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Undefeated No. 1 Dover continues to meet all challenges. The Green Wave turned back Goffstown, 5-2, on Wednesday and shut down Spaulding Saturday, 4-0. They have an impressive +28 differential and host No.8 Somersworth/Coe-Brown in their only game this week on Wednesday.

No. 2 St. Thomas Aquinas stretched its winning streak to five games with Wednesday’s decision of Somersworth/Coe Brown in its only action this week. The Saints have road tests against ranked opponents D1 No. 6 Windham on Wednesday and No. 7 Lebanon-Stevens/Mount Royal on Saturday.

No. 3 Keene supported goalie Jacob Russell’s first career shutout with a 36-shot attack in Saturday’s 4-0 decision of No. 9 Merrimack, the Blackbirds lone game of the week. Keene hosts D1 No. 10 Bishop Brady Wednesday and visits Oyster River Sunday.

No. 4 Portsmouth/Newmarket squeezed past Winnacunnet Saturday to win its only game of the week. The Clipper Mules visit Oyster River and Merrimack on Wednesday and Saturday of this week.

No. 5 Goffstown rebounded from that mid-week loss to Dover to pin a 6-1 loss on No. 6 Alvirne/Milford on Saturday. The Grizzlies square off with Merrimack on Wednesday in their lone game of the week.

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The holiday tournament format resembled a preseason hockey jamboree, with teams playing two games a day, running time, a single intermission and 9 a.m. faceoffs.

But make no mistake, the Keene High hockey team was all business when the puck dropped this week at Keene ICE. After all, they did keep score. And when the Blackbirds finished counting their goals Friday afternoon, they added up to a 7-1 rout over Merrimack High in the championship game of the impromptu Keene High School Boys’ Ice Hockey Christmas Tournament.

The Birds allowed themselves a mild celebration in gathering around goalie Taylor Panek, and later posed for a team picture in front of their bench. Plenty more challenges lie ahead — the bulk of the regular season is in front of them and an opportunity to defend their Division II state title beyond that. Yet as January approaches, the Birds are pleased with how they’re playing.

“It was a good week for us. We played everybody consistently, skated well and executed well,” Keene Coach Chris McIntosh said.

Had a tournament MVP been awarded, it wouldn’t have been a difficult choice. Jerred Tattersall scored four goals and added two assists in Friday’s championship game. He scored twice in Keene’s 6-1 win over Nashua South in round-robin play Friday morning, and potted three in two round-robin games Wednesday, giving him nine goals for the tournament.

The Tomahawks had no answer for Keene’s top line of Tattersall, Joe Walsh and Brian Langevin. They accounted for all seven goals in Friday’s title game — Tattersall did the scoring, Walsh did the dishing (five assists with one goal) and Langevin was the jack-of-all-trades with two goals and three assists. Call them the wash, rinse and dry line.

It wasn’t as easy as it looked, Tattersall insisted, especially with the unique tournament format. “It’s definitely stressful getting prepped, getting in the zone with two games a day. It takes a lot,” he said.

Merrimack got the Birds’ attention Wednesday by playing them to a 2-2 tie in the 9 a.m. tournament opener. McIntosh said the early hour combined with not being on the ice for a few days over the Christmas break left them dragging. “Certainly, it was something they had to adapt to,” he said.

It appeared the championship game would be similar, with the Tomahawks skating stride for stride with the Birds through the first 15 minutes. Shots on goal were 5-5 and Merrimack’s Zach Stimeling scored the first goal 12 1/2 minutes into the game. “We went into this game knowing these guys could play,” Tattersall said.

Yet it was all Birds thereafter, as they consistently drove to the net, snapped off quick passes and eagerly devoured rebounds. “We played hard, we played smart and I thought we played very well,” Tattersall said. He netted the equalizer two minutes after Merrimack’s goal, and Keene took a 3-1 lead into halftime. Tattersall scored less than a minute into the second half and the rout was on.

That’s right, second half, halftime, a single sweep of the Zamboni — not the usual hockey vernacular. The tournament consisted of two 30-minutes halves of running time, a necessity due to the logistics of putting it together at the last minute. Keene was originally scheduled to play in an eight-team Christmas tournament at Conway Arena in Nashua, but it was canceled about a month ago.

