Andover Tops Billerica 3-2

Billerica, MA – This game featured a matchup of two teams vying for a spot in the Super 8 field come March. Both teams come in with 6+ wins but victories against teams under consideration are worth their weight in gold at this point in the season. With the wind and snow howling outside, the game began with a flurry of activity. Sophomore forward Shane Lachance gained possession off the opening faceoff and found space behind the net to wrap the puck around, stuffing it home off the left post, 19 seconds into the game: 1-0 Andover. From that point on, Billerica dominated the possession and the physical play in this frame. They were relentless on the forecheck, stole pucks and regularly put shots on net. Six minutes later, senior defender DJ Fantasia picked up a puck at the dot and fired a wrister far side that beat senior goalie Alex Trottier to knot the score at 1. A few bumps and bruises later the period ended still tied at 1.

The second period saw the momentum swing Andover’s way. They came out of the room playing heavier on the puck and outworked the Tribe early in the frame. But the Tribe fought back with a quick strike goal when senior Collin Cameron parked in front of the net and snapped home a centering feed to make it 2-1 Billerica. It turns out that lead was short lived as Andover continued to put on pressure which lead to a hitting from behind penalty. Just under seven minutes in, the first draw was won back to the point and Andover’s sophomore defenseman Tommy Tavenner wasted no time zipping a puck on net which beat the goalie cleanly. We were tied back up at 2. The rest of the period saw Andover put more pressure on but junior goalie Connor Feeney kept Billerica in it with a great breakaway save and somehow pinned a puck to the left post off a redirected shot tip with 6 seconds left. We went to the third period in order to decide the game.

The final period was back and forth with both teams trading possession, but not that many shots on goal were created. Both teams had odd-man rushes, but stout defense won out…that is until the 11-minute mark. That’s when junior forward Evan Arpin cut through the slot moving right to left and fired a wrister past Feeney igniting the road crowd and putting the Golden Warriors up 3-2. The end of the game featured a final push in the last minute and a half by Billerica after pulling the goalie but the Tribe came up just short and Arpin’s goal proved to be the game winner.

“On the road against a team like that, we go up early, but they took it to us in the first period. Still, we gave up only five shots the rest of the game after that: we played downhill hockey tonight,” said Andover coach Chris Kuchar. “We knew they were going to come out and try to be physical but we like to skate and as long as we match their physicality, get our skating legs underneath us and keep the puck 200 feet from our net: we’ve got a chance. The kids stuck with it and gave us an opportunity to win tonight.”

“Evan’s stats don’t indicate it, but when you watch that kid in practice everyday…when he releases it, you don’t know it’s leaving his stick. In practice, he shoots, bar down: in..shoots, bar down: in…so we kept telling him we don’t need you to stickhandle or make the extra move, bull rush the net and just fire it. I’m glad it paid off tonight: he works hard and his goal tonight was the game winner, that’s huge.”

Three Stars:

  1. F Evan Arpin, Andover
  2. D Tommy Tavenner, Andover
  3. G Connor Feeney, Billerica

NZ’s Take:

This was a very entertaining game to watch and both teams left it all on the ice. Both teams were physical for long stretches but overall Billerica likely registered more hits in the final box score. In the first period, Billerica used its size to muscle Andover off the puck and to harass the puck carrier with relentless forechecking, but thereafter Andover carried the play. The Golden Warriors were smart with the puck and didn’t turn it over very much: they looked for lanes to take ice and get themselves open after winning puck battles with tenacity and heavy sticks in the offensive zone. Both teams were quite athletic and that made for really electric breakouts at both ends. If these teams each play at this level for the rest of the season, they will be tough to beat in February.

For Andover, Shane Lachance stood out as a big body sophomore attacker who already has good strength and a better stick as an underclassman, and can continue to improve as he engages with his feet. Sophomore defender Tommy Tavenner was intriguing because of his skating ability: he pushes off really well for a player who isn’t the tallest on his team. Senior captain and defenseman Matthew Schuhwerk did a little bit of everything for Coach Kuchar tonight: he can play PP and PK minutes, he can distribute the puck well and winds up his shot quickly: he was great in both ends tonight.

For Billerica, we came away very impressed by senior defender Collin Cameron, who played most of the game at forward. He is a tall, athletic skater with good feet and better vision. If prep teams aren’t giving him a look at this point…they should be. Junior defender Matt Livingston was also intriguing as he pairs size, smooth skating, a quick shot and consistent physicality into a well-rounded package at this level. It was also hard to forget senior assistant captain and forward Ryan Brouillette, who must have registered about 20 hits in this game. He plays the game as if his hair is on fire and it’s a lot of fun to watch him tear up and down the ice.