There's an old saying that claims "whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger."
That might have been the case for the Tewksbury High hockey team Wednesday night as the Redmen took on one of the top ranked Division 1 teams in the state and fell just short of pulling a major upset, losing to Central Catholic, 3-2.
"There's a reason we schedule teams like this," said Tewksbury coach Derek Doherty after his Redmen out-hit and out-shot Central for three periods. "This is one of the top four or five Division 1 teams in the state. We don't have to schedule this team, or Chlemsford or Billerica. But we play them because it makes us a better team and gets us better prepared for the (state) tournament."
Freshman forward Ryan Petti scored both of Tewksbury's goals, but Central's sophomore forward Lloyd Hayes went end-to-end and scored the eventual game-winner with 7:21 left to play in the third period, and the visiting Red Raiders left with a win.
Petti got Tewksbury on the board just two minutes into the game when he stole the puck in the Central defensive zone and whipped a wrist shot past Raider goalie Andrew Robbins. Central tied it less than two minutes later when sophomore forward Zachary Cote found a loose puck in front of the Tewksbury net and tucked it home.
Central made it 2-1 with 5:37 left in the first period, when Alex Lester cleaned up a rebound in front of the Tewsbury net.
Petti evened the score at 2-2 when he notched his fourth goal of the season with just 1:29 to play in the second period. Defenseman Shannon Alukonis blasted a slap shot from the point, and Petti tipped it home.
Tewksbury had multiple chances to take the lead before Hayes scored Central's third goal, and multiple chances to tie the game afterward. But the swarming Redmen attack couldn't sneak another one past Robbins before time ran out.
Tewksbury outshot Central, 27-25 in the game and 14-6 in the third period. The Redmen had a 5-on-3 advantage for 1:30 in the second period and another for over a minute in the third, but could not capitalize. Still, Doherty was pleased with the giant-killing effort turned in by his team.
"I thought we took care of the neutral zone and I thought we played a nice physical game," Doherty said. "We had our chances. The effort the kids gave tonight, I'm pretty proud of the way we played. You go up against one of the top four or five Division 1 teams in the state and you battle them toe-to-toe, what does that tell you? It tells you that when this team wants to play, they can play with anybody."
Tewksbury's record now stands at 9-3-3 as the Redmen embark on an important four-game stretch against four Merrimack Valley Conference/Dual County League Division 2 opponents. TMHS travels to Northeastern's Matthews Arena Saturday evening to take on rival Boston Latin.
"This game sets us up well for the rest of our league schedule," Doherty said. "We have to go out and we have to play like we did tonight if we want to beat teams like (Boston) Latin."
WRESTLERS TIE BILLERICA, 36-36
The Tewksbury High wrestling team battled MVC rival Billerica to a rare, 36-36 tie on Wednesday night, wrapping up the dual meet portion of their season with a 9-6-1 record.
Tewksbury got 12 of its 36 points when Mike Davidian (160) and Chris London (170) both won by forfeit. The other 24 points came on pins, as David Allen won by pinfall at 220, Nick Jansen pinned his opponent at 285, Derek Tarpey won by pinfall at 185 and Dan Altavesta won by pinfall at 152.
"It was kind of a weird meet," TMHS coach Brian Aylward said. "A very mediocre night for us. But we'll take it. Billerica is a legitimate team, a good solid MVC team with some quality kids."
The rest may have been beneficial to London and Davidian, as that duo leads the Redmen into the Division 2 North Sectionals at Beverly High School on Saturday. London is the defending sectional champ at 160 and the odds-on favorite to take the 170-pound title this year. Aylward is counting on Davidan, Tarpey, Altavesta, Allen, Brendan McCarthy and Matt Greenwood, all seniors, to show well at the sectional meet.
"It's their senior year and their last chance to go out and get it done," Aylward said. "They've seen it from the other side -- senior kids who stepped up (in the post-season). They need to bring that senior mentality and realize they're not going to be around next year."