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Bobcats score twice in third to knock off Knights

BRAD RILEY positions himself in front of the net as teammate Colin Piper gets knocked out of the way by an Oyster River defender Saturday, March 6, at the Whittemore Center in Durham. Joshua Spaulding. (click for larger version)
March 08, 2010
DURHAM — Going to another team's home rink for a playoff game is never easy.

When that team's home rink is also bigger than every other rink in Division II, it makes things even a bit harder.

However, the Kingswood Knights knew they could win on the Towse Rink at the Whittemore Center Arena on the campus of UNH because they had done it before. The Knights knocked off the Oyster River Bobcats 2-1 back in early January.

This time, the second-seeded Bobcats were looking for a little revenge on the seventh-seeded Knights and they got it, recording a 3-1 victory in a game where the Knights played well, but just fell victim to a team that played better.

"I give Oyster River credit, they kept pressure on us all night," Kingswood coach Fred Antonucci said. "They took the middle away from us by trapping in the neutral zone.

"We gave them a ride," the veteran coach continued. "I don't like losing, but how we did it wasn't too bad."

Heading into the game, Antonucci wanted his team to show up and give the Bobcats a test, which they certainly did. He also wanted to be sure that if the Knights lost, they didn't beat themselves, but rather were beaten by the other team.

"A good bunch of them have never been in a playoff game," Antonucci said. "And it took us a while to get acclimated to the game.

"Playing on big ice, their home ice as a number two seed, I think they did well," he continued.

Things didn't get started on the right skate for the Knights, who chose to wear throwback jerseys from the year the team won the state championship in 1999.

Just 1:03 into the game, the Bobcats got on the board, as Kingswood goalie Matt Boucher was screened on a shot from the point, and the puck flew by for a 1-0 lead.

Boucher made a couple of solid saves as the first period continued and the Knights looked to get their skating legs under them on the Whittemore Center's Olympic-size ice.

Sam Hart, Matt Fitzpatrick and Brad Riley all had chances on the offensive end, but the shots didn't quite make it on net, as the Oyster River defense held strong.

The Knights got the game's first power play with 7:50 to play in the period. Adam Foss and Wyatt French both had shots on net turned away and Fitzpatrick's pass to Riley was deflected before the freshman had a chance to put it on net. Hart was also knocking on the door in front of the net but couldn't find a rebound to put home and the penalty was killed off.

Foss had a couple shots denied and Andy Hamill sent a shot high. Nick Moore sent a shot on net, with Alex Boucher and Hart in for the rebound, but the Oyster River goalie held his ground and kept the Knights off the board.

The Knights got another power play with 3:05 to play in the period. Fitzpatrick made a nice feed to Riley for a scoring chance, but it went wide. Hamill, Hart and Foss also had good chances and French had a slap shot stopped before it made it into the net.

Jake Vontz also had a shot saved, and Foss made a nice block of an Oyster River shot in the final minute of the period, sending the two teams off the ice with the hosts holding a 1-0 lead after 15 minutes.

Matt Boucher was forced to make some quick saves right out of the gate in the second period, but the Knights got going again on offense, with Colin Piper, Fitzpatrick and Vontz all getting chances.

The Knights took their first penalty with 9:52 to go in the period and French did a great job killing time by tying the puck up in the defensive zone to start the Bobcat power play. Matt Boucher and the defense continued to shine, as the Knight keeper turned away three shots and French had a good clear to help kill off the man advantage.

Kienan Miller, Hart, Piper and Foss all had chances that were turned away by the Bobcat keeper, but the Knights got their third power play chance of the game with 1:34 to play in the second period.

This time, the Knights capitalized. After a series of shots from French were turned away, the Knight defenseman closed in on net as the Knights pressured and eventually got his stick on the puck and pounded it into the net with 39.7 seconds left on the clock, tying the game at one. Fitzpatrick picked up the helper and the teams left the ice with the game tied at one with 15 minutes to play.

Kingswood came out looking for the go-ahead goal early in the third period, as Foss, Moore, Alex Boucher and Hart all had great chances to get the Knights the lead, but they were unable to capitalize.

At the other end, Hamill and French turned in solid defensive efforts and Matt Boucher made a couple of saves to keep the game tied.

However, with 8:47 to play, the Bobcats took a 2-1 lead following a great period of Kingswood pressure.

The Knights, feeling the pressure, began working even harder to get the puck in the net, as Foss, French and Vontz were among those taking their shots at the Bobcat net.

However, a turnover in the defensive zone with 2:03 on the clock gave the Bobcats a 3-1 advantage. Antonucci pulled Matt Boucher for the extra attacker for the final few minutes, but the Knights couldn't convert and took a tough 3-1 loss.

"We had our chances, we just couldn't put the puck in," Antonucci said. "I'm proud of them. That's the best season we've had in a couple of years.

"The program is coming back instead of going in the other direction and they did that," he continued. "We've got a pretty young team but we were in the game, at 1-1 in the third period."

Antonucci noted that the only big mistake his team made was the late turnover that led to the third Oyster River goal.

"When you start playing playoff games, you have to play full games and keep the errors down," he noted, pointing out that, for the most part, his kids did that, but just got beat by a team that played a little better.

The Knights finished the regular season at 9-9 and knocked off playoff contenders Goffstown, Timberlane, Oyster River, Dover and Spaulding along the way.

Martin Lord & Osman
Littleton Chmber
Varney Smith
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