CONWAY — While both Berlin and Kennett High would have preferred to settle the Division III State Hockey Finals on the ice, the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association announced March 23 that due to the final game being called off, the Mountaineers and Eagles will be co-champions.
Meanwhile, the No. 7 Kennett boys’ basketball team, which had reached the Elite 8 in Division II and was scheduled to play No. 2 seed Bow in the quarterfinals on March 12, has been bestowed state runner-up honors along with five other schools (Oyster River, Hollis-Brookline, Hanover, Pelham and Lebanon). Bow and No. 1 seed ConVal, which had identical 18-1 records, were crowned co-champions.
“By unanimous vote, the NHIAA Executive Council has enacted a resolution in order to fulfill its duties with regard to the awarding of State Champion and Runner-Up plaques and medals to teams participating in tournaments cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic,” NHIAA Executive Director Jeffery Collins announced Monday morning.
“Co-champions will be awarded to the highest-seeded team remaining on each side of the NHIAA Tournament bracket. All other teams remaining in the tournament will be awarded runner-up plaques and medals,” Collins said.
“This compromise solution takes into account the regular season and a team’s progress through the tournament prior to the suspension of play,” he said. “We hope that this solution will bring some closure to the NHIAA winter season.”
Michael Lane, head hockey coach for Kennett High, reacted by saying, “That’s some good news amid all this chaos.
“I’m happy for our seniors. They did all they could, and to see them go out on top means a lot,” he told the Sun in a phone interview Monday.
“No one wanted to win the championship this way. We all wanted to see the championship settled on the ice. It’s no one’s fault,” he added. “The NHIAA was put in a tough spot and made the best decision it felt it could.”
Members of the championship Kennett hockey team are seniors Dakota Field, Dom Jones, Trevor LaRusso, Reilly Murphy, Connor Tofflemoyer and Miles Woodbury; juniors Matt Cormier, Colby Hall, Brady Shaw, John Trapela and Bryson Wrobleski; sophomores Grace Murphy and Colby Olivier; and freshman Tessa Capozzoli, Lucy Girourd, Noah Keefe, Jack Robinson and Sam Seavey.
The Berlin-Gorham hockey team includes seniors Alan Avila, Brian Bourassa and Trevor Breault; juniors Dominick Paradis, and Tyler Rousseau; sophomores Jonah Berthiaume, Ben Estrella, Zach Giroux, Griffin Melanson, Carter Poulin and Brayden Riendeau; and freshmen Landyn Croteau, Brody Duquette, Isaiah Maddox, Keija Morton and Anthony Pizzuto.
Members of the Kennett basketball team, coached by Jack Loynd, are seniors Wyatt Arriaga, Braeden Bailey, Will Eaton, Riley Fletcher, Jackson Gordon, Jackson Ogren and Justin Olson, juniors Evan Dascoulias Matt Nordwick and Kyle Perry; and sophomores Nick Houghton-LaClair and Grady Livingston.
The state championship hockey game had been scheduled for Southern New Hampshire Arena on March 14.
As of March 12, the day after the state semifinals, the NHIAA said it would allow the state basketball, hockey tournament and spirit championships to continue under restricted conditions.
“Participants in these events will be given four tickets to the games for use by immediate family members,” it said. “Only players, coaches, necessary staff and those with tickets will be allowed to attend. NHIAA pass will not be honored. In light of the restricted attendance, every effort is being made to have games live-streamed on the NFHS Network.”
But a day later, the NHIAA suspended all tournament games.
“Given the uncertain nature of the weeks to come, we feel that there is no alternative,” it said. “The NHIAA shares in the frustrations of our student-athletes, yet we hope this decision will allow them to move forward and adjust to the new normal of their educational experience for the next several weeks.”
“I feel for the seniors,” Lane said. “They win the semifinal game on a Wednesday; practice on a Thursday; then the game is called on a Friday; and, on top of that, they’re told do not go to school on Monday.
“This is a trying time for the kids. I think we’ve all seen what an important role sport and extracurricular activities like band, dance and
theater have. It’s an important outlet to relieve that stress,” he said.
Lane praised Mike Poulin, head coach of Berlin, and his program, saying: “I have a ton of respect for Mike and his kids,” he said. “My respect and heart go out to their kids, as well. Everyone wanted to compete.”
Berlin Superintendent of Schools Julie King said in a statement: “We are very proud of our athletes and coaches for the great season they had! Though they were not able to compete in the championship game, this in no way negates the dedication, hard work and athletic dominance they showed in competitions throughout the entire season. Their records of 15-1-2, 12-4-2, and 8-0 are indicative of the champions that they truly are. Congratulations,
SAU 9 Superintendent Kevin Richard gave the co-champion approach a thumbs-up.
“Absolutely I agree,” he told the Sun, adding, “Same time next year, except the game will be played.”
The NHIAA also named Concord and Berlin-Gorham co-champions in girls ice hockey. Concord and Bedford are co-champions in Division I boys ice hockey. Keene and St. Thomas are co-champions in Division II boys ice hockey.
In Division I basketball for boys, Exeter and Portsmouth are co-champs, while Nashua South, Salem, Keene, Alvine, Nashua North and Merrimack are runner-ups.
In Division III basketball for boys, Gilford and Mascenic are co-champs. In Division IV basketball for boys, Littleton and Newmarket are co-champs.
In Division I basketball for girls, Bishop Guertin and Goffstown are co-champs, while Bedford and Londonderry are runner-ups.
In Division II basketball for girls, Lebanon and Spaulding are co-champs.
In Unified basketball, Berlin and Exeter are co-champions, while Londonderry and Dover are runner-ups.