MANCHESTER — Connor Laurendeau was playing junior hockey for the New Hampshire Avalanche before making a decision that is turning out to be a godsend for Bedford High hockey coach Marty Myers.
“Connor is a senior, and this year he decided he wanted to play for his high school,” said Myers. “We’re glad he did.”
The latest dividend paid off on Friday night at JFK Coliseum when Laurendeau made 25 saves, helping the Bulldogs past Hanover High 4-2 for their third straight title in the Manchester Monarchs Christmas Holiday Classic.
Laurendeau, named the tournament MVP, needed to be on top of his game. His counterpart, Harris LaRock (26 saves), was also outstanding, and the contest wasn’t decided until Nathan Musgrave’s empty-net goal in the final seconds.
Bedford finished 4-0 in the tourney, Hanover 3-1.
The game was a rematch of last year’s final won by Bedford in dominant fashion even though the score was only 3-0. Friday night’s contest was different. The Marauders, after falling behind 2-0 in the first 3:31 of the game, skated chance-for-chance with the Bulldogs the rest of the way.
“We’re always excited to play this type of competition; it’s good for our team,” said Hanover coach Dick Dodds.
A hustle play and a snipe got the Bulldogs going early.
Before some fans even made their way in, Joey Sanclemente beat a pair of defenders down the middle of the ice and flicked home a short shot under LaRock’s blocker at 1:54.
Jack Sylvain doubled Bedford’s lead at 3:31. Leading a 2-on-1 down the left wing, he elected to shoot and beat LaRock with a blistering wrist shot to the short side.
Hanover’s Joseph Goff cut the margin to 2-1 on a one-timer from the left post at 13:40. Hans Williams set up the play by threading the needle with a pass from the right wing.
The Bulldogs rebuilt their two-goal lead at 9:55 of the second period. Eric Flynn hit a streaking Kyle Greer down the left wing and Greer beat a defenseman, pulled the puck to his backhand, patiently waited for LaRock to go down, then lifted it home.
But the Marauders responded again, at 10:06. Getting a sixth attacker on the ice during a delayed penalty, Hanover kept the puck in the right wing corner, from where sophomore Owen Stadheim skated out and buried a wrist shot over Laurendeau’s glove.
LaRock came up huge early in the third, flashing the glove to deny Zach Bayer’s wrist shot.
Laurendeau’s busiest moments of the third came late, after Hanover pulled LaRock. A skate save on Matty Gardner with 1:10 remaining paved the way for the empty-netter.