Prior to this season, the Swampscott High hockey team had gone 44 years without winning a playoff game.
This winter, the Big Blue have won three in a row en route to the program’s first North championship. They’ll be looking to extend the best year in program history tonight when they meet South champion Medway in the Division 3 state semifinals at the Chelmsford Forum (8 p.m.).
“They’re feeling pretty good and ready to go,” said Swampscott head coach Gino Faia, whose 18-5 team won the North title four days ago over Bedford, 3-2, with Nunzio Morretti scoring the game-winning goal with just 6.2 seconds to play. “Hopefully, they’re back down from the high of Saturday’s win. The boys know what lies ahead, and they’re excited about the challenge against Medway.”
On Monday night, Medway won its second-straight South title after defeating Pembroke, 6-2. The second-seeded Mustangs (19-2-3) have three shutout wins in the postseason and are just as dangerous on offense as they are on defense, having scored three first-period goals against Pembroke.
“They definitely showed why they’ve only lost a couple of games this year,” noted Faia, who scouted Monday’s South final. “They’ve got good speed and handle the puck well. They definitely play both ends of the ice.”
Faia isn’t so much concerned with the way Medway plays as he is with the way his team does tonight. Swampscott has outscored its tourney foes, 17-4, and generates much of its offense from their four seniors on defense.
“We’re most effective when all five guys on the ice are attacking the puck,” Faia said. “It all starts with our senior defenders, which helps feed our offense.
“It’s the old cliche, but we’re really taking it one game a time and trying not to look ahead (to Sunday’s state title game). We’re looking to stay focused and execute our game plan. The boys know how much is at stake and that the opponents continue to get tougher as the tournament goes on. At this point in the season, we’re trying to stick with our routines during practice and games.”
Senior captain Corey Carmody leads the Big Blue in both overall (32 points) and playoff (6 goals, 8 points) scoring. Morretti is second in both categories (30 and 7, respectively), while senior defenseman Trevor Massey (27 points) and freshman winger Noah Maercklein (26 points) both have five points in three playoff games.
While he didn’t catch all of Monday’s game, Faia came away impressed with Medway’s possession of the puck, as well as with Mustangs senior goaltender Mike Narducci (7 shutouts this season).
Likewise, Swampscott has relied on freshman goaltender Tristan Bradley, who stopped 19 shots in Saturday’s North final. Bradley has allowed just four goals in the first three playoff games with a 1.33 goals against average.
“He’s a freshman, but only in name,” Faia said of Bradley. “He’s never fazed or rattled; he’s actually a pretty laid-back kid who shows great composure and welcomes the challenge.”