Belmont-Gilford sophomore Alex Muthersbaugh moves the puck out of his own zone in the first period of the host Bulldogs' 5-1 win over Berlin-Gorham on Jan. 25 at Merrill Fay Arena in Laconia. Jeff Lajoie. (click for larger version)
January 30, 2017LACONIA – Recent history with Berlin-Gorham hasn't been kind to the Belmont-Gilford hockey team. When the two teams met last week, the Bulldogs were ready to change that.
Host Belmont-Gilford played arguably its best first period of the entire season, storming out to a 3-0 lead and never looking back en route to a 5-1 win over the defending state champion Mountaineers in a key NHIAA Division III contest at Merrill Fay Arena on Jan. 25.
Visiting Berlin-Gorham (8-2 record) had won two in a row against the Bulldogs, dating back to last season's controversial state championship game. The Mountaineers then opened this winter with a win up north in Berlin – the lone loss for B-G (8-1-1) entering this week's slate of games.
"It's a very satisfying win, no doubt about that," said B-G head coach Dave Saball of the victory, which pushed the 'Dogs above Berlin-Gorham into the No. 3 spot in the D-III standings. "They outplayed us up at their place the first game so I knew the kids were going to come out and make sure that wasn't going to happen again."
That opening period certainly proved that, as B-G came out firing on all cylinders from the opening face off. Harrison Parent scored just 30 seconds into the game, jumping on a loose puck and burying an unassisted goal to put the hosts up 1-0 before some fans had even taken their seats.
The lead doubled to 2-0 with 8:06 to play, as Hunter Dupuis went in on a breakaway after a counter rush opportunity. Dupuis finagled a shot past Berlin-Gorham goalkeeper Trent Labrecque (19 saves), with assists coming from Parent and fellow line mate Ethan Becker.
Senior Chaz Hacking made it 3-0 just 23 seconds after Dupuis' goal. Off a faceoff win, senior defenseman James Buckley slid a pass to Hacking, who walked into the slot and ripped a shot over Labrecque's shoulder, off the underside of the crossbar and in to continue the outstanding start.
"We knew we had to get on them fast," said Saball of the opening barrage. "We knew if we could get a quick start on (Berlin-Gorham) before they got their legs after the long bus ride, it would probably shake their confidence a little bit."
B-G goalkeeper Bailey Defosie (17 saves) came up with two key saves late in the frame, and the Bulldogs held an 11-6 edge in shots to carry the 3-0 advantage into the dressing room.
With the top line of Parent, Dupuis and Becker dominating the Berlin-Gorham defense, the Bulldogs had several outstanding scoring opportunities to open the second period. But it was Hacking who made the Mountaineers pay with 6:28 remaining. He notched his second of the night, this one almost a carbon copy of the first with a perfectly placed high shot that extended the advantage to 4-0.
"If we play our game, we can be a really good team and you saw at times the kids showed what they're capable of doing against a really good Berlin team," Saball said.
Berlin-Gorham finally got on the board with 3:24 left in the second period, cutting the deficit to 4-1 when Owen Dorval's wrist shot from distance trickled past Defosie. The Mountaineers looked to continue the momentum late, earning a power play with 2:20 to play. But the defense, led by Buckley and sophomore Alex Muthersbaugh, who has shifted back to his primary position on the blue line after seeing action early in the season at forward due to injury issues, held tough and managed to get into intermission with the three-goal cushion intact.
Becker put the game out of reach early in the third, scoring his seventh goal of the season with an assist coming from Parent to give the hosts a commanding 5-1 lead that they would not relinquish.
Not lost in the game was B-G's ability to shut down Berlin-Gorham star forward Cam Cochran. The sniper, who sits tied for the lead in goals scored in the division this winter, had scored in every game but one this year (Kennett) before failing again in the loss to Belmont-Gilford. Cochran torched B-G for four goals in the season opener, but was visibly frustrated in the rematch last week before being handed a game misconduct penalty in the waning minutes.
"We made sure we had the right personnel against Cochran, made sure we knew where he was at all times on the ice," explained Saball.
Saball lauded the play of Miles DeFosses, who picked up an assist against Berlin-Gorham and has looked good since returning to the lineup to give the Bulldogs more offensive depth on the top two lines.
"Having Miles back, that really changes the outlook of our team and what we can put out on the ice," said Saball.
B-G has tough games on this week's schedule against Somersworth/Coe-Brown and Monadnock.