Still wanting to skate, the Birds and their booster club managed to squeeze in time at Keene ICE. The available slots for ice time, however, didn’t allow for full games with three 15-minute periods. For instance, on Friday, two morning games were played, followed by a public skate that attracted several hundred people, then the nets were slid back out for the 2:30 p.m. championship.

Merrimack and the two Nashua teams (North and South) happily came over, grateful for a place to play, and the tournament format was devised to fit into the available ice time. McIntosh said they had enough requests to fill out an eight-team field, and next year may do just that.

“Our booster club has already put in a full season of work putting this together. They’re exhausted,” McIntosh said with a smile.

The team, of course, played two hours of hockey Wednesday and Friday, but you left with the feeling they would have been more than happy to play some more.

“Our goal was just to get the kids out there playing hockey and we accomplished that,” McIntosh said. “I thought it went really well.”

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Rarely does a student decide to transfer from a prep school back to his hometown high school campus.

But the stars aligned just right for the Keene High boys’ hockey team and junior Jerred Tattersall, who transferred from Northfield Mount Hermon this year.

Keene offered the comforts of home, old friends on the hockey team’s roster and the chance to play for a defending state champion.

The kicker is that the return had a storybook start, as the junior transfer scored a short-handed overtime goal Wednesday to hand the Blackbirds a thrilling 4-3 win over St. Thomas Aquinas at Keene ICE, a still-new ice palace where celebratory moments have become cool and common.

To boot, the contest was a rematch of last year’s Division II title game, won by Keene to complete an unbeaten season.

So buckle up, folks. It would seem the fun, again, is just beginning.

Tattersall’s game-ending heroics were but a part of his contribution on opening night. He also assisted on the team’s other three goals.

“It feels awesome,” Tattersall said. “It’s quite an accomplishment, to be honest. Couldn’t be more happy with our team and how we played today.”

Tattersall immediately gelled with old friend and new line-mate Brian Langevin, who scored twice and assisted on the other two scores.

Skating down the right side on the penalty kill with less than three minutes left in the extra period, Langevin, a junior co-captain, found Tattersall on the cross, and Tattersall found the back of the net.

It was far from the only time the two connected, as Tattersall found Langevin for both of his two scores in the second period, and the pair each got an assist on a goal by junior co-captain Ben Brown in the third.

“I’ve known Brian for a long time,” Tattersall said. “I started skating with him when I was younger. I know how to play with him. We’ve got stick-and-puck going on here at the rink, so most of the time I’ll play with him there. We just know how to play with each other.”

It was far from a perfect effort for the defending champs, who blew a 3-1 lead in the final five minutes of regulation. The Birds came through when it mattered, and that was a good sign for a team without some key players from a season ago, including goalie Myles Ditkoff and winger Timmy Greenwood, both all-staters.

“It feels good. It kind of sets the tone for the season,” Langevin said. “It kind of shows what we are around the league, shows other teams what we’re going to be like this year.”

After a scoreless first period, the Birds were the first on the board when Tattersall found the puck at mid-ice during a penalty kill and saw Langevin make a bee-line for the net. Tattersall shoveled a pass over a defender’s stick, and Langevin tracked it down and broke in alone. With an easy-looking wrist shot, he put Keene up 1-0 less than five minutes into the period.

“That’s something we’ve kind of talked about and worked on a little bit,” Langevin said. “Jerred, he’s just got a lot of intellect when he’s out there, he knows what he’s doing, he’s played some of the top-level hockey around here. That’s just something we’ve talked about, and it’s good to execute during a game.”

St. Thomas responded with a goal by senior co-captain Patrick Vetter three minutes later to tie the game, but Langevin launched another wrister past the goalie from just beyond the face-off circle with 3:21 left in the second period. Tattersall and sophomore Peter Haas assisted.

Brown’s goal — a power-play score with 5:51 remaining in the third — should have been the dagger, but the defending runners-up didn’t lay down.

Once again, the Saints responded quickly, with a goal by senior Michael Somerset just one minute after Brown’s score, to cut the lead to one.

