Thursday, March 1, 2018

Hingham Opens Super 8 with OT Win over Andover

By John McGuirk (@patsfan1313)

Lowell, Mass. - Lacrosse season may still be a few weeks away, but Frankie Higgins wanted to get a jump start on things.

The Hingham senior, showing tremendous eye-hand coordination, batted in a waist-high rebound, on the power play, just 55 seconds into overtime to give the Harbormen a 2-1 victory over Andover in the opening round of the Super 8 tournament Wednesday night inside Tsongas Arena.

No. 4 Hingham (13-4-6) will move into the winner's bracket where it will face Thursday night's Central Catholic/St. John's (Shrewsbury) victor here on Monday at time yet to be determined. The fifth-seeded Golden Warriors (13-6-2) will play a loser's bracket contest versus either Central Catholic or St. John's (S) on Sunday at Chelmsford Forum at a time still to be announced.

"It was kind of just instinct for me," said Higgins of his score. "I saw it in the air and just felt I needed to hit it. It ended up going top right corner. I just did my best to hit it and fortunately it went in. I'm also a lacrosse player here too so I'll give a little credit for that as well."

Trailing a 1-0 through two periods, Andover finally awoke from its slumber to start the third. Looking more like the team that won their final four regular season contests, the Golden Warriors came out a rejuvenated bunch. It did not take long for them to reap the benefits. Just 2:26 into the period, Shane LaChance re-directed Jack Keeler's perimeter shot between the pads of Hingham goaltender Robbie Kornack to square things at 1 apiece.

"We've been in many games like this all season," Harbormen coach Tony Messina said. "We don't score a ton of goals so tonight was par for the course for us. We established some territory and got shots on net early on but we just couldn't put it away. Andover played great but I felt our guys really grinded things out and we were lucky enough to get the win."

For the remainder of the third, it was Andover who became the more-assertive club as it continuously stretched the puck into the Harbormen's zone. But thanks to some solid play by Kornack (20 saves) between the pipes, the Golden Warriors could not push in the go-ahead tally.

With under a minute remaining in the period, a questionable tripping penalty was issued to Keeler along the boards. While Hingham could not do anything with the puck in the time remaining on the man-advantage, it knew the penalty would carry over into the overtime frame.

As time winded down on the infraction, the Harbormen painstakingly tried to take advantage of their 4 on 3 situation. Junior, and younger brother, Jake Higgins controlled the puck at the left point. While the Golden Warriors penalty kill unit sagged backwards to protect the crease area, Higgins fired a shot on net. The puck deflected high off the pads of Andover netminder Cole Chingris before Frankie Higgins, who positioned himself in front of the crease, swatted it past the junior for the game-winner.

"Our kids came out a little bit slow to start," said Golden Warriors coach Chris Kuchar, obviously agitated by the penalty call late in the third. "Later in the game we were getting chances but just weren't getting bodies to the net. At this level every team in the Super 8 is good. You cannot afford to put teams on the power play but it is what it is and now we move into the loser's bracket and fight for your life."

Hingham, who defeated Andover 4-0 back on February 15th, came out strong to begin this tilt. The Harbormen were beating the Golden Warriors to a majority of loose pucks and often, caught them standing around doing a bit of puck watching. At 7:44 of the opening period, Hingham struck first. Tommy Kornack, from just inside the blue line, whistled a shot through traffic that Chingris never saw for a 1-0 lead. The Harbormen had a couple more quality chances to add to their total during the frame but were shut down by Chingris, who was solid finishing with 35 stops.

After 30 minutes, Hingham knew having not put the Golden Warriors away when it could have, might end up biting them later. Indeed it did thanks to LaChance's tally to start the third. With things still up in the air after 45 minutes, everything came down to the overtime period. Certainly aided by the power play opportunity, the Harbormen made sure not to squander it away as Higgins came through to start their playoff run on a positive note.

"After they scored to tie it we knew we couldn't let down after that," Higgins said. "We just needed to keep playing hard. Obviously we would have liked to finish this off before overtime but they played well and we played well. In the overtime, we kicked it into another gear which I feel separated us a little."

Winner will be back here on Monday to face the winner of Thursday's Central Catholic/St. John's (Shrewsbury) contest at a time yet to be determined. The loser heads to the loser's bracket and will play the loser of Central Catholic/St. John's (Shrewsbury) on Sunday at Chelmsford Forum. Time still to be determined.

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