STONEHAM — Two years ago, the thought of playing deep into the third period of a state tournament hockey game wasn’t much more than a dream for the members of the Salem/Hamilton-Wenham co-op team.
Over that time, with a lot of grunt work and help from head coach Ted Hanley, the Witches made it a reality.
So while Salem ultimately fell, 2-0, to Dracut in the first round of the Division 3 North tournament at Stoneham Arena yesterday, the message afterwards wasn’t one of disappointment.
The Witches, who end the season 9-9-4, were proud to have made their first playoff appearance since 2006-07. Hanley was even more proud of the way his team played on the ice against a strong Dracut team that advanced to Sunday’s quarterfinals against Northeast.
“I didn’t want us to come in here happy to be in the tournament and playing poorly. We didn’t — We showed exactly how we could play,” said Hanley. “We were going to need a bounce or two to beat that team, that’s why they were the number seven seed and we were tenth.”
Salem spent long stretches of the first and second periods stuck in the offensive zone, but the possession by Dracut (12-7-2) wasn’t dominant or particularly threatening. Witches defensemen Eli Spector, Jackson Jennings, Ishmael Telemaco and Eamon Williamson did a good job tracking down loose pucks, but the Middies did an even better job preventing Salem from making clean breakouts.
The result was limited time on attack for the Witches and a 31-16 edge in shots on goal for Dracut.
“We wanted to try to shut down Dracut’s first line because each one of them had 25 points,” said Hanley. “We were hoping we could get Danny Heck’s line out there against Dracut’s second line and maybe pop in a couple.”