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In finals for the first time, Bulldogs want to leave their mark

GILFORD — Before Dave Caron and a handful of parents took it upon themselves to create the Belmont-Gilford Bulldogs hockey team, never before in the state of New Hampshire had two different high schools come together to form a cooperative sports team. Caron got the idea from a team in Maine and sought to apply the model in Gilford, with Belmont High School as a partner.
The fruit of that effort will be on display today, as the Belmont-Gilford Bulldogs take on Berlin-Gorham's Mountaineers in the NHIAA Division III championship match, to be played at the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester. The puck will drop at 12:15.
It took several years for Caron and company to get the NHIAA to finally adopt the rules necessary for a cooperative team. The team began competing at the varsity level in the 2004-2005 school year and got off to an ignominious start. The team managed to win just one game over the first two seasons, Caron recalled. That was due to bad luck as much as a new program, though, because a glut of talented players had graduated the year prior. Caron recalled a conversation with an NHIAA official during the second season when he was politely asked if he thought the team would ever be competitive.
"I said, 'yes'," Caron recalled, though he admitted that his fingers might have been crossed behind his back.
He turned out to be right. In fact, the Bulldogs this year have been more than competitive — they earned the top seed for the Division III tournament. On Wednesday, Belmont-Gilford knocked off Kennett in a tough semi-final battle and today will appear in a championship game for the first time in the program's history. Their opponent, Berlin-Gorham, has played in many title matches, most recently in 2013, but hasn't won one since 1976. "Both teams are hungry for a title, it's going to be a great game," said Caron. "Go Bulldogs!"
Caron traces Belmont-Gilford's ascendance to the point at which Jay Londer was brought on as head coach. "Jay has done a phenomenal job developing players," said Caron, noting that the Bulldogs have made the playoffs each year that Londer has led the team, whether the team had star-level players or not. "His teaching style, his coaching, his practice management, they've turned into really solid hockey players... I'm proud of the way he's built this program."
Londer, a personal trainer, said he applies his professional expertise to the hockey team. "We started building this program up with conditioning and a healthy lifestyle." He doesn't have to have the most talented or most skilled hockey players, he said, as long as he has players in the best shape. "We outworked teams."
As the team began to improve its record, community support has grown. The boosters club, assistant coaches, and new this year, a volunteer recording each game so that the team can review their play.
"We continue to get better every year, with help from the community," said Londer.
He said the team's motto this year has been "Give up what you want now for what you want most." In other words, skip the junk food for a healthier meal and turn off the Playstation in favor of a decent night's sleep. That discipline, and the conditioning, has paid off in the form of a chance to play in an historic game for Belmont-Gilford. Making it through to the championship has been the unstated goal for the season, Londer said. Speaking yesterday before the final practice of the season, he said the coaching staff doesn't plan any pep talks or chest-thumping speeches. He just wants them to revel in, and enjoy, their moment.
"It's the first time we've been in the finals. It's exciting, the kids are psyched," he said. "I like our chances. Berlin's a very good club, they've got a lot of history, a lot of pride." His team has respect for the Mountaineers, but Londer said the Bulldogs are hungry to earn respect for themselves. "We're going to go out, give it what we've got and let the chips fall where they may... The pressure is off. Our goal was to get to the final. Now that we're there, all we have to do is play."

Last Updated on Saturday, 14 March 2015 12:41

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Burchell concedes DeVoy is chair until he has his day in court

LACONIA — County Commissioner Richard Burchell acknowledged in a motion filed in Belknap County Superior Court on Friday that fellow commissioner Dave DeVoy should continue to serve as commission chairman until Burchell's suit seeking to reverse his March 2 ouster as chairman has been decided in his favor.
Burchell's motion to withdraw his request for a preliminary injunction against his fellow commissioners was granted by Judge James O'Neill III.

The judge also granted Burchell's request for additional time for his attorney, David Horan, to file responses and objections to motions and requests made by his fellow commissioners that his complaint be dismissed.
O'Neill set a deadline of March 20 for Horan's filing and a date for a final hearing on the merits of the case is being scheduled.
Granting the request removed the need for a hearing on the injunction request.
Commissioner Hunter Taylor, who is an attorney and has been representing himself in the proceedings, had asked the court to view a video of the March 2 meeting at which he and DeVoy voted to reorganize the commission.
At that meeting, Burchell presided and attempted to block any motions made by the other commissioners by repeatedly rapping the gavel and exclaiming that they were "out of order".
Burchell later on March 2 filed a motion in Belknap County Superior Court seeking ex parte relief from the action of the other two commissioners, claiming that there is no statutory basis for his removal as chairman, which he maintains will be ''an invitation to chaos". He had unsuccessfully sought an injunction before the meeting to prevent the other commissioners from taking any action.
DeVoy's filing, made by attorney Paul Fitzgerald, maintains that New Hampshire RSA 28:1 indicates that all powers of the commission can be exercised by a majority vote.
It also maintains that without the right to remove the chairman, the commission risks becoming dysfunctional if a chairperson is unwilling to allow the appropriate methodical discussion and disposition of agenda items or attempts to stifle discussion through the use of repeated and erroneous parliamentary rulings.

