Boys Varsity Ice Hockey
Game Summaries & Headlines.
I have been writing this piece for a few weeks now and it dawned on me recently that my once-rapid pace of putting words to this place had slowed to a mere trickle or re-reading of words already written. I quickly understood why. It’s because somewhere beyond reality I held hope of another game, another picture, another story, another chance to write about this group. Why must it end this way? Why must it end at all?
“Edge of glory, write your story
Seize the moment, no regrets
Our name in stone, forever more“
My mind is aswirl like a storm of thoughts, emotions, pictures, numbers, and memories. I wish my mind could just write itself. In every instance that we watch, we record, and that I write about, instances only came about because each member of the team was present and participating. Over a season, it all gets grouped together like one of my run-on sentences and maybe even forgotten, but it’s critical to recognize the value in the detail. In the moments that define a single play or a split-second decision, while everyone is watching, and every inch of ice is battled for, somehow our kids reach out and snag greatness from equal opportunity in competition. It’s quite amazing when you really think about it. Then add the history of playing together, and even against each other, all while taking classes together, among so many other roads that run closely together in our small community, and the story runs so much deeper than just another season after season on the ice.
I rather liked the introduction to last season’s summary because every season is like the latest concert in a much bigger production that runs year after year. This season was no less exciting and quite frankly, it was incredible. This year’s hope faded suddenly, as the desperation clearing attempts slid horrifically across the goal line, heads and hearts sank all at once. Goffstown’s season was over. And for this one of many senior dads, reality started to expose the fact that we’d rather not face, several hockey careers ended right there on the ice in front of a packed house.
Ever the realist as it relates to the world of youth sports and competition, I hadn’t pegged this group of freshmen to achieve the successes they have earned and enjoyed over the last four years. Think about this for a second. Griffin Cook, Alex McCarthy, Jake Noonan, Sebastian Beal, Stephen Provencher, Colin Burke, Brett Lassonde (in the order they show up on my very first GHS hockey spreadsheet) all showed up to the tryouts looking for a spot on a team led by a new head coach. Kyle LaSella and Devin Cote weren’t even hockey players, nor were they even considering playing varsity hockey at the time. Sophie Jones was a first-year, freshman manager. Then, all that they did, this group, they became locally legendary.
I know that nothing in team sports happens in a vacuum, so the achievements of some are most appropriately a reflection of the many. I don’t know many people who are more team-oriented than myself. I do know that whether kids are on the ice or not, it still takes all of them, every single one of them to make up the dynamic that becomes the show that we all can’t wait to see. So, even though some show up on the scoresheet and others do not, all have a hand in the results seen by everyone. Behind the scenes, distant from a winter Saturday night before a packed house under the bright lights, there are practices, friendships, rides given and received, team events, bonding, relationships off the ice and in the classroom year after year, pond hockey, team dinners, and so much more. All of it adds up to the team dynamic, and when it functions on all of its cylinders, it’s beautiful.
We met the group back in late November. A roster made up of four freshmen, seven sophomores, three juniors, and nine seniors. Who knew that this blend would be so amazing! Playing 11 of their 18 games on the road, they only had the best record in Goffstown hockey history with a 14-3-1 posting during the regular season. Unbelievable!
Yes, this group, they set a Goffstown hockey record, going 14-3-1 in the regular season. They were an astounding 8-2-1 on the road which also included playing 8 of those games against teams that made their respective playoffs (Windham was in the mix before they forfeited five games). I can honestly say that I couldn’t wait to get home from games and update the sheets that I track for this team. Names, stats, numbers, trends, records, memories, history, all recorded, our kids. Yes, those are our kids. For the kids.