The Birds tried to fend off the visitors’ desperate final assault, but struggled to keep the puck out of their own end. Finally, with 1:29 left, after Keene sophomore goalie Jacob Russell appeared to stop a shot, but failed to hold onto the puck, Saints senior Mathis Savard poked it through for the equalizer.

“Those are two tough goals,” Keene Coach Chris McIntosh said. “It wasn’t like they were the most prettiest goals in the world. They were in front of the net and they kept whacking at the puck, whacking at the puck in the crease there, and they ultimately went in.

“So, I feel good about it, I couldn’t look at one major breakdown that we had tonight, and that’s impressive to me, because we’re putting a lot of guys on the back end that haven’t been there before.”

What happened next will be the water-cooler conversation starter at the school today.

A holding penalty put Keene a man down at a bad time, but Tattersall and Langevin worked their magic one more time and sent the home crowd into a frenzy.

That’s not a new thing in this venue.

It should be noted, too, that the Birds’ winning start came without last year’s title-game hero, junior Joe Walsh, who is nursing a foot injury.

Walsh, the Keene coach said, is Tattersall’s best friend.

When they are reunited, he said, “That will be something very dangerous, that’s for sure, and even more exciting to watch.

The Birds play at Spaulding Saturday at 8 p.m.

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Defending champion Keene and St. Thomas Aquinas have emerged as the early favorites in the New Hampshire Division 2 race.

KEENE (17-1-1)

Fresh off the program’s first D2 State title, the Blackbirds return abundant firepower for a title defense. The challenge for coach Chris McIntosh and his staff will be to re-tool the defense and identify the successor to graduated goalie Myles Ditkoff, an All-State selection as a junior and senior.

The talented forward group features juniors Brian Langevin (14-23-37), Joe Walsh (14-19-33) and Ben Brown (19-8-27) and senior Dimitri Seger (11-8-19). Walsh will miss the start of the season due to injury but is expected to return in short order. Add talented junior Northfield Mt. Hermon transfer Jerred Tattersall, to the mix up front. Sophomore Peter Haas anchors the defense after taking a regular shift as a freshman. It is anticipated that freshman Robbie Nowill will log ample time on the back line. Sophomores Jacob Russell and Taylor Panik move up from the JVs to compete for the goaltending job.

“Once again we look to put a competitive team on the ice that will be in every game we play. Our goal is always to play for that chance at a championship. We know that won’t be easy – each night will be a tough task and we confidently look forward to the challenge,” McIntosh says.

ST. THOMAS AQUINAS (19-5-0)

The Saints came oh so close to claiming the program’s first State title last March, falling to Keene in OT, 3-2, in the title game. This year’s team blends key returnees from that club and newcomers looking to make an immediate impact.

Coach Wayne Sheehan likes the way STA’s defense sets up. Senior Chris Eno returns in goal and will be supported by an experienced crew of defensemen that includes senior Keegan Youngclaus and juniors Brendan Tersolo and Will MacLean. New junior goalie Hannes Demegard provides back up.

Six experienced senior forwards return – Paddy Vetter, Mike Somerset, Zach Talbot, Alex Anderson, Geoff Smith and Matt Barnes. New junior Mathis Savard and Chase Gagnon look to take on regular roles.

“I expect experience in net and on defense to carry the team early while young forwards grow into top nine roles. [I] hope for balanced scoring among top three lines,” says Sheehan.

LEBANON/STEVENS (11-8-1)

Following a successful year that saw them reach the quarterfinals, the Raiders will be very young this season as several players opted for prep school and the Junior ranks.

“Coming together early as a team will be very important. It will be important to give the new players an opportunity to acclimate to this level of hockey,” says coach Jim Damren. “They will be asked to step in and take on more responsibility that we normally anticipate.”

Junior Jon Cloud and sophomores Aidan Yates and Andrew Duany return as the top forwards. Senior Joey Dupree and sophomore Trey Chickering are the top defensemen. Expect junior defensemen Tristan Ouellette, freshman defensemen Luke Greene and Nathan Stark, freshman forward Liam Ouellette and freshman goalie Sebastian Yates to push for playing time.

