More teams means merrier tourney
Friday, December 28, 2012
By TOM KING
It’s holiday time, so the more, the merrier, right?
Expansion in sports is always an iffy thing. Sometimes it makes a league or an event stronger; sometimes it dilutes it.
In the case of the Conway Christmas Hockey Tournament, strength comes from more.
For the first time in four years, there will be six teams, not four, competing for the tourney title won last year by the Alvirne High School Broncos. Bishop Brady and Souhegan have been added to the mix, joining hosts Nashua High School North and South, plus Hollis Brookline.
The tourney gets underway next Wednesday with North taking on Alvirne at 1 p.m., South facing Souhegan at 3, and Brady and Hollis Brookline tangling at 5.
For the Sabers, it’s their first holiday event in several years and the opener will pit former Panthers coach Dan Belliveau against his former program.
“We’re going to love it,” Belliveau said of the program finally getting a tourney to compete it, something that was possible when Brady agreed to make it a six-team event. “The whole hockey family at Souhegan is excited about it. It’s going to be fun to play some other teams.
“I think it’s going to be pretty competitive. The kids really respond to a tournament like that.”
Other coaches feel the same way – the more, the merrier, no pun intended.
“I think it’s great,” Broncos coach Brian Gould said. “I’d like to see it keep expanding. If you have the same teams every time, it doesn’t really help. What you look for in a tournament is to play different teams, and for us we look forward to playing those Division I teams.”
On the second day, Thursday Dec. 27, South faces Hollis Brookline at 2, North vs. Brady at 4, and former Division III rivals Alvirne and Souhegan at 6.
The finals are set for Friday, Dec. 28 at 3 p.m. with consolation games at 1 and to follow at 5.
In other tournaments
For Merrimack and Bedford, the endurance test is even tougher – four games in four days. The Tomahawks will look to defend their title in the Bauer Christmas tournament, an event that combines Divisions I and II at Manchester’s JFK Coliseum.
They’ll take on one of Division I’s top teams, Manchester Memorial, next Wednesday at 6 p.m., and then play Trinity on Thursday at 2 and Goffstown, whom they beat 3-0 in the season opener, on Friday at 4.
Other schools playing are Manchester Central, Bedford, Spaulding and Hanover. The finals will be Saturday, Dec. 29, at 7 p.m.
“In the Christmas tournament, we’re definitely going to try to make a dent where we can,” Tomahawks coach Kurt Mithoefer said. “I worried with the amount of kids that we have with four games in four days it might tire them out a little bit. They (tourney officials) wanted five.
“We’re just going to have keep coming out in practice, working them, condition them, get the legs.”
And the regular season would resume Wednesday, Jan. 2.
“There’s not going to be a lot of rest time,” Mithoefer said. “I might look at (the tourney) as rotating as many as we can just to save the legs for the season.”
Meanwhile, Bishop Guertin will leave the area, competing again in the Mount St. Charles tournament in Woonsocket, R.I. They’ll take on the hosts right away on Thursday at 8 p.m.
It’s the usual three-day affair with a lot of competition the Cardinals wouldn’t ordinarily see: Lasalle out of R.I., Bishop Hendricken of R.I., Fairfield (Conn.) Prep, and Sprinfield (Mass.) Catholic, just to name a few.
“That’s where we need to find out who’s going to go where,” Cards coach Gary Bishop said. “We’re still playing with lines, trying to find out who’s playing with who.”