We live in a land where even when it is not yet winter we play winter sports. It is the middle of November and Mark is on the ice again playing hockey a couple evenings a week. Nathaniel has been playing in a fall hockey league. Ellinore and Nathaniel are in tryouts this week for the high school hockey teams. And this past weekend, Nathaniel’s (fall) ice hockey team won the New Hampshire state championship.
Last year the Keene Midget Minor team (under 16 years of age) made their way through the bracket in the state tournament undefeated before falling, in six overtimes, to the NH Avalanche, a team based in Manchester. This year, the team is playing the Midget Major division (U-18) and the season began well. Keene won their first eight games and then, due to other sports commitments, and much stronger rosters on opposing teams, lost a string of games to end the season 9-5-1, dropping from first place to a three-way tie for second and seeded fourth in the tournament bracket.
The NH State Tournament was held in Plymouth, New Hampshire, at the beautiful rink on the edge of the Plymouth State University campus. The team went 1-1 on Saturday and qualified for the semifinals. Nathaniel was unable to play as he was on his back with a nasty sore throat and body aches. He rallied on Sunday, though. We drove up on icy roads in the early morning and the team played their best game in the tournament against a very skilled team, NH East, who Keene defeated 4-3. The afternoon game was against Manchester. They scored first. And they held a 1-0 through the third period. Then, Keene began to come alive. Crisper passes. Tightening up the defense. And then, a couple of odd man rushes before we knocked in a goal. Finally, with twenty-eight seconds left in the third and final period, Max pulled the puck across the slot and, with bodies flying, Dom jammed the puck in the back of the net for what would be the winning goal.
“Knocking” and “jamming” pucks was the story of the game. Sometimes hockey is fast, elegant, with beautiful passes and quick accurate shots. But this game was more of a grind. But a win is a win. What is nice is that the boys on this team may not play much together from here on out with Nan and Max and others now attending different high schools. But they will gather this spring after their high school seasons come to a close. For in winning the tournament, the team qualified for the Tier II U-18 National Championships that will take place in Wayne, New Jersey, in April.
Another description of the weekend tournament, Mighty Midgets, was published in Sports New Hampshire.