Season recap: Concord hockey fails to claim fourth-straight title, still headlines area programs

By ERIC RYNSTON-LOBEL

Monitor staff

Published: 03-16-2023 10:05 AM

The feeling of defeat felt foreign to Concord boys’ hockey.

But after Bedford’s Javin Manfield slid the game-winning goal past Tide goalie Kalan Gaudreault in the D-I semifinal, that feeling hit them like a ton of bricks.

The Tide entered the 2022-23 season on the heels of three-straight championships, but head coach Dunc Walsh urged caution looking ahead.

“I wouldn’t say we’re the favorite by any means,” Walsh said back in December before the start of the season. “But I think we have a chance to be a good team.”

The team’s performance did little to lessen expectations, though. Concord mostly dominated the regular season, finishing 18-0-0 and defeating opponents by an average of 3.6 goals per game; senior captain Brooks Craigue led the way with 67 points in 24 games played, including the Christmas tournament.

But Concord couldn’t finish the job in the playoffs.

“It’s a feeling that we’re not used to, that’s for sure,” Walsh said after the Bedford loss. “Losing’s no fun. Especially when they haven’t tasted much of it in the past four years.”

The graduating seniors lost five games in four years. So perhaps, 2022-23 marked the end of an era for Concord boys’ hockey. Craigue – who totaled 187 points over his four-year career – as well as fellow-captain Joey Tarbell and Gaudreault are the three departing members from this year’s team. But with the outsized role Craigue had, that’ll be a massive hole for Walsh to fill next season.

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Even still, he was encouraged by the development of some of the younger players on the roster throughout this year.

“Everybody thinks we’re like loaded. We’re not loaded. We’re young,” he said. “We have kids out there that didn’t play a lot last year that are playing major roles. Our second line’s got a freshman and two sophomores. We have a goalie that had only played JV before this year. We accomplished a lot. We got better and really improved and maybe overachieved.”

Elsewhere in Division I, No. 6 Bow made some noise down the stretch of the regular season only to be upset by No. 11 Pinkerton, 3-0, in the first round of the playoffs. 

It was an up-and-down year for head coach Tim Walsh, whose team started 1-6-0, but won nine of 11 to close out the regular season.

“I think the kids believe in themselves now,” he said after the Falcons beat Nashua South-Pelham 11-1 on Feb. 15. “We tell them over and over again, ‘You guys are good. You’re a good team. You can do this.’ Having a couple big wins really, really helped us.”

Bow just couldn’t muster the same success in that first playoff game, and now graduates six players off the roster: Brady Lover, Finn Benoit, Ethan Tobeler, Dom Jurcins, Joshua Billow and Blake Scarinza.

The third area D-I program featured a three-school cooperative between Bishop Brady, Merrimack Valley and Concord Christian Academy. The Brady-Valley Kingsmen, as they came to be known, struggled mightily all season, finishing 0-18-0. Their average margin of defeat: seven goals per game.

Brady-MV-CCA was shut out in 10 of its 18 games and allowed 10 or more goals four times. The program graduates five seniors.

In Division II, Coe-Brown’s co-op with Somersworth produced a solid season. Overall, the team finished 10-9-0 after losing to No. 2 Dover, 3-0, in the quarterfinals.

Coe-Brown had 11 players on the team, including seniors Jonny Pelletier, Adam Lacerte and Connor Strum.

Belmont-Gilford headlined the area’s D-III success this season, with the No. 1 Bulldogs defeating No. 2 Berlin-Gorham, 4-1, to take home the championship plaque.

“Very, very excited. Everybody’s pretty pumped up right now,” head coach Jason Parent told the Monitor after the win.

It was a dominant season for the co-op that finished 19-1-0 and avenged last year’s championship game loss against Berlin-Gorham.

Parent will also only lose two seniors from the team, so the Bulldogs could be in strong position to run it back next year and once again compete for a championship.

Not far behind Belmont-Gilford in the standings, No. 3 Pembroke-Campbell saw its season come to an end in the semifinals against Berlin-Gorham with a 4-2 loss. Overall, PAC was 15-5-0.

“I thought these guys had a wonderful season,” head coach Marc Noel said after the semifinal loss. “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.”

Of the 20 players on the roster, just three are seniors. Like Belmont-Gilford, PAC will be in strong position to compete for a title next year.

Among other area schools, John Stark-Hopkinton-Hillsboro-Deering (6-12-0), Kearsarge-Plymouth (5-12-1) and Laconia-Winnisquam-Inter-Lakes (0-16-0) all missed out on the playoffs.

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