Andover Hockey Skates into New England Semifinals

Hockey in March never looked so good. With a 2-0 win against archrival Exeter on Saturday and a huge 4-1 playoff triumph over Thayer on Wednesday, Andover completed its most glorious week of hockey in recent memory. Saturday afternoon the Exeter Boys Hockey team, accompanied by several buses of fans, ventured to the Ted Harrison rink to take on the Boys in Blue. The game started up in a dead even defensive battle. Then, with only 20.7 seconds left to play in the first period, Steve Russell ’04 fed the puck to Mike Eruzione ’04 from behind the net for an easy one timer, giving Andover a 1-0 lead. After a scoreless second and only four minutes into the third, freshman Joe Smith ’07 took the puck coast to coast down the right flank, decked out his defender, and beat the Exeter net-minder short side. From there, up 2-0 with fourteen minutes left to play, the Big Blue played smart hockey and ate up the clock, enabling Andover to beat the hated Big Red for the second time this season. Fresh off the exhilarating victory against Exeter, the Boys in Blue began the first round of the New England Prep School tournament at home in the Ted Harrison rink, taking on 21-4-3 Thayer Academy on Wednesday. To some, a 4-1 score might suggest an Andover trouncing. However, this game was not a blowout by any means. Thayer, led by former PA student Pierce Norton ’05 (who should be a sophomore in college), played equally with the Big Blue throughout the first period. Norton, who led a very quick skating Thayer offense, broke away several times, only to be denied by the Great Wall of Schneider. The second period was much of the same, with more great play from Schneider. In the fifteenth minute of the period, however, things turned the Blue’s way. Steve Rolecek ’05, who was double-teamed, decked out one defender and passed the puck off to a wide-open Mike Foley ’04 on the left. Foley fooled the goalie and scored, setting the crowd ablaze and putting Andover up 1-0. Thayer retaliated with 16:16 left in the game with a snipe from the blue line to tie things up. From this point on, the Big Blue kicked their game into high gear. Foley lead the charge, seizing the lead back for the Blue with a backhanded shot off a pass from behind the net. Thayer then pulled their goalie in dire need of a goal with just over a minute left in the game. Mere seconds later, Foley broke away for the open Thayer net and drove home the first PA hat trick of the season. Then, to put icing on a playoff victory cake, Rolecek added an open net goal of his own. The Big Blue ruled the ice as the clock hit triple zeros with the scoreboard reading 4-1, Andover. The hockey boys will go on to play Avon Old Farms, who finished 24-1 in the regular season, in Salem New Hampshire on Saturday. To widen their already broad smiles, Andover also learned that Cushing, who absolutely demolished the Big Blue in the regular season, lost to Tabor 8-7 on Wednesday. With the Penguins out of the way, the road to a championship is wide open; it’s time for the Boys in Blue bring it home.