For me, each season the production from this little Chromebook that was a gift from my wife, so I could really pursue writing, has been bigger, more involved, and hopefully better. I can truthfully tell you that each game consumes 10+ hours per write up for me. But, when you think about it, aren’t our kids worth it? I mean, how good is a story really, if nobody is there to tell it, capture it, or perpetuate it so that others may also share in the glow of our kids playing team sports and having the times of their lives. Our program has friends and family all over the country and many can’t get to the games, so we bring it to them the best way I know how. Goffstown TV is, and has been a huge help in this area too. They continue to be great friends of the hockey program. I try very hard to remember and to promote the simple fact that all of this; It’s all about the kids. This season was a special blend of personalities, skills, unconditional commitment to a greater cause, and humor, for sure.
I have written about being part of a team many times, over many years, and I would still find it difficult to say that there are many better ways to learn about life, to learn about the depths of yourself, than to play for something bigger than yourself, on a team, in pursuit of a common goal. Commitment is a good thing. And the memories of the experience, quite frankly, can be everlasting.
Holy Hat Trick! December may have been the first sign that something special was afoot. The Grizzlies netted five hat tricks in the opening month of the season. Griffin Cook had three of them, while Sebastian Beal and Grady Chretien each added one. Goffstown ran out to a 3-0-1 record before Christmas and then did something that nobody had ever seen before. They won all three games in the pool-play portion of the Brian C. Stone Memorial Christmas Tournament and advanced to the Championship Game. In one of the best games of the entire season, the Grizzlies battled the ever-present contenders, and eventual Division I State Champs, the Bedford Bulldogs, for three incredible periods before falling 4-3. Nobody could remember a year when Goffstown won more than one game in this tournament. I know the schedule they played, and nobody wins games on paper, it’s not accomplished until you show up and play the games, and Goffstown showed up. Goffstown would end the season with 9 hat tricks, a feat which is unbelievable! Cook had 4, Beal 2, Chretien 2, and Gamache 1.
Just to make sure that December wasn’t a fluke, the schedule makers made sure of it. Goffstown came out of the Christmas break with a road game at Keene, the defending State Champs, who hadn’t lost a game in ages. Furthermore, the Grizzlies hadn’t beaten Keene in almost 4 years which didn’t bode well for this matchup either. The Grizzlies used the experience from playing a battle-tested, high-speed, intense pressure team like Bedford and served up a 7-4 victory before the Keene faithful. The Grizzlies relentless offensive assault produced 5 third period goals. It was like watching sharks getting after blood in the water. Sebastian Beal had the first hat trick of January while he, Griffin Cook, and Colby Gamache each registered 4 points on the night in a game that put this squad on the map. The balance of January was tough. Goffstown got out of Rochester with a 5-4 win over a motivated good skating Somersworth-Coe-Brown team that ended up winning their last 4 regular season games and just missed the tournament. Then the Grizzlies got ‘out-physicaled’ in a 5-2 loss at Dover. Dover’s game was literally like Green Wave after Green Wave coming at the Grizzlies. Goffstown returned home to beat Alvirne-Milford. Next, the Grizzlies had all their home game winning streaks end in a 4-2 loss to Merrimack on a night that Griffin Cook and Sebastian Beal joined the 100 career point club. January came to an end with impressive gut-check type wins at Portsmouth-Newmarket, at home against Spaulding, and an overtime thriller at home against a very tough Kingswood team.
February got off to a bad start with maybe the worst game the Grizzlies played all year, in a 6-3 loss at Windham. Then Goffstown won the last 5 games of the month, allowing just 11 goals. The highlight of the month may well have been the showdown on Senior Night at John Stark-Hopkinton on February 19th. It was the best-played game of the entire season with neither team willing to give an inch while maintaining a tremendous level of play. Goffstown beat the defending D-III Champs 3-1, who also happened to be undefeated at the time. JSH would go on to win the D-III title again this year. At Winnacunnet the Grizzlies duo of Cook and Beal both managed to pass Noah Charron as the all-time leading scorers in Goffstown Hockey history. And everyone on the roster got some serious, well-deserved ice time. Then unlike last season, the Grizzlies finished strong. They beat the mighty Keene BlackBirds at home. Then they blew a two-goal lead before winning a heart-stopping overtime contest at home against the always tough Oyster River Bobcats. Goffstown finished the regular season by blowing open a 2-2 game at Alvirne-Milford, scoring six straight goals to win it 8-3.
