By Matt Williams
---- — BOSTON — Every great ride — a five minute roller coaster, a nine-month season of your favorite TV show, or two-week playoff runs by incredible high school sports teams — has something in common.
At some point, it has to end.
The joy ride that was the Swampscott High hockey team’s 2012-13 season came to a halt yesterday at TD Garden, where Westfield held off the Big Blue, 4-1, in the Division 3 state championship game.
Swampscott (19-6) had won its last three playoff games by scoring late goals and coming from behind. Yesterday, the Bombers (19-3-2) were just too disciplined in the defensive zone to allow another Big Blue miracle.
“We’re pretty happy with the season, but its also bittersweet to get here and not win,” said Swampscott senior captain Chris Carman.
The Big Blue played without senior defenseman Trevor Massey, a team captain and the NEC South MVP, after he and sophomore forward Ryan Cresta were suspended for school and MIAA rules violations.
“There was nothing we could do about it, and the guys that were here today played their hearts out. That’s all we can ask,” said Swampscott head coach Gino Faia.
Senior captain Robert Serino scored a wrap-around goal with 8:55 to play that made it 3-1 and gave the Big Blue some life. Swampscott controlled much of the play the rest of the way, but couldn’t get one by Westfield goalie Nick Liberto, who made nine of his 20 saves in the third period.
Liberto was also sharp in the early going, stopping all 12 shots he faced in the first period. The Big Blue struggled on the forecheck in the second period as the Bombers built a 3-0 lead.
“I thought the difference was our goaltender,” Westfield coach C.B. Matthews Jr. said after leading his team to its third state title. “The game could’ve gone either way quickly, and then when we were running around a bit in the third he kept us in it.”
Swampscott didn’t do itself any favors on the power play, failing to score in six opportunities. None were bigger than the minor they drew with 4:43 to go, but the Bombers managed to get sticks in passing lanes and deny any real man advantage pressure.
“They had an aggressive kill,” said Faia. “We rushed things with the puck and we didn’t get the setups that we wanted.”
Swampscott employed four forwards on the top power play unit (which was missing Massey) and generated tipped shots by both junior Nunzio Morretti and freshman Noah Maerckklein (rotating down from the point) that sailed just wide. Liberto was very strong on his pads, denying rebound chances by senior Corey Carmody and junior Griffin Hunt along the line.
“We didn’t have our ‘A’ game, and Westfield played really well. They deserve the credit,” said Carmody.
The Big Blue had most of the pressure early on, but Westfield scored first on a late developing 2-on-1 finished by Connor Sullivan. Freshman goalie Tristan Bradley (21 saves) then saved a partial break by Westfield’s Michael Santinello, only to see another 2-on-1 break by the Bombers’ Adam Collier make it 2-0 with only 40 seconds left in the first.
Swampscott generated just three shots on goal in the second, with Westfield adding another goal on Collier’s rebound bid with 2:48 left in the middle frame. Despite generating speed, the Big Blue couldn’t get to the net for good angle shots.
“They weren’t the most physical team, but they got right in front of us and made it really hard on us,” Morretti said of Westfield’s defense.
Serino capitailized behind the net midway through the third as a Westfield defender finished a check on Hunt but left the puck loose.
“It wasn’t pretty, but it went in,” said Serino. “I was kind of shocked for a second. To score a goal at the Garden is pretty awesome.”
The Big Blue, who got solid all-around defense from Carman, Chris Dandreo, Patrick Burkett and sophomore Joey Faia, sensed a momentum shift and tried to take advantage.
“We knew we had to get one — one goal and see what happens,” said Faia. “They feed off those goals, and we had some energy there ...but we also ran out of time.”
Westfield iced the game and the state title with an empty net goal by Anthony Cagliostro with 49 seconds left. Collier led the Bombers with two goals and one assist and Sean Spohr (a team-leading 53 points) added three assists.
So with a school record 19 wins in tow, plus the first Division 3 North championship and state final appearance in program history, the Big Blue say goodbye to eight seniors: Dandreo, Burkett, Carman, Serino, Carmody, forward Tyler Peterson, goalie Alex Powell and Massey.
“The seniors finished their career at Boston Garden,” said Faia. “What more can you ask for?”
agateHed:Westfield 4, Swampscott 1
agate_boldCentered:Division 3 state final
at TD Garden, Boston
agate_line3Periods:Swampscott: 0 0 1 — 1
agate_line3Periods:Westfield: 2 1 1 — 4
agate_lineQuarters:First period: W, Connor Sullivan (Chris Sullivan), 10:44; W, Adam Collier (Sean Spohr), 14:20.
agate_lineQuarters:Second Period: W, Collier (Spohr, Adam Hosmer), 12:12.
agate_lineQuarters:Third Period: S, Robert Serino (Griffin Hunt), 6:05; W, Anthony Cagliostro (Collier, Spohr), eng, 14:11
agate_lineQuarters:Saves: S, Tristan Bradley 21; W, Nick Liberto 20.
agate_lineQuarters:Records: S, 19-6-0; W, 19-3-2.