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Eagles open title defense with two wins

LOGAN SPOOR battles for the puck during action against Somersworth Dec. 19. Joshua Spaulding. (click for larger version)
December 21, 2009
CONWAY — Kennett hockey coach Mike Lane was a bit worried.

After all, his team had just sat through an exciting ceremony where the title banner from last year's squad (as well as three runner-up banners from 2003, 2004 and 2008) was unveiled. They had all received their championship rings. The Ham Arena crowd was enthusiastic and pumped up.

And the Eagles' third-year coach was concerned that the emotions would get in the way of the game that needed to be played.

As it turns out, he had nothing to worry about.

Griffin Meador scored twice in the first seven minutes of play and the Eagles went on to a 5-1 win over Somersworth to open up the home season on Saturday, Dec. 19.

"I thought we did a really good job of taking the emotions from the ceremony and using them in a positive way," Lane said. "I had been losing sleep worrying about the transition, but I thought the kids did a good job of it.

"We had good extended shifts right off the bat and that got the ball rolling," he continued.

The ceremony, which was put together nicely by Bob Cyr, featured the unveiling of the three runner-up banners by members of those teams. For the 2003 team, coach Jim Terry and players Todd Frechette and Justin Umlah did the honors. For the 2004 team, coaches Peter Hall and Steve Blaser were the honorees. And coach Tim Connifey and players Frank Hayes and Mike Skelton unveiled the 2008 banner.

Following those unveilings, the players on last year's team received their championship rings, and all five seniors from last year's squad (Joey Murphy, Brian Munck, George Weigold, Justin Clements and Derek North) returned to the Ham Arena for the occasion. They then had the honor of unveiling the championship banner in the rafters of the Conway ice arena.

And then there was the business of the game.

Kennett came right out of the gate and bombarded 'Topper goalie Kate Peterson. Meador and Kevin Murphy got the firing started, but nothing found it's way through and the 'Toppers came back with a couple of scoring chances of their own, stopped by the defense of the Eagles.

Less than five minutes into the game, the Eagles got their first Ham Arena goal of the season, as Meador stuffed the puck past Peterson with 10:43 to play in the first period.

The Eagles went on the power play just over a minute later and they were able to capitalize on the man advantage, as Meador ripped a shot from the top of the face-off circle to Peterson's right and it found its way to the twine for a 2-0 lead. Freshman Dillon Smith assisted on the tally, which came with 8:46 to play in the first period.

The 'Toppers finally got some solid pressure on Kennett keeper Ricky Gaudreau, but he held his ground and made a couple of solid saves, which allowed the Eagles to come back with more offensive pressure. Murphy just missed connecting with Cody Richard and Matt Kelly had a slap shot from the blue line stopped by Peterson. Chuckie Smith had a bid in close but was denied.

After another Somersworth chance was denied by Gaudreau, the Eagles came back with more offensive firepower, as Meador and Bryan Lamontagne had shots stopped by Peterson and Taylor Cyr clanged one off the iron and sent another one wide.

Cyr also just missed connections with Chris King for a good scoring chance as the first period came to a close and the Eagles headed off the ice with a 2-0 lead.

The Eagle defense suffered a blow early in the second period, when Lamontagne had to be helped off the ice after suffering an apparent knee injury. A Kennett penalty also put them shorthanded for the first time on the night and Somersworth had a couple good chances, putting one off a post and a few more on Gaudreau, but the senior keeper held his ground. Meador had a good shorthanded scoring chance and Cyr did a nice job of controlling the puck in the zone to prevent any 'Topper momentum and helped to kill off the penalty.

The Eagles had to kill another penalty a few minutes later, just seconds after Gaudreau made a great save on a breakaway bid. The Eagles successfully killed the penalty and moments later Murphy helped Gaudreau out in a big way. The sophomore swept in and banged the puck away from an open net after Gaudreau had made a save. The rebound went out to another 'Topper and he was about to push it into the net when Murphy came swooping in and pushed it away, preserving the shutout.

Meador and Connor Todd had bids on the next Eagle power play, but they were shut down and Gaudreau held his ground in another Somersworth attack.

The Eagles went on the power play in the final 1:05 of the period and got scoring bids from Meador and Cyr, but went to the locker room still up 2-0.

Murphy upped the lead to 3-0 with his fifth goal in two games, taking a great feed from Josh Potter and putting it in the net with 11:37 to play. Justin Munck also assisted on the play.

The visitors got on the board with a power play goal with 8:49 to play, making it 3-1, but the Eagles went on the power play seconds later and before a minute had ticked off the clock, Spoor stuffed home the puck off a face-off for a 4-1 lead with 8:07 to play.

With 6:41 to play, Cyr took a nice feed from Meador and went top-shelf for a 5-1 lead, also on the power play, rounding out the scoring.

Gaudreau continued to hold his ground at the other end, turning away a couple of good scoring chances by the 'Toppers.

Potter was robbed on a great pad save by Peterson as the third period ticked down. Todd and King just missed connections on a scoring bid and James Gallo made some nice moves to help kill off a Kennett penalty in the final minute.

"The seniors led by example tonight," Lane said. "It was a great effort by them and the other kids fell in line and followed."

The Eagle coach also praised Dillon Smith, Kelly and Spoor for stepping up with the injury to Lamontagne.

"They played a phenomenal game," he said, noting he always wants kids to be ready to step up if needed and in this game, they did.

The Eagles opened the season with a 7-4 win at Souhegan on Monday, Dec. 14.

"We didn't play well, I think there were a lot of nerves," said Lane. "And I am sure they (Souhegan) were pumped, looking for a little revenge (from the title game)."

Lane noted that the Eagles did play much better in the third period.

"It was no coincidence that we stayed out of the box and we're able to roll four lines (in the third period)," Lane noted.

Murphy potted four goals, while Meador had four assists and Cyr had a goal and three assists, all on the same line.

Potter added two goals in the win and Gaudreau turned away 28 shots for the victory.

The Eagles will head to holiday tournament action in Maine next week. On Monday, Dec. 28, they play Edward Little at Biddeford Arena at 10 a.m. On Tuesday, Dec. 29, they play Westbrook at the University of Southern Maine at 10 a.m. and Deering at 4 p.m. at Portland Ice Arena.

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