By Mike Abelson (@ABELS0N)
LOWELL, Mass. - It was a battle of two of the best teams north of Boston and, when the dust settled, St. Mary’s (Lynn) escaped Tsongas Center with a 2-0 victory over Andover to win its second straight Division 1 North title, and advance to the state title game at TD Garden.
The Spartans were anchored by a solid performance in goal by senior keeper Andrew LoRusso, who turned aside all 27 shots he saw. LoRusso was forced to work his hardest in the third period, when Andover pressed continuously for long stretches.
“He provided a shutout in the North finals. That’s incredible,” St. Mary’s coach Mark Lee said of LoRusso. “We’re not here without him. He came up big when we played Reading to start this whole tournament. That’s what you need to go on. I wouldn’t want to have any other goaltender.”
With LoRusso playing lights out, the Spartan offense did what it needed to. The winner came just past midway in the first period, when Colin Reddy took a quick feed from Mike Zampanti and wristed it into the top of the net.
Zampanti added an empty-net goal to seal the deal with nine seconds left in the game.
“We broke one early, which was really nice,” Lee said. “We knew it would be one of these types of games. It was an important goal. It gave us life. We knew they weren’t going to go away and they didn’t.”
The loss ends a magical season for the Golden Warriors. Andover, which just missed out on Super 8 selection, chipped its way through the D1 North bracket to its first sectional final in a decade. The senior class, led by brothers Matt and Brendan Croston, along with Mike Biddle, leave behind a long legacy of success at a place where victories on ice have been rarer than wins on the basketball court.
“When you think that, five years ago, they were a five-win team, and in the four years since they’ve been to a North semifinal and a North final,” Andover coach Chris Kuchar said. “They’ve been a league champion. That’s quite a run in four years. I wouldn’t want to coach any other team. I ask a lot. I demand a lot. They gave me everything they had.”
ONE MORE TIME
The season continues one more week for the Spartans, who will look to scrub the grime from last year’s double overtime loss to Franklin completely away. Most of the key players from last year’s team are back and focused in hoisting the big trophy.
“We’re definitely an experienced team so we know what to expect when we go there,” St. Mary’s senior Dante Maribito said. “We’re not going to have that really slow start like we did last year. I expect us to start quick and hopefully put a few home to play ahead. We’ve been playing ahead all tournament.”
Maribito has been an anchor for the Spartans in his four years in Lynn and will look to finish on the highest of notes in his final game.
“If this was a professional hockey team, you’d call him a franchise player,” Lee said of Maribito. “He’s a special player, a difference maker. The bigger the game, the bigger he plays.”