Lowell High King of the North
BRIGHTON -- The Lowell High boys hockey team never lost confidence that its efforts would be rewarded.
Red Raiders 5 Newton South 2
Even after a first period in which they completely dominated possession and were the faster and far more aggressive and physical squad, only to take a two-goal deficit into the locker room, the Red Raiders stayed the course and avoided frustration.
The payoff came within the first 5:34 of the second period, when second-seeded Lowell struck for three goals before ultimately finishing with five unanswered tallies to defeat top-seeded Newton South, 5-2, in the Division 3 North final.
Lowell hoisted the sectional championship trophy in front of a huge crowd at Warrior Ice Arena, the sparkling practice facility of the Boston Bruins.
The Red Raiders (16-5-2) are headed back to the state semifinals for the first time since 2017. They’ll meet South champ Hopkinton on Wednesday on the familiar ice at the Tsongas Center in Lowell (7 p.m.).
“It was just one of those things where we dominated the first period, the shots were like 17-5,” said Lowell head coach Brian Akashian. “We just said in the locker room, ‘Just keep doing the same thing.’ We have a lot of experienced players that have played together and they do a good job of finding open ice and getting shots on net.”
Senior Andrew Kotsifas got Lowell on the board 35 seconds into the second period with a blast from the right wing.
Senior captain Thomas Hassett ripped a slap shot off the right post and in to tie the game at 2-2 with 10:12 left in the second. Forty-six seconds later, senior captain Ben Asselin fired one into the top right corner to give Lowell a 3-2 lead.
Junior forward Brendan DeMarco netted a pair of goals in the third period for good measure, including a power-play score off a rebound from an Asselin shot to make it 4-2 with 10:59 remaining. For the game, Lowell outshot the Lions, 39-15.
“We just needed to get shots on goal, we knew the goalie was going to burst at some point,” said DeMarco. “It feels amazing. We won the (Merrimack Valley/Dual County Division 3) and now we won the North. It feels great.”
Newton South (15-3-5) got its 2-0 lead courtesy of a pair of goals from senior Johnny Baker past Lowell senior goalie Patrick Cote (13 saves). The Lions only had six shots on net in the first period, but made the most of those chances. Lowell, in that first frame, couldn’t figure out how to beat NS sophomore goalie Lucas Maregni, who finished with 34 saves.
But Lowell was faster to every loose puck and delivered well-timed and clean hits all game to disrupt Newton South’s attack. It was bound to benefit LHS. The Red Raiders clearly were playing with some extra pop after two regular-season losses to NS (6-0 at home and 3-2 on the road).
“It’s a league rival, we tied as co-champions of the league, we played against them in the state tournament two years ago,” said Akashian. “So we had a little extra motivation tonight after getting those two losses earlier in the year.”
Akashian credited Kotsifas for getting Lowell rolling.
“That was a really big goal,” said Akashian.“He’s a senior, he’s been here for five years and he’s just plugged along and plugged along. He’s not the highest goal-scorer we have, but he just plays so hard.”
Lowell has put together an impressive state tourney showing through three wins. The Red Raiders have outscored opponents 18-5. In Hopkinton (16-6-2), Lowell will face a team that advanced through the South as an No. 11 seed.
“Our goal this year was just to play as long as we can,” said Akashian. “We’re lucky we get to play at Tsongas on Wednesday, our goal is to play at the (TD) Garden on St. Patrick’s Day (next Sunday. This is a great accomplishment, but it’s not where we want to be.”
Follow Matt Langone on Twitter @MattLangone