Junior hockey: Fighting Spirit extend their lead in the East

The Fighting Spirit went 2-1 over the weekend at their second of three league wide showcases. Held at the Conway Arena in Nashua, NH the Fighting Spirit took on Western Conference opponents the Syracuse Stampede, Wilkes Barre Miners, and the league leading Jersey Shore Wildcats.

Friday afternoon saw the Spirit play host to the Syracuse Stampede. After a scoreless first period Fighting Spirit Captain Alex Peddle got the scoring started by putting home a loose puck in front of the net on the power play. Mike Heffernan would add two more goals in the game to secure the 3-0 victory over the Stampede. Goalie Adam Higdon was perfect in net stopping all 25 shots he faced.

Saturday's contest pitted the Fighting Spirit against the Wilkes Barre Miners and saw the Spirit come away with a 4-3 victory. The Fighting Spirit found themselves in a hole as they were down 2-0 to the Miners. Once again Alex Peddle started the scoring for the Spirit as he took a feed from teammate Mike Heffernan and masterfully deked his way to the net before beating Miners goalie to bring the score within one. Captain Mike Callaghan knotted the score at 2 merely 6 minutes later as he slid the puck underneath the scrambling Miners goaltender. Wilkes Barre would add one more tally before the second period was over taking the lead 3-2. The Fighting Spirit played an inspired third period and were rewarded when forward Nick Pino fought his way to the Miners net and let a backhand shot go that beat the net minder far side and in. It was only 3 minutes later that forward Brett Bittner scored the game winner as he took a pass from the corner and one timed it home. Goalie Claes Endre was solid in net for the Spirit as he stopped 24 of the 27 shots he faced including multiple big saves late as the Miners pushed to tie the score.

Sunday morning put the two top teams in the NA3EHL on the rink against one another as the Fighting Spirit took on the Jersey Shore Wildcats. In what proved to be a back and forth affair it was the Wildcats that would squeak out the victory and remain perfect on the season. Both teams had their opportunities on the power play but were unable to solve one another's defense as the Wildcats went 0 for 6 on the PP while the Spirit were 0 for 8. With 1:21 left in the game the Wildcats took the lead on a great individual effort and long range shot the surprised Spirit goalie Claes Endre. The Spirit were able to add an extra attacker as they pulled their goalie in the final minute but were unable to tie the score. Endre stopped 26 of the 27 shots he faced while the Jersey Shore net minder was perfect stopping all 24 shots the Spirit took.

The Fighting Spirit are back in action this weekend as they take on the East Coast Minutemen Sunday November 16th at the Laconia Ice Arena. Pregame begins at 1:45pm with puck drop at 2pm. The Spirit will also host the Minutemen at the Laconia Ice Arena on Wednesday November 19th with pregame kicking off at 6:15. For up to date information on the Spirit and their schedule visit their website at www.fightingspirithockey.com

Playoff round-up: Prospect Mountain boys are champions for first time

Prospect Mountain needed penalty kicks to win their first NHIAA DIII State title 1-0 over Hopkinton Saturday afternoon. The Timberwolves and Hawks played to a 0-0 tie after 80 minutes of regulation and 20 minutes of overtime, leaving a penalty kick shootout to decide the game. Prospect Mountain converted three of their five attempts and left the title in the hands of senior goalie Jake Towle. Having stopped two out of the four prior shots, Towle punched away the Hawks' final attempt and secured the title for the Timberwolves 3-2.
Prospect Mountain's first penalty goal was scored by Ken Gilbert. Towle stoned the first attempt by the Hawks leaving the Timberwolves up 1-0 after the first round. Prospect Mountain failed to convert their second attempt. The Hawks evened things up on their second shot. Matt Hamilton scored the second goal for Prospect on the third attempt. Towle came up big on the Hawks counter and made the save diving to his left. Alex Bennett scored the third goal and eventual game winner on a shot to the upper right corner. Towle had his first opportunity to secure the win with a save in the third round but couldn't reach the Hawks shot to his right. Timberwolves Nathan Farnham took the fifth and final shot for Prospect Mountain but his chance to be the hero hit the left post and bounced out of play. Towle then punched senior Kevin Smith's attempt away before scrambling to his feet to celebrate with his teammates.
Regulation play began slowly with both teams feeling each other out. Both teams proved why they had gone undefeated leading up to this point, only given up a combined 14 goals during the regular season. Hopkinton applied a little more offensive pressure late in the first half and to begin the second. Prospect Mountain had a few opportunities late including a golden chance right before the end of regulation when a Timberwolf midfielder let go of a shot directly in front of the Hopkinton goalie, who stepped into the ball's path to make the save and force overtime.
Prospect Mountain went a perfect 20-0 this season and defeated the team that knocked them out of the semi-finals last season.
In the first round of the Division III football tournament, also on Saturday, the Gilford Golden Eagles defeated the Lakers 28-13 to avenge last year's playoff upset. The Golden eagles scored a pair of touchdowns on special teams to get past Inter-Lakes-Moultonborough. Gilford returned the opening kickoff and a second half punt for scores. Quarterback Carter Mercer completed 12 passes for 177 yards and a touchdown. Max Troiano led the ground game for the Golden Eagles with 88 yards on 11 carries.
Inter-Lakes ended the season with a 5-4 record after the loss. The Lakers were led by Andrew Brothers who had 80 yards on 15 carries and Josh Blando who completed eight passes for 128 yards and a touchdown.
Gilford will head to Newport who handed the Golden Eagles their only loss on the season 27-20 back in September. The DIII North Conference Championship will be in Newport this Saturday at 1.

