TEWKSBURY — It was a wild, instant classic finish. But what do you expect when Andover High and Central Catholic boys hockey face off.
Captain Nik Previte’s goal with 2:44 remaining in overtime capped a wild Andover rally that saw the Golden Warriors score twice in the final 3:01 of regulation, earning a 5-4 OT victory over archrival Central Catholic on Saturday night in front of a packed house of Golden Warrior fans at Breakaway Ice Center.
It was the latest installment in one of the region’s fiercest — and perhaps most underrated — rivalries.
“That was the greatest moment of my hockey career,” said Previte. “Andover vs. Central, I would say, is the biggest rivalry in the Merrimack Valley Conference. To me, it’s more like a battle of blood. Every time you play them, it’s not a regular game. It’s more than a game. I don’t think there’s a better feeling in the world than scoring that goal.”
Previte isn’t alone in his assessment of the rivalry, between the region’s two most accomplished Massachusetts boys hockey teams over the past 20 years, having each reached a state title game and qualified for the elite, now-defunct Super 8 tournament.
“This is one of the most bitter rivalries I’ve been in,” said Andover coach Kevin Drew. “We don’t like them and anything about them. We use the term ‘Catholics against Convicts.’ We want to act like animals on the ice, legally of course, when we face them.”
Saturday’s win snapped a five-game winless streak for the Golden Warriors (0-4-1) against Central, dating back to 2020. That came after Andover had won four straight over the Raiders.
“We’ve been fortunate over the years to enjoy a healthy rivalry with Andover,” said Central Catholic coach DJ Conte. “Whenever we square off, you can disregard our current records, statistics and rankings. It is always a tight, hard fought and spirited MVC hockey game.”
That’s exactly what Saturday was. Andover trailed by two goals with 3:01 left in the game when defenseman Tyler Lareau cut the deficit to one goal with his first tally of the season. Then, Carter Hillison scored his second goal of the contest with 1:17 left to send the game into overtime. Previte then became the hero in OT.
“Across all sports, whenever we play each other it’s always a tough, close game,” said Golden Warrior leading goal-scorer Alex Doudkin. “The barn always gets packed and the fans are as invested in the game as we are. This game meant so much to us seniors, and the boys were thrilled to have such a crazy senior night. The win wasn’t just for us, but for the whole town.”
One player certainly born into the rivalry was Central Catholic captain Cam Jankowski. He’s the son of former Raiders and Holy Cross hockey player Tim Jankowski and the nephew Mike Jankowski, who starred on the ice for Central Catholic and won 204 games in 15 years as Raiders head coach.
“Every time we get on the ice against Andover we know that they will bring their best,” said Cam, who had a goal and an assist on Saturday. “It is particularly important that we come ready to play against Andover because of that fact. It’s always a great atmosphere and great feeling to play Andover in any sport but especially in our hockey rivalry.”
Agreed Central forward and returning Eagle-Tribune All-Star Sean Gray, “The rivalry has always been two games that our team looks forward to at the start of each season. They always give us a good game and it’s usually a good atmosphere at the rink.”
It turned out, on Saturday, it was Previte — a four-year varsity contributor — who was the hero in Andover’s newest classic vs. Central.
“Nik Previte, an absolute stud, secured us the win and became a home town hero,” said Doudkin.
Andover 5, Central Catholic 4
Central Catholic (8-7-1): 1 1 2 1 — 4
Andover (8-4-2): 1 1 2 1 — 5
Goals: CC — Max Lane, Cam Jankowski, Adam Godfrey, Sean Gray; Andover — Carter Hillson 2, Alex Doudkin, Tyler Lareau, Nik Previte
Assists: CC — Andrew Duva 2, Brady Rickenbach, Ben Furry, Keegan Hunt, Jankowski, Max Gagnon; Andover — Braeden Archambault 3, Hillson 2, Brendan Murname
Saves: CC — Logan Sheedy 26; Andover — Charlie Rainville 28
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