Pressed into service, Kirby impresses

  • That’s Preston Kirby in net for the ConVal-Conant boys’ ice hockey team. Courtesy photo

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Tuesday, December 26, 2017 8:9AM

Mark Leger had a problem. The ConVal-Conant boys’ hockey coach had just started practice Tuesday night when he discovered that sophomore goaltender Cole Turner would be unavailable for Wednesday’s game against Kearsarge-Plymouth. Turner is the only true goalie on the Griffins’ roster.

“Running one goalie is always a risk but it's all we have at the moment,” Leger said.

Utility guy Pat Laroche should have been next in line for the net, but he’s out for the season with a torn ACL, so Leger had to poll his players and find out if any of them had played goalie, at any level, ever.

“Never in my years of coaching have I faced such an issue,” Leger said. “I've dealt with inexperienced goalies but not a ‘No goalie’ issue.”

With no solution in sight, Leger’s gaze eventually fell on left winger Preston Kirby. It made sense; Preston’s older brother Chance was last year’s Griffin tender, and as luck would have it, the elder brother was home for Christmas – and his equipment was available. Plus, Preston was an experienced baseball catcher.

“I called Preston over and asked if he would step up and play goalie,” Leger said, “and all he said was ‘If you need me to, Coach.’”

The Griffins took the ice on gameday and warmed up, where it became obvious that catcher and goalie were not quite the same thing. Preston’s instinct was to use his glove for everything, and ConVal-Conant reassessed.

“Our game plan was simple – don't let them shoot the puck,” Leger said.

Of course, Kearsarge-Plymouth didn’t have to know the Griffins’ secret, and with Preston the spitting image of his brother in goal, K-P must have thought they were facing an experienced keeper. But knowing what they knew, ConVal-Conant had to go on the offensive.

The Griffins struck first as senior captain Cam Tracy slammed one in from the slot past K-P keeper Cayden Lyman. But despite ConVal-Conant goals from Ben Garfinkle, Aidan Kirby and Tyler Damon, and despite Preston’s valiant efforts in net, Kearsarge-Plymouth had a 6-4 lead in the final period. Aidan and Tracy both scored again to even things, and Preston held the opponents scoreless the rest of the way to force overtime at 6-6.

With less than a minute remaining in overtime, Aidan Kirby took the puck away from Kearsarge behind the net and found Tracy, who was alone in front to pound home the gamewinner, complete the hat-trick and give the Griffins their first win of the season.

“A great win in the face of adversity for the Griffin boys,” Leger said.

ConVal-Conant (1-2) was schedule to play at Laconia over the weekend, but that game was postponed. The Griffins play next at Monadnock (1-1) on Jan. 3 at 5 p.m.