A total of 10 teams will begin play in quest of the 2017 New Hampshire state title. Two first round games will get underway on Wednesday. Here’s a look at the 10 teams by seed:
Keene (16-0-0) – The Blackbirds’ undefeated regular season and ascension to the top of the division is the culmination of a long, steady process spanning multiple seasons. Can they add the first State title in program history? Nothing is certain, but aside from two tussles with Bow, only St. Thomas Aquinas and Windham came within three goals of the Blackbirds. They outscored opponents, 116-16, while posting six shutouts and allowing two goals or fewer 14 times.
Bow (15-2-1) – Runners-up last year as well as 2014, the Falcons won the program’s only State title in 2010. From a personnel standpoint, Coach Tim Walsh’s squad seems the best equipped to challenge Keene. The Falcons outscored their opponents, 104-38, and in between those 3-0 and 5-3 losses to Keene clicked off a 13-0-1 unbeaten streak.
Windham (12-5-1) – The defending champions squeezed past Bow, 4-3, in last season’s title game. This year the teams are on the same side of the draw and could be headed for a semifinal showdown. Aside from an 0-2-1 January stretch in games against Keene and Bow, the Jaguars had a solid campaign, posting a plus-44 differential.
Goffstown (12-6-0) – The Grizzlies won four of their final five to build momentum toward the post-season in a season punctuated by streaks. They outscored opponents, 71-50.
St. Thomas Aquinas (11-7-0) – Frustrated by a series of close mid-season losses, coach Peter Harwood’s club stayed the course and rolls into the post-season having won seven of eight and five in a row. The Saints averaged close to six goals per game during that span.
Dover (10-7-1) – The Green Wave are looking to return to the level of play that saw them rattle off seven straight mid-season wins during which they erupted for 38 of their season total 73 goals. However, they finished on a 1-3-1 slide that included three-goal losses to both Bow and STA.
Oyster River (9-8-1) – Balanced scoring has been a key for the Bobcats, who had key back-to-back wins against STA and Goffstown in early February. That kicked off a 5-1-1 stretch, their best of the season.
Lebanon/Stevens (9-9-0) – Coach Gary Smith’s club leans on a core forward group as talented as any in the division. The Raiders won four of their last six to reach .500 and finished a solid plus-21.
Spaulding (8-9-0) – Before dropping their final four games, the Raiders won six of eight to place themselves in the playoff picture. Consistent offensive production has been an issue, leading to a minus-8 differential.
Portsmouth/Newmarket (8-10-0) – Three losses in the final week of the regular season dropped the Clipper Mules below .500. Coach Bill Widi’s club showed itself capable of playing with any opponent early on with a 3-2 decision of Windham.
In today’s first-round games, Spaulding heads to Lebanon/Stevens (5) while Portsmouth/Newmarket visits Oyster River (6). Spaulding (3-2) and Oyster River (7-4, 3-1) won the regular-season meetings.