Playoff round-up: a few local teams still in the mix

The fall sport season is nearing its end and a few Lakes Region teams are still in the mix. Prospect Mountain's soccer team will be in the DIII finals at Southern New Hampshire University tomorrow at 1:45. The second seeded Timberwolves will match up against the top seed Hopkinton Hawks. Both teams head into the finals without a loss on the season. The Hawks received the top seed over the 16-0 Timberwolves because of a DII win over John Stark to open the season. The win out of division bumps the Hawks into the top spot by a half of a point in the NHIAA ratings.
Prospect Mountain has had an impressive run to reach the final match. The Timberwolves outscored their opponents 70-6 in the 16 regular season games. The second seed has yet to relinquish a goal in the post season, beating Kearsarge 3-0, Belmont 1-0, and Gilford in the semi-finals 1-0 in double overtime. The Timberwolves lost in the semi-finals last season to the Hawks and look to take home a title against the team that knocked them out last season.

The Gilford volleyball team played last night in a semi-final match against second-seeded Milford at Pinkerton Academy. Results were too late for this section's deadline. If successful, the Golden Eagles will content for the Division II championship on Saturday. Gilford ended the regular season with a record of 15-3 and the third seed in the tournament. The Golden Eagles head in to tonight's match after defeating tournament opponents John Stark (14th seed) and Portsmouth (6th) each in straight sets.
On the gridiron Gilford and Inter-Lakes will go head to head in a rematch of last year's DIII Lakes Conference championship in which Inter-Lakes stunned Gilford at home 27-14. Gilford had trouble holding on to the ball, turning it over six times in contest.
Gilford hosted the Lakers in the regular season and avenged the playoff loss 33-7. The Golden Eagles (7-1) are the second seed in the North behind a Newport team that handed Gilford its only blemish on the year 27-20. Gilford has outscored their opponent by an average of 28 to 12 during the regular season.
Inter-Lakes, the third seed in the North, went 5-3 on the season. All five wins came against opponents who did not qualify for the post season. Four out of the five teams had a losing record and the other ended the season at 4-4. The Lakers have a tall task to get past the Golden Eagles on the road.
The DIII quarter-final matchup will be in Gilford at 1 p.m. tomorrow.

Junior hockey: New England Wolves continue to climb the standings

The MJHL New England Wolves, a new Junior Hockey team playing out of the Laconia Ice Arena, continued their win streak Saturday night with a decisive 6-3 victory over the Connecticut Nighthawks in Simsbury, Conn. The win, combined with a NH JR Monarchs loss, had the hometown Wolves continue their climb up the Metropolitan Junior Hockey standings.
Jumping out to a 3-0 lead early, the Wolves were backstopped by Milford, New Jersey native Zachery Skop, who turned away 24 shots in the victory. Skop, a 1996 birth year goaltender who played last season in Bozeman, Montana, has garnered attention by scouts and coaches throughout the early part of the season, winning League 3rd star of the week 2 weeks ago.
Opening the scoring on the Power Play was Captain Dillon Smith, on a goal assisted by Will Francis and Hunter Craig. Francis, who has been one of the team's most active community volunteers, scored 7 minutes later off an assist credited to Kevin Morello. The line of Fred Kratz, Andrew D'Amour, and Phillip Schultz, whom coach Andrew Trimble called, "one of our hardest working groups", responded with the next two goals, both credited to Schultz. Rounding out the scoring was Russian import Mikhail Astakhov and finally Morello chipped in a goal of his own.
Once again, the Wolves did not give up a goal on their league- best penalty kill, which has killed off over 92 percent of all opposing power plays this season.
The MJHL New England Wolves return to action next weekend on the road as they take on the Walpole Express on Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. The Sunday, November 2 game has been rescheduled to November 19th as they return to the Laconia Ice Arena to play the Northern Cyclones at 3:45 p.m.
Congratulations to Walpole, New Hampshire's Dom Senerchia was awarded Honorable Mention Player of the Week by the MJHL last week. Additionally, the team would like to thank life coach Emily Clement for her continued work with the team this season. "She has helped instill in these young men the inspiration to think big, and showed them to processes to unlock their potential," said coach Andrew Trimble
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