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KHS defeats Bedford 2-1 for second-straight Division III Hockey Championship

This isn't your oarents' town rec department

The Kennett hockey team celebrates its Division III title on the ice at Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester on Saturday, March 13. (Joshua Spaulding Photo). (click for larger version)
March 18, 2010
The Kennett hockey team wrapped the weekend up in a nice bow and delivered the Mount Washington Valley its second championship in 18 hours with a 2-1 thrill ride of a win over the Bedford Bulldogs on Saturday, March 13, at Verizon Wireless Arena.

Coach Mike Lane extended his congratulations to the Eagle girls' basketball team for its title win a night earlier and added that his kids felt they needed to bring home another trophy to make the weekend complete.

"If they won it and we didn't, well, that was not going to be so good," Lane joked. "It's a lot of hard work. This year has been mentally and physically draining for us.

"To close it in perhaps the biggest Kennett sports weekend in history is pretty special," the Kennett grad said.

Bulldogs don't make it easy

And from the beginning, Bedford certainly did not make things easy on the Eagles in their bid to repeat as Division III champions. The Bulldogs controlled the first few minutes of play, forcing goalie Ricky Gaudreau to make a number of solid saves. Dillon Smith and Bryan Lamontagne chipped in on defense, but it was Gaudreau who kept the team in the game over the first five minutes of the first period.

The Eagles got a power play chance with 10:11 to play and though they didn't capitalize, used that chance to get the offense rolling in the right direction again, as Taylor Cyr and Matt Kelly had scoring bids denied by Bedford keeper Ben Firman.

Following the power play, Meador got a big steal and drove in on Firman, only to see the Bulldog keeper slam the door on the original shot and the rebound. Chuckie Smith was also denied a scoring bid as the Eagle offense got moving.

The Eagle power play made its presence felt with 4:01 on the clock, just 16 seconds into the man-advantage.

Meador picked up the puck near the nearside boards and walked in to the face-off circle before flicking the puck past Firman for a 1-0 lead. Cyr and Lamontagne got the helpers on the goal.

Less than a minute later, Meador lit the lamp again. This time, the puck was around the goal as the Eagle clambored to put it in the net. The senior forward, who set a school record for most career points with 78, banged the puck home for a 2-0 lead. Kevin Murphy and Cody Richard getting the assists.

Two great goalies battle it out

From then out, it was a battle of keepers, as Firman and Gaudreau shined in the spotlight of the state championship.

Murphy, Richard and Chuckie Smith tested Firman in the final minutes of the period, while at the other end Gaudreau turned away two Bedford bids and the period closed out with Kennett leading 2-0.

Gaudreau made three big saves coming out of the locker room in the second period and the Eagle offense attacked Firman on a power play chance early in the frame. Lamontagne and Meador sent numerous shots on the net but none found their way through and the score remained 2-0.

The Eagles suffered a scare when Dillon Smith suffered what appeared to be a serious leg injury early in the period, but the freshman defenseman would return to the ice later.

Kennett took its first penalty with 10:24 on the clock in the second period and did a nice job killing the advantage. Logan Spoor and Chuckie Smith shined in the shorthanded situation.

Gaudreau, on the other hand, continued to keep Bedford at bay, continually turning away anything that found its way to him.

The Eagles got two power play chances in the final 6:44 of the second period, with Cyr, Meador and Dillon Smith all getting scoring chances, but Firman held his ground and the puck bounced harmlessly away.

The second period came to a close with Gaudreau making a couple of solid saves to preserve the 2-0 lead.

Meador was turned away on a scoring bid early in the third period and Gaudreau made a couple of big saves to keep the shutout intact.

The Eagles got a power play with 12:09 to go, but couldn't get anything going.

However, with 8:21 to go, the Bulldogs managed to slip one past Gaudreau, giving them new life and only a one-goal deficit.

Gaudreau made a couple of big saves immediately following the goal and Meador had a couple of bids denied at the other end, but it was plain to see that the Eagles, rolling only two lines, were quickly tiring and it would fall on the senior goaltender to come up big in the final five minutes.

And he did just that. Gaudreau stood on his head in the final minutes, including in a four-on-six situation in the final five seconds that had the Bulldogs knocking on the door.

Though the ice may have been tilted a bit in the final minutes, Gaudreau held his ground and the Eagles were able to celebrate their second Division III title in two years.

Golden goalie

"He's the best," Lane said of his senior keeper. "I know I am biased, but no matter where I'm coaching, any team, any division, he's who I want in net.

"He likes the bright lights, no question about it," Lane continued.

The Eagle coach had nothing but praise for Bedford as well, as the Bulldogs, in their final Division III game (they move up to Division II next year), gave the Eagles all they could handle.

"They're so balanced," Lane pointed out. "I suspect that their program is only going to continue to grow."

The Bulldogs rolled three lines all night, while Lane made the decision to go with only two.

"With the pace of the game, we felt that was the best thing," Lane said. "But I think we were a little gassed at the end."

He also noted the slow start for the Eagles in the opening five minutes.

"I thought the first five minutes we were settling in," he said. "After we settled down and got into our game plan, it was a game of momentum shifts."

The Eagle coach also heaped the praise on his seniors, who went out in style with two championships in two years.

"I'm just so happy for the seniors," he said. "There's no better way to go out. It's a special group."

Both Gaudreau and Firman finished with 31 saves, but Gaudreau turned away 13 of those shots in the final period of the game as Bedford made the wild attempt to tie the game.

Littleton Chmber
Varney Smith
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