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March 15, 2014

Londonderry hockey eyes first ever state title

One team will play for its first state hockey title in school history. The other will skate onto the ice looking to break a 33-year hockey title draught.

One of those waits will come to an end this afternoon, as No. 3-seeded Londonderry will take on No. 4 Manchester Central in the New Hampshire Division 1 state title hockey game at 4:30 p.m. at the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester.

For the Lancers, a victory would mean the first title for the program since it began play in 2000-01. It would also mark the fifth championship for a hockey team (Mass. and N.H.) in Eagle-Tribune area history, following Division 1 titles for Pinkerton (2009, 12) and Salem (2004) and a Division 2 crown for Timberlane (2009).

For Manchester Central, it would be its first championship since winning back-to-back crowns in 1980-81. The Little Green advanced to the title game last year, but lost to Manchester Memorial.

The two teams faced off once in the regular season, with the Lancers walking away with a 3-2 victory on Jan. 15.

“I think we are feeling relaxed and feel like we belong in this game,” said Londonderry head coach Peter Bedford. “We came out against Pinkerton a little tight (in the state semifinal), but in practice today we were nice and loose and focused. I feel good going into the game.”

When the two teams take the ice, they will have little more in common than the stage.

While Londonderry (18-5 overall, 15-4 N.H.) advanced to the title game led by a high-powered offense that averaged 4.6 goals a game, Central (13-7 in N.H.) averaged just 2.8 goals and relied heavily on the play of star goalie Ian Beliveau and a defense that allowed just 40 goals in 20 in-state games for a flashy 2.00 goals-against-average.

“I think we are two very difference teams,” said Bedford. “Where we have a pretty powerful offense, their strength is when they can keep the score low. Beliveau is a heck of a goalie and they ask a lot out of him. And their defense did a great job tying up (30-goal scorer) Glenn Wiswell from St. Thomas in the semis.”

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