North Andover, MA – In one of the few Sunday games on tap for the weekend – this game saw a matchup of one of the top teams in Division 2 (North Andover) pitted against the upstart southern border town of North Reading. The Knights and the Hornets played this game in one of the better facilities they will play in all year: Lawler Arena at Merrimack College.
This one didn’t take long to get started. From the opening puck drop, the Knights of North Andover controlled the tempo as well as the possession and 47 seconds in, sophomore defender Nick Herald took a shot from the point which the goalie never saw and went into a wide open far side of the net: 1-0 for the home team. The crispness in the period took a few minutes to kick into gear but midway through the period both teams started to execute much more effectively. None more so than 11 minutes into the frame when freshman forward Andrew Perry took a feed up the ice from defenseman Jake Sitak and streaking down the right wing he fired one home top shelf, which is how the period ended: 2-0 North Andover.
In the second period we saw more of the same: a territorial victory for North Andover. Just under four minutes into the frame the Knights went on the power play and senior forward Shaun McKay took a wrister from the right dot and the resulting rebound was cleaned up by a tap-in for sophomore forward Dario DiBlasi. The two assists named in the rink differed from our account, but McKay took the initial shot. Five minutes later it was Nick Herald again who went coast-to-coast and tucked home a goal through the five-hole streaking in off the right wing: 4-0 Knights. That was the way the score would stay until the third period ensued.
The third stanza was more of the same: lots of Knights going on the offensive. The scoring started three minutes in when freshman forward Charlie Dean took a feed in the slot from fellow forward Kyle Hooley and one-timed it home to make it 5-0. Three minutes later Hooley himself buried a puck in the slot to make it 6-0. After that, the starting goalie for North Reading was pulled during a penalty kill and two more goals were surrendered. 11 minutes in senior defender Nolan Whitlock tossed a puck on net that trickled over the goalie’s right pad and in which really fired up the bench and the stands with all indications being that it was his first goal of the year. To top it all off, sophomore Cole Fagan scored on a quick shot on goal as he was entering the zone off the left wing. Your final was 8-0 Knights with the shutout going to senior captain Jack Walsh.
- G Jack Walsh, North Andover
- D Nick Herald, North Andover
- F Andrew Perry, North Andover
This game was dominated from start to finish by North Andover, and while North Reading was good on puck pursuit and showing active sticks in the defensive zone, the volume of chances they gave up proved to be the difference in this one. Senior goalie Jack Walsh for the Knights wasn’t challenged all that often: he couldn’t have faced more than 20 shots. These teams also play contrasting styles: North Andover is bigger, younger and very athletic whereas North Reading is smaller, scrappier and heavier on the puck. Ultimately the size of the Knights played a big factor as did their vision and poise with the puck. The Hornets gave this game everything they had and worked hard to win battles, but they just didn’t win enough of them to win this game.
For North Andover, we were impressed by a number of players, most notably Nick Herald on defense and Cole Fagan on offense. Herald is an undersized defenseman as a sophomore but he has a great base, quick release and plays big minutes for the Knights. Fagan has added some size this year and the sophomore is really starting to round out his game into a nice combo of size, speed, length and puck control. Additionally, freshman Charlie Dean showed excellent hands, puck protection skill and vision to make tape-to-tape passes and freshman Andrew Perry showed nice raw athletic ability that pairs nicely with his size and strength as a first year player.
For North Reading, the two most consistent efforts came from senior forward Stephen Robishaw and sophomore forward Jake DiNapoli. Both of them showed the best footspeed on the team and were able to force turnovers and outlet mistakes by the opposition by forechecking aggressively all game long. Junior forward Alex VerColen was the team’s Swiss Army Knife at center: logging heavy minutes on the penalty kill, power play and 5-on-5. He made a nice play off a faceoff win which he fired on net forcing the goalie Walsh to make a quick save.