By David Willis
LAWRENCE — The Central Catholic hockey team clearly remembers the day 11 months ago when archrival Andover skated into the Valley Forum and shocked the red-hot Raiders.
“They almost ruined our Super 8 chances last year,” said senior co-captain Nick Gorski of the loss that knocked his squad from an automatic Super 8 bid into the play-in round. “So we were out for a good amount of revenge this time. We weren’t going to let that happen again.”
Yesterday, revenge was achieved.
Gorski wasted no time setting the tone, scoring a goal just nine seconds into the game, and Central didn’t look back on the way to an 8-1 victory over Andover.
“This is always a huge game for us,” said sophomore winger Billy Stahley, an Andover resident. “We wanted to make a statement and get some revenge from last year. It was great, and especially exciting for me.”
The win improved the Raiders — ranked No. 5 in the state by masshshockey.com and No. 9 by espnboston.com — to 8-2-1.
“We wanted to make a statement early,” said Stahley. “This was a huge game, and the team feels very good right now.”
The entire Raiders squad was looking for payback from last year’s 3-0 home loss, which was the second win in three games for the Golden Warriors over their Thanksgiving foe.
“Every year it is a huge rivalry,” said forward Mike Kelleher. “We were down and out after that loss last season. We felt like we needed a statement win. We remembered last year, and we wanted to take control early and match their pressure.”
Gorski put the Raiders in command nine seconds in when he beat Andover goalie Colby Gilbert, the same netminder that blanked Central last February.
“I came in through the slot, the puck went through a kid’s feet and landed right on my stick,” said Gorski. “I just kicked it to myself and tapped it in. We have struggled with getting going early in games, so that felt great.”
From there, the Raiders continued to press with single goals by Alex Lester and Derek Vaillancourt, both assisted by Gorski.
The second period was Kelleher time. The senior continued to build his case for Player of the Year honors with a natural hat trick, his second in as many Saturday games. He also did it a week ago in a victory over Chelmsford.
“They may not have been the prettiest goals, but they worked,” said Kelleher. “We finished at the net all game. Our offense moved well, and it was huge to get that goal from Gorski.”
No one was more excited following the contest than Stahley, the sophomore from Andover who potted his first career goal early in the third, and added an assist on the final goal of the day.
“I grew up playing with a lot of these guys,” he said. “A lot of them are my old friends, so to play them was great. It was even better I got my goal. Lester was going up the side, I tried to hit the net hard. He gave me a great pass and I put it up top.”
The victory was especially important for momentum, as the Raiders take on Springfield Cathedral (9-0-1), the No. 3 team in the state, tomorrow at Holy Cross.
“We know that we have a very tough game ahead of us,” said Kelleher. “But we feel good. We are coming off this win, and the team feels very strong.”
Central Catholic 8, Andover 1
Andover (4-5-1): 0 0 1 — 1
Central Catholic (8-2-1): 3 2 3 — 8
Goals: CC — Michael Kelleher 3, Nick Gorski, Alex Lester, Derek Vaillancourt, Billy Stahley, Christian Thompson; A — Scott Campbell
Assists: CC — Gorski 3, Zach Cote 2, Lester 2, Conrad Jepson, Corey Webber, Ross Webber, Kevin Regan, Stahley; A — Mark Campbell
Saves: CC — Colin Soucy 12; A — Colby Gilbert 34