Published DateLACONIA — When the players of the Laconia-Winnisquam ice hockey team took to the ice against Moutonborough-Inter-Lakes on Saturday night, they did so with the knowledge that they could finish the season no better than the ninth spot in Division III – only the top eight teams advance to the post-season. The game still held plenty of significance for the Wolfpack, though, a fact which was evident in their play and the 4-2 victory that resulted for Laconia-Winnisquam.
Laconia-Winnisquam could have come into the game dispirited. The week started with them in the fight for the eighth playoff spot, but an overtime loss to Belmont-Gilford on Feb. 13. left the team drained for the next day's game game against Portsmouth, resulting in a 4-7 Valentine's Day defeat. But Saturday's game was held at the Laconia Ice Arena and against a local rival, one of the teams which had come to see Laconia-Winnisquam as an easy win in recent years.
"They just wanted to win, especially the older kids," said T.J. Galligan, Laconia-Winnisquam coach. When the Wolfpack opened the season with a 7-1 win over Manchester West, it was the team's first win since the seniors were freshmen. That win was followed by an eight-game skid, one punctuated by a few blowout losses, a stretch which was finally halted with a victory over the now 1-14 Con-Val. Laconia-Winnisquam's third win of the season was their second game against Manchester West, a team which has only one two games this season. Until their win over Moultonborough-Inter-Lakes on Saturday, the Wolfpack had yet to beat a team with a winning record.
Laconia-Winnisquam took an early lead on a Dakota Tyno goal with 13:08 remaining in the first period. Tyno nearly scored a few minutes later on a breakaway opportunity, but the puck clanged off the top pipe. The Moultonborough-Inter-Lakes Renegades then began applying pressure on the Wolfpack but couldn't solve the talented sophomore goalie Brayden Harriman, who denied shots for all of the first and second periods and for half of the third.
Galligan said he knew at the beginning of the season that he had a solid young goalie – Harriman was the team's MVP last year, after all. Still, the coach has been shocked by the performance he's submitted this season. "Almost every game, he's been standing on his head good," said Galligan. Saturday night was no exception. Harriman stopped 34 shots, keeping the Renegades frustrated despite good scoring opportunities. Galligan said, "He was stuffing breakaways, taking away every hope they had."
Tyno, a junior, scored his second goal of the night, collecting his own rebound and scoring from behind the net, with 11:01 left in the second period. Matt Missert added to the Wolfpack lead with a goal at the beginning of the third. With 8:22 remaining, Tyno was again involved in a scoring play, feeding senior Hunter Karwocki to give Laconia-Winnisquam a 4-0 advantage. Ten seconds later, Moultonborough-Inter-Lakes finally managed to get on the board thanks to a Simon Campbell goal. Campbell scored again with a little less than seven minutes left in the game and which would prove the final goal of the night.
With one game left on the schedule – Laconia-Winnisquam hosts Kearsarge on Wednesday night – Galligan recalls a meeting with parents prior to the start of the season. After a couple of winless years, he didn't dare make grandiose promises. Instead, he told parents that the team would slough off its reputation as "goons," players that were only interested in hard hits rather than playing the game. Galligan focused on the development of basic hockey skills – skating, stick handling – and cut out the nonesensical penalties by sitting players who committed them.
"You want to get a stupid penalty, you're done for the game. There's other kids that work just as hard, and they're not getting stupid penalties." It took a few games, but Galligan stuck to his promise, and soon the team's culture changed.
"We've changed, we're getting better on all parts of the game," Galligan said. For him, the team's new approach to the game is an acheivement of a goal set before the first game of the season. A win such as the one over Moultonborough-Inter-Lakes makes that change evident, to Division III opponents as well as young athletes considering joining the Laconia-Winnisquam team. As Galligan put it, the win sends out a message. "We may have stunk in the past couple of years, but we're back. This program's gonig to keep trucking on."