Steven Hickey moves the puck for Belmont-Gilford during the team’s 7-4 loss to John Stark. Jeff Lajoie. (click for larger version)
December 19, 2011HENNIKER – It wasn't quite the way the Belmont-Gilford hockey team hoped to open its season on Dec. 14, as the visiting Bulldogs spent a large chunk of the night in the penalty box en route to a disappointing 7-4 loss to John Stark at Lee Clement Arena on the campus of New England College.
B-G finished the night with double digit penalties and John Stark took advantage, as the Bulldogs saw several key players either on the bench or in the box during a decisive third period.
"Undisciplined," said B-G head coach Jay Londer of his team's performance. "We did just about everything a team can't afford to do if you want to win a game."
After starting last season with an impressive 9-0-0 record, the Bulldogs came out strong in the opener against John Stark. B-G scored just 1:22 into the first period, as junior forward Jeremy D'Amour skated up the right side and got in front of Generals goalie Connor McDonald, poking it into the back of the net to put the 'Dogs up 1-0 right off the bat.
But the penalties came often following the early advantage, as John Stark went on three straight power plays midway through the opening frame. While B-G managed to kill the first two off, the Generals finally cashed in on the third. With Steven Hickey in the box for cross-checking, Nick Saball tied the game for John Stark with 2:33 left in the first, as he beat B-G goalie Alex Conway with a backhand to the near point, tying the game at 1-1.
The Generals scored again just 38 seconds later, as Simon Hunter got in alone on a breakaway and also scored on a backhand, giving the hosts a 2-1 lead entering the first intermission. Stark outshot B-G, 12-8, in the opening 15 minutes.
"Their top line moved the puck well," said Londer of the Stark trio led by Hunter and Saball. "But when we played five-on-five early in the first period, we dominated the game. They were having trouble just getting the puck out of their own zone. Once we started taking penalties, they obviously were able to do a little bit more."
B-G killed off two more penalties early in the second period, and the Bulldogs managed to tie the game when playing at even strength. A great feed from Max Desmarais found the stick of D'Amour, and he skated in alone, beating McDonald glove side with 7:24 left to tie the game at 2-2.
"Jeremy worked hard and skated well for us tonight," said Londer.
John Stark took a penalty on the goal as well, and the momentum seemed to be heading back to B-G. Hunter had other ideas for the Generals however, as the big forward broke free near center ice and put Stark back on top with 6:30 left, as his shorthanded goal put the hosts up 3-2.
The Generals had several more power play chances in the second, though B-G killed off a huge 5-on-3 for over a minute late in the frame to head to the dressing room down just one goal. The Bulldogs played a much better second period, outshooting Stark, 15-6, in the stanza.
Beginning the third on the power play, B-G hoped to get the equalizer early and have a chance to pull off the early-season road win. That plan changed quickly however, as Hunter beat a defender shorthanded and scored his third goal of the night, extending the Stark lead to 4-2 with 13:15 left.
The Bulldogs inched closer once again with 11:55 remaining, as Desmarais took a perfect pass from Hickey from behind the net in front, and he buried it to cut the deficit to 4-3 on a power play strike.
But as it did all night, John Stark had the answer almost immediately. Hunter scored just 37 seconds after Desmarais' goal, and Saball made it 6-3 with 6:59 left, putting the game out of reach.
Freshman Andrew D'Amour was a bright spot late for B-G, as he scored his first career varsity goal with 3:58 to play, roofing a loose puck past McDonald to cut the lead to 6-4. Brandon Heimlich and Tevin Mitchell picked up the assists on the play.
Saball closed out the scoring for the Generals just 29 seconds later however, as his third of the night gave the hosts the 7-4 win.
"Hopefully this game is going to be a huge wakeup call for this team," said Londer. "I really think it's going to make or break the season on how we respond next."
Andrew D'Amour and Mac Cleveland also finished with assists for B-G in the loss.