Saber-Titans drop game at Goffstown

GOFFSTOWN – The Nashua North-Souhegan boys hockey team is off to a slow start this young season, and the answer may be as simple as keeping the puck out of its net.

Easier said than done, as it discovered once again Saturday in a 6-1 loss to Division II contender Goffstown at Saint Anselm College’s Sullivan Arena.

“It’s a little bit deflating when routine shots find the back of the net,” Saber-Titans coach John Coughlin said. “That was a frustrating game.”

North-Souhegan (1-3 in Division I) couldn’t climb out of a 3-0 hole in the first period, not that it didn’t try, cutting things to 3-1 after two before the Grizzlies’ Nick Nault took the third period over with two goals and an assist.

Goffstown got off to its quick start with Colin Burke’s unassisted goal at 3:58 of the first. Some 65 seconds later, Mickey Bridgeman made it 2-0 with a shot from just beyond the faceoff circle, assisted by Max Lajeunesse.

The Grizzlies (4-0) made it a 3-0 lead on a goal down low by Theo Milanes, assisted by Dylan Hyers and Colby Gamache at 9:47 and took that lead into the first intermission.

“So far this season, that’s how we’ve started every game,” Goffstown coach Ben Slocum said. “We’re not a good come-from-behind team.”

Coughlin’s team was without sophomore winger John Natale, away for family reasons.

“We clearly missed Natale,” Coughlin said. “We missed his grit. (The Grizzlies) had a lot of zone time in the first.”

The Saber-Titans, however, played a much better second period offensively, carrying the play, and were rewarded.

Matt Eskenas poked the puck past Goffstown goalie Curtis McKay (11 stops) at 10:28, assisted by Brendan Martin and Jeremiah Latham. Ironically, Martin had had a breakaway 30 seconds earlier and was hauled down as he got a shot off but there was no call.

North-Souhegan settled for being down 3-1 after two periods.

The Saber-Titans’ bubble then burst when Goffstown’s Nault worked his way into an unassisted goal, his first of two in the final period, beating N-S netminder Robbie Morel (17 saves) just 32 seconds into the third to make it a 4-1 game.

Nault wasn’t done doing his third-period damage. He got a power play goal at 12:20, assisted by Noah Charron, and then assisted on Brett Branscum’s goal a minute later.

“We were very flat in the second period and made a couple of adjustments for the third,” Slocumb said.

“Nick is one of the better defensemen in D-II. He’s smart with the puck, and he had a couple of timely goals for us.”

For North-Souhegan, it’s back to the drawing board to try to help out the inexperienced Morel.

“We didn’t play well in front of our goalie today,” Coughlin said. “It’s got to get past five guys before it gets past the sixth guy. It’s forced us to play better defense. … We’ve got Central on Wednesday, we’ll get Natale back and go from there.”