Golf: Teeing it off; season underway

 

ALEC: CUTLINES--SEE JAMIE'S GOLF SHOTS FROM NCCC OPENING DAY--TOM

I used shot no 1 - horizontal of guy in yellow shirt - for the front -- Marg

 

By Joe Soraghan
"I just hope I don't have to explain all the times I've used His name in vain when I get up there." — late comedian Bob Hope on his golf game
We are so fortunate to live in this part of the country. Living here gives us a great appreciation for seasonal changes. Snow, foliage, spring awakenings and the green of summer are there for us. The activities that accompany the seasonal changes become special moments.
For golfers, the transition to warmer temperatures means we can return to our home courses and begin playing golf. If you played golf every day in warmer climates, do you think that the anticipation and appreciation of the golfing season would be as great? Probably not. The beginning of the golf season is a time to meet with old friends, remember those who will not join us this season, try new equipment and practice that new swing. Everyone at this time of year is at "even par."
A friend related a story about opening day at his course in New York. A members' group had a standing foursome every weekend. Over the winter, one of the group took his game to the "big club above." His family called the clubhouse and to see if his putter could be retrieved from bag storage to be buried with him. The request was granted. Fast-forward to the threesome, meeting for their opening day tee time. After some small talk, the conversation moved to how much they were going to miss their friend and how different golf would be without him. As they prepared for their round, one of the group asked a member of the pro shop, "Where is my putter? It's not in my bag." One can't blame the family of the deceased for not recognizing that the putterburied with their golfer belonged to the playing partner! "The Rules of Golf," 4-4, states that a player must not "add or borrow a club from another player." I just hope the deceased wasn't penalized for using someone else's equipment. Facing a two-stroke penalty for each breach would be a tough spot to dig out of — imagine an eternity of penalties!
Enjoy this new season. The early spring weather has allowed the superintendents an opportunity to get the courses in great shape. The pro shops are stocking up on items players will need for their rounds. Everyone at your course is preparing to make your golfing experience a quality one. Now it's up to you to bring the right swing, attitude and effort to the course. It is the responsibility of every golfer to maintain his or her game, and follow the Rules. Have a great season!
If you have a story you would like to share, feel free to send it along. I can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
Club Notes
• North Conway Country Club, 50 Norcross Circle, North Conway (603) 356-9391: NCCC opened for the season Wednesday, April 20, with all 18 holes ready for play. PGA Pro Larry Gallagher and Assistant Kevin Walker will be greeting golfers in the pro shop, which will open at 8 .a.m. The Ledgeview Grill has Mike Luciano overseeing the Grill and Cheryl Emerson preparing the fare. Breakfast will be served at 6:30 a.m. Mike and his staff will present a new menu for the public and the 19th hole crew. The pro shop will be open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. everyday. Two tournaments available for member sign-up are the Club Cup, April 30, and the Opening Scramble on May 21. The Club Information Board has been moved downstairs outside of the locker rooms. If you have questions or need assistance, see one of the locker room attendants. A big thank you to all the volunteers who helped get the course ready for opening.
• Hale's Location Golf Course, West Side Road, North Conway (603) 356-2140: Hale's is scheduled to open today, April 22. Season golf memberships, as well as league and tournament sign-ups, are available. The fully stocked pro shop has equipment and apparel for all. If you are interested in a membership package, e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
• Indian Mound Golf Club, Center Ossipee, (603) 539-7733: Indian Mound opened April 7 with great conditions. The early season has a lot of golf planned. The On-the-Links travel group will begin league play at the Mound on April 27, with a 5:30 p.m. shotgun start. Teams should be signed up. If you need information or to make changes, stop by the Back 9 on White Mountain Highway in Conway. "Nine and Dine" will start May 15 with a 3 p.m. shotgun start. For any men's and ladies' league information, contact the pro shop. Project Graduation will hold a tournament Sunday, May 1. Contact Andrea LaRusso at (603) 356-6995 for information. Sign up now for the MWV Chamber Tournament, which will be held May 25, with an 8:30 a.m. shotgun start. Members from surrounding courses that have not yet opened are welcome to call the pro shop for reduced-rate tee times.
• Wentworth Golf Club, Route 16, Jackson, (603) 383-9641: The Jackson 18 is scheduled to open Friday, April 29. PGA Pro Jay Pollini is returning for his second season and is at the pro shop preparing. Jay reports when the course opens, golfers will enjoy their experience with fine conditions.
• Eagle Mountain Golf Club, Carter Notch Road, Jackson, (603) 383-9090: Currently not open, but season memberships are now on sale. Stay tuned for scheduled opening dates for this scenic nine-hole course, located on the Eagle Mountain House grounds.
• Androscoggin Valley Golf Course, Route 2, Gorham, (603) 466-9468: Gary Riff, Androscoggin pro, reports that all 18 holes are playing and the course is in fine condition. The pro shop is open from 8 a.m.-8 p.m. daily. Memberships are available.
• Lake Kezar Golf Course, Route 5 Lovell, Maine, (207) 925-1002: Bill Bisset, general manager at LKCC, reports the targeted opening is Friday, April 29. The pro shop hours will be 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Golfers should call the pro shop, (207) 925-1002, for tee times and any additional information. Bill reports, "The course came through the winter in fine shap,e and we are ready to welcome golfers."
19th Hole
At some point in the season, you may inadvertently knock the ball off the tee. Why is it you are allowed to re-tee a ball without a penalty stroke when Rule 18-2(b) states "moving a ball in play is a violation that requires a player to replace the bal"l? A ball on the tee is not yet in play, so you can put the ball back on the tee. I'll wager there will be someone in your group who shouts out, "That's one!" You, however, will be armed with knowledge of the "Rules of Golf" to dispute the stroke charge. Have a wonderful season!
Joe Soraghan's column appears in every Friday. Send golf news to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Be something greater

