Sabers suffer setback on ice; Girls hockey fighting for playoff spot

GOFFSTOWN – Monday’s holiday matinee versus Lebanon-Stevens at Saint Anselm’s Sullivan Arena was a game Souhegan High School girls hockey coach Kelli Braley had been pointing to for a while.

Unfortunately, the Sabers didn’t quite go in the right direction, coming out flat en route to a 4-1 loss to the Raiders that puts Souhegan’s tourney hopes in serious jeopardy.

“Super winnable, totally winnable,” Braley said of her feeling going in, the Sabers (4-11) now trailing the Raiders (5-9) in the race for the ninth and final tourney spot. “We lost to them 4-3 the first time. We came in here and we were like it was an absolutely winnable game.”

But the Sabers spotted the Raiders a 3-0 first-period lead and just never recovered.

“No clue,” Braley said when asked what she blamed for her team’s slow start. “Some days you’re on, and some days you’re not. I wish I had an answer for that one, and I don’t.

“Leb has a really short bench, but they came out and did exactly what they needed to do. You come out and put three in the first period, and then you have to play less hard.”

It worked. The Raiders got goals by Grace Lindsey at 5:07, one by Erin White at 10:27, and a back-breaker by Julia Tibbits at 12:43. They went up 4-0 on Lindsey’s second goal, an easy tap-in off a rebound from an Isabella Harriman shot at 4:10 of the second.

“We did need to win, and they needed it too,” Lebanon-Stevens coach Brad Shaw said. “We were coming off a terrible game against Oyster River, so today we told them to relax, have fun, play as a team, use each other and don’t try to do each other’s jobs. Skate hard, shoot and crash, and try to put some pucks in the net.”

Oh they crashed, as Saber goalie Makayla Lachance was constantly under siege, making 27 saves.

On the other hand, the Sabers only fired 15 shots on Lebanon-Stevens goalie Halle Drew. They finally snapped a near nine-period scoreless streak with Madeline Boyea’s top-shelf power-play goal at 10:51 of the third off a faceoff won by Ryleigh Tobin. The Sabers couldn’t take advantage of four other power plays, including a 5-on-3 advantage midway through the second period.

The way the Sabers have struggled offensively the last month, a four-goal deficit was way too much to overcome. Not helping the cause are injuries to Anna Tobin (senior captain) and freshman scorer Clare Woodford.

“Injuries have been tough for us all season,” Braley said. “No excuses, we have to find other ways to put the puck in the net, and we haven’t done that. … It’s taken away our versatility.”

There’s no time to dwell on it, though. Souhegan played Tuesday and Wednesday (Editor’s note: results not available by Cabinet press time) then end the regular season Saturday at Berlin-Gorham (11-4). Braley again points to the obvious: Go 3 for 3 or stay home during the playoffs next week.

“We need three to get in, and we have three left,” Braley said. “If we can win our last three, we’re in the playoffs – if we change the effort we put in today.”