Eaves gives Griffins OT win over Sanborn

  • ConVal-Conant forward Kyle Eaves celebrates after scoring the game winner in overtime against Sanborn Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant

  • ConVal-Conant’s Preston Kirby takes a pass through the crease from Matt Kolk, but Sanborn stops the shot. Staff photo by Ben Conant

  • The ConVal-Conant Griffins boys' hockey team hosted Sanborn on Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal-Conant Griffins boys' hockey team hosted Sanborn on Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal-Conant Griffins boys' hockey team hosted Sanborn on Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal-Conant Griffins boys' hockey team hosted Sanborn on Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Monday, January 22, 2018 4:57PM

It started with a fluke, and it ended with a bang. ConVal-Conant came into Saturday’s game against Sanborn with a must-win attitude, and while it took them until overtime to put away the Indians, they pulled it off.

“We knew that we matched up well with them, so I think the confidence was there,” said Griffin head coach Mark Leger after the game.

Aidan Kirby wasted little time in putting the ConVal-Conant boys on the board, though he may not have intended to. At the 13:53 mark of the first, Kirby flipped the puck into the Sanborn zone from beyond the blue line. The puck was on net and took a wicked short hop, scooting past Indian keeper Austin Conley and giving the Griffins an early 1-0 lead.

“You’re gonna miss 100% of the shots you don’t take, right, so every once in a while that’s going to happen,” Leger said. “[Conley is] actually a seasoned goaltender, he was really good the rest of the game.”

Shortly thereafter, the game was briefly put on hold due to a scary moment. ConVal-Conant’s Kyle Eaves caught Sanborn’s Ethan Paul with his head down and hit him with a clean check that sent Paul careening into the boards. Paul went down cold with a concussion and lay seemingly motionless on the ice for quite some time as medical staff attended to him. Paul was taken to Heywood Hospital where he was treated and released by the end of the game. On Sunday, Sanborn officials said Paul was recovering nicely at home.

“Their kid, once he got his wits back, he said ‘Tell No. 8 that was a great hit,’” said ConVal-Conant assistant coach Scott Tracy.

Play resumed, and before long, Sanborn evened things up, as Dylan McManus punched a rebound home past Griffin tender Cole Turner at the 5:11 mark of the first.

From there, it was a physical, defensive battle. Fortunately for ConVal-Conant, that’s exactly where Kyle Eaves lives.

“He sets the tone of the game with his physical play,” Leger said. “He’s a leader, he’s our captain, he’s kind of the quarterback in the zone, breaking it out. He’s a big body, he hits like a freight train. He helps build the confidence that we need. Our team is completely different when we play with confidence than when we do just second guessing our abilities.”

The Griffins showed a strong forecheck, forced turnovers and kept the Indians on their heels, particularly in the second period, where the ConVal-Conant attack looked like it would break through. But Conley held firm in the Sanborn goal and it was even through two. 

Sanborn redoubled their offensive attack in the third, outshooting ConVal-Conant 14-5 in the frame. But Turner, the sophomore keeper, saved them all, and the two teams headed into overtime tied at one apiece.

The Griffins kept the pressure on in the overtime period.

“I think it was just keeping pucks out, keeping them away from the middle, keep chipping off the boards and have our wings go get it, be fast to the puck,” Eaves said. 

It was that Griffin forecheck that made the difference down the stretch. Evan Turner made a steal, got the puck in low and ended up behind the net, where he locked on to Eaves.

“He took all the D with him,” Eaves said, “so I just pinched down the right boards and came right in the middle, and he just threw it over the defensemen's stick and I was able to backhand it into the net.”

Eaves nailed the backhand one-timer and roared off into the corner, where he was mobbed by his teammates in celebration of the overtime game-winner.

Turner finished with 30 saves, and the Griffins got a big win to build on, their confidence growing.

“I think our boys worked harder than we've seen them work in a long time,” Tracy said, “and that believability will build up with that hard work.”

ConVal-Conant has a rematch with Monadnock at home on Wednesday at 6 p.m. The Huskies beat the Griffins 2-0 in their previous meeting earlier this season.