By Dan Harrison
---- — The Swampscott High boys hockey team will play in the North Division 3 final at Stoneham today at 4:30 p.m. The third-seeded Big Blue will square off against Bedford after the Buccaneers upset top-seeded Lowell (2-0) in a shootout before ousting fourth-seeded Shawsheen (3-1) in the semifinals.
Bedford is the nine seed at 11-8-3 but Swampscott head coach Gino Faia says his guys are treating the Buccaneers like they are the top team in the tournament.
“The only thing I know is last year they (Bedford) had the number one seed and lost in the North Finals to Wayland, which was the team that beat us. And they’ve only lost two defensemen, so they have pretty much everyone back,” noted Faia. “They’ve got a good goalie and a couple good goal-scorers. We’re going to approach it like we are playing the number one seed.”
Abe Grainger plays between the pipes for the Buccaneers and he is having a phenomenal postseason. He made 33 saves in regulation and overtime in the upset over Lowell and followed it up with another one-goal game against Shawsheen.
Hot goaltenders end seasons frequently and so far Grainger’s been a big reason why the Bucs have sent two strong teams packing. The Big Blue will have to stick to their game plan and play with patience against Grainger. After all, Swampscott has faced some tough goalies throughout this season.
“You just have to get pucks to the net and make him (Grainger) work. And you have to stay patient,” said Faia. “We played some pretty good goalies throughout the year and found that when we stayed patient and didn’t press, we were able to finally crack through. We’re hoping to do the same thing (today).”
In order for Swampscott to stay patient, the Big Blue need to get the job done on defense. If Bedford can net an early goal or two it could force Swampscott to do exactly what Faia doesn’t want, which is to press on offense.
Besides, when the Big Blue are playing well in their own end it usually translates to good offensive opportunities.
Senior captains Chris Carman and Trevor Massey are the anchors at the blue line and will need to have exceptional games for the Big Blue train to keep on rolling. Seniors Patrick Burkett and Chris Dandreo give Swampscott an experienced group on the back line.
“That’s where our game starts,” Faia said referring to his defense. “We have four seniors. We want to work the defensive zone first and our offense has always come off of our good defensive play. We’re hoping to continue that same style of play.”
Freshman Tristan Bradley has been starting in goal for Swampscott for the majority of games in the second half of the season. He’s played extremely well come playoff time and has shown the confidence level of a much older player. He is 12-2-0 with a 1.53 goals against average with three shutouts in 14 starts.
The guys looking to put the puck in the net are led by seniors Corey Carmody (22 goals and nine assists) and Robert Serino (five goals and 13 assists). Carmody has been particularly deadly since the start of the playoffs and has six goals and one assist so far this postseason.
The Big Blue group is deep in experience with eight seniors all fighting to play high school hockey for another day. Forwards Tyler
Peterson and Jake Finlay are also seniors on the team along with third string netminder Alex Powell.
Swampscott hadn’t won a playoff game in 44 years before this season and now stands one win away from being Div. 3 North champions.
“It’s definitely new territory for us but the guys are playing well and practicing well. We’re excited about everything we’ve done this year and we’re hoping to keep this thing going,” said Faia. “This is a good senior, core group we have. They have definitely deserved everything they’ve gotten this year.”