MANCHESTER — The most misleading seeding in the history of NHIAA postseason tournaments? It may be the 2018-19 Hanover High School girls’ hockey team, which entered Saturday’s championship game seeded fifth.
Each of Hanover’s five losses this season came against out-of-state competition — all of which counted in the regular-season standings — and the Marauders showed they are still the program by which all other New Hampshire girls’ teams are measured by skating past second-seeded Exeter 4-1 at SNHU Arena to win their 10th straight state championship.
Hanover (14-5-1) scored a goal in the first period, two in the second and capped the scoring with an empty-net goal with 1:07 to play, but also turned in a smothering defensive performance. Exeter had four shots on goal through two periods.
“What really stood out was their defense,” Exeter coach Geoff Taylor said. “I thought that was the story. We struggled to get a rhythm going all day. The defensive element stands out. It’s always been the backbone of their team.”
After Hanover’s Natalie Morhun opened the scoring at 13:39 of the first period, the Marauders struck twice in 47 seconds in the second period. First Violet Sperry beat Exeter goalie Izzy Day from low in the left faceoff circle to make it 2-0 at 11:52 of the second, and then Hanover increased its lead to 3-0 when Margaret Lee scored at 12:39 of the period. Emma Tysinger scored into an empty net while Hanover was short-handed to finalize the scoring.
“When we look at March on the calendar it’s all about defense,” Hanover coach John Dodds said. “We want to take care of that first.”
Freshman Shauna Vadeboncoeur scored Exeter’s goal when she converted a pass from behind the Hanover net at 5:40 of the third. The only assist went to Dakota Markey.
The Blue Hawks (15-5-1) received 28 saves from Day. Hanover’s Rebekah Rudd stopped nine shots.
Hanover has won 11 of the 12 state championships since the NHIAA began sponsoring a girls’ hockey tournament in 2008 (St. Thomas/Dover won the 2009 title). It was also the third straight year Hanover beat Exeter in the championship game.
The Blue Hawks were the only New Hampshire team to earn a point against Hanover this season. They did so by tying the Marauders 2-2 in Exeter. Hanover won the rematch 3-1 in Hanover.
Hanover suffered two losses against Beekmantown Central of Plattsburgh, N.Y., two against Austin Prep of Reading, Mass., and one against Andover, Mass. The Marauders allowed two goals in their three tournament games, one of which was a 2-0 triumph over top-seeded Oyster River/Portsmouth.
“We always start every season working on team defense,” Hanover defensemen Bryn Kable said. “Our coach really emphasizes it … and I think it really showed today.”