Photo by Madelyn Marthouse
Whittemore Center, DURHAM NH – With a 4-0 victory over Merrimack this past Saturday, the Oyster River boys varsity ice hockey team advances to the semi-final round of the NHIAA Division II Championship.
After sealing their second place seed in the NHIAA Division II boys varsity ice hockey standings, the Oyster River Bobcats played against the seventh seed Merrimack Tomahawks in the quarter-final round of playoffs. Fans from both schools filled the student sections to cheer on their teams and show support for their athletes. Tensions were high after a tied first period, but the Bobcats were able to tip the game in their favor after two goals were scored in the second period. With newfound energy, Oyster River ended the game at 4-0 and secured their place in the semi-final round.
Before stepping onto the ice, the Bobcats had a positive mentality to build their momentum going into the game. “We thought we should go in and win that game decisively and it’s never good to overlook an opponent… It’s playoffs so it doesn’t matter what the record is going into the game, it’s win or go home,” said Co-Captain Jack Poitras (‘22).
The game began with high energy from both the athletes on the ice and the students in the fan sections. Both teams skated back and forth between offensive ends and denied opportunities for shots, resulting in a 0-0 tie in the first period.
Oyster River Co-Captain Andy Carlson (‘22) said that between the first and second period, there was a shift in energy for their team in the locker room. “Our freshman back-up goalie Cole Harwood, who is a more quiet player, gave an inspirational pump-up speech which was very unexpected. I think that got us ready to play for that second and third period… That was probably my favorite part of the game,” he said.
With nine minutes left in the second period, Cam Miner (‘24) sealed Oyster River’s lead with the first goal. Fans erupted in cheer as a second goal was followed only nineteen seconds later by Poitras on a breakaway. Spectator Olivia Ventura (‘23) recalled that her highlight of the game was “the fan section getting excited when they scored.”
Entering the third period up by two goals, Oyster River maintained their energy on the ice. With five minutes left, Carlson scored a third goal off of a breakaway shot by Poitras that rebounded from Merrimack’s goalie. With two minutes left in the quarter-final game, Joey Fogg (‘22) scored the fourth and final goal off of another breakaway, ending the game with a 4-0 shutout for the Oyster River Bobcats.
Poitras said that a highlight was “at the end of the game when we all skated to the fans after we won. We haven’t hosted a [playoff] game at the Whittemore Center, at least in my four years, so it was a nice last [home] game. It was great to see how many people showed up.”
Tess Pueschel (‘22), the Oyster River team manager and spectator at the game, expressed that this game in particular was bittersweet. A supporter of the Bobcats ice hockey team since her freshman year, she especially enjoyed “watching our class play their last home game,” since their remaining playoff games this season will be hosted at a different location than the Whittemore Center.
Oyster River boys varsity ice hockey coach, Peter Harwood, was impressed with his team’s performance and composure during the quarter-final game. “The two takeaways that were the best were the power play and the fact that our defense moved the puck [well] out of our zone.” He continued, “we spent the last week to ten days working on the power play and for games like this where it’s a close game, you can break it open with that. I think the kids did a great job.”
As Oyster River approaches the semi-final game versus Portsmouth-Newmarket, they will continue to prepare and strengthen their team at practices. “We’ve been conditioning the past month to gear up for playoffs. We’ll keep doing that so that we can run two lines and be able to do that for an entire game,” said Carlson.
As for the playoff game itself, the Bobcats are developing strategies specific to their opponent since they played the Clipper-Mules during their regular season. “The goalie can be really hot at Portsmouth and it’s going to take a lot of low shots with rebounds. Our team focus this week is how we can get rebounds in front of the net and second chances that their goalie doesn’t have a chance at, even if he’s really good,” said Harwood.
With the semi-final game on Wednesday, March 9th against Portsmouth-Newmarket, the team looks forward to hopefully claiming Oyster River’s first title as NHIAA Division II Champions for boys varsity hockey.
The official NHIAA game will be hosted at Everett Arena in Concord, New Hampshire at 7:30pm. Admissions will be charging $6.00 for students and seniors, and $8.00 for adults, and proceeds will go to the NHIAA. The ORHS Boys Hockey Boosters are purchasing tickets for students that can show their student ID at the event admissions table. Any fans that are interested in attending have the opportunity to catch a ride on the fan bus, which will leave the high school at 6:00pm on March 9th. There are 47 seats available with a first come first served policy, and students may sign up in Andy Lathrop’s office.