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Eagles pound 'Toppers

Kennett hockey team earns another trip to semifinals

by Joshua Spaulding
Sports Editor - Granite State News, Carroll County Independent, Meredith News, Gilford Steamer, Winnisquam Echo, Plymouth Record-Enterprise and Baysider

CONNOR TODD fights for position against Somersworth on Saturday, March 3. Joshua Spaulding. (click for larger version)
March 05, 2012
CONWAY — Somersworth goalie Peter Robertson did everything in his power to push his team past top-seeded Kennett in the quarterfinals of the Division III playoff tournament on Saturday, March 3, at Ham Arena.

But Kennett scored twice in the final six minutes of the second period to take a 3-1 lead and then finished off the 'Toppers with four goals in the final period to skate away with a 7-1 win and another trip to the Division III semifinals.

Robertson made 57 saves in the losing effort, while Kennett goalie John Bishop only needed to stop 12 shots on the night.

"That kid was incredible in net," Kennett coach Mike Lane said of the 'Topper keeper. "But we knew if we got one through, it might snowball and in the third it did."

Out of the gate, it looked like anyone's game, as Robertson denied every chance Kennett had.

Kevin Murphy, Nick Massa, Cody Richard, James Gallo, Gabe Lee and Connor Todd all had great chances in the opening minutes of the first period, but they were all denied. Chris King sent a shot high and another wide as the Eagles continued to pressure. Murphy had a great bid on a seemingly open net, but Robertson sprawled across the opening and denied the Eagle captain.

Dillon Smith, Massa, Anthony LaRusso, Lee, Gallo and Brad Canavari had bids, as Gallo and Canavari went in on a great two-on-one bid, but Gallo's pass attempt to his teammate was blocked by a diving Somersworth defender.

The Eagles took the game's first penalty with 4:15 to go in the period and the visitors had some solid chances but couldn't convert. Todd had a shorthanded bid ring off the post.

Kennett took another penalty with 2:22 to go for a brief five-on-three advantage for Somersworth. After the first penalty was killed off, the 'Toppers took a penalty and the teams played four-on-four for 1:13. Murphy had a number of great chances in close but was denied. The Eagles got a brief power play at the end of the period, but Todd was shut down and the period ended with the teams in a scoreless tie.

Todd had another great chance early in the second as the Eagle power play finished off and the Eagles got another power play less than a minute in.

That power play lasted just 35 seconds, as Smith took the puck end to end and buried it in the net for a 1-0 lead for the Eagles.

The Eagles took penalties just more than a minute apart, giving the visitors a two-man advantage for almost a minute. Lee and Murphy had good shorthanded efforts and King, coming off the bench as one of the penalties expired, broke in all alone on Robertson but couldn't get a great shot on net.

The Eagles took another penalty with 11:21 to go in the period for another five-on-three advantage for the 'Toppers, this one for 48 seconds.

The visitors made it count, scoring with the two-man advantage for the tying goal.

Kennett got good penalty killing from Dan Rivera, Gallo and Murphy to help kill off the penalty.

Murphy, Smith and Canavari had good bids denied as the period continued. Robertson shut down all chances for most of the period, but the Eagles finally broke through again as the clock was clicking down to five minutes to play.

With 5:34 to go, Murphy fired in a shot from the side for a 2-1 lead, with Rivera getting the assist.

Kennett kept pressuring, with King, Matt Kelly and Massa throwing shots in the offensive zone and it paid off. With 3:42 to go, Canavari put home a rebound of a Gallo shot for the 3-1 lead.

Kennett had a power play for most of the final three minutes, with Smith and Todd getting great bids, but the period closed out with Kennett up by a 3-1 score.

Robertson held the Eagles at bay in the opening minutes of the third, as Todd, Murphy, Rivera, Smith, King and Massa all had good looks, including a number on the power play. Bishop also made a huge save on a shorthanded bid for the visitors.

The 'Toppers also had a power play advantage, but Murphy eliminated that advantage with a shorthanded tally with 9:28 to go, as he put home a rebound off the post for a 4-1 lead.

Kennett got another power play with 8:18 to go and got 1:10 of five-on-three advantage. Todd took advantage with a power play goal on an assist from Murphy to up the lead to 5-1.

The continuing power play yielded another goal, as King tipped in a shot from Canavari for a 6-1 lead with 6:07 to go.

Smith closed out the scoring with a tally on an assist from Murphy to make it 7-1 with 4:32 to go.

Coach Mike Lane pointed to the fourth goal as a huge momentum changer for the Eagles.

"That fourth one made it real comfortable," Lane said.

The 'Toppers also lost one of their top players, Stevie Wolf, to an injury after that goal. The senior had to be taken away by ambulance after sliding into the goal.

"Of course I wish Steve Wolf nothing but the best," Lane said. "But without him, things were tough for them.

"That's not a typical eighth seed," Lane said of the 'Toppers. "They're a very good hockey club."

He noted that Bishop turning away a two-on-one shorthanded bid with the Eagles up 3-1, was a key turning point for the home team as well.

"His head was in the game all night," Lane said of his senior keeper.

The win sent the Eagles to the semifinals, where they were slated to host Hollis-Brookline after deadline on Wednesday in Concord.

"They're as good as we've seen this year," Lane said of the Cavaliers. "We'll have to be ready. You have to come with your best hockey every night and we did that tonight and we will do that Wednesday."

He noted that the Eagles continue to be hungry as the season winds down to two more games.

The Division III finals will take place at the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester at 12:15 p.m. on Saturday, March 10.

Joshua Spaulding can be reached at sportsgsn@salmonpress.com or 569-3126

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