KINGSWOOD (10-8-1)

The Knights caught some opponents by surprise last year. That’s not likely to be the case this season following their quarterfinal upset of Windham in the tournament. Coach Mike Potenza expects his club to be in the top half of the division while bidding for a return to post-season. The trio of senior Sam Danais (18-18-36), sophomore Nick Potenza (17-10-27) and junior Colby Clegg (8-9-17) forms a formidable first line with Danais in the middle. Freshman wing Cody Emerson projects at an immediate impact player.

Seniors Cole Emerson (6-6-12) and Erick Skelley are an experienced pair on the back line. Expect senior Joe Vetanze to be solid in the cage.

WINNACUNNET (4-12-0)

Perhaps this is the year the Warriors make an impact.  At least that’s the hope of coach Jude Logue, who says: “Most of the juniors and seniors on this year.s team have seen a ton of playing time since they were freshman. The returning core group is very experienced and are hoping to make a run at a State Tourney bid this year.”

Top forward junior Braden Logue is a physical presence with soft hands at 6-0, 197 pounds. Senior forward Danny Giocoloni is the team’s captain. Freshman Cooper Kinnaly will likely split time between forward and defense as needed.

At 6-2, 200 pounds, sophomore goalie Jack Ellis returns for his second year as the starter. He doesn’t provide opponents with many good looks. Senior Cole Woodman and junior Tanner Holt return to lead the defense.

SOMERSWORTH/COE BROWN (9-11-0)

The Bearcats return to D2 this season and coach Shane Maurice couldn’t be more enthused. “We’re excited to be back and renew some of our local rivalries. We will rely heavily on our junior class who all saw ample time as sophomores. If they progress to potential and our young talent fills in, we will be in good shape,” he says.

The forward group features senior Matt Kelley and juniors Cam Frank, Daniel Sturm and Gage Gagne. Freshmen Jake Pelletier and Aaron Bono should add to the mix. Junior goalie Kevin Baker returns as to junior defensemen Colby Walsh and Cole Perra. Freshman Will Sawyer should add to the depth on defense.

TIMBERLANE (3-13-0)

Anchored by the goalie tandem of juniors of Tim Bedard and Joshua Petrin, the Owls could push for a post-season berth this winter. Coach Steve Costa is hopeful returning core players are poised to take the next step in their development.

A large group of seasoned forwards is back, powered by seniors Bill Downes, Jared Knight and Glenn Sansoucie. Juniors Jake Murphy and Colin Scully and sophomores Cam Rouleau and Matt Licata provide quality depth.

Senior Chris Longchamp and sophomore James Clarke return as the top defenders in front of Bedard and Petrin. Junior Aiden Kiley should see regular action.

ALVIRNE/MILFORD (5-14-0)

Coach Matt Sampson is optimistic this first-year co-op will make a strong impression.  “The kids have put a ton of off-season conditioning and strength training in. We’re adding some solid year-round players to the program and will be a very physical team,” he says.

The forward group will feature Alvirne seniors Jake Natola (22 points), Levi Griffin (19 points) and Damien Barahona (16 points). Key contributions are expected from the Milford duo of Isaac Rogers and Anthony Viola.

Alvirne senior Jackie Dowd returns in goal and will team with Milford’s Zach Partridge. Bobby Pace and Dylan Jillson look to be the top defensemen.

OYSTER RIVER (12-9-0)

The Bobcats hope to offset the graduation of a first line that produced 31 goals a season ago with a more balanced approach this winter.

Look for big things from senior forward and captain Max Carpenter (14-14-28).  Junior Eric Donovan (4-7-11) shifts up from defense to add depth to the group that also includes senior Shane O’Connell (5-10-15) and juniors Liam Spurling (5-9-14) and Lucas Hamilton. New sophomores Aidan Janetos and Alden Swiesz could emerge.

Senior captain Wyatt Carlson and junior Declan Daubney lead the defense. New sophomore Corum Nichols could play a role while senior Nick Milano and junior Colin Clark return with experience in goal.

PORTSMOUTH/NEWMARKET (9-11-0)

The ClipperMules lost seven games by a single goal. Coach Bill Widi is hopeful that experience contributed to enhanced mental toughness “that will make us a tough game every night.” One thing seems clear – this year’s squad is significantly deeper than a year ago.

