Nick Scarpa believed his competitive hockey career was complete.
Just over one year ago, the former Andover High star enrolled in college and made the decision not to pursue the sport he loves.
Little did Scarpa know, this winter, he would be celebrating the Hockey East and Beanpot championships on the TD Garden ice as a member Northern University.
“It’s surreal,” said Scarpa. “I always dreamed of being here, but believing it would become a reality is a different story. It’s been amazing, and becoming a champion is something no one can take away.”
Shortly after transferring to Northeastern this fall, and joining the club hockey team after a year away from the sport, Scarpa received some surprising news.
The Huskies — one of Hockey East’s premier programs — were in need of a backup goalie for their NCAA team, and they wanted to know if the former All-Scholastic was interested.
Scarpa took on the challenge, won a roster spot, and on Saturday rushed the ice with his teammates to celebrate Northeastern’s Hockey East Tournament Championship victory over Boston College. That after winning the Beanpot in February.
Northeastern (27-10-1) is the No. 2 seed in the East Bracket of the NCAA Division 1 Tournament, and will begin tourney play on March 30 (4:30 p.m.) against No. 3 Cornell (20-10-4) at the at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence, R.I.
“It was such a great experience being on the TD Garden ice celebrating a Hockey East title with my team,” said Scarpa. “I know I took a very different path to the Hockey East, but to actually be here has been a dream come true.”
GOLDEN WARRIOR START
A member of Andover High’s legendary Scarpa athletic family, it took time for Nick to make his mark as an athlete.
As a senior in 2014-15, Nick finally won the starting goalie job for Andover hockey, and earned All-Scholastic and Merrimack Valley Conference Division 1 MVP honors. He finished the season with five shutouts and a 1.58 goals-against average, leading the Golden Warriors an 11-5-6 record.
After graduation, Scarpa spent the 2015-16 season with prep power Deerfield Academy. He finished that winter with a 3.05 goals-against average, according to eliteprospects.com.
“Deerfield was great,” he said. “I got to play great hockey in a great conference. I played against a lot of the same guys I see now in the Hockey East. But no colleges really bit on me after the season.”
Scarpa spent 2016-17 playing junior hockey for the Valley Jr. Warriors of the Eastern Hockey League. In 39 games, he delivered an impressive 2.53 goals-against average and .908 save percentage.
But that was nearly the end of his competitive career.
“I didn’t know if I wanted to play hockey anymore,” said Scarpa. “Junior hockey was tough. It was every day, with no school. We played a 40-game schedule. I was worn out. Colleges wanted me to play another year of juniors, and I was ready to go to college.”
Scarpa enrolled at Trinity College, and elected not to try out for the hockey team.
Over the summer, Scarpa transferred to Northeastern University as a student. He also started to feel the hockey itch again, and began playing club hockey.
But soon, Scarpa was approached by Northeastern head coach Jim Madigan. One of the Huskies’ goalies was hurt, and they needed depth at the position.
“I met with coach Madigan when I was at Deerfield,” said Scarpa. “He offered me a two-week tryout period to work out with the team. After that, he asked if I wanted to stay on the team for the full year, and I said yes! It was a little overwhelming, but making my Hockey East dream a reality was something I couldn’t pass up.”
Scarpa has served as backup goalie for six games, sitting on the bench in uniform during the game. He has not appeared in a contest, and for the rest of season has been the No. 3 netminder.
“I go in and work as hard as I can every practice,”said Scarpa. “I see plenty of reps during every practice. I come in whenever (starter Cayden Primeau) needs a breather.
“The six games I’ve been dressed have been unbelievable. It was an indescribable experience. On other game days, I go through the morning ‘scratch’ skate and the workout. Then, for away games we go back to the hotel and for home games we watch from the student section.”
It was from the ninth floor at the TD Garden — where the media and some VIP guests sit — that Scarpa watched the Huskies’ Hockey East Tourney and Beanpot title games. But he celebrated both with his team.
“By the third period we moved down to the locker room to watch the game,” he said. “Then we were behind the bench when the game ended and got to go onto the ice for the celebration. It was incredible.”
No one is prouder of Scarpa’s dedication than is father.
“As a parent, you just want your children to find something they are passionate about and pursue that with vigor,” said Carmen Scarpa. “Nick is passionate about hockey and has worked extremely hard on and off the ice. I am so proud and happy for him that it paid off. And I thank coach Madigan, his staff and players for giving Nick the opportunity to be a part of a special team.”
Nick is unsure what his future with the hockey program will hold after this season. But, right now, he isn’t worried about that.
“This is something I never thought I would be a part of,” said Scarpa. “And that’s pretty cool. It’s something I can always be proud of. Right now, I’m focused on the NCAA tournament.”
Family of Athletes
Northeastern hockey goalie Nick Scarpa is from a family of accomplished athletes.
Father Carmen was captain of the football, basketball and baseball teams at Andover High (class of 1982). He then played basketball at Harvard.
Nick’s sister Alicia Scarpa was a sharp-shooting guard who was a senior on Andover girls basketball’s 2010 Division 1 state champion team.
Brother C.J. Scarpa (AHS 2013) was a record-setting quarterback for Andover High (4,429 passing yards, 51 TDs). He then started at QB for Bentley and Merrimack College. He spent last fall as an assistant coach for Harvard football.
Contact David Willis at @DWillisET or DWillis@eagletribune.com.