By Chris Chaffee

"What if a child dreamed of becoming something other than what society had intended? What if a child aspired to something greater?" — Man of Steel

You are standing face-to-face with adversity and it's not going to let you get through. In this moment the challenge is staring right in front of you, not backing down. In a moment of truth, it is forcing you to make a choice. The challenge is standing in front you not backing down. You are nervous, you are scared, you don't won't to fail, you don't want to lose. However, something inside tells you to hold on. Just hold on and fight. You close your eyes and take a deep breathe in and suddenly start to feel all the outside distractions and surroundings around disappear. You breathe out and you feel relaxed. Now you are calm, strong, and focused. You feel excited, strong, and determined inside. Ready to step up and strive toward your hopes and dreams. Nothing is going to stand in your way and suddenly you believe. Open your eyes.

We are faced everyday with moments like this. Whether it is in life or sport, it reveals who we are on the inside. Tennis is a sport that reveals who you are from the inside. A sport where talent alone will only get you so far. You have to work hard, you have to want it inside your heart. It is a unique sport because it doesn't give you anything. Everything you have to do in practice takes hard work and self belief. Tennis is a great metaphor for life because just like in life you have to be a person of action. A person of action set to try to succeed in this world and in everyday life.

My mindset is to wake up every day with a purpose and a goal to improve. You have to put the hunger, self determination, and motivation to set your soul of fire. It isn't easy. There are many obstacles in our way that make us stare at adversity. Adversity has disappointments, insecurity, fears, failures, that can beat us down and strip away our confidence. We have to have the courage, the strength, to be brave and face these challenges. We have to fight.

I think one of the best ways to learn is from being inspired. Being inspired tugs at our heart and gives us goosebumps to achieve greatness. One of my favorite tennis players and role models is Andy Murray. When I think of Murray I tend to think of someone who is the definition of inspiration. The transformation he has done is remarkable. He is my hero because he has shown the inner strength to never let any challenges or past failures get him down. He finds the courage to get back up on that saddle and keep fighting.

Murray is a perfect example of how I learned to make myself more than just a man. That if you devote yourself and believe in yourself to get your best of out yourself than that is all you can do in this life. Andy Murray has become a legend because of the way he conducts himself as a professional on and off the court. He is an elite, incredible athlete, and champion.

"Always dream and shoot higher than you know you can do. Do not bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself." — William Faulkner

Murray throughout his career was known for having tremendous talent. He had a great court-sense, strokes, movement and genetics. Early in his career he had issues going long marathons matches. His body would let him down and he would cramp because he just wasn't fit enough. He didn't want to limit himself just based on talent. He didn't want to be remembered as someone who had so much talent, but never popped. He never wanted to lose a match because of his body breaking down again. He decided to make his body a machine. He did everything in his power to become self-discipline. He followed a strict diet and did long grueling hours of physical training off the court, and endurance drills on the court. This made Murray even tougher because now he could go the distance. He trained for not only tennis, but in life. Tennis is not only physically but mental. You have to work on both and put in the extra effort. Just like in life you can improve physically and if you are improve physically it will help you mentally. Positive thinking overcoming negative thinking is just as important. Murray now had set an example there maybe people who have more talent than you but there is no excuse for anyone to work harder than you.

