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Going Outside Granite State

Hanover Hockey Adds Out-of-State Opponents

Hanover — On the whole, the weak sisters of the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association’s 11-school girls ice hockey league would rather not skate against Hanover High, if given the choice. It’s something the Marauders completely understand.

So Hanover, with the NHIAA’s blessing, has done something about it.

The Marauders have dropped three of the league’s weaker programs this winter, bolstering their schedule with tougher foes from beyond the Granite State. It’s the price that comes with being both very good (Hanover owns five of the NHIAA’s six girls hockey championships) and wanting to stay that way, with prep schools always poised to poach the Marauders’ young talent, while also encouraging other New Hampshire schools to pick up the sport.

It hasn’t been the smoothest process; verbal agreements with a set of Vermont schools fell through when Hanover Athletic Director Mike Jackson and girls hockey coach John Dodds thought commitments were in place. But Hanover appears set to play three schools from New York or Massachusetts in a total of four games, and another game or two could be added before Oct. 31.

“Between John Dodds and I, we started scrambling around to find some folks who would play us,” Jackson explained last week. “John did yeoman’s work and found three schools, and possibly a fourth, from out of state. …

“We have appealed to the NHIAA and the ice hockey committee because the verbals didn’t work out, and we were supposed to have finalized our schedules (Oct. 11). The NHIAA heard our appeal — we asked for an extension — and they granted it until the end of the month to come up with more games.”

NHIAA girls hockey teams are permitted to play up to 18 games against league foes, with room for a pair of holiday or early-season tournament contests. They must play at least 12 league opponents to qualify for the postseason.

Hanover has dropped Exeter, Souhegan and Con-Val, the three weakest teams in the NHIAA league, from this season’s slate. The Marauders played a combined four games against the Bluehawks, Sabers and Cougars last winter, winning all four by an aggregate 43-1 score.

When Vermont prospects dried up and Hanover needed more teams to fill its schedule, three public schools from beyond came through:

■ Hanover will have a home-and-home series with Beekmantown (N.Y.) High, which won its first upstate New York girls hockey championship last February.

■ The Marauders will host Acton-Boxboro (Mass.) at Campion Rink. The Colonials have reached the quarterfinals of the last two Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association Division I state tournaments, going 15-6-2 last year.

■ Andover (Mass.) High has also agreed to take on Hanover on its home ice. The Golden Warriors also qualified for MIAA states last year, going 12-8-2 and losing to top-seeded Woburn in the first round of the 26-school draw.

Hanover played prep schools in the pre-NHIAA days, but can do so no longer.

“Many of those schools have (post-graduates), so there can be mismatches physically and skill-wise,” Jackson said. “And many private schools play NCAA rules, and we play national federation rules. The two don’t mix.”

The bulk of the scoring from last year’s Hanover team — which won all 20 of its games against NHIAA foes, capped by a 3-1 win over Oyster River in the state finals — came from freshmen and sophomores. It would only follow that prep schools scouting for talent would look squarely in Hanover’s direction.

Jackson said the need to keep those players engaged with a competitive schedule was “secondary, but is of concern.”

“In order for us to maintain the quality of our program and, as such, keep our kids interested and playing quality hockey, we need a competitive schedule,” Jackson added. “I would like to think parents send their kids here for academic reasons, and we believe that, but we know a strong athletic program can play a role in some family plans.”

The Marauders are also committed to skate in the Schwan Cup, a national-caliber tournament in Blaine, Minn., around the New Year.

Engineering a Championship: The first individual state champion in Woodsville High golf history apparently wasn’t thinking championship as she walked down the 18th hole of Campbell’s Scottish Highlands in Salem on Oct. 5.

As Engineer coach Bill Knehr tells it, junior Mayghan Simano — on her way to shooting her best nine-hole round of the season — was more focused on the number than what her foes in the NHIAA’s girls medal flight championship were doing. Finishing with a par on CSH’s par-5 18th, Simano shot an 8-over 43 to win the flight by three strokes over Hillsboro-Deering sophomore Emma Moore.

“After she shot the 43, she was real happy with that,” Knehr said recently.

“She didn’t say, ‘I won!’ … I told her it was going to depend on the foursome behind her. I don’t know if it sunk in to her right away.”

The CSH round beat Simano’s previous season best by at least three strokes. Knehr credited the junior’s success to a consistently smooth swing and improved putting.

“One of her problems during the season was she three-putted a lot; she wasn’t real careful with her little putts, reading them and stuff,” he said. “Two putts was the most she took all day long.

“I had a feeling (this would happen). Even the days when she had 46 or 47, she still had at least one bad hole, like an 8 or 10 or something. She avoided that real big number.”

Unlike most of the Upper Valley’s NHIAA golf programs, Woodsville’s roster has a healthy female presence. Three of Knehr’s four girls played at medal-flight states; sophomore Rainie May shot 56 to finish ninth, and freshman teammate Brooke Simano came in at 62 for 12th place.

“They end up playing matches,” Knehr said. “A lot of teams may only have one girl out of six (starters) playing. We usually have at least two; we rotate them into the five and six spots, and mostly those have been girls.”

All four Woodsville girls — sophomore Nikita Duling is the fourth — are expected to return next year.

Oxbow Hires an AD: Oxbow High will welcome a new athletic director to school when Hank Van Orman begins work on Oct. 29.

Van Orman comes to the Olympians by way of St. Johnsbury Academy, where he was an assistant AD the past seven years. He also served as an assistant coach on the Hilltoppers’ football and track programs.

“I just know this gentleman is of big character,” said SJA athletic director Dave McGinn, the former Thetford AD, of Van Orman, with whom McGinn worked the past three years.

“He’s a very thoughtful person who, I think, combines that with his passion for sport and his love of helping kids. He’ll get them to use their athletic participation in a really positive and constructive way.”

Van Orman is a graduate of Mount Anthony Union High School and Norwich University, for whom he played offensive line on the football team.

He succeeds Richard Thornton, who left Oxbow at the end of September to take a job at a Massachusetts prep school.

Greg Fennell can be reached at gfennell@vnews.com or 603-727-3226.