Boys’ hockey: No. 1 Belmont-Gilford dominates to return to D-III finals, Pembroke-Campbell ends best season in program history with a loss

By DAN ATTORRI

Monitor staff

Published: 03-09-2023 12:56 PM

Some players are so good that they make their teammates better.

Sophomore forward Evan Guerin scored a goal and set up teammates for three more, and five different Bulldogs found the back of the net as No. 1 Belmont-Gilford defeated No. 5 Kingswood, 5-0, in Wednesday night’s semifinal at the Plymouth State University’s Hanaway Rink to make a return trip to the Division III championship game.

The Bulldogs (18-1-0) will look to avenge last year’s 3-1 loss to Berlin-Gorham, the three-time defending champions. The No. 2 Mountaineers (17-3-0) rallied for three goals in the first seven minutes of the third period to defeat No. 3 Pembroke-Campbell, 4-2, in the second semifinal.

Belmont-Gilford moved the puck well around the ice and outshot the Knights, 36-12. Although Rory Doris put the Bulldogs on the board 1:43 into the game, Kingswood (11-7-2) was able to slow them down slightly, keeping Belmont-Gilford off the board until an Aiden McKenzie power-play goal made it 2-0 at 3:08 of the second period.

“We had 13 days off before the game,” Bulldogs head coach Jason Parent said. “That first period was kind of a question mark. We had to get back into a rhythm, but the second period we can usually tire teams out pretty good, and we were able to do that tonight.”

Brayden Mercier scored 46 seconds later to make it 3-0, and Owen Guerin added another on the power play to make it 4-0 through two periods of action.

Guerin, who assisted on all three second-period tallies, scored one of his own, a shorthanded goal 6:40 into the third, to make it 5-0. The Bulldogs had just finished killing off a five-on-three Kingswood advantage 32 seconds before Guerin struck when it was five-on-four.

“We work a lot on special teams in practice,” Parent said. “We have some pretty talented guys and they tend to find the back of the net, and they did that tonight.”

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Belmont-Gilford sophomore goalie Carson McGreevy made 12 saves for the shutout, while Kingswood netminder Wyatt Brown was kept busy all game, making 31 saves.

As the top seed in the tournament and with two of the best players in the division in the Guerin brothers, the Bulldogs have been a favorite to win the D-III crown all season. But heading into a championship showdown against Berlin-Gorham, a program rich with hockey history, it was a promising sight to see five different players find the back of the net.

Eight Belmont-Gilford players made the scoresheet, with McKenzie, Sean Ellis, Jaxson Embree and Adam Ribeiro also getting assists.

“When you have great players on your team, you work hard in practice with them, these other players compete more,” Parent said. “They keep getting better and getting better. They see what the (Guerin brothers) are doing on the ice. We have some guys who are contributing more who might not have been as much if they didn’t have (these top players to practice with).”

Parent also cited discipline as a key factor to both Belmont-Gilford’s win and chances for success in Saturday’s championship.

“It’s going to come down to playing disciplined hockey,” Parent said. “Defense first. We can’t give up odd-man rushes. If we play a good game and stay out of the penalty box, I think we have a good chance.”

At the moment, nobody knows better than Pembroke-Campbell (15-5-0) how dangerous the Mountaineers can be if they have opportunities.

After a scoreless first period, PAC had a three-on-one rush with junior Cam Plumb sending a backhanded pass across the crease to sophomore Casey Fuller, who beat Berlin-Gorham goalie Kolin Melanson on the near side to make it 1-0 just 40 seconds into the second stanza. Junior Logan Daigle also had an assist, helping win the puck off the faceoff in PAC’s own end.

Plumb and Fuller combined for another goal later in the period, this time Fuller setting up Plumb on the power play, wrapping around the net to try to poke it past Melanson. Melanson made the initial save, but the puck rebounded to the top of the crease and Plumb tapped it in to make it 2-0 PAC with 1:03 left in the second.

But the Mountaineers weren’t about to be denied a chance to win a fourth straight title. Cam Pake scored 1:59 into the period to put Berlin-Gorham on the board, and Brody Duquette scored a minute later to tie the game. Michael Cote scored the game-winner seven minutes into the third before PAC was able to slow down the Mountaineers slightly.

Dillon Boucher scored an empty-net goal in the final 30 seconds to ice the game.

Pembroke-Campbell junior goaltender Liam Cripps made 30 saves. Melanson finished with 16.

“I thought these guys had a wonderful season,” longtime PAC head coach Marc Noel said. “This is the best season Pembroke-Campbell has ever produced, going to the semifinals. I thought they played very hard tonight. … I know the boys played their hearts out. They’re sad, but at the end of the day, we have a core group of guys coming back for next season. They’ll certainly remember this team.”

Saturday’s championship game will be played at SNHU Arena in Manchester, with a 5 p.m. faceoff.

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