By Lloyd Jones
CONWAY — The Kennett High ice hockey team team took care of business on business appreciation day for the Eagles on Saturday at the Ham Ice Arena. The Eagles thanked the many businesses that support Kennett hockey in a pregame ceremony and then went out and handled ConVal-Conant, scoring seven goals in a row for a comfortable 7-2 win to remain atop the Division III standings at the league's lone undefeated team.
The evening wrapped up in record-setting fashion with more than 135 teddy bears collected for Boston Children's Hospital in the third annual Teddy Bear Toss. After that, more than 50 people took to the ice for the annual Skate with the Eagles.
"It was a great day all the way round," Mike Lane, Eagles' head coach, said. "I think everything went really smoothly."
Saturday's win lifted Kennett to 6-0 in the standings and 9-0 overall, while ConVal-Conant slipped to 2-6.
Surprisingly, it was the Griffins that got on the scoreboard first, finding the back of the net two minutes into the contest on a slapshot by Luca Haeufler from just outside the blue line.
The Eagles responded quickly and drew level less than two minutes later when Connor Doucet scored from Conner Furtado after a nice cycle down low he slid a backhander past Wayne Robbins.
Freshman Chet Johnston put Kennett in front for good midway through the opening session when he stole the puck in the neutral zone, skated in and beat Robbins five-hole.
Anthony Graziano closed out the scoring in first period when he redirected home a Mackenzie Murphy wrist shot from the left slot.
The Eagles put the game away in the second period by scoring four more goals. Tanner Brown marked his return to the lineup after being sidelined due to illness, when he tucked a backhanded goal past Robbins from close range with 9:46 to play in the period from Jeffrey Palmer and Furtado to make it 4-1.
Kennett upped the lead to 5-1 with 7:54 to play in the second frame when Trevor Olivier scored his first career varsity goal on a shot from just inside the blue line. Furtado picked up his third assist on the play.
"Real happy for Trevor," Lane said. "He's been working really hard."
Kennett's next two goals came on the power-play against the Griffins, the current league-leaders in penalty minutes.
Graziano netted his second of the night and fifth in two games, when he redirected a shot by Colby Couture with 2:34 left in the period. Murphy picked up the second assist.
Caleb McPherson made it 7-1 with 40 seconds left on the period with a goal off a feed from Murphy.
ConVal-Conant, which was limited to just five shots on goal in the first two periods, pulled a goal back with 29 seconds left in the period on a Ryan Cochran tally from close range.
Johnny Biggio picked up the win in goal for the Eagles. He played just the first two periods before giving way to sophomore Cole Gregg for the final 15 minutes.
Following the game, the team's third annual Teddy Bear Toss took center stage. Last year the Eagles collected 110 bears that were donated to charity. This year they had hoped to break the 125 teddy bear mark.
"A few people forget their bears and are planning to bring them in, but as of last count we were at 137 bears," Lane said. "It was great to see. The credit for this goes to Mackenzie Murphy; he came up with the idea."
After the tossing of the bears, the sixth annual Skate with the Eagles, a show of appreciation by the team to all MWV Youth Hockey players, season-ticket holders and general admission patrons took place. Countless youngsters sought out current Eagles for autographs and photographs.
In other KHS hockey news, the Eagles topped Berlin-Gorham 6-1 in a junior varsity game at Ham Arena on Friday night. Highlighting the win was junior Shane Gauthier, who netted his first high school goal.
"Shane is a great teammate to the kids," Lane said. "His teammates were all really excited for him. I was happy to see it for him."
Kennett is scheduled to open the week on Wednesday (6 p.m.) when Belmont-Gilford (4-1-1) comes to Ham Ice Arena.
"They're one of the top teams in the league," Lane said. "We've got to limit the penalties and be ready to play. Belmont-Gilford is a high-powered team that's well-coached. We're going to need a good effort."
The Bulldogs are coming off a 3-3 tie on the road against Somersworth/Coe-Brown Northwood (4-1-1) on Wednesday.
The Eagles are slated to close out the week at Plymouth State University on Saturday (5 p.m.) for a contest with Kearsarge-Plymouth (1-5).
"The good thing is we've played really well and are on top of the standings," Lane said, "but that means you have a bigger target on your back and you get everyone's best game. We've got to be ready for that."