Final face-off for AHS boys' breakout hockey season

MARY SCHWALM/Staff photo Goalie Nick Scarpa was on task with 30 saves, including this save in the second period, but Andover High fell 3-0 to Arlington Catholic last week in the Division 1 North semifinals. 

It was already a breakthrough season, the best for Andover hockey in seven years and best ever in Division 1.

But the Golden Warriors were not ready to say good-bye.

“We weren’t ready for the season to end,” first-year head coach Chris Kuchar said. “We wanted to play a few more rounds.”

A season after missing the playoffs, Andover hockey advanced to the Division 1 North semifinals for the first time since the program joined the Division 1 ranks.

But that is where it ended. Despite a monster effort by goalie Nick Scarpa, the No. 4 seed Golden Warriors fell to No. 8 Arlington Catholic 3-0 last Thursday, March 5, at the Chelmsford Forum.

“We’re upset with the loss, no question,” Kuchar said. “But being here really was quite an accomplishment for these kids. No one other than this team thought we could make it this far.”

It was quite a turnaround for the Golden Warriors, who finished the 2013-14 season just 5-12-3 and did not qualify for the state tournament.

It also marked the Golden Warriors’ deepest playoff run since joining Division 1 in 2007-08, a year after they advanced to the Division 2 state title game.

“We ran into a very good team,” Kuchar said of Arlington Catholic, which upset top-seed Burlington in the North quarterfinals. “We knew that we had to play a flawless game to beat them. We had a couple breakdowns and they took advantage. Our kids played their hearts out, but that is one big, strong hockey team.”

Arlington Catholic used its speed and size advantage to hold the puck in the Andover zone for nearly the entire night, firing 33 shots on Golden Warrior net-minder Scarpa.

Scarpa, a senior co-captain, held Andover in the game throughout the fierce attack. The senior made 10 saves in the first and 16 in the second period, allowing a single goal in each.

“Nick has just been outstanding for us,” Kuchar said. “He has carried us all season. He has been the best player in the MVC all season. But also seniors like (Zach) Walker and Conor (Silk) also did an amazing job bringing us here.”

It was Walker that nearly tied the game late in the first, taking the puck in on a 1-on-1 and firing a shot that looked destined for the goal. But Cougars goalie Dylan Morris turned him away.

The Warriors’ next best chance came with just over seven minutes left in the game, when Kuchar pulled Scarpa on a power play for the 6-on-4 advantage. But once again, Andover could not crack Morris.

Arlington Catholic went ahead with 5:12 left in the first, then added to the advantage 1:39 into the second on a goal assisted by Methuen’s Ryan Tierney.

“They were very good on defense,” Kuchar said. “We really couldn’t generate many chances on offense. But they fought.”

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David Willis is a sportswriter/videographer for The Andover Townsman. Reach him on twitter at @DWillisET.

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