Murray had done everything so far to improve. He was winning titles, was inside the top 5 tennis players in the world. He even made it to a few Grand Slam finals. But, he always fell short of winning the Big One and was criticized for it. He always seemed to come up short in the finals no matter how hard he tried or how much he wanted it. There were other players out there stronger than him mentally, physically, and even had a little more raw talent. Still Murray went back to work and trained harder on and off the court trying to not only hang on to what he had done so far, but he wanted to reach the next level. Dealing with failure, fear of losing, not giving his best, and his inner demons Murray had to find the strength and courage to overcome these things. He had to hold his head up and be brave. Although people maybe believed he might never be the champion he could be, Murray still always believed inside himself he was. He would make sure he did everything within power his body, mind, and soul that he could, but he had to step out of his comfort zone. He made uncomfortable changes to his game, looked for a physical and mental edge. Always wanting to self improve and get the most out of himself he was willing to learn. He knew he would eventually come out better in the long run.

Now Murray was something else. He was something more than just a ordinary he had made himself greater. His plan had him become a man of action. He was able to fight through challenges, and will himself to be the best of himself every day. This resulted him into finally winning an Olympic Gold Medal, The US Open, Wimbledon, and reach high as No. 2 in the world. He didn't stop there he also improved as a human being becoming a humanitarian. He became a husband, a father and never let his success get to his head or his ego.

Murray is a champion because his integrity never changed. He doesn't make the headlines of being wild, he doesn't drink or smoke. He is purely authentic. He is the same caring good human being who just wants to give back to people and to animals. Murray is part of many charities to make the world a better place. He has donated his time, money, and name for mankind and animals. He always has never forgot where he came from, a small down in Dunblane, Scotland that was never known for tennis. His story of his upbringing starting from nothing and finding ways to work and improve and at the same time have never change his ego no matter how successful he is.

I think we all can learn from Murray because I know that I have. He has spent his whole life trying it improve and become something more. Fighting through the challenges. Willing himself to get every ounce of iron will from his blood, his sweat and tears.

He says, "Be good to yourself. Try your best and focus on the process. If you believe in yourself and work hard try your best. Anything is possible. For me the most important thing has always been tennis, and that what I want to get across the imagine I want to portray is a hard working tennis player. If I give 100 percent try my best, physically work as much as I can. Than that's all I can do."

I try to remember this every day. I try to keep going even when it doesn't seem like you can. I recall to always learn and look past the past. I believe that to move forward is progress and to have the endurance to never give up. Motivation and determination make you a winner. Through hard work and positive thinking Andy Murray is a shy humble, low key guy. He is competitive, and always gives more than his best on the court. He never gives up. He inspires greatness. He has done everything as a professional athlete and competitor. He cares deeply about tennis, being an image of a hard working tennis player and being a good person. His greatness lies within his heart. He is a champion because he does this day in and day out. Andy didn't believe he had any limits. He is a legend. .

Even against the greatest of odds, there is something in the human spirit — a magic blend of skill, faith and valor — that can lift men from certain defeat to incredible victory." — Walter Lord

Be humble stay hungry. You have to get used to losing and don't let past disappointments effect you. You have to go out there and try your best and don't compare yourself to others. Instead focus on improvement, be a good person, give back, and make a difference. As a competitive tennis player, a son, a soon to be husband, a coach, a friend, a brother, and an athlete I think throughout my whole life I have lived from my heart. I have always wanted to learn to improve myself in every which way to become a better person, better at my job, a better athlete. I have been scared, I have been nervous, but found that inner strength of courage and used that power to motivate me do become a person of action.

In tennis and in life if you work hard to strive to be the best you can be, to learn more, do more, become more, that is greatness. You will have moments of weakness but you have to be brave in those moments you want to be weak. Andy Murray is a perfect example of has always kept trying, kept fighting. Murray showed that he had had the grit and the power inside him to change his life and become a tennis hero. He didn't let failures get to him. He showed that things don't always work out the way we want them to. But, hold your head up high, be proud, and try again. He showed you have to have the strength to endure anything and to make the most of yourself. Murray has taught me to aim for more. He shot for higher goals. Raised the bar and challenged himself. He dreamed of glory and it came true no matter how many times he stumbled he kept going and kept grinding away because in life and in sport, that' is the only way to triumph.

