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Bulldogs iced by Pelham-Windham Wolf Pack

Belmont-Gilford hockey team falls in first-ever home playoff game

Evan Karagianis corrals the puck as he moves in on net in Division III quarterfinal action at Laconia Ice Arena on Saturday. Joshua Spaulding. (click for larger version)
March 07, 2011
LACONIA — Last year, the Belmont-Gilford Bulldogs were the underdog, the team that nobody expected to be in the Division III hockey semifinals.

This year, after a 14-3-1 regular season record, the Bulldogs earned their first home playoff game and were expected to be playing in the semifinals.

The only problem, nobody told the Pelham-Windham Wolf Pack.

In a game that featured the state's first cooperative team against its newest cooperative team, the kids from the border towns scored three goals in the second period and went on to upset the Bulldogs 4-2 at the Laconia Ice Arena on Saturday afternoon.

"Pelham played very well, they won every loose battle and raced to the puck," said Bulldog coach Jay Londer. "They wanted it more than we did."

In the playoffs, where it's win or go home, Londer knew that the team that wanted it more was going to get the win.

"The teams were pretty equal, so whoever wants it more and shows up on that day, wins," he said. "I think Pelham came out flying and we didn't."

While the Bulldogs may not have come out flying, they did come out and score the first goal of the game, needing just 2:10 worth of time to slip one by Pelham-Windham keeper Caitlin Re.

Eric Dow unleashed a shot that Re stopped, but the puck bounced loose and Mike Lembo slipped in from the side and poked it into the net for a 1-0 lead.

After the initial goal, the two teams went back and forth quite a bit, with both squads looking to get the advantage. The Wolf Pack sent a couple of shots through the crease and another couple in on Bulldog goalie Alex Conway, which he turned away. At the other end, Ryan Davis, Steven Hickey, Jeremy D'Amour and Lembo all had chances in the offensive zone. Davis had a breakaway bid skip just wide of the net.

With 5:55 to play in the first, the Bulldogs were assessed the game's first penalty and the Wolf Pack immediately put the pressure on, sending one shot high and another off the crossbar. After a nice Davis clear, the visitors came right back into the zone and sent a couple bids through the crease.

With just five seconds left on the power play, the Wolf Pack finally broke through, as a long shot from near the point slipped through and past Conway to tie the game at one with four minutes to play in the period.

D'Amour, Lembo, Davis, Hickey and Evan Karagianis all attacked the net in the final few minutes of the frame, but they couldn't get the puck past Re. The Bulldogs also took a penalty with just 25 seconds remaining in the period, giving the visitors a 1:35 power play to start the second period.

A save from Conway helped the Bulldogs kill off the penalty opening the second period, but the Wolf Pack continued to pressure Conway with a number of solid opportunities.

At the other end, D'Amour, Karagianis and Hickey all had great bids, with Karagianis setting up Hickey with a wide open net, but a misfire allowed Re to make the save and preserve the tie.

Just moments later, the Wolf Pack turned that stop into a goal, as they raced up the ice and buried the puck top shelf over Conway for a 2-1 lead.

Karagianis and Hickey teamed up for another scoring bid following the go-ahead goal, but the Bulldogs ended up in the penalty box with 10:29 to play and the visitors took advantage.

Pelham-Windham needed just 10 seconds of power play time to light the lamp, as they lifted a wrister into the twine for a 3-1 lead with 10:19 to go in the second period.

The visitors weren't done yet, as less than two minutes later, they put a shot on net that Conway saved, but the loose puck bounced over him and was punched into the net for a 4-1 lead with 8:41 to play in the second period.

The Bulldogs responded with some great offensive chances as they scrambled to get back in the game. Karagianis, Max DesMarais, Riley Tebbetts, Davis and D'Amour all pressured the net, but none could find a way to put the puck past Re, as she held her ground in the Wolf Pack crease.

The hosts got their first power play of the afternoon with 6:47 to go in the second period and Davis and Hickey had good chances early and couldn't capitalize. The Wolf Pack got a good shorthanded bid, but Conway stopped the breakaway. Hickey, Davis and D'Amour turned the save into a great scoring bid at the other end, but they couldn't convert and the penalty ticked off the clock.

Davis and Hickey had a couple more scoring chances, but again, they were unable to find the back of the net.

The Bulldogs got another power play chance with 3:29 to go in the second and Tebbetts, Davis and Norm Harris all had bids denied and the penalty was killed off.

D'Amour made one final bid in the closing seconds of the period, but his breakaway was stopped by Re and the period ended with the visitors up 4-1.

The Bulldogs came out quickly in the third and tested Re with Tebbetts, Davis, D'Amour and Hickey all putting the pressure on.

At the other end, Conway turned away a number of great Pelham-Windham chances.

The two teams exchanged penalties just five minutes into the period, with neither team getting an advantage for very long. D'Amour made a great shorthand bid and Conway turned away numerous Wolf Pack shots. Karagianis, Hickey and Davis had bids in a four-on-four situation that were all shut down by Re.

Connor Hillsgrove had a shot from the point stopped and Conway nabbed a couple of Wolf Pack shots at the other end.

The Bulldogs finally got back on the board with 3:14 to go, as D'Amour broke in shorthanded and snapped a shot past Re. Karagianis picked up the assist and the hosts had cut the lead to two.

With a minute to go, Conway skated to the bench and the Bulldogs pressured, with Davis and Harris making bids, but the attempts came up short and the Wolf Pack, in their first year, earned a trip to the Division III semifinals.

Londer knew that his team was certainly capable of coming back from the three-goal deficit in the final frame.

"With a full period left, scoring three goals with our offense, absolutely," he said of the comeback chances. "She (Re) played very well."

He noted that once his team got down, the players were trying to do a little too much, which took them away from the way they usually play.

"When you get behind by a couple of goals, everyone starts holding the sticks tighter," he said. "They're trying to score four goals on one shift."

While his team did have a 10-day layoff leading up to the contest, Londer thought his team was more than prepared.

"We had a great week of practice and they came out flat," he said. "We were prepared, but we couldn't match their intensity."

The team's first home playoff game marked the final game for Karagianis, Eir Dow, Harris and Hillsgrove, the team's four seniors.

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