MANCHESTER – Matt Henderson flew down the ice, weaving around Bedford High School boys hockey players, and flying in on Bulldogs’ goalie Stevan Tempesta.
Henderson and his Dover team trailed by two goals early in the third, and here was a perfect opportunity to cut that lead in half. The Green Wave senior got a shot off that Tempesta gloved just before he was barreled by Henderson.
Tempesta’s body went into the net, along with Henderson, but the Bedford sophomore stuck his glove out, making sure it – and the puck – never crossed the goal line.
“It’s just preserving the lead,” Tempesta said. “You get so close to holding that plaque, everything is going through your mind and you do anything you can because there is no tomorrow. You lay it all on the line.”
The top-seeded Bulldogs did and defeated No. 3 Dover 2-1 to win the Division II title Saturday at the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester. It’s the first championship in program history; Bedford also played for the Division III title in 2010.
Kurt Mitchell and Jeffery Campbell each had a goal in the second period for Bedford (17-3) and Tempesta made 26 saves, including 11 in the third period with the Bulldogs trying to preserve their lead. Henderson eventually beat Tempesta with 6:50 left in the game for the lone Dover (14-6) goal, but Bedford kept its lead, thanks largely to its goalie.
“The beginning of the game, we asked Stevan to make the saves,” Bedford coach Marty Myers said. “He certainly did. He gave us more than his usual.”
“Every little thing that he does is big,” senior Michael Ahern said. “He played a big game and it made the difference. I’m so happy to have him as a goalie.”
The game was scoreless after one period, but the Bulldogs controlled play for most of the first 15 minutes with nothing to show for it.
“It wasn’t frustration, but we were excited about the opportunities,” Myers said. “I get nervous when there are no opportunities, and I thought it was just a matter of having one or two of those drop that would change the game. To Dover’s credit, they packed in front of the net and didn’t let anything go in and kept the game close.”
Bedford finally broke through on the game’s first power play. A shot by Benjamin Desrosiers was stopped by Dover goalie Tyler Briand, but the rebound went to Mitchell and his shot got through Briand into the back of net.
Six minutes later, the Bulldogs made it a two-goal lead. Benjamin Philbrick threw the puck between the legs of Briand and across the crease to Campbell, who batted the puck into the open net. Cullen Willey also got an assist on the goal.
“We had a lot of good chances,” Ahern said. “We tried to put them away, but we just couldn’t do it. We knew if we kept our pressure up, we’d get the championship. Our goalie is a strong goalie and putting that one away made me feel confident that we could win this.”
At one point, late in the second, Bedford had a 20-8 advantage in shots. Dover increased the pressure it put on the Bulldogs and by the end of the game, the shots were 26-22 in favor of Bedford.
“They made it a game,” Myers said. “Going into the third period, the game plan was to keep it deep. Every opportunity, get the puck away from our net. We never had that chance.
“They pinned us in our zone for most of that third period and had some quality chances. We changed it from trying to keep it deep to trying to keep it out of the zone. We even struggled with that.”
With time winding down, a shot by Dover’s Travis Smalley was deflected on its way to the goal, but Tempesta made the save and Bedford was able to run out the clock.
“The last 15 minutes are the longest of your life,” Tempesta said. “Winning a championship is the best feeling you’re ever going to have. You can’t put words to it, it’s too good.”