What might have been expected to be an easy win for top-seeded Keene High turned into near mayhem Saturday night at Keene Ice, with the Blackbirds barely surviving against Lebanon-Stevens-Mount Royal.
It wasn’t until co-captain Ben Brown tipped in the winner 80 seconds into overtime that Keene could relax.
Keene came in with a 12-3-2 record, though one of those losses was a regular-season-ending 5-0 shutout at the hands of Lebanon (7-9-1), which needed that win to even make the NHIAA Division II boys hockey tournament.
The Raiders used that win as a springboard, winning 3-2 over Portsmouth-Newmarket to earn a rematch with the Blackbirds.
Brown’s game-winner was his second goal of the game.
“Cam (Round) kept that puck in and made a great play, put a nice low hard shot on net, he’s a wonderful defender,” said Brown. “He really can make great plays like that. He really made that play, I just stuck my stick out.”
Thus ended a game that was close and physical throughout. The intensity was clear from the moment the puck dropped to open the first period. With a crowd split evenly between Keene and Lebanon fans, the energy was ringing throughout the building. Playoff hockey has arrived and anything could happen.
“Hats off to Lebanon, you wouldn’t have known coming in here that it was a No. 1 vs. No. 8 game,” Keene head coach Chris McIntosh said. “Their goalie made some of the best saves that I’ve ever seen and ultimately it was one of the best high school hockey games I’ve been a part of.”
Jerred Tattersall, one of Keene’s leaders all season long, opened up the scoring with four minutes to go in the first period. It was the first of two goals for the senior. Lebanon was able to tie it up with 21.2 seconds to go in the period.
Both teams played physically all night. Throughout the game, there were multiple scuffles between Keene and the Raiders, though no actual fights.
With the game knotted at 1-1, the momentum began to shift in Keene’s favor in the second period. Lebanon’s Andrew Duany drew a major penalty for charging, which gave the Blackbirds a man advantage for the ensuing five minutes. The power play presented Keene with the opportunity to establish a lead, which it did.
Tattersall and Brown put the puck in the back of the net as the Blackbirds jumped ahead 3-1.
“You have to capitalize when you can, that’s what makes successful people successful, they take advantage of opportunities and they excel in the moments that are most important,” McIntosh said.
But again Lebanon rallied with a goal in the period’s final minute.
Of the chippiness, Brown said, “That was really just part of the game, something we probably didn’t want to get into. We probably shouldn’t have. It cost us a few times. They scored a few power play goals, which hurt us. Moving on we’re going to have to limit that.”
Lebanon tied the game early in the third, and scored its third straight with 5:51 left to take a 4-3 lead.
But the Blackbirds responded immediately, tying it in just over a minute, sending the contest to overtime.
With the win, Keene advances to the semifinals to face No. 5 Oyster River (12-5-1) at Douglas N. Everett Arena in Concord Wednesday night at 5:30 p.m.