If the calendar reads an even-numbered year, it must be time for Hanover to win the Division 3 South championship.
Nate DelPrete scored both goals in the final six minutes and Hanover captured its fourth sectional championship in seven seasons, pulling out a 2-0 victory against Dartmouth in Sunday’s title game at Gallo Ice Arena.
Hanover adds a 2020 sectional championship trophy to the ones the program captured in 2014, 2016 and 2018.
“I’m happy for the kids,” Hanover coach Jonny Abban said. “This was one of those years, we didn’t really know where we were going to end up. The kids have really come together and worked hard. We live for another day.”
But it certainly didn’t come easy against a Dartmouth team that was making its deepest postseason run since the program reached the Division 3 state championship game in 1984.
The game was scoreless entering the third period, and even midway through Dartmouth had a couple of opportunities to try to break through on the power play. Hanover’s aggressive penalty kill managed a pair of 2-on-1 shorthanded breaks with Manning Morris and Thao Lanagan, then DelPrete and Christian Sacco, that didn’t produce a shot on net.
But not long after the penalty expired, Hanover finally struck. Using its strong forecheck to keep the puck in the zone, it eventually wound up on the stick of DelPrete along the left boards. He found an opening to skate in on net and beat Dartmouth goalie J.P. Kerney between the pads.
“Their goalie let up a few 5-hole goals,” DelPrete said of watching film on Dartmouth to prepare for the game. “I came down and said, you know what, I’m going to try 5-hole.
“It was amazing. I thought the North Quincy goal (in overtime in the first round) I scored was big. This was even bigger.”
Said Abban: “Nate is just one of those kids whose legs are always moving. There’s no quit in him. He’s a leader. He’s a great hockey player.”
DelPrete capped the championship with an empty-netter with 39.7 seconds left, aggressively breaking out of the zone unchecked while Morris won a puck battle along the boards and got the puck to his open linemate. The assist was Morris’ 100th career point.
“We had our chances today. We played hard and I’m extremely proud of this team, and the effort we put out,” Dartmouth coach Mike Cappello said.
Dartmouth controlled much of the play during the second period, and thought it had taken the lead with 3:02 left on Payton Allen’s redirect in front of a centering feed from Angelo Nicolosi behind the net. But Hanover goalie John Aidonidis reached behind his back with his glove and snagged the puck out of mid-air. Dartmouth players swarmed each other along the glass in celebration, but the near official immediately waved it off, ruling the puck never crossed the line.
“Going into the third we were feeling pretty good. It’s a game of momentum, and I thought we had that momentum.”
But Abban and Hanover also believed they were in prime position entering the final 15 minutes, hoping to use their depth to wear Dartmouth down a bit.
“We were able to grind it out. We stuck to our game plan,” Abban said. “Hats off to Dartmouth, they gave it their all.”
Dartmouth, which won its first three tournament games by a combined 14-1, finished 19-4-1.
“I couldn’t be prouder of this team, what they were able to accomplish this year and the five seniors we have,” Cappello said.
“Fantastic season … 19 wins. We kind of slowed it down at the end of the season, lost our last two games. But I thought we got better from that. Had a great tournament, won three games in the tournament and played some of our best hockey coming into this game, and we continued it.”