Less than 24 hours after a frustrating loss to Lebanon, when more of Keene’s shots hit the post than the back of the net, it looked like the story was going to be the same for the Keene boys hockey team against Monadnock on Thursday.
But a five-goal second period propelled the Blackbirds to their first victory, 7-4, over the Huskies at Keene Ice.
“I thought it was a good game,” said Keene head coach Chris McIntosh. “I thought it was good, competitive. We’re just happy and fortunate to be out here playing.”
Senior Zach Mooers led the Blackbirds with two goals, both of which came in the second period.
Sophomores Joel Beard, Luke Weber and Leo Ballaro each scored, as well as seniors Peter Haas and Ethan Russell.
Sophomore Orion Murphy got the start in net for Keene in the second game of the back-to-back and came up with 11 saves.
“It’s fun just to be out here, we’re lucky to play,” Murphy said. “I feel like I’m stepping into a bit of a bigger role this year and I’m excited. Confident for the season to go on.”
Junior Robbie Nowill recorded four assists for the Blackbirds.
On the other side, Monadnock’s top line continued to be effective, with Brayden Ring and Luke Gay each scoring twice.
“They’re as good as any line that I’ve seen in the state,” said Monadnock head coach Eric Sandstrum. “That’s where we’re going to produce a lot of our points. Where they go, we go.”
Cam Olivo got the start in net for the Huskies and looked sharp early, and finished with 39 saves, 19 in the first period.
“He’s a competitor,” Sandstrum said. “He’s never going to give up, he’s a battler.”
To the point where Olivo got praise from the opposing coach.
“We put a lot of pressure on their goalie and he played amazing,” McIntosh said. “Absolutely outstanding.”
Keene (1-1) was getting the looks in the first period, and putting up the shots, but it was Monadnock (1-3) that took the early 1-0 lead off of Ring’s stick.
Keene freshman Noah Parrelli had a beautiful look off the ensuing faceoff, but Olivo had an equally as beautiful, point-blank save to keep the Blackbirds off the board.
Shots were 10-2 in favor of the Blackbirds halfway through the opening frame, yet Monadnock had the lead.
That was until Weber finally found the back of the net to tie the game at one with 4:40 to go in the first.
But Gay answered quickly, giving the Huskies a 2-1 lead late in the first after the puck took a funky bounce past Murphy.
If you’re keeping track, Monadnock had two goals on three shots in the first. Keene shot 20 times in the first period and only had one goal to show for it.
“It looked like it was going to be another game like we had against Lebanon,” McIntosh said, referring to Wednesday’s 3-0 loss. “We really controlled the tempo [on Wednesday], we controlled the zone time, we controlled the play and didn’t have anything to show for it, which can be very discouraging.
“So to come out of the first period almost the same exact way, it was a little tough to start,” he added.
Monadnock kept the pressure in the second, coming out firing and creating scoring opportunities from the opening faceoff.
But Murphy fended off the Huskies, and Mooers took care of business on the other end, tying the game at two midway through the second period.
“[Mooers is] just an incredible athlete,” McIntosh said. “From the day he was here his freshman year, he’s just been a huge part of this team. He’s just so fun to watch, he’s incredibly talented.
“Happy he’s on our side,” McIntosh added with a laugh.
Ballaro gave Keene the lead just a minute and a half later.
Ring answered to tie the game back up, but then Russell scored shorthanded with three minutes to go in the second period to give Keene the lead again.
And that’s when the floodgates opened.
With less than a minute to go in the period, already up 4-3, Haas and Mooers both scored to give Keene a 6-3 lead heading into the final period.
In the third period, Beard scored for Keene, and Gay scored his second for Monadnock, this one short-handed, for the 7-4 final.
“My teammates set me up pretty well,” Beard said. “It was nice playing with guys who can move the puck like them.”
With back-to-back games to start the season, Keene has two more games over the next four days. Beard said some of the guys are feeling a little sore, but nothing a good night’s rest can’t fix.
And McIntosh won’t hear any of it, he said jokingly.
“They’re going to have bumps and bruises, they’re going to be sore, but this is what they wanted. They’ve been asking for a season, so can’t complain about it,” he said. “If I hear any complaining about it, that’ll have to stop because all I’ve heard is complaining about not playing.”
Up next for Keene is a rematch against Lebanon on Saturday at 7 p.m. at Keene Ice.
Monadnock next visits Lebanon next Wednesday, Feb. 10, at 8:10 p.m.