By Dave Dyer
---- — MANCHESTER, N.H. — When it was over early yesterday evening, every single Manchester Central skater charged right toward their goalie, senior Ian Beliveau.
They were so emotional and so appreciative of their netminder that they knocked him back into the goal and onto the ice. Beliveau probably feared for his safety.
The exuberance was understandable as Beliveau’s brilliance, and a couple of breaks along the way, keyed the Little Green’s 3-1 victory over Londonderry in the Division 1 championship game at the Verizon Wireless Arena.
The championship was the first for Manchester Central in 33 years and robbed Londonderry (16-5) of its first.
The victory was the eighth straight to end the season for Manchester Central (14-7). Beliveau, who entered the game with a 1.89 goals-against average, was a big reason why. He gave up only two goals in the final two games, against No. 1 St. Thomas and the No. 3 Lancers.
“Beliveau is just a fantastic goalie and the backbone of their team,” said Londonderry captain Eric Coburn. “You’ve got to get a really good shot off to beat him.”
Londonderry’s only goal last night was a sizzling slap shot by Jason Parker in the second period to tie the score at 1-1.
There were plenty of scoring chances for both teams, however, particularly in the scoreless first period, during which Londonderry goalie Joe McGrath was every bit the equal of Beliveau.
Although Londonderry outshot the defensive-minded Little Green 11-7 in the first frame, with Beliveau deftly preventing second chances and staying focused on tipped shots, McGrath also stopped three great scoring chances, including two on semi-breakaways.
Central finally found the net three minutes into the second period when an errant pass rebounded quickly off the side boards onto the stick of Nathan Potvin, who scored on an extreme angle before McGrath could adjust.
But Parker’s unassisted goal at the 4:14 mark tied it and sent the game tied into the third.
The Lancers seemed to get some momentum at the start of the third period when they superbly staved off a 5-on-3 advantage for more than a minute without giving up a shot to keep the game deadlocked.
Coburn finished off some intense Londonderry pressure by firing a wicked wrist shot that hit the post at the 7:22 mark, but Central responded by getting the decisive goal less than two minutes later, on another angle shot, this time by Ross Lougee.
The Lancers tried gallantly to get the equalizer, but the Central defense was staunch down the stretch and Central senior Noah Duplessis ended the suspense with an open-net goal in the final minute to account for the final score.
“They definitely have a goalie who is hard to beat,” said Londonderry coach Peter Bedford. “I wouldn’t say he’s the backbone of their team, but he gives them a lot of confidence.
“Beliveau made two great saves down low and we had that shot hit the post, but Joe made some great saves, too. We made a couple of mistakes that hurt us, but I thought we played pretty well after being a little tentative at the start.
“We had our chances, but it just didn’t work out. This is going to hurt for awhile, but our kids don’t have anything to hang their heads about.
“This is a Londonderry program that wasn’t looked upon as very good until the last few years and these seniors have brought us a long way.”
Before this class entered Londonderry, the Lancers had endured seven straight losing seasons.
Manchester Central 3, Londonderry 1
Division 1 Final
Manchester Central (14-7): 0 1 2 — 3
Londonderry (16-5): 0 1 0 — 1
Goals: L — Jason Parker; MC — Nathan Potvin, Ross Lougee, Noah Duplessis
Assists: MC — Parker Anderson
Saves: L — Joe McGrath 21; MC — Ian Beliveau 26