EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

February 24, 2010

Refocused Central looks for success in Division 1 North

High School Hockey

The frustration of Central Catholic's Super 8 disappointment was still clear on the face of Raiders tri-captain Shawn Bradley. But so was another emotion — determination.

"We still feel like we have more," he said. "We have more potential and more effort to give. Hopefully we can put it together more now and can gel and make an impact in the Division 1 tournament."

Central Catholic saw its chances for a third Super 8 tournament run in four years dashed on Monday, when the Raiders were eliminated from the tournament with a loss in a play-in game.

But now, less than 48 hours after being eliminated from one postseason tournament, Central Catholic finds itself as a favorite in another, as the No. 2 seed in the Division 1 North tournament, opening play today against No. 15 Medford (7-12-1) in Stoneham at 5:30 p.m.

"We need to forget about the past and focus on the future," said Raiders top scorer Tommy Evangelista. "Even after the disappointment, we can still win a state championship. And that opens our eyes pretty wide."

But can Central bounce back from that dissapointment and make a run at the first state title in program history?

"It's going to be hard to regroup mentally," said Raiders head coach Mike Jankowski. "But we're going to give it our best, and if we can get our heads back in it, we have some good hockey left to play and hopefully we can end this season where we want to, when we want to."

This marks the first time Central Catholic has competed in the Division 1 North tournament since the 2005-06 season, having competed in the Super 8 in the 2006-07 and 2008-09 seasons, and missing the tourney in 2007-08.

"Our aspirations were so high," said Jankowski. "We wanted to play in the Super 8. But most teams strive to make the (Division 1 North) tournament, and that is our goal now."

The Raiders (13-5-3) have struggled of late, going 0-2-1 in their last three games. But each of those losses were to Super 8 qualifiers (top-seeded Catholic Memorial and Winchester), as was an early-season loss to Austin Prep.

If Central Catholic is to make a run, they will rely on the top-scoring duo of Evangelista (team-high 17 goals) and Johnny Daniels (14 goals) along with the likes of Nick Leonard (7 goals) and Steve Balsamo (6 goals) and sophomore goalie Kyle Williams.

"When we lost we felt like we were done, but we're not," said Evangelista. "But we need to get back to what made us good. Goal scorers need to score goals, defenders need to defend and everyone has to do their role. Everyone seemed really up-beat and focused in practice (on Wednesday). We can still keep going, and we can still win a state championship."

Also alive

Here's a look at the other local hockey teams still striving for a title:

Division 1 North Boys

Andover (8-8-4)

Seed: No. 14

Tourney opener: at No. 3 Woburn today, 8 p.m.

Players to watch: Matt Swett, 10 goals; Alex Patti, 6 goals; Joe Kuta, 6 goals, Matt Gibson 5 goals; Kyle Berthiaume, 2 shutouts

Notes: Warriors needed a win or tie in the regular-season finale to qualify for the tourney, earning a tie with Reading. ... Finished 3-5-2 over their final 10 games. ... Fewest wins for an Andover team since 2004-05 season (7-9-4). ... Leading scorer Matt Swett had not scored a varsity goal going into the season, and tallied his first career hat trick in Andover's most recent win, a 5-2 victory over Westford Academy. ... Joe Kuta (6 goals) is the area's highest-scoring defenseman. ... Have advanced to at least the North quarterfinals in each of the last three seasons after not having done it since the 1991-92 season.

Division 1 Girls

Andover (11-6-3)

Seed: No. 16

Tourney opener: hosts No. 17 Marblehead today, 7:30 p.m.

Players to watch: Sarah Oteri, 30 goals; Nicole Giroux, 8 goals; Jill Manning, 6 goals, Meaghan Keefe 6 goals; Kyla Mosquera, 3 shutouts

Notes: Sarah Oteri's 30 goals lead the area, boys and girls, and are the most for a Golden Warrior girl since Maria Nasta (47 goals) in 2005-06 . ... Won three of their final four in the regular season. ... Head coach Phil Rowley is in his first season, replacing Bill McCarthy. ... Kyla Mosquera has stood out, replacing 2009 Eagle-Tribune All-Star Megan Pettoruto. ... The 11 wins are the fewest since 2002-03 (9-8-4).