The hockey program at Goffstown isn’t that old and never gets much respect among larger schools, or more historic hockey powers in the area. For some reason, I have worked many hours over the last four years to reconstruct the history of Goffstown’s hockey program, or at least tie it together, and I have come across all kinds of numbers, scores, and players from the past. One player that I remember watching play is Liam House-Meyers. When Noah Charron was approaching the 100-point mark last year, it was Liam that I asked people about because I thought he had to be one player that certainly could have approached, if not surpassed, the century mark. I have been told that Liam had more than 100 points in his career, and I am waiting to confirm any other numbers that I can gather. He was an outstanding player who was a joy to watch play. To that end, this season Griffin Cook had one of the best single seasons I have ever seen and ended his career with 122 points. He posted an incredible 57 points this season alone. Sebastian Beal followed up a 39-point campaign last season with 43 points this season to finish with 114 points in his career.
Then there’s Colby Gamache who really exploded on to the offensive scene this season, centering the ‘CBC 2.0’ line and all he did was multiply his 18-point output last year into a 49 point outburst this season. Grady Chretien skated circles around just about everyone on his way to 25 goals and 36 points. He also netted a pair of overtime game-winners that led to some of the most memorable celebrations in recent history. Colin Burke cranked out 12 goals and 27 points to follow up his 21 points last season. Brett Lassonde had another double-digit point season with 14, while Jacob Noonan had a career-high 12 points from the blue line.
With Gamache, Chretien, and Theo Milianes all returning, the team has some strong skills and leadership to draw on. Melanie Riendeau has another year left, and big Eric Purcell looks to improve be more of a factor in his final two seasons. Perhaps the near future will rely heavily on the likes of Luke Chase, Eric DesRuisseaux, Colby Wright, Luke Ouellette, Sean Hunter, Calvin Sage, and Isaac McGregor. There is promise in this group without question. James Amorelli and Madeline Sage return as a very capable tandem of goaltenders for the Grizzlies. The captain of all managers, Sophie Jones, who also joined this team four years ago as a freshman, leaves her commitment and duties in the capable hands of Megan Charron. Sophie is off to the nursing program at the University of New England, and something tells me that she will be exceptional. Even our managers continue to raise the bar for this program. Megan’s smile and can-do attitude will be welcomed again next year as she takes over the manager reigns. The Class of 2019 has raised the standard to a height that potentially puts Goffstown on the threshold of even greater possibility. We will see what these returning players have learned, and how they impose their collective will moving forward.
Four years ago when these freshmen tried out for the team, they had no idea how thin the line had been between having a varsity team or not having a varsity team at all. It’s a story I won’t get in to but a couple of things happened at the same time, thankfully. One, a new coach took over with a new staff. Two, a large group of freshmen started their careers at the same time. Three, the combination of coaches and players was a contagious breath of fresh air that invigorated the entire program, and they haven’t looked back since. I don’t think anyone knows how long Coach Ben Slocum will be at the helm for the Grizzlies but let me say, that in my mind, his career and this senior class will forever be intertwined. I think that was visibly apparent at the banquet, and rightfully so. Not only that, this senior group has re-written the record books for Goffstown hockey. Before I get to more numbers and records let me talk about Coach Slocum and the staff for a moment. They have been outstanding even though, believe it or not, they are just as human as the rest of us and everyone around the program is better for it. I cannot stress enough the commentary that I have heard over the last 4 years with regards to how much fun this group has been. This is a credit to the leadership behind the bench and in the room. I have heard coaches tell me and others that coming to the rink has been an absolute pleasure for a number of reasons. I completely agree.
