Souhegan prepares for Round 3 vs. Belmont-Gilford

The Souhegan High School boys hockey team has plenty of firepower.

The Sabers will likely need every ounce of it on Wednesday.

The No. 2 Sabers (16-2) face their stiffest challenge of the season Thursday in the 5 p.m. Division III semifinal matchup with third-seeded Belmont-Gilford at Concord’s Everett Arena.

The game was originally scheduled for Wednesday, but pushed back due to the threat of snow.

There’s no question the Bulldogs have given the Sabers their toughest games of the season. Souhegan edged them 5-4 in overtime in Conway Arena early last month but then fell 4-2 in the final game of the regular season on the road, a loss that cost Souhegan the tourney’s top seed.

“In that game, we outshot them 37-13, but their goalie (Calvin Davis) played outstanding,” Sabers coach Dan Belliveau said. “And the kids found out what happens when you take some penalties, which we did in the second period. We had a poor second period.

“Again, that translated into what we’ve been working on since then – full tilt all the time. Never take your foot off the gas pedal.”

The Sabers top line of Mike Hayden, Joe Nutting and Matt Wilson rarely do, producing over 120 points this season.

B-G’s power play has been something the Sabers have had difficulty with in the two games. The Bulldogs only scored one even strength goal in the first meeting and two power play goals sunk Souhegan in the second.

B-G’s main threat is 20-goal scorer Caleb Drouin, and he’ll definitely challenge the Souhegan defense, led by Alex Maresco and much improved goalie Connor McCall (1.96 GAA).

“They’re gritty, they like to get in the corners and bang you around a little bit,” Belliveau said. “They’ve got some speed and some talent of their own. We have to make sure they’re ready for that.”

Discipline will be a key, because it promises to be a physical game.

Everett has a small ice surface, and the Saber forwards will need to fight for room to maneuver.

“We have to stay disciplined, there’s no question,” Belliveu said. “I tell my kids play with the stick on the ice and keep both hands on the stick. Saber style of hockey is clean and classy.”

Souhegan returns with more depth and experience than a year ago when they were routed by eventual champion John Stark-Hopkinton and seemed in awe of the situation.

“There were some other issues with that team,” Belliveau said, referring to illness and family situations that served as a distraction for many players. “Here’s the difference: We’re focused. Consistency, focus and composure. That’s what we’re focusing on.”

The winner of Thursday’s game will take on either John Stark-Hopkinton or Berlin in the championship game. That will take place at 12:15 p.m. Saturday at the Verizon Wireless Arena.