Game 1: St. Paul’s vs Taft
Concord, NH – On a chilly Sunday morning ahead of a pending snowstorm due to batter New England we made the trip north to see the Jamboree hosts of St. Paul’s School take on Taft in a 10 am tilt. This is the first game of the annual St. Paul’s Jamboree – a series of scrimmages – although the second game at 12:15pm will indeed count towards the NEPSIHA standings.
The first period was played at a frantic pace and St. Paul’s controlled much of the possession. It didn’t take long to break the seal as 1:30 in, junior forward Owen Sweet (Los Angeles, CA) scooped up the puck in front of the net and snapped it home to make it 1-0. Things remained that way until eight minutes in when sophomore defender Caid Cox (Livingston, MT) made a sharp pass up ice to a streaking sophomore Cooper Flinton (Auburn, NH) who fired the puck home top shelf to make it 2-0 St. Paul’s. Then with two minutes to go it was junior forward Malcolm Bussey (Hammonds Plains, NS) who put a shot on net which led to a netfront rebound – converted by the big man Flinton, his second of the early contest: 3-0 St. Paul’s after 1.
The second period was a complete flip from the first as Taft did a great job of separating St. Paul’s from pucks and creating transition opportunities as a result. The lone goal scored in the period came off a point shot through traffic from Taft senior defender Jack Adams (Herndon, VA). It should also be noted that the period might have been a landslide from Taft if it weren’t for the stellar netminding of St Paul’s senior goalie Charlie Murphy (North Andover, MA) making two breakaway saves across a 5-minute span. The score was 3-1 after two frames.
In the third period, Taft was starting to build some momentum with quality chances and drives to the net, but St. Paul’s put an end to that comeback with 6 minutes elapsed. Junior forward Joe Schubert (Okauchee Lake, WI) fed the puck to a waiting Cox on the half-wall during a power play and Cox buried it with a quick wrister to make it 4-1 – the final score for this tune-up game.
- D Caid Cox, St.Paul’s (G, 2A)
- F Cooper Flinton, St. Paul’s (2G)
- F Henry Molson, Taft
For a tune-up game to kickoff the season (essentially) – this was a display of skill, determination and in-game smarts. Normally it would take a couple of periods for things to really get humming but St. Paul’s came out really strong out of the gate – they were creative, fast and opportune. Taft refused to back down either, they were able to generate offense with a combination of open ice sprints and hard graft around the cage with their bigger forwards. Both teams were hitting their stretch passes and they were both able to control the tempo for long stretches. Impressive considering that it’s the first day of December.
For St. Paul’s, goaltender Charlie Murphy was great because he not only made all but one save but he made the timely saves. He stoned the opposition on multiple breakaways to shut down any additional momentum boosts which allowed his squad to climb back into the contest with their own momentum. It was impressive how active Caid Cox was through this game as a sophomore defenseman (and captain). He showed us a little bit of everything: he could collect the puck in his own zone, protect it well, transition it and shoot it offensively – really solid outing. Hard to miss Cooper Flinton on offense as well – the big body sophomore looked a little quicker with his feet and he was making excellent reads on the rush with numerous tape to tape passes that created quality scoring chances.
For Taft, they seemed to get better as the game went along and more players began to find their strides. The most consistent player all game was Brown commit Zack Tonelli (Armonk, NY). He is one of the smaller players on the roster, but he is a menace to defend because of his ability to change direction quickly and back off defenders with his straight-line acceleration and footspeed. We liked the game that Colby commit Henry Molson (Westmount, QC) showed here as well. He was strong on the puck all game long and used his veteran savvy to win 50/50 puck battles every time. He is heavy on his stick and he took advantage of younger players who are still developing those skills – nobody could really move him off his spots.
Game 2: Groton vs Tabor
Concord, NH – In the back half of our morning doubleheader we saw the Zebras from Groton take on the Seawolves of Tabor with puck drop coming 30 minutes past noontime. This game was a very different matchup in terms of team dynamics from the prior contest. Groton is a prep team with a lot of veteran savvy on its roster and historically has always succeeded with smaller, nimble forwards to put the puck in the net, backstopped with good goaltending. Tabor, on the other hand, is built with a number of new faces with nine freshmen and sophomores on the roster, many of whom were playing their first prep games today.
