With just 20 seconds remaining on the clock in the third period of Andover Girls Hockey’s critical matchup against Westminster on Wednesday, Co-Captain Anna Fucillo ’15 intercepted a Westminster pass in the neutral zone. With the crowd and her teammates roaring on the bench, Fucillo skated down the ice unimpeded and buried an empty net goal to seal a 3-1 victory.
“Wow,” said Fucillo. “That goal was just something special for me. It felt like today everything just sort of came together for me, for the Seniors, for all of us. Scoring that goal in my last home game at Andover was just incredible. We’ve never been this close to the playoffs before and now we can accomplish something this team hasn’t done in 15 years.”
The team made its case for the playoffs this week by going 3-0 against Milton Academy, Cushing and Westminster. Andover’s defense remained nearly impenetrable and only allowed two goals against its opponents.
Against Milton, the team needed an overtime dagger from Elizabeth Welch ’18 in order to pull off the 2-1 victory. Miranda Nestor ’16 tallied the other goal for Andover.
Kaitlin Hoang ’17 said, “We played down to Milton’s level and had a really hard time scoring that game, but some of the girls definitely stepped up.”
Against Cushing, Ashley Tucker ’18 earned her third shutout of the year in a 3-0 victory. Two goals from Charlotte Welch ’18 propelled Andover’s offense.
Andover and Westminster, both ranked in the top 10 teams in New England in the last poll, both very badly needed a win on Wednesday. A loss meant near certain elimination.
Caroline Garrity ’15 said, “We knew it was going to be a battle from the start. Westminster is a solid team and we knew a win for us was going to take absolutely everything we had and we just competed out there.”
The game started out evenly matched, as both teams traded shots all through the first. With 10 minutes to go in the period, Kelli Mackey ’15, a Post-Graduate, buried the opening goal for Andover to take a 1-0 lead.
Mackey said, “I went into this game with a lot of emotion. Last year at my old school we lost to Westminster in triple OT in the quarterfinals, so this game meant a lot to me. [Charlotte Welch] put a good shot on net, the rebound came on my stick, and I put everything I had behind it into the back of the near side of the net.”
Mackey’s team-leading 17th goal of the season came at the perfect moment for Andover. Westminster would regain momentum a minute and a half later with a goal of its own to tie the game.
The score remained tied 1-1 entering the second period and remained that way until Hoang netted a backhand shot over the Westminster goalie’s shoulder with three minutes remaining in the period.
Hoang played consistently all game long, turning the puck over just once and winning an impressive 14 of 16 draws in the faceoff circle.
In the third period, the score remained at a 2-1 deadlock. Westminster failed to capitalize on an Andover penalty and had numerous scoring opportunities thwarted by the exceptional play in net by Alexa Matses ’18.
With a minute to play, Westminster called a timeout and pulled its goalie, but Andover’s defense held. Matses made 22 saves on 23 opportunities, including one on a breakaway two-on-zero rush.
Matses said, “I knew the game meant a lot to all of us and I wanted to make the team proud. I definitely had a lot of energy today and was really excited. I was a little nervous, but thankfully it didn’t show up in my play.”
Andover will face off against Phillips Exeter Academy on Saturday, continuing its quest for the playoffs.