Not-so-happy new year
NASHUA – With the way the Souhegan High School boys hockey team had been playing on the power play, getting to play a man-up for five minutes should have been a game-clincher.
Instead, the Sabers couldn’t solve Portsmouth goalie Brady Marchewka – and hit a couple of posts – and the Clippers found away to get the puck past Sabers goalie Connor McCall with under two minutes to play in a 4-3 win Saturday in a Division III game at Conway Arena.
Reed Williamson flipped the puck out of a scrum and over McCall’s shoulder to give Portsmouth the win and hand Souhegan its first division loss of the year.
“It was a direct result of some hard work on their part,” Souhegan coach Dan Belliveau said. “You’ve got to give (Portsmouth) credit, they were working really hard all game long and it paid off in the form of a goal at the wire. They were digging at it and it just popped up over the goalie’s shoulder.”
Souhegan opened the scoring with 10:19 left in the first on a goal by James Wilson, off an assist by Riley Connor, but the Clippers were able to tie it up on Rancourt’s goal six minutes later. But with 19 seconds left in the period, Jonathan Ehrlich beat Marchewka with a shot through traffic for a 2-1 Souhegan lead.
“We went into the locker room and knocked some heads around figuratively,” Brandano said. “We put the pressure on them and they self-evaluated and knew what they had to do. They’re good like that. They took it to (Souhegan).
“Souhegan was really effective at keeping the puck in our zone. They kept dumping it in and our defensemen were tiring. They have a good strategy in playing the game, using their off-wing to go to the net. Fortunately, out goaltender was up to the task.”
But before Marchewka had a chance to rise to the occasion, the Portsmouth offense did, as Witkowski and Alden scored 50 seconds apart in the first 1:50 of the period to put the Clippers up 3-2.
That could have been a backbreaker for the Sabers, but they regrouped and eventually tied the game when Ehrlich burred a rebound into the open net with 4:28 left in the second.
“That can really put the nail in the coffin for you and to the kids’ credit, they didn’t pack it in,” Souhegan coach Dan Belliveau said. “We came back and tied it and I think had a pretty good battle. They played a decent game.”
Souhegan appeared to be in great position to get the win when Portsmouth’s Andrew Trout was assessed a five-minute major and game-misconduct for a hit from behind with 8:50 left in the game. The Sabers had several chances during the power play, but twice they hit the post, and Marchewka and the Portsmouth penalty kill stepped up.
“That was a surprise,” Belliveau said. “I have to use the word flat because that’s what it was. We’ve been working on our power play quite a bit, and it was really clicking for us.”
Brandano felt that killing off the penalty swung momentum toward the Clippers.
“The interesting part of that penalty is when you break it up, the team morale falls,” he said. “It’s like nothing can go in and they just start to shoot from anywhere because they get frustrated.”
With under two minutes to play, Portsmouth won a faceoff and pushed ahead into the Souhegan zone. There was a scrum in front of the net and Williamson was able to pop the puck up and over the shoulder of goalie Connor McCall.
“I think we showed some spurts and some good play,” Belliveau said. “The second period, they played really flat. I think the snow that came at the end of the week, we didn’t have practices, so the kids had almost four days off. We had a really good holiday tournament.”