The first period was a bit of a feeling-out process and truthfully there was a lot of rust to knock off for both teams. There were a lot of missed passes, players bumping into each other and shots that missed the net. Ultimately, Tabor played the first by focusing on playing the body whereas Groton was looking to transition the puck quickly by getting the puck in the hands of their speedsters. Neither tactic yielded any goals.
In the second period, things started to heat up. Tabor remained physical but began to adjust nicely to the game flow and Groton opened up new skating lanes with nice passing plays to create quick-strike chances. The only tally of the period came off the stick of sophomore forward Shane Lachance (Andover, MA). A feed by fellow sophomore Coleman Jenkins (Mansfield, MA) sent him in and he deked a defender moving left to right, got the goalie to bite on a forehand fake before stashing it inside the right post on his backhand: 1-0 Seawolves. It was a great individual effort, for an underclassman in his first prep game…not too shabby. That was the score as we moved to the third.
In the final frame, both teams were trading equal chances and both goalies were up to the task. Sophomore netminder Mat Gover (Atkinson, NH) for Tabor kicked out every shot he had seen and Groton made a goalie change to start the period installing sophomore Tommy Giroux (Verdun, QC) in place of senior Kevin Clark (Manchester, MA). Giroux calmed things down with some nice positional saves in the third and that spurred on the Zebras. With just under 11 minutes gone in the 18-minute period a play that just snuck onside allowed senior forward Gabriel Lamothe (Quebec City, QC) to make a nice cross-ice pass to a streaking junior forward Will Molson (Westmount, QC) which beat Gover just past the toe of his right skate: tie game at 1-1 with seven to go. About five minutes later a penalty was assessed to Groton putting Tabor in the driver’s seat and they would cash in as UNH commit Morgan Winters (Osprey, FL) made a nice pass off the half wall to Nick Dallaire (Waltham, MA) who fired one from the point which was tipped home by an unlisted player on the team’s roster: forward Michael Leone (Andover, MA): 2-1 Tabor. They would later ice the game with an empty netter by Winters: final score, 3-1 Tabor.
- G Mat Gover, Tabor
- F Michael Leone, Tabor (GWG)
- F Luke Beckstein, Groton
You saw this game continue to develop the deeper and deeper you went and there are a few clear narratives at play. The first is that Groton still has good team speed up and down it’s lines and that will cause issues against teams who struggle to defend their shifty forwards. Tabor is young, but skilled and they will continue to improve as the season moves along. Their D core interesting given their size and poise but their forwards are big and they can book it given their size.
For Groton, sophomore Colin Rosato (Concord, NH) seemed to be one of their better skaters. He gains speed really well as he attacks the zone and he was able to get deep in the offensive zone before any defender could get a body on him. He could be more of a factor with more minutes this season. We also liked senior forward Luke Beckstein (Tyngsborough, MA), a multi-sport athlete committed to play baseball at Kansas State. He may be a bit undersized but he stands his ground well and maintains possession thanks to his lower body strength. He also showed some shifty moves through traffic to cause problems in coverage. It should also be noted that even though he only played one period, goaltender Tommy Giroux will be a big part of this team’s future moving forward. He was able to calm things down by making good positional saves in the third and his on-ice awareness of the puck gives him extra time to get into position to make key saves. Keep an eye on his progress as a 2003-born player.
For Tabor, there was a lot of raw skill on display, probably none more evident than Shane Lachance who debuted in prep today after moving over from Andover HS. There were times where he took over the game as an underclassman here: when his line was on the ice, good things happened. He is big and strong on the puck, although he does still have plenty of weight to add to that frame. He also was smart with how long he held the puck: he knew when to pass and when to shoot. Unsurprisingly Morgan Winters was the fastest player on the ice in this game. At one point he accelerated moving straight up the ice and multiple Zebras attempted to get a piece of him in the neutral zone, but it was too late, he was already gone. He will be able to sneak by defenses this year and should have plenty of chances to score goals. The young D core played well: particularly 2004-born freshman Tyler Messier (Montreal, QC) and 2003-born sophomore Robert Martiniello (Salem, NH). Messier is a big boy at 6’3 205 but he moved well in this game retrieving pucks while Martiniello was making great reads and firing sneak away passes up ice. Finally, Mat Gover looked the part in his prep school debut coming from the NH Avalanche program. He is a sound technical goalie with good feet and a calm demeanor in net. He is also a well-rounded athlete as one of the top HS golfers in the state of NH. He will be worth a watch, especially as he gets more playing time down the road.