MANCHESTER, NH – The dagger came with less than three minutes remaining in the game.
With the Memorial High School boys hockey team already up, 5-1, against D-I contender Bishop Brady, the Crusaders found themselves on the wrong side of a 6-on-3 situation with two players in the box and Brady’s goalie pulled.
That’s when Memorial assistant captain Brandon Burroughs stole the puck at his own blue line, streaked deep into Bishop Brady territory and firmly delivered the puck into the empty net to secure the 6-1 triumph at Manchester’s JFK arena Wednesday evening.
“He had two breakaways on a 6-on-3, and he missed the first one, so we made some jokes about that, but he was able to bury the second one,” said first-year Memorial head coach Chuck Goss. “Sometimes puck luck is real, so it was nice to be able to get that one.”
The win improved Memorial’s record to 8-0, but more importantly, it served as proof of the Crusaders’ mettle, having played up a division and taken down a Bishop Brady team that entered the contest ranked fifth in Division I with a 6-4 record.
“I think Memorial came out and they moved the puck well,” said Bishop Brady head coach Joshua Vega. “You know, they’re big, they’re fast and I was impressed with them today, definitely a big jump from last year’s team.”
Vega said the Crusaders’ work ethic and chemistry was evident by their ability to go hard at the net and setup plays around the net.
That certainly proved to be the case as the Crusaders made the most of their 18 shots on net.
Sophomore standout Colin Fields got the scoring started 8:45 into the first period off an assist from Kenny McIntire. Exactly four minutes later, Burroughs found left wing Kody Boyce, who lit the lamp to give the Crusaders a 2-0 advantage, and the pair connected again 28 seconds into the second frame. Defenseman Brandon Murphy found the back of the net a little more then five minutes later to extend the lead to four.
After Bishop Brady’s John Thomas scored the Giants’ lone goal of the night two minutes into the final frame, McIntire responded with his second helper to Fields three minutes later, and then Burroughs capped the scoring with the empty-netter with 2:36 remaining on the clock.
Slipping under the radar with all his team’s scoring was goalie Landon Wilson who made 24 saves to tame the Giants, even with his team playing shorthanded for 14 minutes due to seven penalties, not including a game misconduct.
Despite the penalties, Goss said his team’s tenacity was on full display Wednesday night.
“Anytime we have a D-I matchup, we really want to prove ourselves, having dropped down to D-II from last year,” said Goss. “It’s fun to play the D-I teams and show them, ‘hey, we can still compete with you guys,’ and that’s exactly what we’ve been doing.”
Indeed, because Covid-19 concerns that have led to a regional schedule over a typical divisional slate, six of Memorial’s first eight games have been against D-I foes and the Crusaders have won each in dominant fashion. Their closest game so far was a 6-5 Feb. 10 triumph over fellow D-II favorite Merrimack.
The experience against upper-division teams should do nothing but benefit Memorial come playoff time, said Goss.
“Not to take anything away from Dover or St. Thomas or Oyster River or any other team that’s performing well, but I think having a lot of D-I matchups is making us play harder,” he said. “I think my guys have come a long way and they’re really feeling the team atmosphere now.”
So what’s the difference between this year and last year when Memorial was scraping for wins?
“I think the biggest thing is the accountability aspect,” said Goss. “We put a lot on these guys and we want them to hold each other accountable too … they know if they’re making mistakes out there, they’re going to see the bench for a little bit, so we put a lot of pressure on them to perform.”
The Crusaders look to stay undefeated while the Giants will try to exact revenge when the two teams meet again this Saturday, at 4:10 p.m.
“Bishop Brady is a tough team, and they can bring it,” said Goss. “You know, they’ve got a full team and a deep bench there, so I expect on Saturday they’re going to come back hard.”