Bedford 3, Exeter 2
Second-seeded Bedford’s quick start proved to be too much for third-seeded Exeter as the Bulldogs advance to the finals with a 3-2 victory in a Division 1 semifinal matchup. The two teams had battled twice during the regular season with Bedford taking both games by scores of 6-1 and 6-5, but Exeter wasn’t going away quietly this time.
Bedford took an early lead when Matt Lapinsky fed Javin Manfield and he scored only 1:25 into the game, and it was at that point the Exeter Blue Hawks would be chasing the Bulldogs for the rest of the game. Dom Tagliaferro and Ethan LaRochelle were both able to capitalize on power play opportunities and stake Bedford to a 3-0 lead after one period. Tagliaferro’s bar down snipe came from off a feed from Jack Dermody while Dan Connor and Owen Gupta assisted on LaRochelle’s rocket from the right circle.
Special teams play seemed to be the difference in this game for both squads. Exeter failed to take advantage of a host of power play opportunities including a 5-on-3 advantage while Bedford succeeded on two of their three power plays and went 3-for-3 on the penalty kill.
Exeter was finally able to break through and inch closer late in the second period when junior Cam Snee picked up a rebound from Ty Robinson’s shot and put it past Bedford goalie Matthew Desmond. Exeter hung tough and continued to battle and held the shot advantage overall 34-28. Hawks senior Ean Malay tightened the score later in the third but it wouldn’t be enough as Desmond would hold on to get the win despite the Blue Hawks carrying play for much of the final two periods.
Henry Fraser stopped 21 of 24 shots to keep Exeter close and Desmond turned away 32 of 34 shots.
Bedford advances to the finals for the sixth time in seven years and will take on the top-seed Concord. Concord and Bedford had two matchups this season with Concord taking the first game, 5-1 and the teams skated to a 2-2 tie late in the season.
Concord 5, Hanover 1
Top-seeded and undefeated Concord punched their ticket to the finals and an opportunity to clinch three straight championships as they downed fourth-seeded Hanover, 5-1, in a Division 1 semifinal matchup. Concord had goals from five different scorers and had steady goaltending in a game that left little doubt as to who the iron of Division 1 is.
Concord took advantage of a defensive zone turnover when senior Cam McGonigle beat Hanover’s Luke Ives upstairs for the 1-0 advantage with 5:55 remaining in the first. Only 1:15 later, the Crimson Tide would strike again when Brooks Craigue snuck a backhand rebound past Ives to push the lead to 2-0.
A shorthanded goal by AJ Fennelly put Concord out ahead 3-0 only 1:26 into the second period. Hanover was able to get on the board when Van Bailey finally beat Concord keeper, Will Pegnam at 3:17 of the second period. That would be all the offense Hanover would be able to muster against Pegnam who had 17 saves in the victory.
Concord continued to build on its lead when Tyler Coskren put home a power play goal 3:36 in the third period to make the score 4-1. Defensemen Joey Tarbell completed the scoring for the Tide when he made the score 5-1 on a shot from the slot that beat Ives.
Despite the five goals allowed, Ives played well stopping 36 of 41 shots and withstanding an onslaught of shots at times. Concord is a two-time defending champion (co-champion in 2020 with Bedford) and will try to become the first division 1 team since the 1990’s to win three or more consecutive titles. Concord won four straight from 1996-1999. They’ll take on Bedford in a matchup of the 1 and 2 seeds.
** Story by Brett Ricci