It truly has been my complete joy to walk into Sullivan Arena these last four years. Honestly, it’s been one of my happy places. And no wonder why, the Grizzlies are 24-2 at home in the regular season over the last 3 seasons (30-6 over the last four years). Coach Slocum has started quite a legacy of his own as well. He is the first and only coach to win 10 or more regular season games 4 seasons in a row, and counting. He is poised to take over the lead in all-time career wins some time next season. Let’s remember that this is high school varsity hockey and not a, ‘everybody must play’ sport. There are coaches in New Hampshire that have been coaching high school hockey for more than 40 years, some at the same school. So, yes this about winning and losing, on and off the ice. Players come and go. Classes graduate and wide-eyed freshmen hold on for dear life, if not their lunch, as their high school varsity careers begin. Then before you know it, time is up, and each year, you really have no idea what you’re going to get. So, to maintain a high level of performance, to have kids line up to play (maybe for the first time), then just maybe the staff is doing a lot of things right.
I know this isn’t college hockey, but it is, in most cases, the highest level of hockey any one of these kids will ever play. I am reminded of a quote/story from a legendary college basketball coach, Tubby Smith. He’s talking about commitment, about kids transferring from one school or another…“We had over 800 Division I transfers last year. Over 800. C’mon? We’re teaching them how to quit. That’s what we’re doing. Things not going well, let’s quit.” He goes on to tell a story about his days attending college. Smith repeated a story he used previously about when he played at High Point College in 1969 and called his father to express a desire to transfer. Once Smith told his father he was being treated fairly, still on scholarship, and getting free education and housing, Guffrie Smith informed his son, “your bed’s been taken … but you can join the Army”…”The best thing he ever said to me,” Tubby Smith said…Smith then added, “Somebody needs to tell them that you made a commitment. Stick to it. But it doesn’t happen that way,” Smith said. “They got a lot of people in their ear. That’s the way life is. Those are the distractions, the noise.” I agree with Mr. Smith. Too much noise, not enough commitment. Why do so many people question the commitment they made in the first place? Were they not responsible enough to make the commitment the first time? And now, suddenly they are? Anyways. Coach Slocum talked about a game early in the season when Goffstown trailed by a pair of goals in the 3rd period, only to storm back, tie it, and win in overtime. That wasn’t only the opposite of quitting, it was sticking together, and overcoming adversity.
Here’s a look at some measurements that were gathered this season. Honestly, these are numbers from the sheets, but only a part of a much bigger picture.
And just to break it down by class, this Grizzlies senior class has raised the bar like no class before them, but there is quite a bit of skill coming back next season too.
Folks, if you haven’t figured this out already, I get caught up in the numbers and I love that sports are measured. Because measurement is really about charting progress, gauging improvement, or even creating a timeline of success in any given area. But I cannot stress enough how special this season was. Not solely because of numbers or wins and losses, but rather the kids. The people. The group. I heard myself say several times this season, “These kids are really good. We have really good players”. To hear coaches talk, throughout the entire season, again, about how much fun they had coming to the rink every day to be around this group of kids is maybe the best indicator of them all. I can speak for my wife and me when I say that we had an absolute blast this season spending time and interacting with the coaches, players, and the parents of the players (new and old). It’s been that way every year. I cannot begin to capture the positive comments made to me personally about this team. There certainly seemed to be a laid-back sense to this group, but not when it came to competing on the ice. These young men and women were a tenacious group, they were fearless, they were better together than individually, and a pure joy to watch. Each and every member of this team should be proud of themselves and their team. They should confidently hold their heads high and take tremendous pride in the honor of wearing Goffstown across their jerseys.