Last Updated on Saturday, 14 March 2015 12:29

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Squirrel girl: Young Meredith snowboarder will represent Granite State at nationals

MEREDITH — Known on the slopes of Gunstock Mountain Resort as "Squirrel Girl" for the stuffed rodent — "Frosty Nuts" — atop her helmet, Alexa Mailhoux of Meredith will be competing in the national championships sponsored by the United States of America Snowboard Association (USASA) at Copper Mountain, Colorado at the end of the month.

Alexa, who began snowboarding when she was six and will turn 13 this summer, posted the highest mark among 12 and 13 year old girls in New Hampshire in the slopestyle discipline and is ranked 17th in the country in her age group by the USASA for the event. Her ranking reflected her performances in competitions at Attitash, Loon and Ragged mountains this season. She will be joined in Colorado by Tucker Johnson of Dover, who topped the rankings among the boys her age.

Alexa said that slopestyle consists of completing a course marked by natural features and punctuated with obstacles like jumps and rails. Like figure skaters, contestants are judged on the degree of difficulty of their run, height of their jumps, and execution of their tricks. "My specialty is the jumps," she remarked, explaining that mounting sufficient speed entering the jump to clear the flat and land past the "knuckle", where the down slope continues, is the key to success.

Rails, Alexa said, are more challenging. "I over think things," she confessed.

Riding the rails, she noted, requires evenly distributing weight and maintaining balance while navigating the obstacle.

Alexa's mother Jen, a state champion high school gymnast and trainer at the Laconia Athletic and Swim Club, said that Alexa inherited her athleticism from her parents, adding that her father Adam was a state champion high school wrestler. Alexa, she observed, has the "body control" competitive snowboarding requires.

Above all, Alexa is passionate about her sport. "I'm hyper and happy snowboarding," she exclaimed. After suffering a mild concussion in a fall, she recalled thinking "of course, I'm going to get back on the mountain." She works out with the Gunstock Free Style Academy under the direction of Patrick Morrison on Saturdays and Sundays as well as gets to the mountain after school on Tuesdays and Wednesdays during the winter. In the summer she takes to a skateboard.

The competition at Copper Mountain promises to be a test. Her mother said that Alexa's performance will determine the next steps in her career.

"I would love to try the half-pipe," said Alexa, who has begun working on tricks like grabs and spins in anticipation of moving beyond slopestyle to other disciplines.

At Copper Mountain, Alexa will be competing in a field of 30 girls in her age group. "We'll see how it goes," he mother said, "then begin to think about what to do when the snow is gone."

At the mention of summer camps in the western states, where the snow lingers on the slopes through June, Alexa's eyes lit up and a smile crossed her face. "I'm so passionate about snowboarding," she said.

Last Updated on Saturday, 14 March 2015 12:23

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Telephone pole tax relief bill, stronly opposed by Laconia, passes House

CONCORD — Eleven of the 18 members of the Belknap County Delegation — all of whom are Republicans — voted with the majority when a bill that will spare telecommunications companies a share of their property tax liability carried the New Hampshire House of Representatives yesterday.

House Bill 547 would enable telecommunications companies — chiefly FairPoint Communications, Inc. — to depreciate the value of their poles and conduits to 20 percent of their market value. The Laconia City Council urged the city's five representatives to vote against the bill, which would enable FairPoint to shed more than $30,000 in property taxes, which would instead be born by other taxpayers. Moreover, the precedent could lead other utilities to seek similar treatment.

Three of the city's representatives — Representatives Frank Tilton, Bob Luther and Peter Spanos — were joined by Representatives Russ Dumais of Gilford and Herb Vadney of Meredith in opposition to the bill. Robert Fisher, who represents Laconia and Belmont, voted with the majority for the bill and Don Flanders, the city's fourth representative, did not vote.

Representatives Glen Aldrich and George Hurt of Gildord, Guy Comtois of Barnstead, Dennis Fields and Brian Gallagher of Sanbornton, Valerie Fraser of New Hampton, Ray Howard and Peter Varney of Alton, and Shari LeBreche and Michael Sylvia of Belmont voted for the bill.

Representative David Russell of Gilmanton did not vote.

Last Updated on Saturday, 14 March 2015 01:24

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