New Hampshire D3 Poll
For No. 1 Berlin/Gorham, it was very nearly a case of deja vu all over again. Unlike 2015, when the Mountaineers surrendered the lead in the final minute and lost in OT, the hockey gods smiled on them this time around during a wild goalmouth scramble as Belmont/Gilford came oh so very close to repeating last year’s last-second magic.
The Mountaineers’ 2-1 win ended a 40-year State Championship drought. What next year brings remains to be seen as 11 players graduate. For now coach Mike Poulin’s club will bask a little bit longer in the joy of having joined their fathers, uncles and even grandfathers as State Champions.
Unless you witnessed the frantic finish, it is hard to visualize just how close defending champion and No. 2 Belmont/Gilford was to forcing OT. So convinced were the Bulldogs that they simultaneously celebrated what they thought was the tying goal while the Mountaineers celebrated the end of the game and their championship.
After losing three of four to close the regular season, Belmont/Gilford regrouped with playoff wins against Kearsage/Plymouth and top-seeded John Stark/Hopkinton. Coach Jay Londer loses five to graduation but also returns a boat load of talented underclassmen.
No. 3 Kennett crafted a solid campaign from start to finish, falling to Berlin/Gorham in the semifinals. Coach Mike Lane’s Eagles never had a losing streak and closed the regular season under a full head of steam with six straight wins. Six players graduate and next year’s squad projects to be made up largely of seasoned sophomores and juniors.
After losing three of five to start the season, No. 4 John Stark/Hopkinton closed the regular season on a 12-0-1 tear that included wins against Berlin/Gorham, Belmont/Gilford and Kennett. However, JSH ran into a revitalized Belmont/Gilford squad in the post-season and that was that. Graduation will take approximately 60 percent of the offensive production but coach Denis Kolehmainen returns 16.
No. 5 Kearsage/Plymouth overcame a pre-season coaching change, beat the teams it should have and played a couple of D2 opponents tough. Five players graduate but four of the top five scorers return.