But as truly elite teams tend to do, they find ways to win.
Just 26 seconds after Thompson’s goal, North Andover’s Brian Pinho broke a personal first-round shutout by being in the right place at the right time. Bouncing back from a second-period breakaway where he lost control of the puck before he could shoot, Pinho saw Tyler Bird’s shot slide to him at the left post and the senior tucked it home for the eventual game-winner.
“That’s the best goal I’ve scored in my life,” said Pinho. “Soucy has robbed me probably five times in this tourney, and it felt so good to get that goal. I can’t even describe it.”
Once again, the Raiders surged, searching for the equalizer. Stahley was set up clean in the right circle but was stoned by Price (23 saves), and things went downhill for Central from there.
Faced with a penalty kill with 2:56 left, Central saw Pinho set up Bird — an Andover native — with a perfect pass in the slot. Calmly shifting from backhand to forehand, Bird snapped a wrister past Soucy and the game was essentially over.
“It was a 2-2 game and then they have some high-end players that made some big plays in big moments,” said Jankowski. “You have to tip your hat to them.”
But despite the setback, Jankowski still sees the year as ending in glowing terms.
“It was just a fantastic season. It started with Colin in net and what he’s done for us, and I can’t be prouder of how we came together this year. We replaced 10 guys — half our team — from last year, and the character, the resiliency and the leadership of Nick Gorski and the other seniors. I’m just very proud and very, very fortunate.”