STONEHAM – After falling behind by three goals in the first period, Lowell High had to skate uphill with its season on the line.
The Red Raiders spent much of the final two periods on the attack, wheeling about the ice in hope of staging a rally that would continue their postseason journey.
On two occasions, Lowell trimmed the deficit to two goals. But Hanover refused to fold.
Simply put, the Indians beat the Red Raiders at their own game. Hanover grabbed an early lead and relied on strong goaltending in the third period to make it stand.
Hanover goalie Matt Rowe made 14 of his 27 saves in the third period as the Indians defeated Lowell, 4-2, Wednesday night in an MIAA Division 3 boys hockey state semifinal at Stoneham Arena.
“When it was 3-0 some teams may have gone the other way and we didn’t,” said Lowell coach Brian Akashian. “We just kept battling to the end. That’s what I think is the most important thing to come out of this game. It’s not the result we wanted, obviously. But we played hard right to the end.”
Kyle Frechette and Shawn Spring scored Lowell’s goals. Red Raider goalie Jake Vieira made 26 saves.
Lowell was trailing, 4-1, heading into the third period. But Spring netted a power-play goal 52 seconds into the final period, to cut the deficit to a pair of goals.
Spring’s goal gave Lowell some much needed momentum. The Red Raiders outshot Hanover, 15-9, over the final 15 minutes. But Rowe came up with some key stops to keep Lowell off the scoreboard for the remainder of the game.
“We were all over them at the end,” said Akashian. “We just couldn’t score. Sometimes that happens. Their goalie played well. We had some quality chances (in the third period). We just couldn’t find the back of the net at the end. But the kids played hard the whole time.”
Lowell finished its impressive playoff run with an overall record of 13-8-4. The Red Raiders captured their second straight Division 3 North Sectional title, and third North crown overall in the past four years. This is the third time in four years Lowell’s season ended with a loss in the Division 3 state semifinal.
“To win three sectional titles in four years is fantastic,” said Akashian. “There are teams that don’t even sniff getting that. They are chasing their first (sectional title) and we’ve won it three of the last four years. We’ve built a really, really good hockey program here.”
Hanover (21-3-1) will play Longmeadow (11-9-3) in the Division 3 state championship game at the TD Garden Sunday at 11 a.m. The Indians are a perennial power that last won the Division 3 state title in 2016.
Nate DelPrete paced Hanover’s offense with two goals and two assists. Manning Morris chipped in with two goals and one assist for the Indians.
“We had the advantage in the first period,” said Hanover coach Jonathan Abban. “I give Lowell a lot of credit. They stuck with it. . . . (Lowell) came out and executed. They have some kids who can fire the puck. It was one of those games that could have went either way. We were able to wear them down and just persevere (in the third period).”
Hanover took a 1-0 lead on Morris’ first goal of the game 42 seconds into the first period. After DelPrete netted a power-play tally, Morris potted his second goal to increased Hanover’s lead to 3-0 with 3:54 left to play in the opening period.
The Red Raiders came out strong in the second period. Frechette drilled home a shot from between the circles to cut Hanover’s lead to 3-1 with 8:56 left to play in the middle period. Kevin Conley and Keegan Cote assisted on the goal.
Just when it seemed Lowell’s offense was kicking into gear, the Red Raiders had to kill off a five-minute major penalty. Lowell’s penalty killing unit did a great job killing off the penalty. But Hanover eventually regained its three-goal lead.
With 1:15 left to play in the second period, DelPrete skated in alone and scored to increase the Indians’ lead to 4-1.
In the opening minute of the final period, Lowell had a two-man advantage when Spring scored with assists from Owen Goulette and Colin Pickett.
The Red Raiders received strong efforts from seniors, Brendan DeMarco, Nick Mandeville, Goulette, Matt Asselin and Cam Trull.
“Our seniors play hard all the time,” said Akashian. “If our returning players can follow their lead, we’ll continue to have success.”