LOWELL — When the Andover High boys hockey team got the break it needed, scoring the game-tying goal with five-and-a-half minutes to play, it hoped that impetus would carry through the rest of the contest.
Instead, it was St. John’s Prep that bounced back, grabbing both momentum and, eventually, the contest itself.
The Prep snapped that tie by scoring with 2:55 to play and the No. 8 seed Eagles added an empty-netter with 32.6 seconds to go, ending No. 4 Andover’s season with a 4-2 decision in the Division 1 North semifinals last Thursday night at the Tsongas Center.
“I love every one of those kids in that locker room. They’re all hurting a lot right now, and that means they care,” said head coach Chris Kuchar, whose Golden Warriors finished their season 14-7-2.
Andover junior forward Evan Arpin alertly pounced on a puck that had deflected off of one of the referee’s skates and popped out in front of the St. John’s Prep crease, knocking it into the cage to tie the game 2-2 with 5:39 left in regulation.
But the Prep’s goal two-and-a-half minutes later, followed by an empty-netter with 32.6 to go, sealed the Warriors’ fate.
“No one thought with this team we had coming back that we’d be in this position,” said Kuchar. “Our goalie transferred (before the season began) and we had to find a new starter. We had only five seniors, a bunch of young kids. The thing about this team that’s so impressive is how hard they worked. They never, ever gave up. They were relentless.”
Andover senior Alex Trottier came up with 27 saves in net for the Golden Warriors.
Sophomore Anthony Previte gave Andover a 1-0 lead after one period, and Ryan Webb tied it for St. John’s in the second period. Ryan Bradley gave the Prep its first lead (2-1) two minutes into the third before Arpin tied it.
“All we ask as a coaching staff is that effort is non-negotiable. It doesn’t take talent to backcheck, to block shots, to fight the puck out of the zone and to forecheck. It just takes heart and effort, and our kids do that,” said Kuchar.
“I can’t be upset with anything we did tonight. The effort was outstanding, the goalie was outstanding, we took the body and gave out a lot of hits. We never stopped working.”