Chris Chaffee is the head tennis pro at Cranmore Fitness Center and the Fryeburg Academy girls tennis coach.

Deer kill up 2 percent over last year

10-21-hunting-report---woman-bags-turkeyJulie Robinson with her first-ever turkey, taken during the fall shotgun turkey season. (COURTESY PHOTO)Crisp air, golden trees and wily game to outwit — fall is a great time to be out in New Hampshire's big woods.

The following is the weekly hunting report from New Hampshire Fish and Game.

Deer hunt update: Hunters harvested 1,993 deer in New Hampshire through October 18, according to Fish and Game Deer Project Leader Dan Bergeron. This represents an increase of 2 percent from harvest at the same point in the 2014 season. The kill remains up significantly from 2010 and 2011, when the September archery season was bucks only. The harvest to date is the third highest in the last nine years and is only below 2007 and 2013, when the state's second and fourth highest total deer kills occurred.

This year's Youth Deer Hunt Weekend is coming up on Oct. 24-25, providing hunters age 15 or younger the opportunity to take a deer of either sex while accompanied by an experienced adult hunter. The weekend provides youngsters a chance to learn deer hunting techniques and traditions, as well as other outdoor skills that can provide a lifetime of enjoyment. All youths must be accompanied by an adult mentor at least 18 years of age, with a valid N.H. hunting license. Take a kid hunting and pass on the outdoor tradition.

The 2015 muzzleloader season will begin on Saturday, Oct. 31. Check the 2015-2016 NH Hunting & Trapping Digest for Wildlife Management Unit specific regulations.

See a deer harvest comparison (to this point in the season) for the previous eight years at www.huntnh.com/hunting/deer-harvest.html.

N.H. moose hunt opening weekend brings 33 percent success: A third of New Hampshire's moose hunters were successful during the first two days of the nine-day season, achieving a 33 percent success rate on the opening weekend of the hunt. On Oct. 17-18, a total of 36 moose were taken by hunters statewide — 24 bulls and 12 cows. The total number of hunters was 108 (105 lottery permit holders, two Wildlife Heritage Foundation of NH auction permittees and one Hunt of a Lifetime participant). In comparison, last year, 39 percent of moose hunters were successful during the opening weekend. The season runs through this Sunday, Oct. 25, by permit only (see www.huntnh.com/hunting/moose.html). Limited-edition 2015 moose hunt shirts are available to all at www.shopwildnh.com.

Waterfowl Hunting is underway: Check out our new waterfowl identification resources and more at www.huntnh.com/hunting/waterfowl.html.

Bear season numbers: As of Oct. 8, Bear Project Leader Andy Timmins reports 501 bears (313 males, 188 females) have been taken so far during New Hampshire's bear season. Bait hunters have harvested 364 bears, still hunters/stalkers have taken 108, and hound hunters registered 29 bears. The current overall harvest sex ratio remains at 1.7 males per female.

This year's harvest is tracking very similar (within 8 percent) to the 5-year in-season average of 545 bears for this time period. The current harvest is 21 percent below the 2014 tally (which was an above-average harvest year) at this point in the season. In terms of harvest numbers, the current season is tracking relatively similar to that of 2010 and 2013, when totals of 708 and 570 bears were taken by the end of the season, respectively.

The bait hunting portion of the season has ended statewide, and the bear hunting season overall has ended in the Southwest-2 and Southeast regions. The statewide (excluding the southernmost two regions) hound hunting season opened Sept. 21 and ends Nov. 10. The still hunting season will end in the North and Southwest-1 regions on Nov. 10 and in the Central and White Mountains regions on Nov. 24.

Pheasant hunters take note: Under an emergency measure, no one shall discharge a firearm at any pheasant stocking site in New Hampshire from 7 a.m. to 12 noon Oct. 22-23. Those are the last two days that Fish and Game will be stocking pheasants this year. The measure results from unsafe shooting taking place while Fish and Game staff were in the process of stocking pheasants, according to Executive Director Glenn Normandeau. For a list of stocking sites, see www.huntnh.com/hunting/pheasant-stocking.html.

Small game hunters: Please take time to help monitor small game populations and participate in our small game and grouse wing and tail surveys; we've got a quality firearm to raffle off to a lucky participant in each (see www.huntnh.com/newsroom/news.html?news=176).

