Boys’ hockey: In dominant 5-1 win, Concord sends Windham a message

Concord’s Jayden Haas (5) celebrates after scoring an early goal during Wednesday's season opener against Windham at Everett Arena.

Concord’s Jayden Haas (5) celebrates after scoring an early goal during Wednesday's season opener against Windham at Everett Arena. Rich Miyara—NH Sports Photography

Concord’s Rowan Arndt  (18) clears the puck out of his zone during the Tide's first game of the season against Windham at Everett Arena on Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2023.

Concord’s Rowan Arndt (18) clears the puck out of his zone during the Tide's first game of the season against Windham at Everett Arena on Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2023. Rich Miyara—NH Sports Photography

Concord’s goalie Luukas Mayer (30) makes a left pad save on a shot during Wednesday's matchup with Windham.

Concord’s goalie Luukas Mayer (30) makes a left pad save on a shot during Wednesday's matchup with Windham. Rich Miyara—NH Sports Photography

By ERIC RYNSTON-LOBEL

Monitor staff

Published: 12-14-2023 9:57 AM

CONCORD – Wednesday night’s season opener between Concord and Windham at Everett Arena could’ve been the start of a changed landscape in Division I. The Tide, having graduated one of the top players in the state in Brooks Craigue, entering 2023-24 with lots of questions, and Windham coming into the year confident, expecting to compete for a Division I championship.

But from the opening puck drop to the final horn, it was the Tide (1-0-0) who asserted their dominance over the Jaguars (0-1-0) in a 5-1 win. The team that won three straight championships from 2020 to 2022 and had an unbeaten regular season last year made a statement: Concord isn’t going anywhere.

“I think they might’ve come in a little confident, overconfident,” Concord head coach Dunc Walsh said of Windham. “I don’t know why. We’ve been good. We’re not dead yet.”

The scoring began just 1:35 into the opening period when Concord sophomore Tyler Morin scored off an assist from freshman Jaden Haas. After Windham evened the score less than a minute later on a goal from Casey Kramer, the Tide retook the lead for good on a power play goal from Haas at the 8:22 mark of the period. 

Concord added three more goals in the second: senior forward Dawson Fancher on the power play at 7:30, junior forward Rowan Arndt at 7:52 and junior defenseman Tyler Fennelly at 14:38. The Tide also outshot the Jaguars for the game, 24-17.

It was a comprehensive effort, something Walsh emphasized his team would need to put forth with a different roster this season.

“We’re going to need more balance,” Walsh said. “Last year, so much of it was, ‘Brooks go win the game for us,’ and this year, it’s more of a team which is good. More balance. And once we get everybody back, we’ll even be that much deeper. (Tonight’s) a big confidence builder for a lot of guys that didn’t see a lot of time last year.”

Haas and Morin were included in that group. Both underclassmen seemingly found themselves in the middle of most of the action any time they were on the ice.

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“No fear at all,” Walsh said of Haas. “He sticks his nose in and goes hard into the corners and digs the puck out. He had a lot of good chances. And Tyler, we know what Tyler’s capable of. He had a really good second half last year, played quite a bit. He’s a big, strong kid. He’s only a sophomore, but he goes to the net, same thing. We need those guys.”

Wednesday was also sophomore goalie Luukas Mayer’s debut in net as the team’s starter. He turned aside 16 of the 17 shots he faced and didn’t have to make too many difficult saves after a busy first period.

Mayer’s quieter evening could be attributed in large part to his team’s defensive play. Early in the second period after Fennelly was called for a tripping penalty, the Tide didn’t allow a shot on goal during Windham’s power play. It was just one example of the team’s relentless forecheck and nearly flawless execution on defense.

“We did a nice job there, especially in the offensive end,” Walsh said. “We slowed them up coming out of the zone, and then once they got possession, it was pretty much all perimeter. I don’t even think they had a shot from the point either.”

It was as masterful a performance as Walsh could’ve hoped for, especially against a Windham team that expects to be at the top of D-I this season. The Tide still need to get back several injured players, and the more inexperienced of the group will likely endure growing pains in the coming weeks, but it’s hard to walk away from Wednesday night not convinced that the Tide are still a force to be taken seriously, even if it might not have the star power of recent years.

“Good opener for us definitely,” said Walsh. “Our guys couldn’t ask for more in the opening game against the preseason favorite, so we’re happy.”