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Drive for Five: Marauders March Into Another Championship Final

  • Hanover senior Caroline Howell (10) moves the puck out of the zone under pressure from Bishop Guertin senior Emma Lynch during Tuesday's NHIAA semi-final game at Concord's Everett Arena.  (Alan MacRae/Valley News)

    Hanover senior Caroline Howell (10) moves the puck out of the zone under pressure from Bishop Guertin senior Emma Lynch during Tuesday's NHIAA semi-final game at Concord's Everett Arena. (Alan MacRae/Valley News)

  • Lebanon sophomore Elle Brine tries to lift Berlin junior Sarah Schoenbeck's stick during Tuesday's NHIAA semi-final game at Concord's Everett Arena.  (Alan MacRae/Valley News)

    Lebanon sophomore Elle Brine tries to lift Berlin junior Sarah Schoenbeck's stick during Tuesday's NHIAA semi-final game at Concord's Everett Arena. (Alan MacRae/Valley News)

  • Lebanon's Emma Forman collides with Berlin goalie Chelsea Caron as she tries to poke the puck into the goal during the NHIAA semi-final game at Concord's Everett Arena on Tuesday, March 11, 2014.  (Alan MacRae/Valley News)

    Lebanon's Emma Forman collides with Berlin goalie Chelsea Caron as she tries to poke the puck into the goal during the NHIAA semi-final game at Concord's Everett Arena on Tuesday, March 11, 2014. (Alan MacRae/Valley News)

  • Hanover senior Caroline Howell (10) moves the puck out of the zone under pressure from Bishop Guertin senior Emma Lynch during Tuesday's NHIAA semi-final game at Concord's Everett Arena.  (Alan MacRae/Valley News)
  • Lebanon sophomore Elle Brine tries to lift Berlin junior Sarah Schoenbeck's stick during Tuesday's NHIAA semi-final game at Concord's Everett Arena.  (Alan MacRae/Valley News)
  • Lebanon's Emma Forman collides with Berlin goalie Chelsea Caron as she tries to poke the puck into the goal during the NHIAA semi-final game at Concord's Everett Arena on Tuesday, March 11, 2014.  (Alan MacRae/Valley News)

Concord — Concord High tried. Bishop Guertin, too. Oyster River had two cracks. Heck, even Lebanon High gave it a go a couple of years back, without success.

Now it’s Berlin-Gorham’s turn to knock Hanover off the NHIAA Division I girls hockey summit. No one’s done it yet.

Freshman Shaeleigh Valliere turned a neutral-zone giveaway into the game-winning goal with 28.4 seconds to go as the second-ranked Mountaineers edged No. 3 Lebanon, 2-1, in the first half of Tuesday night’s semifinal doubleheader at Everett Arena.

The win sends Berlin-Gorham to its first state final against the top-ranked Marauders, who inundated No. 5 Bishop Guertin, 5-0, behind a four-point performance from forward Matti Hartman.

Hartman’s first-period goal would be all the Marauders would need on a night when they owned a 43-10 edge in shots. Any worries of a BG comeback were iced on an Emily Laycock goal, fed by Hartman, in the waning seconds of the middle period, and Hartman’s completed her hat trick — Hanover’s second in as many semifinals — in a three-goal third.

“I think we’re going to just go into it and not worry about them,” Hartman said of Berlin-Gorham, whom the Marauders (18-1-0) beat twice in the regular season. “We’re going to put that behind us and just play our game.”

Hanover and Berlin-Gorham open the NHIAA’s championship hockey quadruple-header at Manchester’s Verizon Wireless Arena on Saturday at 10 a.m.

Hanover 5, Bp. Guertin 0

If Hartman’s skates and ponytail are flying, it usually means good things for Hanover. She was, and they did: Hartman scored three goals — her third hat trick of the season, second in as many games — and set up a fourth as the Marauders continued their march toward a fifth straight NHIAA title. The sophomore now has an Upper Valley-leading 29 goals.

“No. 1, it’s her explosive speed; those first two or three steps separate her from pretty much everybody,” Hanover coach John Dodds said. “It’s that initial burst that really creates space for her.”

The Marauders attacked BG (12-8-0) with speed from the get-go, but they needed a good save from goaltender Katie Fenton (eight saves) to ensure a 1-0 lead after one period.

The Cardinals’ Kaitlyn Bradford broke in alone on Fenton shorthanded after stripping Hanover’s Caroline Howell at the BG blue line. Bradford tried a slight shoulder fake, but Fenton didn’t bite and made the save as her teammates cleared the rebound.

Hartman skated around and through the Cardinals for much of the period, putting Hanover on the board at 9:41. Taking an Emily Acker pass at center ice after a BG turnover, Hartman snapped a 30-footer past the stick of Bishop Guertin goalie Mia Vecchione (38 saves).