The NH Fish and Game Department owns 89 Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) across the state, encompassing nearly 52,000 acres. The primary purpose of these lands is to protect and improve habitat for wildlife, but these lands are also open for public recreation including hunting. Check out our interactive WMA map at www.huntnh.com/maps/wma.html.

Hunt for the Hungry: Have too much game meat? Find out how you can donate excess at www.huntnh.com/hunting/hunt-for-hungry.html.

Report a Poacher: If you are aware of a poaching situation, call Operation Game Thief toll-free at 1-800-344-4262 or report wildlife crime online at www.wildnh.com/ogt.

 

A journey into biathlon country

By Paul Kirsch

Biathlon is a fascinating sport to watch. Imagine skiing at your peak heart-rate for two to three kilometers, then stopping to aim a rifle at a target as small as the size of a cookie. For every target of five you miss, you either get penalized time or have to ski an additional 150 meters. Repeat that sequence for two or more laps and you have a biathlon race. It is not an easy sport to master, according to those I have talked with in the sport. You are constantly looking to improve your skiing and your marksmanship as you must be good at both to be competitive.

I have always been at least a casual fan of the sport. When I was a kid that meant getting to see it once every four years when it would be broadcast as part of the Olympics coverage. That has changed in the last few years with the advent of specialty TV networks like NBC Sports Network and live streaming on the internet. Now, you can see biathlon races online pretty much every weekend from December through March on Eurovision (www.eurovisionsports.tv/ibu). The sport has a huge following in Europe and Asia. On a typical weekend in the Winter, 120 million people across the globe watch Biathlon World Cup events, equivalent to the audience that watches the Super Bowl.

My own interest grew a lot stronger in recent years with the success of local biathlete, Sean Doherty of Center Conway who is currently competing on the men's US Biathlon World Cup Team. There is a strong sense of hometown pride to see a local athlete competing on the world stage, especially one like Sean. When you mention his name, it always elicits the same reaction from everyone in the MWV — respect and admiration for his hard work and appreciation for how down to earth he is, even with all of his international success.

When I learned this year that the 2016 Biathlon World Cup series was making a stop in Presque Isle, Maine, I jumped at the chance to go see the sport live, in person. Luckily, my wife and two kids are the adventurous kind, who don't blink an eye when I ask if we can drive 6 hours north of the Valley in the middle of Winter. We scheduled time to go see two of the four days of events — the men's and women's pursuit races, and the men's relay race. Little did I know at the time that we would be heading north on the coldest weekend of an otherwise unusually mild winter. We filled my truck with every winter clothing option we had so that we could spend several days outside in single digit temperatures, mostly standing, ringing cowbells and cheering, activities that don't generate a lot of heat to keep you warm. There was upbeat music played at the event, and many spectators could be seen dancing in the bleachers to keep warm.

The journey to Presque Isle was a fun adventure. This is the furthest north in Maine that any of us had traveled. After you get to the end of Interstate 95, there is another 30-minute drive to get to Presque isle, or as my GPS told me when we reached the end of 95, "Head East, then turn left". Presque Isle is the largest city within Aroostook County, with a population of just under 10,000 people. Known in Maine simply as "The County", Aroostook is a rural land of rolling hills and potato farms, very different than the rest of the state.

We learned as we traveled Feb. 11 that Sean had a phenomenal day in the men's sprint race, finishing 13th overall, his highest finish ever on the Men's World Cup. Considering Sean is one of the youngest competitors on the circuit, the feat was even more impressive. This excited us as it meant we would get to see him in the pursuit event the next day.

In the pursuit, only the top 60 or so competitors from the sprint get to start. Each racer starts the number of minutes/seconds back from the leader that is equal to their position in the previous day's sprint competition. Sean contributed to impressive U.S. Team finishes, including top 20 finishes by Tim Burke and Lowell Bailey as well as an amazing first ever podium finish for Women's Team Member, Susan Dunklee, with her second place result.

The Biathlon Venue in Presque Isle was built back in 1999 with funding from the Libra Foundation and other corporate sponsors. They have hosted multiple National and International races over the years, providing great exposure for the sport and also providing training grounds for up and coming US biathletes. The atmosphere at the venue was fun, the stands filled with groups of local schoolchildren, local fans and international fans waving flags from Russia, the Ukraine, Germany, Canada and other European countries. Some of the teachers in the local schools had taken the opportunity to incorporate biathlon into their curricula, giving the children an opportunity to learn about the sport and the 20+ countries who would be at the competition. Children waved handmade flags of many different countries. The whole effort in Presque Isle to put on the races was truly a community effort, with 500 volunteers doing everything from assisting on the biathlon range to driving buses to shuttle competitors and fans and even helping to serve food to the teams and spectators.

