Playoff loss aside, B-G hockey celebrates successful season
|The Belmont-Gilford hockey team celebrates a win over Laconia/Winnisquam earlier this season at Laconia Ice Arena. Jeff Lajoie. (click for larger version)|
March 28, 2011LAKES REGION – Belmont-Gilford hockey coach Jay Londer saw quite a bit in his second year on the job. After the Bulldogs won the first playoff game in program history last winter, this year brought about increased expectations and the goal of competing for a state championship.
While B-G had an unexpected fall in the quarterfinals to Pelham-Windham, a 14-4-1 campaign has the 'Dogs knocking on the door for future success.
"We got out to a hot start going 9-0 – the best start in school history," said Londer, who was named the Division III Coach of the Year for his efforts. "We kind of hit a rough patch there in the middle of the year, and it was a roller coaster with guys getting hurt and suspended. But we got back on track at the end of the season."
B-G pulled off a big win against Alvirne in the regular season finale, and it appeared as though the Bulldogs were entering the postseason on a high note. The squad earned the fourth seed in Division III and hosted Pelham-Windham in the school's first-ever home playoff game on March 5.
"I thought we were looking good going into that game," explained Londer.
But the visitors jumped out early and scored three goals in the second period en route to a 4-2 win that stunned the crowd in attendance at Laconia Ice Arena.
"I think Pelham wanted it more than we did but I think we overlooked them a little bit because (top seed and undefeated) Somersworth was waiting in the semifinals," said Londer. "Not to take anything away from them but in my opinion, it was an upset. We were ready but we just came out flat and couldn't get off the mat when we fell behind."
It was a disappointing finish to a season that started off on such a high note. But Londer pointed out a mid-season loss to Hollis-Brookline that seemed to change the complexion of the season.
"The kids were excited in the beginning of the year and we were rolling, scoring goals, and everything was flowing," he began. "But like Pelham, I think we overlooked Hollis-Brookline in game 10 and they came in and smacked us in the mouth. Our main focus for next year is to not overlook anyone.
"We need to be more consistent day in and day out and that starts in practice," he continued. "We were able to win against some of the weaker teams even when we weren't very consistent because of our talent level but it kind of caught up with us against the better teams."
While B-G will lose four seniors to graduation, expectations will be just as high, if not higher, for next season.
Juniors Ryan Davis and Steven Hickey, who suffered a significant injury in the middle of the season and returned for just the final playoff game, handled much of the scoring load this season and anchored a top line that was nearly unstoppable early on.
Classmates Mike Lembo and Riley Tebbetts will be the anchors of the B-G defense, as the departing senior class featured three solid defensemen. Freshman Will Mahoney is also someone Londer has very high expectations for, as the youngster is expected to be a force in the years to come.
"We're losing some size to graduation but we've got some kids who I think are going to get a lot bigger in the offseason and that should help offset that," Londer said.
Sophomores Max Desmarais, Tevin Mitchell, Mac Cleveland and Brandon Heimlich are four players who Londer thinks will really step up and take on more of a role next winter, as all four have room to grow between now and then.