Callie Wiley could feel something special brewing.
But the Andover hockey captain didn’t know quite what to expect.
“I think in the fall we had an idea we could be good,” said Wiley. “After the last few years we didn’t want to get too overconfident. But something was really starting to click. There was something special happening. Now, I think we’ve been a little bit of a surprise to everyone. And we are so, so excited.”
Wiley and Andover have certainly delivered a special winter on the ice.
The Golden Warriors enter the 2019 postseason with a 17-2-1 record this season, the program’s best since the Andover Townsman began keeping complete sports records in 2006.
That surpasses their next best record in that span, a 16-5-1 mark in 2008-09.
Andover is now the No. 4 seed in the Division 1 state tournament, and will kick off postseason play this weekend. It will face the winner of Wednesday’s matchup between No. 13 Reading (11-3-6) and No. 20 Needham (12-6-2).
“The girls are very excited for the tournament,” said head coach Kevin Drew. “We’ve had a great year so far, and we’re looking to take it one game at a time because each game will be a huge test and we must play our best to advance.”
It’s a tremendous turnaround for an Andover program that two seasons ago was just 8-10-2 and missed the state tournament. Last fall, the Warriors were 12-6-5 and made the Division 1 quarterfinals.
“Everything has just clicked this year,” said captain Emma Gilmartin. “After a few seasons of struggling some, we’re ready to prove that we are a strong team and that we can compete with anyone.
“We’ve learned how to win this winter, and we’ve learned from our few losses. We know that when we’re down, we can come back. We’re a confident and strong team that can compete with anyone and has the ability to come back from any situation.”
Andover opened the season in dominant fashion, going 13-0-1 to start the winter, including a 3-0 victory over archrival, defending Division 1 finalist Methuen/Tewksbury.
“Right from the first game of the year (a win over Westford Academy) we were clicking,” said Gilmartin. “The Methuen/Tewksbury win was big. We knew they were one of the strongest teams we would face. So winning gave us a boost of confidence we could build off of.”
One of the keys for the Golden Warriors has been a lineup of players that know and execute their roles.
“We have lines that scored goals and lines that play great defense,” said Wiley. “Everyone has a role and is playing together. The girls on the bench are important too. We’re making sure the other player is having a good game, and doing our job.”
That’s not to say the Warriors don’t have a few stars.
Four-year varsity standout Wiley, who will continue her hockey career at Saint Michael’s College, has scored a team-high 21 goals and has 17 overall points.
Gilmartin, also a four-year standout, is second in goals (19). Freshman Lauren Adams (16) is third.
“We have a strong group of seniors that know how to win now,” said Gilmartin. “I think we move the puck well, we communicate and we play well together. Everyone knows their responsibilities and does the right thing at the right time.”
It also doesn’t hurt that the Warriors have one of the premier goalie in the state.
Senior Sean D’Urso has notched six shutouts and a 1.11 goals-against average. That after scoring five shutouts and 1.52 goals-against average last winter. Katie Adams and Sara Carleo lead the defense.
Andover now hopes it can turn that talent and production into a state championship run.
“It means so much to do this for a hockey program that’s done so much for me,” said Wiley. “We have a team of players that know their roles and get the job done. We would love to make it to the Garden.”
Contact David Willis at @DWillisET or DWillis@eagletribune.com.