The stadium area in Presque Isle where the start, finish and shooting range was, reminded you somewhat of a local high school sporting area, with the familiar bleachers for spectators. But, as you looked around at the signs and structures and advertising for the main World Cup sponsors, it became clear you were at a World Cup level event. The drive from town to the Nordic Heritage Center where the venue was lined with flags representing the five targets of biathlon, five black dots against a white background, marking the route to the venue.

I had asked Sean whether the atmosphere in Presque Isle is like the other stops on the World Cup Tour. He replied "The Presque Isle World Cup has its own charm. First off, it seems to always be cold there for races. Even with all the spectators that came out, there are thousands less people at the event than normal [race crowds sizes in Europe]. Which actually makes it a more low key atmosphere. The venue and trails are very nice though and the course conditions were excellent."

Considering the winter New England had, Sean's comments on the course are a testament to the volunteers who helped make snow and who trucked in snow onto the course.

For the American team, this is as close to a "home crowd" as they get. Several team members had remarked that it was nice to be able to drive to the event and not fly. Sean had mentioned "Instead of a transatlantic flight it was a pretty simple drive, which makes the travel stress-free in comparison. It is fun to have a home crowd, although it is weird in a way that everyone is speaking English. It is fun out on course to have lots of people cheering for you."

Although I understood what Sean meant in terms of announcing and the majority of fans speaking English, for me, it was fun to hear languages of many different nations being spoken by competitors, fans and coaches as they wandered around the venue. For one of the races we stood right along the course, outside of the biathlon stadium and hearing the many coaches instruct their athletes was a great submersion into languages from across Europe and Russia. In addition, the announcers for the event were from Europe, part of the regular crew that announce all of the biathlon world cup races. In their fashionably-European clothing and Ugg boots (impressive for the close to zero degree temps). They fired up the crowd by encouraging fans to yell "clean shooting" when they played a musical cue. They had a charm that was uniquely European and added a fun element to the day.

The volunteers at the event were always enjoyable to talk to, in that local New England way. Several had asked me where I was from and when I mentioned the Mt. Washington Valley and that I was there to cheer on Sean, and experience biathlon up close, they immediately knew who he was. Some of them had children who were biathletes as well. They also often would ask "if we knew Clare", referring to Clare Egan, also a relative newcomer to the biathlon team and a local of sorts, being from Cape Elizabeth, Maine.

The course area in Presque Isle is quite a challenging one. In some of the other courses on the World Cup circuit, there are often longer stretches of climbing or descending than in Presque Isle. This course was considered by many to be fairly technical with many twists and turns. Some Russian fans mentioned that the dense woods along the course reminded them of the terrain of home.

Sean, who is quite an accomplished skier, noted about the course, "Presque Isle is technical and I enjoy that kind of terrain with lots of subtle transitions and things of that nature. It keeps you awake and thinking about picking the best line. Some of the courses at other venues are very wide and straight, without a lot of the fun twists and turns. But the course does not have any major climbs, so it is very fast which adds its own type of difficulty."

At one point the announcers mentioned that some racers were averaging 25 kilometers per hour on the course — quite an impressive speed for the amount of climbing they needed to do during the races.

Although Sean struggled early with his shooting during the pursuit, he fought his way back to finish 20th. The two other American men finished in the top 20 and all three women were in the top 30. All impressive results as the team looks to the World Championships in early March in Norway.

Sean commented on the performance of the team, "I am really thrilled to have such good races... I always look at the races and find some areas that I would like to improve upon but that is the nature of the sport and that is how I try to learn and find things to work on next summer. Overall it was one of the strongest showings for the team and I think it is a great boost of confidence going into World Championships in a few weeks."

On Saturday would be the men's and women's relay races. The relays have become my favorite of the races to watch during biathlon competitions. With four competitors on each team and eight shooting rounds, places can change quickly, adding excitement and intensity to the event. The American men went into the day with a chance at a podium finish and hoped to at least be in the top 5 to better their best finish of this season. The race did not disappoint with the Americans skiing and shooting well, with Sean anchoring the relay starting off in fifth place as teammate Leif Nordgren handed off to him.

