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Starting strong


Kingswood hockey team bests Keene, Bedford in opening week



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AS THE KEENE GOALIE watches helplessly, Kingswood’s Dustin Eaton is taken down by a Keene defender as the puck flies toward the net. Eaton carried the puck into the net as he was taken down for a Kingswood goal. Joshua Spaulding. (click for larger version)
December 20, 2010
WOLFEBORO — As far as first weeks go, Kingswood hockey coach Fred Antonucci probably couldn't have envisioned much better than what his team accomplished.

Despite small numbers and a lack of experience beyond the top of the lineup, the Knight icers came out strong to open the season, besting Keene 3-2 on Wednesday, Dec. 15, and then taking care of Bedford by a 2-1 score on Saturday, Dec. 18.

Bedford came to the Pop Whalen Arena on Saturday evening and immediately put the pressure on the Kingswood defense and goalie Shawn Goggin. However, the young Knight keeper was up to the test, as he turned away 15 shots in the first period.

The Knights on the other hand, managed just two shots in the first 15 minutes. However, one of those shots found the back of the net, as Matt Fitzpatrick connected from Sam Hart and Kienan Miller to give the Knights a 1-0 lead with 4:15 to play in the first period.

That score held up through the end of one period and the Knights came out in the second period looking to increase the lead.

Bedford went in the zone quickly in the second, but the Knights bounced right back out, with Fitzpatrick sending a shot just high and Hart putting one wide then another on goal, where the Bulldog keeper held on.

Alex Boucher, Michael Bernier and Lucas Bonenfant continued the pressure for the Knights, while at the other end, Nick Moore turned in a solid defensive effort. Goggin made a couple of big saves to keep the Knights up by the 1-0 score.

The Knights took a penalty with 9:05 to play in the frame, but that was cancelled out less than a minute later, when the Bulldogs took a penalty, making it a four-on-four situation for 1:06.

Goggin made another save and the visitors took another penalty, this one with 7:25 on the clock. The Knights had a four-on-three advantage for 21 seconds and then a five-on-three advantage for 55 seconds.

Chris Pollini had a shot turned away, but with 6:33 on the clock, the Knights doubled the lead.

Miller, out near the boards along the goal line, sent a gorgeous pass through a tiny opening in the crease. Fitzpatrick was on the other post and calmly tipped it home for a 2-0 lead. Hart also picked up an assist on the goal.

The Knights still had a power play and Boucher, Miller, Moore and Alex Lapar all had shots on net, but the puck didn't find it's way in and the man advantage ticked off the clock.

The Knights found themselves down a man with 4:27 to play, but a strong penalty kill helped keep the Bulldogs off the board. Brad Riley also made a great shorthanded bid that was turned away.

The Knights took another penalty with 2:05 on the clock and that one hurt, as the visitors capitalized on a failed clearing attempt and put one past Goggin to cut the lead to 2-1 with just 30.4 seconds on the clock.

The Knights got an early power play chance in the third period, but despite some good pressure, were unable to find the back of the net.

Bedford had a couple of chances, but Goggin was up to the test, as he turned away four chances in a row. Pollini had a nice clear and also had a good shot on net that was saved by the Bedford keeper.

The Knights took another penalty with 7:12 to play, but good work by Miller and Fitzpatrick helped to kill the penalty and Goggin made a couple of great saves to keep his team in the lead.

With 1:16 to play, the Bulldogs called timeout and pulled the goalie, looking for a chance to put the tying goal in the net. Boucher and Miller both had key clears as the clock ticked down and the Knights took the 2-1 win and improved to 2-0 on the year.

Goggin recorded 32 saves in picking up his second win of the season.

"If you're goalie comes up big, you can win," Antonucci said. "In that first period, we could've been down three, four, five goals and would've had to dig ourselves out.

"He played really well," the veteran coach said of his sophomore goalie.

The other area of the game that impressed the Knight coach was the penalty kill, which despite allowing a goal also put together another solid effort.

"I don't like to take them two or three in a row," Antonucci said. "We can't afford to take the penalties when they're running out of gas. We definitely have a lot of learning to do."

However, the Knight coach was pleased with the effort all his kids put in, with one player missing most of the game with an injury, requiring everyone to step up and contribute more.

"They did well, they deserve a pat on the back," Antonucci said.

