Short-handed Billerica ties Central Catholic

BILLERICA, Mass. –- You could see it on Billerica’s bench.

There was clearly something missing -- players.

For what the 19th-ranked Indians may have lacked in manpower against No. 4 Central Catholic Wednesday night at Hallenborg Memorial Pavillion, they made up for in grit. Even though the Billerica MASH unit only took a point away from its 1-1 tie with the Raiders, Indians head coach Mike Mastrullo was pleased with his team’s effort.

“Tonight really was a moral victory,” he said. “The kids showed up. We were thin, we had some kids out sick. We started the game three players short and then we lost two more during the game, so we were five players short.

“It was nice to see kids work hard for a good 45 minutes. That’s been our biggest issue this year.”

The Indians (6-1-6, 5-0-4) took three of a possible four points in their season series with Central Catholic (10-4-1, 6-1-1), after taking a 2-0 win over the Raiders at Lawrence Valley Forum on Dec. 22. Billerica also holds a one-point lead over the Raiders atop the DCL/MVC standings, although there’s still much to be decided before tournament time,

“Until someone dethrones Central Catholic, they’re the perennial leader in the conference, and they’re right at the top again,” Mastrullo said.

Billerica looked poised to complete the season sweep, carrying play for much of the first period when the Indians doubled up Central Catholic in shots, 14-7. The Indians finally broke through against Raiders junior netminder Kyle Williams (23 saves) with 3:57 remaining in the first. Jack Jenkins went top-shelf with a wrister from the right side circle on a feed from Arthur Raposa. Brandon Kuzmich also picked up an assist on the play.

Central Catholic responded in the second period when Billerica carried through with its ‘short-handed’ theme. The Raiders enjoyed four power play opportunities in the second, cashing in on the third with Nicholas Pelrine’s goal from Ryan Daigle and Tommy Evangelista.

The Raiders had several late chances to net the go-ahead marker, but the luck of the puck didn’t seem to be in their favor.

It looked as though Evangelista struck for a game-winner with about four minutes left to play; however, the goal was waved off as the net had been knocked loose from its mooring behind Indians goalie Bob Bourgeois (21 saves).

“We had some unfortunate plays,” Central Catholic head coach Michael Jankowski said. “We had a breakaway that was blown dead, that was a tough one with a player’s helmet getting ripped off. We had a goal called back without a whistle being blown. It’s tough. We didn’t get the bounces tonight.”

The Raiders had built up a head of steam in the midseason, winning nine straight games before a 3-1 non-league loss to Austin Prep on Monday.

Now, without a win in their last two outings, they’re looking to regroup.

“This is kind of the way we started the season,” Jankowski said. “We regrouped after all those snow days … Hopefully, now we can get back together and put together another nice run like we had earlier in the season.”