A Hanover Four-Peat: ‘Green Line’ Leads Marauders to More Hockey Gold
Hanover junior Grace Tecca leads her teammates in a victory lap following the Marauders’ win over Oyster River yesterday in Manchester. Hanover won 3-1 for its fourth consecutive NHIAA girls hockey title. (Valley News - Libby March) Purchase photo reprints »
Hanover freshman Kelly Brigham eyes the puck, moving past Oyster River’s Mickayla Hartford as she begins to lose her balance yesterday in Manchester. (Valley News - Libby March) Purchase photo reprints »
Hanover High School sophomore Sarah Wagner throws up her arms to high-five junior Emily Acker following the Marauders’ 3-1 victory over Oyster River to take the NHIAA D-I girls ice hockey championship at the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester yesterday. (Valley News - Libby March) Purchase photo reprints »
Manchester — As it has all season, the Hanover High girls hockey team’s “green line” of forwards gave the Marauders the green light all day in yesterday’s 3-1 NHIAA championship-game win over Oyster River at Verizon Wireless Arena.
The three-skater Green Line — Emily Acker, Kelly Brigham and Sarah Wagner — combined for two goals and two assists as dynastic Hanover won its fourth consecutive title and fifth in the six-year history of sanctioned girls hockey in New Hampshire. The Marauders also captured three straight unofficial titles before that, making it their eighth in nine years overall.
Brigham, a freshman dubbed the team’s “firecracker” by coach John Dodds, scored twice, starting with a power play rebound in the first period before making it 2-0 in the second by deflecting in a slap shot from Emma Malenka. Wagner had two assists, setting up Malenka’s blast as well as Julia Montgomery’s empty-netter with a minute left in regulation. Malenka also earned an assist on the final goal.
Hanover, which held a 36-10 shots-on-goal advantage, finished the season 21-1 and a perfect 20-0 against New Hampshire teams. It’s the second time in three seasons the Marauders have been unbeaten in league play.
The Acker-Brigham-Wagner line has played no small part, combing for 33 goals and 35 assists while the team has not surrendered a goal with them on the ice for 20 straight games.
“The Green Line has been a force out there, there’s no question,” Dodds said. “They’ve scored a lot and haven’t given up a goal since December.”
Hanover didn’t give many goals at all, outscoring opponents by nearly 100 goals this year, 113-14, with 13 shutouts. The Marauders did it despite losing five of their top six scorers from last year, including 100-career-point scorers Maddie Dewhirst, Madison Hill and Tessa Hill.
Yet four of Hanover’s top five defenders returned in Katrina Menard, Margeaux Baker, Malenka and Caroline Howell. With sophomore Delia Nahabedian joining the fray this season, Hanover defenders combined for 19 goals and 24 assists.
“A lot of our experience was on the defensive end, so we asked them to be more offensive minded,” Dodds said. “They were, and we were able to build off of it.”
After not allowing a shot by third-seeded Oyster River (15-5-1 NHIAA) on a first period power play, the Marauders did their own damage on the man-advantage.
Freshman Matti Hartman sent in a backhand bid on Bobcats’ goalie Emily Croot (33 saves) and Brigham was at the left post to stuff in the rebound to make it 1-0 at 10:36.
Brigham made it 2-0 a minute into the second period, flattening her blade to send the puck fluttering over the shoulder of Croot after a slapper from the point by Malenka.
“That was just a great, hard slapper from Emma and I was in the right spot,” Brigham said. “Sometimes waiting for the puck to come to you is the best thing to do.”
Oyster River got on the board midway through the period, finally beating Hanover sophomore goalie Katie Fenton when Hannah Herz-Kahn gathered the rebound of an initial shot from Sarah Lessard, swept it left to right across the crease and deposited it at the right post.
Hanover had numerous chances to extend the lead, sending flurries at Croot. The Marauders skated into the second intermission ahead only 2-1 despite their 19-8 shot advantage through two.
“We were still pretty nervous at that point, even though it seemed like we might be in control,” Brigham said. “Only being ahead by one goal, it’s a close game and you know it only takes one play for it to be tied.”
The Marauders continued to assert themselves in the final period, outshooting the Bobcats 17-2, including a pair of shorthanded bids during an Oyster River power play. Much of the period was played in the Bobcats’ zone until Montgomery added the empty-net clincher from just outside the blue line with one minute remaining.
“I thought Julia showed great control on that,” Dodds said. “She had the whole rink in front of her with an open net and she easily could have let it go from the red line, but she skated up and let it go where she knew it would go in.”
Dodds credited his team’s speed and endurance as keys in wrapping up another championship, attributes aided by the Marauders’ depth. With three lines skating all season, it was difficult for the Marauders’ opponents to keep up with them for 45 minutes.
“We had our third line out there with three minutes left in a one-goal game, and I’m pretty sure we’re the only team in the state that can say that,” said Dodds. “I know none of our opponents did that this year, and that’s a huge factor.”
Ice Chips: Hanover senior goalie and co-captain Kelly Gaudet was on crutches after receiving a second hip surgery two weeks ago. Gaudet was originally injured in August at a hockey camp at St. Anselm College, then returned midseason, only to re-injure it warming up during intermission against Concord on Jan. 17. ... Hanover’s only loss came 2-0 at Essex (Vt.) in its second game of the year Dec. 14. Essex advanced to Tuesday’s Vermont Division I title game with a win over Spaulding in the semifinals on Friday.
Jared Pendak can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3306.