Sean stayed competitive and left the shooting range on the last lap 15 seconds behind third place. As he went around the course, he watched his German competitor surge into third while Sean set his sights on the Russian team that was struggling in fourth. The competition was fierce and resulted in a photo finish with Sean finishing literally a boot length behind his Russian competitor, hundredths of a second out of fourth place. It was still the best finish for a US relay team since 2013, and their closest finish to the winner ever, just 48.3 seconds out of first place. The US has shown these finishes are not a fluke as they have been sixth in the previous two relay races on the World Cup circuit. This bodes well for the US Men as they head to Oslo for the World Championships.

"Our relay team is very strong and we have proven that this season. We are all confident and I think the bar is very high for the relay at world champs. It is just to hope that we are all in good shape and capable to perform to our own expectations. Then I think we have potential for a great result." noted Sean.

After the races completed for the day and the temperatures plummeted and winds increased, our family headed out for dinner at a local restaurant, where we saw US Team Member, Clare Egan's mom, waiting for a table and observed other international guests enjoying a meal. She talked about how close Sean came to fourth place and how she was cheering him on, reminding us of how small and tight knit the biathlon community is.

As we left Presque Isle, fueled up on Tim Horton's breakfast, I thought back on our great experience in Northern Maine, cheering on our local MWV favorite and feeling like I somehow escaped to Europe for a few days to cheer on Team USA at a World Cup event.

There are a still a few chances to see Sean and the whole US Team this Winter via the live streaming events online. The World Championships start on March 3 from Oslo, Norway and continue through the middle of March. Even if you miss the live stream, the races can also be seen on-demand at the same website www.eurovisionsports.tv/ibu.

Biathlon is a great sport to see on TV, with lots of great camera angles on both the skiing portion as well as the shooting range. For those of us here in the Valley, we have the added bonus of cheering on a local competitor as well. Most of the races take place in the morning, Eastern Time. As US Biathlon often posts on their Facebook page, it gives you the chance to enjoy a Biathlon Breakfast.
If any of you get the bug to learn even more about biathlon, we are lucky enough in the Valley to have our very own biathlon range at Jackson Biathlon. www.jacksonbiathlon.org. There is a weekly Meister series there on Wednesdays all Winter long, and personal instruction is also available. I personally have not yet tried the sport yet but I plan on it this coming spring. The range is open all year round for instruction so even non-skiers can try out their skills in this most unique of sports.

 

Wednesday Night Game features athletes who love hockey

By Lloyd Jones

CONWAY — Playing for the love of the game, and bragging right.

A group of local hockey players arrive at Ham Ice Arena once a week, with no one else in the arena, the concession stand is closed, there's no music coming out of the speakers. It's Wednesday — time for the Wednesday Night Game.

For the past year and a half some of the finest hockey players in Mount Washington Valley, it looks like a who's who of recent Kennett High hockey standouts, take to the ice for 50 minutes of nonstop end-to-end action. Where else are you going to see a goalie make 78 saves and be on the winning team?

"It's perfect," Mike Lane, head coach of the Kennett High hockey team, said. "Believe it or not, it was Todd Frechette's idea. It's our take on the movie 'Mystery, Alaska,' where they had the Saturday game, we have the Wednesday game."

"Mystery, Alaska" is the 1999 movie about a fictional small town in Alaska named Mystery, where hockey is the cohesive activity that unites the town. The "Saturday Game" is a weekly event of amateur four-on-four pond hockey played on the open ice of the town's frozen lake. The team consists of 10 local townsmen of varying ages and occupations with two goalies and eight skaters publicly scrimmaging each other every Saturday.

Lane, who has seven of his former players in the Wednesday game, said it was on a bus ride to ConVal during high school hockey season, that Todd Frechette came up with the idea, and then the two of them along with fellow hockey coach Justin Frechette did some serious brainstorming.

"There weren't enough young guys to sustain (the Tier I) League, but there were a few of us who wanted to play," Lane explained. "We came up with the idea, like Mystery, to play four-on-four with goalies. We have a really good group of guys. We love the game, but it's serious when we're on the ice."

Teams are drawn out of a hat a week in advance. Standings and statistics are also kept.

"It's the luck of the draw," Justin Frechette said, explaining that Ricky Gaudreau and Jonny Parkhurst are always on separate teams since they're the lone goalies among the 18 players. "One week I was on a team with no defensemen. It forces you play different positions."

The teams were evenly matched on this night, so much so, that it required the rare eight-person shootout after regulation time in order to declare a victor.