Do you know what I heard this year in regards to our goaltending? Accolades. Respect. Shock. Amazement. Admiration. Who is that kid? Are they really that good? Yes, that’s right, they are that good. Remember at the top, when these 7 freshmen tried out? Well, they had Colin Holt in goal their freshmen year. Colin ended up being a 1st Team All-State selection that season. Ethan Smith a baseball catcher and infielder joined the team just so the Grizzlies had a backup goaltender, and he ended up making all 4 saves on the 4 shots he faced over the season. Well, Holt graduated, Smith went back to baseball full-time, and the team had no goaltenders at all. Enter the camaraderie and easy-going, we can do anything mindset of the Class of 2019. The six returning freshmen talked their buddies, Kyle LaSella and Curtis McKay into, not only trying out for hockey, but why not come out and play the toughest position in hockey, be our goaltender. It’ll be fun they said. I remember the coaches and boosters trying to nail down goalie gear and last minute goalie training for these two newcomers. Several people played key roles in getting these two newcomers outfitted and ready, especially John Nanof. The story is rather remarkable. LaSella and McKay played every minute of goalie that season on a team that went 12-6 and earned a #4 seed in the tournament. McKay was 8-5, allowing 41 goals in 13 appearances. He saved 238 of 279 shots he faced. LaSella was 5-4 with a shutout. He allowed 31 goals in 11 appearances, saving 141 of 172 shots he faced. How do you go 12-6 in varsity hockey with two kids who never even played hockey before? What a credit to the entire group. Unreal. McKay played the one year. Kyle LaSella had health issues that he largely played through last season, and Madeline Sage was nothing short of brilliant in her chance to guard the Grizzlies Den.
Fast forward to this season. LaSella was healthy, in his third ever year of hockey, let alone goaltending, and Maddie Sage was back for her sophomore campaign. Freshman, James Amorelli joined the goaltending corps. LaSella was incredible. He turned heads. He had people asking who is this kid, ‘we don’t recognize his name, and we know all the goaltenders’. Kyle was 10-4-1 this season which included a remarkable 7-1-1 record against this year’s tournament teams. It’s unheard of. Seriously, the establishment of those who stack up the hundreds and thousands of hours in specialized goalie training were scratching their heads, if not completely speechless. All stemming from this Class of 2019 talking their friend into playing hockey, not on the back pond, but at Sullivan Arena and the like, on the varsity hockey team. Are you kidding me? What a story! Then just to make sure that the rest of the NH hockey world is aware of what this program can do when they play for the bigger picture, check this out. Maddie Sage might not be the biggest goaltender, she might actually be the smallest but don’t tell her that. She was brilliant again, going 4-1 in a difficult, less depended on, role. She appeared in 6 games, made saves at an 89% clip and posted a pair of shutouts. Ya, not too shabby! James Amorelli played in 4 games, going 3-0 with a shutout, and had a save percentage of 91.04%. That, my friends, is how you take a team to a 17-5-1 record overall, the best in program history. It’s a credit to the kids and the coaches. Unbelievable. I am glad to have witnessed it because most folks wouldn’t even believe this kind of success.
The Grizzlies earned a #3 seed in the tournament. They were one of the best teams in all of Division II hockey. Several players had outstanding seasons and I wish all of them could have received post-season honors but it doesn’t work that way. Even so, Griffin Cook who was in the ‘Player of the Year’ conversation earned a 1st-Team All-State spot. Colin Burke, who played more minutes on the ice than just about anyone in Division II also was named to 1st-Team All-State. Both Colin and Griffin have been selected to play in the Make-A-Wish Game in Vermont on June 29th. Sebastian Beal won the Jen Cheney Sportsmanship Award and maybe set a record for the most on-ice, off-ice, and postgame visits with opposing players. Grady Chretien and Brett Lassonde were recognized by the NHIAA, each earning an NHIAA Sportsmanship Award, they had 5 penalty minutes between them for the entire season. Colin Burke earned the Defensive Standout Award. Kyle LaSella, whose story continues to make me shake my head in awe, won one Most Improved Player Award. Stephen Provencher won the other Most Improved Player Award, a Grizzlie senior who started his hockey career as a freshman in high school going to pre-season practices with Beal for a team that Stephen wasn’t even on. Griffin Cook won the MVP Award, and in my mind, he should have been the Division II Player of the Year. Griffin scored a whopping 96 points in his final two seasons for the Grizzlies. Incredible.
