Boys Hockey Ends Sour Season on a Sour Note; Losing to Exeter 3-0 and Barely Missing the Playoffs

The season ended on a sour note for the Big Blue Boys hockey team with a 3-0 loss to Exeter that marked PA’s first loss to Exeter in the rivals’ last six meetings. But the amazing accomplishments of the team continue to reflect all across the last four years here at PA. The game was a very hard fought battle full of emotion from both sides, in front of the jam-packed and noisy crowd in Harrison Rink. With both teams out of the playoff race, and with 16 Andover and 17 Exeter seniors on the ice, the matchup would be the final game for many of the players involved, and it certainly brought a playoff-like atmosphere into the already huge game. Right away Andover established that the game was going to be won through tough play and defense, as the hits were hard and the action was back-and-forth. While the refs were tentative with blowing the whistle in the early goings, the teams were free to go at it and both played brands of tough, energetic hockey. To start off the period, both Andover and Exeter had equal scoring opportunities, while Matt Ward ’06 fended off some quality Exeter attacks. As the tightly contested and tense game drew into the second period, with the game still locked at no score, Exeter drew some breaks with penalties, and made the most of it. On the power play 13 minutes into the second period, Exeter’s senior co-captain Nick Downer skated behind Andover’s net, and slipped a pass to open senior defenseman Kevin Crane, who took his time, set his feet, and fired a high, quick wrister over Ward’s left shoulder to get the visiting Red on the board for the 1-0 lead. While the penalty totals read only a 6-5 Exeter advantage, most of these were matching, and Andover was only able to mount a couple broken power plays. This also contributed to the offense’s difficulty in getting continuous pressure in the zone, while the more aggressive form of play PA reverted to resulted in a few odd-man rushes that Exeter nearly took advantage of if not for the play of the PA defense and goalie Ward. With most of the third period winding down, and PA’s shots getting closer to finding the twine, the crowd’s intensity reached a high, but as time ticked away, so did Andover’s hopes. Exeter’s goaltender Jon Lee continued with consistent sound play, making some key saves down the stretch, but time was getting precious, and PA was desperate to score. With about two minutes to play, Andover pulled Ward for the extra skater, but without much to show for the advantage, Exeter quickly regained control of the puck before firing the bullet to the gut at the 17:10 mark. Another pulled goalie attempt led to Exeter scoring its third goal just 16 seconds later before the clock ticked down and revealed the Red as the season finale and beyond.