Suiting up for the Gray team were goalie Jonny Parkhurst, Jeff Lane, Jesse "Bubba" Tabor, Tyler Derrick, Joe Murphy, Jason Fall, Todd Frechette Terry Galligan and Michael Skelton.

Donning Red for the night were goalie Ricky Gaudreau, Bryan Lamontagne, Evan Howla d, Greg Allain, Brian Frechette, Mike Lane, Justin Frechette, Brad Hauser and Griffin Meador.

The players skate two 22-minute halves with just a three to five minute break at what would be halftime.

This was week six of a 10-week program. The athletes started the Wednesday Game last year, and after a brief winter break plan to resume it in the spring.

The puck drops at 8:20 p.m. — Ken McPherson is the lone referee — and the action, along with teasing follows.

"Hey Murphy," Justin Frechette yells to Joe Murphy a mere 11 seconds into the contest, "you can't score, so they put you on D?"

Four minutes into the game, the pace is end-to-end, Justin Frechette knows the game will take a toll on everyone.

"I've got muscles hurting that I didn't know I had," he said smiling.

A couple of minutes later, defensemen Howland and Allain, who played for Berlin High, have a light moment on the bench.

"We're ugly right now guys," Allain said.

"You noticed," Howland replied with a wide grin.

At 10:50 of the opening period, the Gray team breaks onto the scoreboard first. Jason Lane scores off a feed from Murphy.

With 8:02 left in the period, Justin Frechette ties the contest with a snapshot tally.

Just 62 seconds later, the Gray squad regains its two-goal lead on a goal by Derrick.

"Tough one to give up," Justin Frechette said. "I'd just started trash-talking."

While a few goals were scored, the net-minders were sensational making a slew of highlight reel saves. Parkhurst made a super stop of a Meador bid that immediately got a reaction out of Justin Frechette.

"Be nice if you did that Ricky," he shouts nd follows with a big smile.

"He's got two of those per winter and we saw them both tonight," Meador said as he returns to the bench after his shift.

Parkhurst made 78 saves on the night while Gaudreau made 69.

The Gray team extended its lead to 3-1 just 54 ticks before the intermission when Murphy lit the lamp from Skelton.

The horn sounds for the break, but both teams stay on the ice, congregating around their respective benches. Not much of a halftime.

"We can't stop too long Lloyd or else we'll cramp up," Mike Lane said, laughing. "We decided on the bus ride to ConVal to play 22 minute halves, which didn't seem that long, but then you play, and it's a real long time."

Momentum was wearing red in the second half, and the Red team nets a pair of goals to knot the contest at 3-3. Meador scores at 19:46, and adds his second at 13:01 off a sensational feed from Hauser.

"They don't want to be out here with the red death," Meador said with grin.

What happens if the game ends in a tie?

"It's never happened," Mike Lane said.

"It did last winter, the week you weren't there," Justin Frechette said and explained the game will be decided by an eight-man shoot-out if its tied after regulation play.

With 7:47 to play, the first penalty of the night is called. It's on Gray, and it means a penalty shot. The skater gets the puck at center ice, but the second he makes contact with the puck, the game is live, and all of the players behind on the blue line start a mad dash to catch him. Lamontagne's bid goes wide to the left.

"It's going to be a long day at work tomorrow," Justin Frechette said following a quick respite on the bench.

With 6:04 to play, the Red team gets another crack at a penalty shot. This time, Parkhurst makes the save on Lane.

"The Wednesday Night Game is getting firey," Allain said.

"Typically," Lane said, "the team that presses at the end for the win loses. The Hockey Gods, they're mean!"

With time winding down, just four seconds left in regulation time, the Red team gets a face-off in the Gray team's zone.

"Let's pull the goalie," Allain said.

"That's a Berlin coaching move," Justin Frechette said, smiling.

The horn sounds. It's a 3-3 tie.

"There it is boys, the elusive eight-man shoot-out," Justin Frechette said.

Murphy goes first for the Gray team and scores. Hauser follows with a goal for the Red squad. Tabor, the fifth skater to go for Gray finds the back of the net, and then skates by the Red bench looking to exchange high-fives. He got no takers.

Brian Frechette's bid for an equalizer clanks off the post.

Jeff Lane follows for the Gray team and makes it 3-1.

"We just need Evan and Greg Allain to score," Justin Frechette said as he bursts into laughter.

No one else scores. The teams head to their respective locker rooms. There's just one thing left.

"We have to do the walk of shame," Mike Lane said. "We've got to go to their locker room to draw names for next week."