By Phil Stacey
---- — STONEHAM — He wasn’t officially credited with an assist.
But that’s only because heart, sacrifice and unselfishness aren’t listed as statistics.
With his team down a goal and under three minutes to play in Saturday’s Division 3 North hockey final, Swampscott High forward Robert Serino saw three opposing players from Bedford bust out of the neutral zone — and no one but himself wearing a white jersey there to stop them.
Outnumbered, Serino stayed with the puckcarrier as he bore down on goalie Tristan Bradley’s left side. Then, anticipating a one-time pass into the slot, he splayed across the ice to prevent the puck from reaching its desired destination, ultimately knocking it free with a swipe of his stick.
These things sometimes have a way of working out well. For the Big Blue, it worked out very, very well, as they took the play back up-ice and seconds later got the game-tying goal off the stick of Chris Carman with 2:13 to play. Swampscott then won its first Division 3 North title on junior Nunzio Morretti’s tally with just 6.2 seconds remaining, but none of that would have transpired without Serino’s monster block at the other end.
“I haven’t been a defenseman since probably Mite hockey,” said the 18-year-old Serino. “I just laid out and hoped for the best. Luckily, it hit my stick and deflected away.”
“He really hustled back there on defense and made such a smart play,” Morretti said of Serino. “They’ve got a 3-on-1 and he breaks it up ... it was a huge momentum shift for us.”
Swampscott head coach Gino Faia is used to seeing Serino make such plays. The second line left wing can certainly contribute offensively (as his 5 goals and 18 points would attest), but he also realizes his value as a three-zone player and doing whatever is needed to give the Big Blue an advantage.
“He’s all heart. He battles 100 percent of the time all the time,” Faia said. “Those kinds of plays are the plays we needed, for guys to sacrifice. That’s what we need to win.
“We refer to him as ‘The Warrior’ because he’s contstantly battling and throwing his body all around out there. He knows our offense starts from defense and isn’t afraid to sacrifice himself.”