game-winning goal 40 seconds into overtime to help Keene defeat St. Thomas Aquinas of Dover, 3-2, in the D-II title game.

The forward also netted the game-winner against Dover in the semifinals with 2:05 remaining.

The championship is Keene's first ever in boys' hockey and it came in the program's second title-game appearance. The Blackbirds finished runner-up to Bow last year in their first ever trip to a final.

Top-seeded Keene finished this season with a 17-1-1 overall record. The Blackbirds' lone loss came to St. Thomas in the season-opener.

Walsh's game-winner Saturday came on a rebound in front following an Owen Haas shot on goal.

"I don't like to think about it as just me," Walsh said. "All the boys, we all work together. We knew what we needed to do and we finished hard."

The Blackbirds nearly won the title in regulation but third-seeded St. Thomas (17-4) knotted the score inside the final two minutes.

Twenty seconds after St. Thomas coach Wayne Sheehan called a timeout, senior Jojo Grella scored on a diving shot from the crease with 1:13 left in regulation to force overtime. Matt MacLean won a faceoff in the left circle to start the scoring play.

"I drew up that faceoff and we continued to execute it until we got the goal," Sheehan said. "And I'm like, 'We've got a chance.'"

Despite St. Thomas' late game-tying tally, the Blackbirds did not enter the extra frame rattled.

"We actually really embraced the fact that we got a chance to go out there and score a goal that was going to end it and let us just go nuts on the ice," said Keene coach Chris McIntosh, who played for the program from 1999-2003.

Keene's Tim Greenwood broke a 1-1 tie 2:09 into the third period. The senior forward skated into the right circle and went top shelf on Saints goaltender Chris Eno (23 saves) to put the Blackbirds ahead.

The score was knotted at 1-1 entering the second intermission after second-period goals from Keene junior Dimitri Seger and MacLean.

MacLean scored from the slot off a behind-the-net feed from Grella 3:50 into the second period to open the game's scoring. Keene answered 49 seconds later with Seger's tally.

St. Thomas held the Blackbirds scoreless on a five-on-three power-play opportunity and had a 9-5 shots advantage in the first period. Keene outshot the Saints, 24-23.

Keene senior goaltender Myles Ditkoff made 21 saves.

"It's the way I guess it had to be," McIntosh said. "Our team has..(had) a lot of triumphs in the past few years - a lot of disappointments - and if we were going to win a championship, it couldn't have been any other way."

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