By Dan Harrison
---- — SALEM- When judging ties in hockey, it usually comes down to perspective.
The Swampscott High hockey team couldn’t have been happy surrendering a three-goal lead in Saturday’s 4-4 tie against Salem considering the Witches were playing with senior defenseman Mike Rosengren between the pipes, while all-star netminder Brett Harring sidelined with an early season injury.
Salem meanwhile was on cloud nine after the game.
“For the boys right now, it’s like winning the championship,” said Witches (0-2-1) head coach Ted Hanley, who admitted sometimes his players think he’s a little crazy emphasizing superior conditioning and a relentless fore check.
“We’re a dump and dig team. We have to be in great shape and out-skate everyone every second of every game. What we preach is starting to work. Now they’re saying there’s a method to his madness.”
Nothing seemed to be working early Saturday against the Big Blue as Swampscott freshman Ryan Donnelly totally dominated the ice in the opening frame. He broke the scoring open when he fired a shot from the top of the circle that beat Rosengren and then added his second tally shortly thereafter on a shorthanded one-timer in the slot off a nice feed from Mike Johnson from behind the net.
Swampscott would make it 3-0 minutes later on a clever wrap-around goal by Steve Dandreo forcing Hanley to call a time out.
The Witches quickly turned things around by getting pucks deep into the Big Blue end and then forcing turnovers on the forecheck. Salem was aided by a power-play goal from Matt Jalbert, who fired a shot from right outside the blue line that seemed to catch Swampscott (0-1-1) goalie Trent Gallagher off guard.
Then, before the end of the period, Derek Zwiercan forced a turnover along the boards to the left of Gallagher before sniping a goal top shelf with just over 50 seconds left.
“We pride ourselves on our forecheck. We have to bug them every time they get the puck,” said Hanley. “We play in simple systems, and the kids buy in because it makes sense to them.”
Donnelly, who has loads of skill and savvy for a freshman, finished off the hat trick in the second period when Dante Ciccarelli sent him on a breakaway and the winger got Rosengren to go down early before firing the puck over his shoulder.
But the Big Blue couldn’t hold on, surrendering a pair of third-period goals to walk away with just a point.
“We’re a young, inexperienced team. We don’t know how to play with a lead,” said Swampscott head coach Gino Faia. “We went away from the little things that got us the lead. It’s a shame, a freshman got a hat trick and it goes for nothing. We got a point but it feels like a loss.”
After Donnelly’s third marker the Witches really turned up their play and took it to Swampscott the rest of the game. Jalbert buried an Eli Spector rebound to bring the deficit to just a goal in the opening two minutes of the third period.
Salem tied the game with just over three minutes left when Killian Fitzpatrick and Adam Ngo battled to keep the puck in the offensive zone before the puck found the stick of Cam Toomey in the slot. Toomey beat Gallagher with a low hard shot to complete the come back.
Not to be lost in the shuffle was Rosengren, who was making his third and what he and the Witches hope to be his final appearance in net with Harring slated to return. He made 23 saves and was particularly poised on both of Swampscott’s power plays making five total saves and kept the puck out of the net both times.