One definition of the word, “finality”, reads like this: the fact or impression of being an irreversible ending. And that fact, that feeling, that reality, has always been one I struggle with. Especially as it relates to team sports, and special teams like this year’s Goffstown Grizzlies hockey team.
Like I said before, this year was like watching the stuff that gets written in history books, every single night! Records were set, the standard has been raised, and it has been set pretty high. Another stat for you all, this year’s seniors, the class of 2019 will graduate from Goffstown High School, and the hockey program, having won more league games than any class in the history of our program.
This group won an astounding 51 games, at a 66.23% clip, both records. They earned a #7 seed, a pair of #4 seeds, and only the second #3 tournament seed in program history.
For the second year in a row, this group also did something a little different this season as they went about their commitment to community service and volunteering. Over the last several seasons the Friends of Goffstown Hockey has asked each senior class to participate in a “charity of choice” event, as a legacy project. The concept was designed, in part, as a vehicle by which the team could give back to our community. A community that has been so supportive of the Goffstown Ice Hockey Program.
One definition of a Legacy Project reads simply like this. The concept of legacy is a powerful life tool for all ages and a catalyst for social change. Legacy is about life and living. It’s about learning from the past, living in the present, and building for the future. And in my words, living is very much about presence and participation.
So, this season, instead of raising money through an event largely run by parents, the Seniors decided to take a more ‘hands-on’ approach and put themselves to work at the NH Food Bank. They also threw a food drive together during their final regular season home game.
Immense thanks to Karen Charron, Maureen Sage, and Madeline Sage for creating the slideshow again this season. Even more thanks for sharing it with me and trusting me with their efforts. Thank you, Noah Charron, for the audio-visual technical help on banquet night.
Then, no matter how I slice it, it was over. I still want to walk into Sullivan Arena and just be surrounded by the event that Goffstown Hockey has become. I want to see the familiar faces of the families we all come to know through this amazing sport. I want to see the numbers on the home whites skating the pre-game warm-up before they gather at the net like they’re circling the wagons to proclaim it’s us against the world, and they are betting on themselves. I just want to hear the starting line ups one more time and hear the National Anthem sung. Then, to see the Grizzlies, all of them, skating, passing, succeeding, and having the time of their lives, well that just would top it all off.
No matter how long I wait, the time has passed. The memories are ours to carry, and they will live on, especially if I have anything to say about it. I love that for as many years as I can remember Goffstown Hockey isn’t if ever, mentioned in pre-season rankings. Yet, they have qualified for the post-season 12 straight seasons. I love that our kids battle, play hard, and succeed way more than they fail, regardless of who thought they could or couldn’t. I love that they are good kids. So many, many people noticed this season’s camaraderie and teamwork amongst the group. I will share that I personally heard from so many people just how refreshing it was for them to see how inclusive and receptive this senior class and upperclassmen were. Many of them didn’t seem to notice age or class, but instead, they saw another person, a teammate, an equal. It was contagious, the team thrived and the seats were again full over at Sullivan Arena, which everyone but our opponents loved. I hope that continues into next season and for many seasons to come. Folks, Goffstown has a really good hockey program, starting from the coaching staff right through to the manager. I don’t care what anyone outside our community says. This program is solid. The game presentation is second to none, in any division. Perhaps one day soon, the Grizzlies will lift a hockey championship Trophy over their heads, and skate a victory lap around the ice sheet, but even if they don’t, they are winning more battles on and off the ice than they are losing, by a long shot. And that is how this group, these Goffstown Grizzlies, went on to be legendary.
“Take the power, scold the doubters
They don’t know how we roll
Keep an eye out, watch your back now
We’re coming for the crown”
~ Be Legendary
Song: Be Legendary
Artist: Pop Evil
Album: Pop Evil
Songwriter(s): Leigh Kakaty, Kato Khandwala, Dave Bassett.
Label: eOne Music