Belmont Gilford will need to bring a full team effort to beat Berlin on Wednesday at Merrill Fay Arena, assistant coach Jason Parent said. (Courtesy photo)
By DAVID CARKHUFF/THE LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — A rivalry on the ice will heat up Merrill Fay Arena Wednesday afternoon when the high school hockey teams of Belmont Gilford and Berlin Gorham seek an edge in state tournament seeding.
Both teams are once again in the top four in the Division III standings.
Berlin Gorham (7-1) suffered its sole loss of the season earlier this month, a 6-1 decision at the hands of Kennett High at Ham Arena on Jan. 11.
Berlin Gorham beat Belmont Gilford 6-2 in Berlin on Dec. 14, delivering Belmont Gilford's sole loss of the season. (Belmont Gilford is 6-1-1 due to a 3-3 tie with Somersworth-Coe Brown in Laconia on Jan. 11.)
In 2016, Berlin Gorham won the Division III state championship title.
Berlin High School hockey coach Mike Poulin said in the finals in the last two years, the two teams battled to overtime decisions.
"We know that they can be an explosive team, and they can take advantage of any mistakes we can make," Poulin said.
"They are a formidable adversary, and it will take a full team effort to come out on top," reported Belmont Gilford assistant coach Jason Parent.
The Berlin Gorham hockey team is a familiar rival who always brings a top game.
"This has been an ongoing rivalry for the last few years," Parent said.
"The last couple of seasons have turned out that way," agreed Poulin. "Since we came to Division III, we've always had great matchups with Belmont Gilford."
In the past two seasons, when the teams have faced each other in the finals, the scores have been close.
When Belmont Gilford won two years ago, "we were down a goal with about 45 seconds left in the game, and we scored with 40 seconds left in the game and we won in overtime," Parent recalled.
Last year, Belmont Gilford was down by a goal, and in a "massive flurry at the net, some say we scored, some say we didn't score," but no replay was available, and Belmont Gilford ended up losing 2-1 in OT, he said.
Berlin Gorham lost 14 seniors from last year, so the team is "still trying to find its identity," Poulin said.
"We're not looking past any game," he added, noting respect for Belmont Gilford.
The 4 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 25 game at Merrill Fay Arena raises the stakes "because both teams only have one loss," Parent said, and seeding into the state tournament may hinge on the outcome. The top two seeds in Division III will receive a bye in the first round, and the four remaining seeds will play each other.
"It could be the difference between being the one or two seed and third and fourth," Parent said.
Poulin agreed, "If we ever come to a tie-breaker, I'm sure it will come head to head. They're always important, and it's important to win on the road as well."
In most recent action, Belmont Gilford beat Laconia-Winnisquam 11-1 on Jan. 21.
Parent credited the team's "tenacity" and refusal to give up. For Belmont Gilford, captains James Buckley, Hunter Dupuis and Harrison Parent will need to show leadership, Parent said.
"We're going to need big games from those three guys, and our underclassmen are going to need to perform for us to get this victory," he said.
Berlin, Parent said, can be expected to "play very, very hard."
"They're a hard working team, they're a hockey town, and I expect them to come out and give us a good game," he said.