The one area of the game that the Knights are seemingly struggling in is the power play, but the veteran coach chalked that up to a bit of nerves with younger players playing major roles and major minutes.

The Knights opened the season by welcoming Keene to Pop Whalen Arena on Wednesday, Dec. 15.

Goggin was tested right off the bat, as the Blackbirds came in quickly and forced him to earn his stripes.

The Knights got a power play with 10:30 to play in the period and Moore, Matt Mitchell and Hart all had scoring bids denied as the visitors killed off the penalty.

Goggin continued to turn away chances and Pollini turned in a good defensive series to help the Knights keep the visitors at bay.

The Knights took a penalty and Goggin again was tested. He got some help from Miller, who made a nice clear to help kill off the man-advantage.

Goggin continued to turn away Keene shots and Riley had a shot turned away for the Knights.

Kingswood got another power play chance with 2:11 on the clock, but it was Keene that got the first control, keeping the puck in the zone shorthanded.

Riley, Pollini and CJ Sirrell had shots for Kingswood, but the penalty was killed off and the period ended in a scoreless tie.

The Knights came out charged up for the second period and needed just 51 seconds to find the back of the net.

After a Goggin save, Riley broke in all alone at the other end and beat the Keene keeper for a 1-0 lead.

Keene came back with a couple chances, but the Knights answered quickly. The puck rolled into the Kingswood offensive zone and as Dustin Eaton chased it down, the Keene goalie came at it from the other direction. Eaton was pushed down and as he was, the puck went with him and slid right into the net for a 2-0 lead with 12:33 to play in the period.

Kingswood kept pressuring, with Fitzpatrick sending a pass of Hart's stick, but the Knights took another penalty with 9:31 to play.

Fitzpatrick made a nice steal at the blue line to help kill off the power play, but the man-advantage was negated with 9:09 to play, as Keene took a penalty.

In the four-on-four, Fitzpatrick was on the doorstep but was turned away. Goggin also had a nice save, but both penalties were killed without either team scoring.

With 6:52 to play, the Blackbirds got on the board, beating Goggin to make it 2-1.

Goggin continued to shine, however, making a couple of saves in close and Sirrell and Fitzpatrick had chance for Kingswood at the other end.

The visitors struck again with 4:38 on the clock, as a rebound was drilled home and the game was tied at two.

Kingswood got a power play with 3:51 to go in the period and Hart and Pollini had good scoring bids that were denied.

As the period wound down, Riley and Bernier had scoring chances turned away and Goggin kept the game tied with a couple of saves, keeping it 2-2 after two periods.

The Knights needed just 38 seconds to get on the board in the third, as Lapar rifled a shot home for a 3-2 lead. Riley and Boucher assisted on the goal.

Kingswood had to kill off another penalty with 12:41 to play and Goggin made a couple of big saves and also got help from Boucher, Riley and Pollini, all who turned in solid penalty killing minutes.

The Knights were shorthanded again with 9:43 to play and Moore and Lapar made solid penalty killing moves to help out their goalie.

Boucher, Riley and Lapar all had good scoring chances as the minutes ticked down in the third period, but the insurance goal was not to be.

The Knights took another penalty, this time with just 1:48 on the clock and Goggin held on with a couple of big saves and Miller turned in a good defensive series, allowing the Knights to take the 3-2 win.

"There were mistakes, but it's the first time out and it's OK," Antonucci said. "We'll get better."

Antonucci was especially impressed with Miller's work in the final minutes, as he was able to control the puck along the boards and kill off precious seconds as the Blackbirds looked to tie the game on the power play.

"I don't think I've seen anyone do that," he said. "I taught them to do that years ago.

"The best part of our whole game was killing the penalties," Antonucci continued. "We'll have to work on the power play."

He noted that getting a win in the first game is always a good thing for a young team.

"A win's a good confidence booster for next time and they can realize what they have to do," he said.

Kingswood finished up the 2010 portion of the regular season with games after deadline Monday and Wednesday. They are taking part in the Exeter Holiday Tournament. The first game is at 6 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 26, against St. Thomas. On Monday, Dec. 27, they take on Exeter at 8 p.m. and they play Winnacunnet a 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 28. All games are at the Rinks at Exeter.

The Knights return to regular season action on Wednesday, Jan. 5, when they head to Lebanon for a 7 p.m. game.

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