MANCHESTER – An uninformed person might have thought Dan Legro’s team had lost.
And that may be the best example of how far the Merrimack High School boys hockey team has come in his three years as coach.
The Tomahawks blew a four-goal lead but rallied for two scores in the third period to defeat Kingswood Regional 6-4 on Wednesday in a Division II game at West Side Arena.
After the game, Legro, who took over a team that was considering a drop down to Division III and guided them within a game of the playoffs last year, was glad to see his team win, but wasn’t pleased with how it got there.
“We didn’t move the puck really well,” Legro said. “I think we didn’t defend really well. I think that we didn’t do a good job fending off their forwards. We’ve got a lot of work to do, that’s all I can say.”
Tyler Caron recorded a hat trick, including the game-winning goal that came on the power play with 11:30 left in the third period. Caron also added an insurance goal with 4:25 left, sneaking into an opening in front of the Kingswood goal and poking an errant carom off the boards past goalie Matt Boucher.
Erik Glendye also had two goals and an assist and Chris Kinney added a goal. Brandon Corbo had two assists.
Adam Foss had a goal and an assist to lead the Knights, who scored three goals in four minutes at the end of the second period to swing momentum in a game that was on the verge of being a blowout earlier in the period.
“That’s a scrappy team, a fighting team,” Legro said. “We knew that coming in. We have a lot more work to do than I would think we would have at 8-0.”
The only undefeated team left in the division, Merrimack hasn’t played up to where the coach thinks it can. Prior to Wednesday’s win, the ’Hawks needed overtime to beat winless Winnacunnet, 2-1, and knocked off one-win Alvirne, 3-1, after beating the Broncos, 8-5, in the teams’ first meeting.
With multiple games still left against Goffstown (5-1-1), Bow (6-1) and Oyster River (7-2), Legro knows the team needs to improve for the winning it has already done to make a mark.
“I don’t put too much weight into where we are (now) until we get further down the road,” he said. “We’re happy and proud of the effort from this team and the coaches in the last couple of years to get us where we are. It’s just where we are for the time being. We have a much tougher schedule in the second half.”
For a two-minute stretch at the start of the second period, the ’Hawks looked like they were on their way there.
A power play goal by Kinney put Merrimack up 1-0 near the end of the first period, and the ’Hawks didn’t wait long to strike again. Just 25 seconds into the second, Caron scored the first of his three goals, a shorthanded tally that put Merrimack up 2-0.
Glendye score twice in less than 30 seconds to stretch the lead to 4-0 with 12:55 still to play in the second period.
Kingswood responded immediately, getting a goal from Foss just 22 seconds after Glendye’s second score. The teams skated four-on-four for most of the middle of the period, as each time Merrimack had a player go to the box, and Kingswood player wasn’t far behind.
Wyatt French started the rally for the Knights, sending a rising shot over the shoulder of Merrimack goalie Bret Glendye with 4:45 left before intermission. Alex Boucher and Colin Piper added goals before the break to tie the game at 4.
After killing off a penalty to open the third, Merrimack got a power play of its own. With the puck in deep, Caron went into the corner, took it away from a Kingswood player and went untouched toward the center of the ice. From there, he buried a shot past Boucher to give the ’Hawks the lead just 15 seconds into the power play.
The Knights had chances at the other end, but goalie Alex Scanlon, who replaced Bret Glendye at the start of the third period, stopped every shot he faced.
Caron put home the dagger with 4:25 left in the game, knocking in a bouncing puck and then falling to the ice as his teammates piled on top of him.
“It’s good because we’ve had to play down to the last shift, but we’re not doing what we need to do right now,” Legro said. “We’re proud and we’ve done a lot of hard work, but I try not to put too much weight into where we are because it could be gone in one week or two weeks.”