CONCORD — No one left Concord’s Everett Arena wondering who the better hockey team was in Wednesday’s Division II semifinal between Dover and Merrimack. Dover made sure of that.
The second-seeded Green Wave dominated from start to finish and moved on to the Division II title game by trouncing sixth-seeded Merrimack 8-1.
Asa Forbes scored twice for second-seeded Dover, which led 3-1 after one period and 5-1 through 30 minutes. Nicholas Marchuk, Jameson Goodridge, Aiden McDonough, Colby Roy, Axel Post and Douglas Gnail also scored for the Green Wave. Post’s goal came during a Dover power play, and the first of Forbes’ two goals came during a breakaway while Dover was short-handed.
“Our guys were buzzing today,” Dover coach Mike Young said. “They played really well. They played the type of hockey I was looking for. I just wanted them to continue to compete the entire game and I feel like they really did that.”
Dover (16-3-0) put 44 shots on Merrimack goaltender Ben Hardy, who recorded 36 saves in Merrimack’s 3-0 upset of third-seeded Goffstown in the quarterfinals. Dover goalie Austin Gilbert stopped 13 shots.
Dover will play top-seeded St. Thomas (18-2-0) in Saturday’s Division II championship game at SNHU Arena (2:45 p.m.). St. Thomas beat fourth-seeded Keene in Wednesday night’s second semifinal.
“To have our schools from the city of Dover going against each other … how exciting is that,” St. Thomas coach Wayne Sheehan said. “It should be a really exciting game. They run three lines. We run three. I think we were probably the two deepest teams in the division.”
St. Thomas won the first of two regular-season games with Dover 3-1, but Dover prevailed in the rematch 5-2.
Dyan Sadowski scored for Merrimack (10-8-2). Noah Melker and Jason DeBeaucourt were credited with the assists.
Goals by Marchuk, Goodridge and McDonough helped Dover build a 3-1 lead after one period. It was 2-0 before Sadowski cut Merrimack’s deficit in half at 8:46 of the period. Dover outshot Merrimack 14-3 in the opening 15 minutes.
“That was our plan coming in — to play aggressive and run our three lines like we’ve done all year,” Young said. “We knew we were going to face a scrappy team that just beat a good Goffstown team, so we wanted to come (strong) out early. We got a couple quick ones there and I felt that really set the tone and kinda took the wind out of their sails.”
Roy increased Dover’s lead to 4-1 at 5:02 of the second period, and Post made it a 5-1 game at 8:47 of the second.
Forbes’ short-handed goal increased the lead to 6-1 at 4:29 of the third, and his second goal triggered running time at 10:52. Gnail capped the scoring with 1:03 to play.
“After losing in the semis (to Keene) last year, our guys knew this was their shot to punch their ticket,” Young said. “We got a lot of balance tonight.”
St. Thomas 4, Keene 0: The Saints took control of Wednesday night’s second semifinal by scoring twice in a 29-second span during the second period. After Matias Savard gave St. Thomas a 2-0 lead with a power-play goal at 4:49 of the second, Will MacLean made it 3-0 when he beat Keene goalie Jacob Russell at 5:18.
“Boy that really got the momentum going for us,” Sheehan said. “It was 1-0 after one and a pretty tight game, closely contested. They’re playing lights out, and then we got the back-to-back goals to really seize the advantage their in the second period. That really allowed us to maintain line matchups and not having to take chances.
The Saints led led 1-0 after 15 minutes thanks to a Chase Gagnon goal scored at 6:48 of the first. Keegan Yougclaus scored for the Saints to make it 4-0 in the third.
Brendan Tersolo collected two assists for St. Thomas, which received 18 saves from Hannes Demegard. Russell stopped 28 shots.
The teams split two regular-season games. Keene (11-7-1) won 4-3 in Keene, and St. Thomas prevailed 4-1 in Dover.
Demegard hasn’t allowed more than one goal in a game since a 7-2 triumph over Winnacunnet on Dec. 19. Sixteen of St. Thomas’ 20 opponents this season failed to score more than two goals.
“To not give up a goal against a team as offensively talented as Keene was a really solid performance from our kids,” Sheehan said. “We’ve been really solid (defensively) throughout the year. We have two good goalies (Chris Eno is the other), but Hannes has been statistically dominant. It’s win or go home, so you have to go with the hot hand.”
St. Thomas, which lost to Keene in last year’s Division II final, has never won a hockey championship.
“They’re a hungry bunch,” Sheehan said.