Advertisement

Tournament hockey: Connors' overtime goal lifts Pinkerton past Manchester

Feb. 28—MANCHESTER — Ronan Connors is admittedly a pass-first forward and has set up Pinkerton Academy teammate Preston Libby for many goals this season.

The linemates switched roles on the Astros' game-winning goal in their 3-2 overtime triumph over the Manchester co-op team in the first round of the NHIAA Division I hockey playoffs on Wednesday at JFK Coliseum.

Libby, a junior who scored Pinkerton's other two goals, dished a behind-the-net feed to Connors, who crashed the net and scored from the doorstep with 6:17 left in the 15-minute, sudden-victory overtime.

"He gave me a perfect pass and I just banged it home," said Connors, a junior.

Tenth-seeded Pinkerton (9-10-0) will play at rival and No. 2 seed Londonderry (15-3-0) in the quarterfinals on Saturday. After a four-win season last winter, seventh-seeded Manchester finished with a 9-10-0 record.

Libby forced overtime with his second goal that came with 4:45 remaining in regulation. The junior forward received a pass from Connors, a captain, then weaved through the Kings defense before scoring from the slot on a stick-side shot.

Libby also knotted the game at 1-1 with his unassisted goal from the doorstep 4:42 into the middle frame.

Pinkerton first-year head coach Jon Chabot told his team to focus on the fundamentals and try not to do too much going into overtime.

"The kids, they showed a lot of resiliency because we had done a few of those things earlier on," Chabot said, "and we just kept building and building and we had a good fourth period, I guess you could say."

Manchester coach Jeremy Baker said his players expended a lot of energy over the first two periods.

"Like I told the boys in the locker room, I was proud of them," Baker said. "This is not only a hockey game, it's also a life lesson: sometimes you don't get what you deserve ... I thought we outplayed them (the Astros). We made the one crucial mistake in the third, which can't happen at that juncture in a game, and from then on it's just whoever has the first breakdown."

Manchester broke the 1-1 deadlock on a Jake Lessard breakaway goal 3:46 into the third period.

The Kings also opened the game's scoring 40 seconds into the second period with a shorthanded breakaway goal from senior forward Joey Velez.

Astros senior goaltender Tommy Richards (34 saves) denied consecutive shots from Manchester's Owen Flynn and Mack Tripp before Lessard's tally.

Richards also saved a promising Lukas Tafe slap shot, withstood a strong Manchester forecheck and turned away 14 shots on goal over the scoreless opening 15 minutes.

"He's kind of been the linchpin for us throughout the season. I would say even our whole goaltending room," Chabot said of Richards. "Tommy and (sophomore goaltender) Tanner (Moody) have both been awesome."

Cam Velez, a sophomore, made 15 saves for Manchester.

Baker's son, Zach, is a junior assistant captain and defenseman for the Astros.

"Either way, there's going to be half of me that comes home happy but there's going to be another half that's disappointed," Baker said.

Londonderry defeated Pinkerton, 8-2 and 5-4 in overtime, in the regular season.

ahall@unionleader.com