By Matt Williams
---- — NORTH BILLERICA — It’s been nearly impossible to match the drama of the Swampscott High hockey team’s playoff run these last two weeks.
Now, the North Shore’s best show on ice is bound for TD Garden.
The Big Blue punched a ticket to their first ever state final when freshman Noah Maercklein scored with 6:25 to go in sudden death overtime, lifting Swampscott over Medway, 4-3, in a Division 3 semifinal at Chelmsford Forum.
It was the third straight playoff game won by the Big Blue (19-5) in the waning moments. And, up to this point, it was the sweetest one yet.
“This is unbelievable,” said Swampscott head coach Gino Faia. “I couldn’t be more happy for these guys, they way they’ve worked all year. They never quit and they showed it again.”
Medway, the Division 3 South champions, tied the game with just 58 seconds left in regulation when Bobby Schindler scored an extra-attacker goal on a rebound. The Big Blue had already let a 2-1 lead slip away earlier in the third, and seeing the 3-2 advantage disappear could’ve been devastating.
“Good teams bounce back from low points,” said senior captain Trevor Massey. “That’s exactly what we did.”
Indeed, freshman goalie Tristan Bradley stood tall during a Medway flurry in overtime. Then Corey Carmody, who scored a ridiculous end-to-end goal earlier, broke in along the left wing boards. This time, he was looking to pass.
“You can’t have a better guy to finish there than Noah,” said Faia. “I knew it was going in as soon as I saw that Corey was looking to pass.”
Maeckerlein, who had two goals in the game, joined the rush and turned it into a 2-on-1 as Carmody hit the offensive zone circle. He fed it back to his freshman linemate, and Medway goalie Mike Narducci couldn’t recover.
Maercklein finished and ignited another Swampscott yard sale on the ice.
“It was great patience by Corey on the play. All I had to do was touch it in,” said Maercklein. “I didn’t even know what to do. I was shocked, but it was the best feeling.”
With the win, the best season in Swamspcott hockey history continues Sunday at TD Garden. The Big Blue will face the winner tonight’s Wachusett/Westfield semifinal for the Division 3 state title.
“I know we have a big senior class and I wanted more than anything to get those guys a chance to play at the Garden,” said Maercklein. “Somehow, we always end up scoring these big goals in the end.”
Medway (19-3-3) threw everything it had at Swampscott, physically, and hit two posts before taking a 1-0 lead with just 44 second left in the second period when Jack Kitty scored. Medway outshot the Big Blue 12-4 in the middle period and the North chamions were on their heels.
That all changed when Swampscott went on the power play early in the third, and Nunzio Morretti scored on a centering feed to tie it up. Just 3:58 later, the Big Blue got another power play tally, this one when Maercklein poked home a Massey rebound.
The South champs battled back, tying it 2-2 on Josh O’Toole’s marker with 4:29 to go.
On the next shift, Carmody got the puck in his own end and embarked an an odyssey up the ice. Gathering speed, he beat a defender inside the blue line, spun around another, and finished to make it 3-2 just 28 seconds after Medway tied it.
“He’s been unbelievable for us all year long. He’s been out go to guy,” said Faia.
With their goalie pulled, Medway struck again with just 58 seconds standing between Swampscott and the win. In all, the teams combined for five goals in a wild final 10 minutes.
“They had the lead, we had the lead, it was back and forth. We had it in our grasp and it gets taken away, then we go into overtime,” said Faia. “I don’t know ... it was unbelievable.”
Swampscott 4, Medway 3 (OT)
Division 3 state semifinal
at Chemlsford Forum
Swampscott: 0 0 3 1 — 4
Medway: 0 1 2 0 — 3
First period: No scoring.
Second Period: M, Jack Kitty (Nick DeCristoforo), 14:16.
Third Period: S, Nunzio Morretti (Noah Maercklein), ppg, 3:59; S, Maercklein (Trevor Massey, Chris Carman), ppg, 6:55; M, Josh O’Toole (Kevin Kaufman, Mike Boldy), 10:34; S, Corey Carmody (Morretti), 11:02; M, Bobby Schindler (DeCristoforo), 14:02.
Overtime: Maercklein (Carmody), 5:35.
Saves: S, Tristan Bradley 26; M, Mike Narducci 21
Records: S, 19-5-0; M, 19-3-3.