Defense projects to be a strong suit, anchored by four-year senior standout Freddie Holmes (5-12-17). Freshman Mike Durkin figures to step into the top four. Solid senior keeper Brad Weit returns and will be backed by freshman Jack Bussiere.

The trio of Jack Suhesky, Andrew Madden and David Blodgett – all juniors – will be counted on to lead the offense. Freshman Luke Suhesky could be an immediate contributor.

SPAULDING (4-17-0)

The Red Raiders return a fair number of veterans looking to bounce back from a rugged season. Coach Jamie Ferullo says that turnaround starts with mental toughness.

“We’re going to win or lose games with work ethic and determination. Mental toughness and a willingness to play in all three zones will be vital to team success,” Ferullo stressed.

The back end looks solid with senior captains Tanner McDougal (3-7-10) and Kaleb Ducharme the top returnees on the blue line. They will be joined by returning junior Nick Stone while freshman Nick Gagnon could make an impact.  Senior Brendan Stanley and junior Matt Lacey could share time in goal.

Senior captain Ryan Ellis (9-18-27) returns as one of the division’s more creative forwards. Sophomore Hunter Camire (8-3-11), senior Zach Shaw (3-3-6) and junior Adam Enscoe (4-2-6) join Ellis up front. Depth will come from a group moving up from the JVs – juniors Levi Karolian and Ryan Hatfield and sophomores Riley Ducharme and Brady Blaisdell.

DOVER (13-7-0)

The Green Wave will roll out a senior-laden team that combines depth and firepower at forward with a veteran defense backed by a duo of solid goaltenders. It’s a mix that works for coach Mike Young, who said the team’s commitment to its off-season regimen should pay dividends.

Senior co-captain Jameson Goodridge (11-27-38), senior forward Aiden McDonough (12-13-25) and junior forward Wyatt Allaire (15-13-28) will drive the attack. Experienced seniors Nick Marchuk and Trevor Gnall also return. The wildcard could be senior Luke Westcott, who returns to the program after a year of Junior hockey.

A deep corps of defensemen includes senior co-captain Josh Ball as well seniors Jake Leclerc, Axel Post and Garrett Barton. Junior Austin Gilbert and sophomore Devon Lapierre will man the goal.

MERRIMACK (7-11-1)

The Tomahawks could be poised for a big move this season under coach Dan Beliveau. Though young – there is just one senior – this team earned valuable experience under fire a year ago.

Talented sophomore Ben Hardy takes over full-time in goal after seeing action in a reserve role last year. Junior defenseman Matt Warrington (8-10-18) is a mobile puck mover and is one of the club’s top returning scorers. He will be joined on the back line by three sophomores and a freshman.

Scoring will come from junior forwards Zach Stimeling (15-11-26) and Andrew Frothingham (8-8-16) and sophomore Dominic Carozza (6-10-16).

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Hard to tell how wide the gap is between No. 1 St. Thomas Aquinas (19-5-0) and the rest of D2 is in reality. But comments from coaches throughout the division suggest it is more of a chasm.

The Saints are especially strong in the back end, anchored by senior goalie Chris Eno and a veteran corps of defensemen. A half dozen forwards return and will be supplemented by a number of talented players new to the program.

No. 2 Keene (17-1-1) returns abundant firepower from the program’s first-ever State Champion. If the Blackbirds are able to keep pace early until a rebuilt and inexperienced defense finds its bearings, the opportunity to defend their crown will be within reach.

Seniors dominate the roster for No. 3 Dover (13-7-0), which should have one of the division’s top offenses led by senior Jameson Goodridge (11-27-38). A deep defense will protect two goalies largely untested at the varsity level.

No. 4 Kingswood (10-8-1) emerged in the second half of last season and sent Windham off to D1 with an upset quarterfinal win. The Knights boast some serious firepower in senior Sam Danais and sophomore Nick Potenza, who combined for 35 goals and 63 points last year.

No. 5 Oyster River (12-9-0) will rely on a balanced offense that features senior captain Max Carpenter (14-14-28). The Bobcats’ defense and goaltending seem sound.

No. 9 Somersworth/Coe-Brown (9-11-0) bumps back up to D2 this year. Matt Sampson is coach of the fledgling Alvirne/Milford Admirals co-op arrangement.