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High school notebook: Concord boys’ hockey prepares for unique final week

Monitor staff
Published: 2/19/2018 7:48:33 PM

Thanks to a snowed out date on Feb. 7, the Concord boys’ hockey team is about to have a uniquely huge final week of the regular season.

The second-place Crimson Tide (13-2-0) will make up that Feb. 7 postponement at first-place Hanover (13-1-0) on Tuesday. The two teams will meet again on Wednesday at Everett Arena to complete a home-and-home that will go a long way in determining Division I playoff seeding.

“We’ve had a few home-and-homes over the years, but never the last week of the season and never one versus two, so it’s kind of crazy,” said Dunc Walsh, who is in his 28th year as Concord’s head coach. “The kids should be excited to play these games, they’re big games. We could go anywhere from first to fifth. So I think it will be fun, and they should be good games, too.”

The Tide faced Hanover in late December at the Manchester Holiday Tournament and lost, 4-2.

“They’re typical Hanover,” Walsh said. “They move the puck well, they’re a team of good offensive players, they make short, little passes and they’re just smart players. We know they’re going to be tough games.”

Especially in Hanover, where the Marauders make the most of Campion Arena’s home ice advantage.

“Campion is a smaller rink. It’s narrow and the corners are kind of shallow, so it’s a tough place to play and certainly they’re good at home,” Walsh said. “But I think they’ll be two good games. I think it’s a pretty even matchup.”

Concord has been powered by a productive offense this season, scoring 5.3 goals per game. The Tide will be challenged by a Hanover team that’s allowing just 1.1 per contest, but Walsh thinks the other end of the ice is the key for his team.

“We’ve got to be good in our end, that’s where it all starts for us,” Walsh said. “We’ve got to get the puck out and not turn it over. Once we get in the offensive end, we’re not bad. We’ve got a couple guys who can score and we can roll all three lines with confidence. But the big thing with us is being good in our end.”

Walsh doesn’t think the games being on back-to-back days will have much of an impact because, “they’re young. They played two games in one day in youth hockey, and then two more the next day some times, so they’re used to it.”

After the two games against the Marauders, Concord will have one game left on its regular-season schedule, and it’s a big one, too – home on Saturday against Bishop Guertin. The Cardinals are currently 11-4-1 and sitting in fifth place. They also beat Concord, 4-3 in overtime, on Feb. 9.

“Honestly, I think the two best teams are Hanover and Guertin, so we’ll see where we stack up,” Walsh said. “But I’m happy where we’re at. Our guys have played hard and gotten better and I think they’re excited for this week. They should be.”

Concord isn’t the only local team with a huge hockey game against Hanover on Tuesday. The Bishop Brady-Trinity-West girls’ hockey team (15-1-1, second place in D-I) will face Hanover (12-1-1, third place) at the Tri-Town Ice Arena on Tuesday. It’s the only regular-season meeting between the Giant Pioneers and the Marauders, who have won eight straight girls’ hockey state championships.

D-III girls’ hoops

The regular season has ended and the playoff brackets have been released for D-III and D-IV girls’ basketball.

In D-III, three teams finished at the top of the standings with 16-2 records – Monadnock, Gilford and Newfound. Monadnock was awarded the top seed based on the NHIAA’s points system, which weights each win based on quality of opponent. The Huskies finished with 66 points, just one ahead of Gilford (65), which was just one ahead of Newfound (64).

Here’s the strange part – Newfound beat both Monadnock and Gilford. The Bears took down Gilford on Dec. 5 in the second game of the regular season, 57-54. And they beat Monadnock, 53-44, on Jan. 31.

Newfound, in theory, will have a tougher road to the final four because it got the No. 3 seed and will have to play higher seeds than both Monadnock and Gilford in the first round and, assuming they all win, the quarterfinals. In reality, the Bears know getting the top seed doesn’t guarantee anything – they were the undefeated top seed last year before losing in the semifinals.

Newfound will open the tournament at home on Thursday against No. 14 Franklin  (7-11). It’s a tough matchup for the Golden Tornadoes, who lost at Newfound just last week, 67-12.

Gilford opened the season with back-to-back losses – at White Mountains, 36-29, and then at Newfound. Since then, the Golden Eagles have ripped off 16 straight regular-season wins. Their opening round opponent is No. 15 Stevens (6-12), a team Gilford beat just last week, 65-50.

The Gilford/Newfound half of the bracket features another pair of local teams – No. 6 Hopkinton (14-4) and No. 11 Inter-Lakes (11-7). The two teams did not meet in the regular season, but they’ll be squaring off on Thursday in an intriguing first-round matchup.

It’s been a good season for the Lakers (8-11 last year) under first-year coach Beth Pion-Burlison. Inter-Lakes handed Newfound one of its two losses (56-37 on Jan. 5), but has stumbled down the stretch, losing four of its last five games. Hopkinton was riding a 10-game winning streak before losing back-to-back games to Gilford (46-42 on Jan. 30) and Newfound (48-33 on Feb. 2). The Hawks did bounce back from those games with four straight wins.

The D-IV tournament starts on Tuesday with No. 1 Littleton (18-0) and No. 2 Hinsdale (17-1) the top seeds. Neither local D-IV girls’ team – Concord Christian and Pittfsfield – qualified for the tournament this season.

Nearing 1,000

Barring a catastrophe, Franklin’s Jayden Torres will reach the 1,000-point mark on Tuesday at home against rival Winnisquam. And Merrimack Valley’s Abby Grandmaison will likely join him in the 1,000-point club later this week.

It seemed like 1,000 would be out of reach for Torres when the season began – he was 517 points away – but the 5-foot-5 senior point guard has been the leading scorer in D-III this year and needs just five points to join his brother, Kenny, as one of Franklin’s 1,000-point scorers.

Grandmaison, a four-year starter at MV, is 31 points shy of the plateau. The Pride (8-8) host a tough Kennett team (13-3) on Tuesday and then travel to Pembroke Academy (8-8) on Friday. 

(Tim O’Sullivan can be reached at 369-3341 or tosullivan@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @timosullivan20.)

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