By Matt Jenkins
---- — NORTH BILLERICA — The Swampscott boys hockey team had payback on its mind when it met Marblehead — its most heated rival — in a Division 3 North semifinal last night at the Chelmsford Forum.
A pair of lopsided regular season losses and a crushing playoff disappointment from five years ago served as the Big Blue’s inspiration in a stunning 4-1 Swampscott victory.
The Big Blue, who will play ninth-seeded Bedford (12-8-3) in the North final on Saturday (4:30 p.m.) at Stoneham Arena, lost to Marblehead 6-3 and 5-0 in the regular season.
“This means the world to us. They honestly embarrassed us during the regular season,” said Swampscott senior forward Corey Carmody, who scored the game-winner on a breakaway with 2:01 to go. “We just knew that we had to work hard. We had to give everything we had. It was one of those miracle games. We were the underdogs by far and we took it to them. It’s hard to beat a team three times and we showed that it was hard.”
The Big Blue (17-5-0) didn’t have to look far for examples of underdog teams achieving tournament revenge for a couple of regular season losses. Danvers’ win over Beverly in Division 2 North action last week certainly fit that criteria, but Swampscott coach Gino Faia dug a little deeper and actually used an old Headers team as an example.
Swampscott won the Northeastern Conference Small title for the first time in the 2007-2008 season, twice defeating Marblehead along the way. The Headers then got the best of the Big Blue in the first round of the tournament.
“We went back to that 2007-2008 season where we were the favorites,” Faia said. “We shut them out both times during the season and were clearly the heavy favorites and they beat us in overtime. We wanted a little payback, so it can’t be any sweeter.”
It was a sweet victory for Swampscott, but it wasn’t easy.
Marblehead (18-6-0) controlled play for most of the first two periods, but managed only one goal when Tom Koopman finished a pass from Ian Maag late in the first period.
The Headers’ goal could have been crushing for the Big Blue. Swampscott’s Nunzio Morretti had a goal waved off a little more than a minute into the game due to the net being dislodged.
“That was really tough, but we knew that’s not going to impact the game. We couldn’t let it impact the game,” Carmody said. “We just knew that we had to keep working because we knew we could take it.”
Swampscott tied the score when Noah Maercklein jammed home a rebound 8:56 into the second period, with assists going to Carmody and Morretti.
“We knew that (goal) was going to give us a boost going into the third period,” Carmody said. “We were ready to go. We were excited. We knew that we’ve been playing well and we could take them if we kept playing our game.”
Swampscott faced a lot of pressure from Marblehead, but the defense did its job, backboned by freshman goalie Tristan Bradley and his 24 saves.
“I think the more shots he saw, the more confidence he got,” Marblehead coach Bob Jackson said. “A couple other games I’ve seen him play and he didn’t get a lot of shots and you can get lazy then, and sometimes get a little tentative. We thought we had to get on him early. It didn’t happen.”
Carmody scored the winner when he pounced on a loose puck just inside the Marblehead blue line, skated in alone, deked left and went to his backhand to tuck the puck inside the far post.
“Not to make excuses, but when we made mistakes this year we seemed to make them at the wrong times, and other teams just really did a great job capitalizing,” Jackson said. “Swampscott did a great job capitalizing. We had our best defenseman and they had their best forward. We make a mistake and he goes in and capitalizes.”
Carmody added a pair of empty-net goals, one with 54 seconds left and the other with only two seconds remaining, to finish with a hat trick.
“There’s nothing better than this,” Swampscott senior captain Trevor Massey said. “To win this game and finally beat these guys and move on to the (North) final ... there’s nothing better.”
agateHed:Swampscott 4, Marblehead 1
agate_boldCentered:at Chelmsford Forum, North Billerica
agate_lineQuarters:Swampscott@SportsLocalAgate:agate_lineQuarters:: 0 1 3 — 4
agate_lineQuarters:Marblehead@SportsLocalAgate:agate_lineQuarters:: ...............1.......0 0 — 1
agate_lineQuarters:First period@SportsLocalAgate:agate_lineQuarters:: M, Tom Koopman (Ian Maag), 10:38.
agate_lineQuarters:Second Period@SportsLocalAgate:agate_lineQuarters:: S, Noah Maercklein (Nunzio Morretti, Corey Carmody), 8:56.
agate_lineQuarters:Third Period@SportsLocalAgate:agate_lineQuarters:: S, Carmody (un), 12:59; S, Carmody (Morretti), eng, 14:06; S, Carmody (un), eng, 14:58.
agate_lineQuarters:Saves@SportsLocalAgate:agate_lineQuarters:: S, Tristan Bradley 24; M, Harrison Young 16.
agate_lineQuarters:Records@SportsLocalAgate:agate_lineQuarters:: S, 17-5-0; M, 18-6-0.