STONEHAM — Swampscott’s Nunzio Morretti kissed the Division 3 North hockey trophy as he skated towards a host of Big Blue fans shortly after the championship game Saturday afternoon at Stoneham Arena.
The junior winger teared up a bit — and if you follow Swampscott hockey, you could understand why.
Minutes earlier, he had scored the biggest goal in Big Blue history.
With just 6.2 seconds left in regulation, Morretti netted the game-winner to give Swamspcott a 3-2 victory over Bedford and the program’s first Division 3 North title.
It was Swamspcott’s second goal in the final 2:13, with senior Chris Carman erasing a 2-1 deficit before Morretti’s winner.
“I’ve literally dreamed about this as long as I’ve been playing hockey. To score a goal in a championship game, it’s indescribable,” said Morretti, his hair bleach blond like the rest of his teammates, including head coach Gino Faia.
Swamspcott (18-5) will face the Division 3 South champion (either Pembroke or Medway) in the state semifinals Wednesday or Thursday at Harvard University’s Bright Center.
Things looked grim for the Big Blue when Bedford’s Anthony Lespasio scored with 7:19 left in the third period to make it 2-1. Swampscott regrouped after a timeout with around 3:00 to play, and a blocked shot by senior Robert Serino got them going up ice.
Captain Trevor Massey found Carman streaking down the left wing, and he beat Bedford goalie Abe Grainger (27 saves) to equalize with 2:13 to play.
“I kind of saw an opening on the short side and it went in,” said Carman. “We got a lot of momentum going, and we didn’t want that to be our last period.”
Not content to go to overtime, Swamspcott continued to press. Their aggression was rewarded when Carmody’s pass across the crease found Morretti with an open net for the winning goal.
“This is the best feeling of any sports event I’ve ever been in. I love my team right now, it’s the best bunch of guys,” said Massey, who scored Swamspcott’s first goal on a nifty 1-on-1 deke in the second.
How did Swamspcott overcome a gritty, disciplined Bedford (12-9-3) team that was under three minutes from the sectional title with a 2-1 lead? As they have all season, the Big Blue and their eight seniors just kept pressing.
“It’s a credit to the team that they never thought, ‘Oh well, we’re all done.’ The guys fought hard to make good things happen there at the end,” said Faia, whose team stunned rival Marblehead with a late goal in the semifinals last week.
“We say we save our best for last, but I think it’s just working out that way. We’re not trying to plan it that way.”
The first period proved uneventful Saturday and Massey opened the scoring at 3:12 of the second. Bedford’s Brendan Flynn tied it on a rebound with 3:35 left in the second as the Bucs had their most intense pressure late in the middle period. Swampscott had the better of the shots, 30-21, for the game.
Freshman goalie Tristan Bradley stopped 19 shots for the Big Blue, including nine of the 10 he faced in the third. “You’d never know he’s a freshman. He made big saves when he needed to,” Faia said.
Just seven days before hoisting the North title for the first time, Swampscott hadn’t won a playoff game in 44 years. After back-to-back thrillers, the Big Blue were thrilled to bring their first hockey trophy back to Swampscott High.
“It’s been amazing. The whole town, our school community and all the alumni are behind us. It’s an honor to be part of this team,” said Carman.
“It’s a little bit of a blur right now,” Faia added. “I’m so happy for the kids. The guys deserve this; it’s never happened before. There’s a big buzz around town.”
agateHed:Swampscott 3, Bedford 2
agate_boldCentered:Division 3 North Final
at Stoneham Arena
agate_line3Periods:Bedford: 0 1 1 — 2
agate_line3Periods:Swampscott: 0 1 2 — 3
agate_lineQuarters:First period: No scoring.
agate_lineQuarters:Second Period: S, Trevor Massey (Joey Silva, Tyler Peterson), 3:13; B, Brendan Flynn (Brennan LaGrassa), 11:25.
agate_lineQuarters:Third Period: B, Anthony Lespasio (Sean Isnor, Jake Citrano), 7:41; S, Chris Carman (Massey), 12:47; S, Nunzio Morretti (Corey Carmody), 14:54
agate_lineQuarters:Saves: B, Abe Grainger 27; S, Tristan Bradley 19.
agate_lineQuarters:Records: B, 12-9-3; S, 18-5-0.