LOWELL – He is Jeff Costanza, lord of the victories.
The Concord-Carlisle sophomore scored the game-winning shootout goal to take down top-seeded Tewksbury in the quarterfinals, and his two goals were all the Patriots needed to defeat Haverhill, 4-1, and win the Division 2 North title Monday night at Tsongas Center.
His three tournament goals are Costanza's only three so far in high school.
“I don't even know what to say, I'm kind of out words,” Costanza said. “We tied them one time and beat them another. We knew all it took was hard work and a team effort. It's kind of crazy. I'm just a sophomore. I was on the team last year as a freshman; I didn't do anything. I got a couple assists but not really that helpful. Scoring a game-winning goal that's crazy.”
After a flat first period that saw Haverhill take a 1-0 lead in the intermission the Patriots jumped on the Hillies. CC pressed hard on the forecheck early, and it finally paid dividends five minutes in when Costanza scored his first goal off a rebound. Four minutes later the Patriots took the lead for good when Henry Nelson slapped home a shot from the point.
The Patriots utilized their superior speed over the final 20 minutes to keep Haverhill off-balance and limit the Hillies' chances. Concord-Carlisle goalie Leon Paladjian turned aside 14 Haverhill shots.
“We came out flat; they came out flying,” Concord-Carlisle coach Curt Colarullo said. “They played great the last three games. They've had a great tournament themselves. We kind of found ourselves. That's where the senior leadership showed up. The kids really bought into the system that we wanted to play, and they had that determination to keep pucks out of the middle of the ice, clear rebounds, and then when you get solid goaltending from Leon it's a good combination.”
Costanza's second goal, and beautiful wrist shot that found the top of the cage by John Faber opened up the lead in the third period and sealed the game up.
After making it to the sectional semis or final nine times this century, the Patriots will finally play on the Garden ice when they take on Westwood for the Division 2 state title.
“It's crazy,” Costanza said. “I'm speechless. It's kind of just hitting me now five minutes after getting off the ice. The next few days, a lot of the guys are beat up with injuries and stuff, a lot of relaxing. After a couple of days go by get back at it, get ready for the Garden.”
Haverhill's Ryan Budds opened scoring less than seven minutes in with a booming slapshot.
MAKING HISTORY: As the losers on the Tsongas ice, the season ended bitterly for Haverhill, but the success this team accomplished has no equal in the Shoe City. No team in Haverhill history had ever won two tournament games or made a sectional final.
The 2015 Hillies accomplished both.
“I just told the boys it was the most skilled hockey team in Haverhill High,” Hillies coach Joe Roberts said. “They played to the system. They bought in and worked as hard as they could. Every one of them worked together and did their job. That's what gave us our success. It was a team effort. There's no Gretzkys out there, and I'm not Claude Julien, but when they bought in everything worked.”
The Hillies graduate 10 players but return goalie Mike Gleason and second-leading scorer Kyle Gosselin.
“Right now they're really disappointed, but the whole year, the pride, they had a ball,” Roberts said. “They didn't want it do end, I didn't, but at some point it has to end. To come this far, to make history like this, they don't realize it yet, but they should be extremely proud. They will at some point.”