Hanover could have had more. Hartman clanked the left post from close range with 3:29 left and had two other bids snuffed before the buzzer by Vecchione, a senior field hockey forward who took over the ice hockey net this season with no prior experience.

“We’ve been around; we know the start is really critical,” Dodds said. “It’s not only the first line; it’s the second, the third. Our goal is to dictate the pace. When you’re playing somebody with just a couple of lines, you tend to wear them out if you’re skating, too.”

The Marauders outshot BG 18-2 in the second period, the tiring Cardinals yielding more and more yet nearly surviving the stanza on Vecchione’s goaltending alone.

Hanover’s Maddie Lyons started the onslaught, pinging the left post from the right dot after 6½ minutes. Laycock and Hartman peppered Vecchione through the stretch, and Howell forced two quality waffle stops by the senior goalie.

Only by getting Vecchione to move did the Marauders gain a key second goal. With blueliner Emma Malenka pinching on the right wing to keep play in the Guertin end, Hartman skated across the high slot and found Laycock — the hat-trick heroine of Hanover’s 4-2 semi win over BG last year — alone in the low left circle for a one-time conversion with 11.2 seconds left in the stanza.

Margeaux Baker’s power-play goal 2:40 into the third effectively ended the game. Hartman added two insurance strikes in the final six-plus minutes, going high over Vecchione’s glove on both to reach the 50-goal mark for her young career.

“I couldn’t have done it without my teammates,” Hartman said. “They always have my back. Things happened tonight because they passed to me, they found me. I just move, and they get me the puck.”

Berlin-Gorham 2, Lebanon 1

Valliere’s strike capped an opener filled with tight defense and few legitimate scoring chances.

Berlin defender Jacqui Hallisey got a stick on a Lebanon outlet pass for the turnover that decided the game. Valliere quickly jumped on it, skating to the high left circle before whipping a wrister over the glove of hard-luck Raider goalie Erika Moffitt (12 saves).

“I don’t really know what I was thinking, actually,” Valliere confessed after a series of embraces from family and friends. “I just crashed the net, and apparently it went in.”

The Mountaineers (14-3-1) limited Lebanon to just 10 shots on goal, five through the first two periods. Down 1-0 most of the night, senior Michaela Schones drew the Raiders level with 4:02 to go.

Lebanon (13-6-1) grew stronger as the night went on, but the Raiders’ offense never found a measure of comfort against a Berlin-Gorham defense geared toward allowing little room for thought.

“That’s been our weakness all season long, getting shots on net,” Lebanon coach Brad Shaw said. “We can go up and down the ice as well as anybody, but for some reason we tend to skate it into traffic, or we don’t get the puck as deep as we want to when we dump it.”

The Mountaineers, skating in their first NHIAA semifinal, played the better first period and left with a 1-0 lead for it.

Meagan Accardi slapped a right-point shot that tangled in the skates of a Lebanon defender and Berlin-Gorham forward Jenna Arguin just outside of Moffitt’s crease. Moffitt couldn’t corral the loose puck, which Arguin stuffed into the open left side at 5:29.

Unlike Friday’s 5-1 quarterfinal rout of Bishop Brady-Trinity, Lebanon couldn’t get its aggressive forecheck going and managed only a couple of late center-ice dump-ins on Mountie netminder Chelsey Caron. The Raiders’ Emma Forman tried a reverse tip of a Schones shot in the low slot with 20 seconds left in the stanza, but Caron was up to the task.

“It’s been our nemesis all season long,” Shaw said. “Every game, every period, we tell the girls they have to shoot more, they have to hit the net.”

Caron escaped catastrophe midway through the second period, when a Loren McEwen shot deflected off the Mounties’ Sarah Schoenbeck and skittered wide of the left post, which Caron had evacuated while tracking the play.

Lebanon’s forecheck — Shaw termed it “kamikaze hockey” in the Friday win — finally started to affect possession time as the period progressed. However, the Raiders couldn’t turn puck control into shots, with an Aubrie Mazurek point wrister, easily saved by Caron, serving as the only serious bid.

With just five shots on goal through 30 minutes, Lebanon wouldn’t be going anywhere unless its systems came to the rescue. They finally did on Schones’ tying score, a crease jam under Caron (nine saves) after McEwen set up a Forman one-timer in the low slot. The referee on the goal line didn’t initially award the score, but did after consulting her two on-ice partners.

Lebanon hit double digits on the shots chart only when defender Sierra Rogers backhanded a shot into traffic with 12.2 seconds to go. Caron covered it as players from both sides tumbled around her to the ice.

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