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Marauders Hit the Hockey Road

Hanover to Play in Minnesota Tournament

  • In the locker room at Campion Rink in West Lebanon, N.H. on Dec. 3, 2013 Hanover hockey players from left, Kelly Brigham, and Matti Hartman get ready for practice.  Valley News - Jennifer Hauck

    In the locker room at Campion Rink in West Lebanon, N.H. on Dec. 3, 2013 Hanover hockey players from left, Kelly Brigham, and Matti Hartman get ready for practice. Valley News - Jennifer Hauck Purchase photo reprints »

  • Hanover girls hockey coach John Dodds explains some of the drills the players would be doing at practice in West Lebanon, N.H., on Dec. 3, 2013.  Valley News - Jennifer Hauck

    Hanover girls hockey coach John Dodds explains some of the drills the players would be doing at practice in West Lebanon, N.H., on Dec. 3, 2013. Valley News - Jennifer Hauck Purchase photo reprints »

  • Hanover girls hockey player Emma Malenka runa a drill during a practice in West Lebanon, N.H., on Dec. 3, 2013. Valley News - Jennifer Hauck

    Hanover girls hockey player Emma Malenka runa a drill during a practice in West Lebanon, N.H., on Dec. 3, 2013. Valley News - Jennifer Hauck Purchase photo reprints »

  • In the locker room at Campion Rink in West Lebanon, N.H. on Dec. 3, 2013 Hanover hockey players from left, Kelly Brigham, and Matti Hartman get ready for practice.  Valley News - Jennifer Hauck
  • Hanover girls hockey coach John Dodds explains some of the drills the players would be doing at practice in West Lebanon, N.H., on Dec. 3, 2013.  Valley News - Jennifer Hauck
  • Hanover girls hockey player Emma Malenka runa a drill during a practice in West Lebanon, N.H., on Dec. 3, 2013. Valley News - Jennifer Hauck

West Lebanon — The Hanover High girls hockey team has a huge present waiting under the Christmas tree. The Marauders know what it is, and they’re ready to open it.

Hanover will spend the between-holidays period in Minnesota, skating in the Schwan Cup, a humongous high school tournament staged at the Schwan Super Rink in Blaine, north of Minneapolis. The Marauders’ presence in the 13th edition of the annual hockeyfest marks the first time a New England school has participated.

Hanover coach John Dodds made the call on signing up last spring, and the Marauders spent four months pulling the funds together to make the trip possible. With a Dec. 29 departure date now set, the players can’t wait.

“I think it’s pretty unique, the opportunity we’re getting,” Hanover senior Emily Acker said prior to a team practice at Campion Rink last week.

“No team at Hanover that I know of is going to these tournaments or going on big trips together. That shows how hard we work and how much we really care about this.”

The Schwan Cup represents the icing on the cake of increased competition this winter.

Having racked up a 68-4-2 record against in-state foes during a four-year run of state championships, Dodds received NHIAA approval to drop some of New Hampshire’s weaker programs in favor of tougher out-of-state options.

Hanover will open tournament play on Dec. 30 against Henry Sibley High, a school of 1,378 in Mendota Heights, south of St. Paul, with two more contests against teams from Minnesota, North Dakota or Ontario guaranteed.

All games will be played at the eight-rink Blaine complex save for the championship, which is set for Jan. 1 at the University of Minnesota’s Ridder Arena.

“A lot of these girls do national development stuff or youth tournaments and they kind of run into each other,” Dodds said.

“I don’t think it’s going to be anything new for a lot of them in terms of playing in different areas of the country. For a high school team out of New Hampshire to go to Minnesota is certainly a real honor and something we’re looking forward to.”

Dodds has been toying with the idea of such a trip for several years. Two circumstances make this the ideal time for travel.

For one, the Marauders return nearly everyone from a state championship squad whose only loss in 22 games came against Vermont’s Essex High. Hanover rang up 13 shutouts during a 21-1 campaign, never allowing more than two goals to anyone.

An attack that outscored its schedule 115-14 is back in its entirety. The most prolific of them — forwards Matti Hartman, Eliza Laycock, Kelly Brigham, Julie Montgomery and Sarah Wagner — are all underclassmen with at least another year of varsity eligibility.

“You can always improve on passing and receiving, just making sure every pass is right on the tape,” Acker said. “One thing we’re really good with is speed and quickness, so that shouldn’t be a problem. Just focusing on basics is important.”

The Marauders also have some Minnesota natives on their side, if not rooting for them.

Dodds and his family have been involved in the Dartmouth College football team’s mentor program, welcoming a freshman into their home for meals, interaction and support.

That’s how the Dodds clan grew to know Tim McManus, a four-year Big Green receiver whose two younger brothers have since come to Hanover.

The Dodds and McManus families have since become good friends. The Marauder coach has joked about bringing a team that could challenge Minnesota’s finest, and now he’s following through.

“They’ve been helping us as far as where to stay, what to do,” Dodds said. “They’re going to have us over for dinner when we’re there.

“We’re excited to be able to go out there and prove to them that we can skate with some of those Minnesota girls.”

And elsewhere. Hanover’s eight-team bracket — the Schwan Cup features five varsity and jayvee tourneys for girls, eight for boys — includes last year’s North Dakota state champion (and potential second-game foe) Bismarck Blizzard, Ontario’s Dryden High (whose alumni includes former NHL defenseman Chris Pronger) and four other Minnesota programs.

Most of Hanover’s games will be played in the late afternoon or early evening, leaving the Marauders plenty of time for one visit more pertinent to high school girls than hockey coaches.

“The Mall of America is, like, a mile from our hotel,” Acker said with a laugh. “So that might be a hit.”

Hey, a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do, be it on the ice or elsewhere.

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