Kaelyn Blais

Berlin High School goalie Kaelyn Blais had 23 saves in the semi-final game. (COURTESY PHOTO)

The Berlin-Gorham girls’ hockey team continues to give us thrills and chills as they advanced to the Division I finals at the Everett Arena in Concord on Tuesday night with a second straight pulsating, tension-filled, momentum-changing, overtime win, this time over Oyster River-Portsmouth by a 3-2 score.   

The Mountaineers had beaten the Bobcats 7-0 earlier in the year but since then the Bobcats have improved, although initially I thought (and was hoping) it would be an easier game, especially when Berlin-Gorham scored two early first period goals.

It started when Trinity Gendron did some fancy stick-handling and without any assistance, scored at the 3:27 mark to give us the lead.  

Then, at 4:04, Berlin-Gorham went on a power play and at 4:44, with a very nice passing combination, Sydney Chapman scored off an assist from Gendron to get a large hometown crowd vocally going.

At 7:42 a Mountaineer blast hit the post, then at 9:00, Berlin-Gorham goalie, Kaelyn Blais made a great save on a shot intended for the net. Then, and I could see it coming, Berlin-Gorham seemed to let up defensively, just enough for Oyster River-Portsmouth to gain some momentum which shortly led to a goal with 12:21 gone in that first period to cut the lead in half, 2-1, going into the first break.  

Even though the Mountaineers initially were outshooting their opponents early on, the period ended with shots-on-goal even at seven.

Second period action saw Berlin-Gorham continue to put pressure on the Bobcats, as evidenced by an excellent scoring chance at 4:46 — smothered by the goalie; at 5:46, when Becca Pouliot just missed, at 7:35 a Mountaineer shot that hit the top of the post; and  during a Mountaineer power play, the locals were just buzzing around the Bobcat’s net with plenty of chances with nothing to show for it.

The wind went temporarily out of the sails for us, as an Oyster River-Portsmouth player took a wrist shot from just inside the blue line through a group of players, past a screened Blais to tie things up at 2-2.  That occurred at 11:01 of that second period. We outshot the opponents 12-8 in that period for a two-period total of 19-15, in favor of Berlin-Gorham.

There were a number of penalties on both teams in the third period, and many opportunities for each team but both goalies were up to the task.  

It seemed Berlin-Gorham had some “heavy legs,” and weren’t really clicking as consistently as normal, getting beat to and/or chasing the puck, but they did successfully “kill off” a couple of penalties, especially the one at 13:36 of the final period.

With 3.1 seconds left in regulation, Blais made a huge glove save to preserve the tie and force things into overtime.  

The Bobcats outshot the Mountaineers 6-4 in that period, to bring the total to 23 to 21, Berlin-Gorham’s advantage.

So here we go, a second straight playoff game for the local girls going into overtime. It’s bad enough to be a Berlin-Gorham fan and have the tension of another overtime game, and I know the feeling of being a parent where my kids are playing in one, so my heart went out to those parents!

The first 0.36 of the overtime period, the Bobcats were in power-play mode, which Berlin killed effectively. Then Berlin went on the attack. Jillian Hallee took a shot that just whistled wide, but at the 6:50 mark (I think that is the correct time because I lost my focus on the time) Halle skated down the left side, and at a tough and nearly impossible angle, took a shot that found a 4-inch opening on the short side, between the goalie and the post, that settled nicely into the back of the net for the game-winner, as the hometown crowd went wild.  

As Joe Castiglione of the Red Sox would say, “Can you believe it?!”  Yes, we can.  

There were numerous chances for both teams in that overtime, evidenced by the fact Berlin had five shots on goal; the Bobcats, four, with the game totals Berlin-Gorham, 28; Oyster River-Portsmouthm 25.  

An obviously  fatigued but elated Coach Craig Bartoli said after the game: “The girls battled all game long, even though late, they were gassed, they just kept going (the energizer bunny). One major key was our ability, despite being tired, to effective kill penalties, which we were forced to do an number of times. Kaelyn Blais helped to keep us in the game, with 23 saves, many big ones, and did not leave opportunities for any rebounds.”

Next up-the finals against Concord, against which Berlin-Gorham suffered two regular season overtime losses. Concord also defeated perennial powerhouse Hanover 4-3

The finals will be held on Saturday (March 14) at 10 a.m., at the Southern New Hampshire University Arena in Manchester.

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