Jets coach Mike Roberts, who has lived and played youth sports in both Lynn and Swampscott, expects Thursday night's (8:15) Division 3 North semifinal to be in line with the competitive rivalry the two teams have developed. The No. 8 Big Blue will skate against No. 5 Lynn at Chelmsford Forum for a spot in the sectional final.
"We know this is going to be a very tight battle," Roberts said. "Both teams are very good on both sides. It's going to come down to a couple plays here, a couple plays there. I think it'll come down to the physicality. Swampscott has a very talented senior group. Dan Johnson's an absolute stud in net. They play great defense and that's been their motto this year. They have a NEC all-conference forward in Stevie Santanello who we're going to have to contain."
Roberts hopes the familiarity the Jets have with the Big Blue will play in Lynn's favor.
"I think it gives us a great advantage," Roberts said. "I've lived in both Lynn and Swampscott. I moved to Swampscott in the 3rd grade. I've gotten an opportunity to feel what it's like to be on the Swampscott side. I went to English from '95-'99. The advantage of playing Swampscott is we know exactly what we're going to get."
Lynn's run to the semifinal in Division 3 North started with a 5-4 win over No. 12 Latin Academy. The Jets fell to Latin Academy in the quarterfinals of last season's tournament.
"That game was for last year's seniors," Roberts said. "We thought we were going to make a deep run last season. Unfortunately, Latin Academy took it to us. We watched last year's seniors shed tears in the locker room. We wanted to avenge that loss for those guys. We didn't start too well in that game. It took us a little while to get our legs moving and the kids never quit."
The Jets advanced to the quarterfinal where they took down Shawsheen, 3-2, in a come-from-behind overtime win.
The key for Lynn offensively will be to send shots in Johnson's direction, in hopes of testing the Swampscott senior goalie from start to finish. Lynn's potent first line of brothers Mike and Brian Clougherty, and John DiFilippo, all Northeastern Conference all-stars, will be tasked with causing that damage. Junior Brian Clougherty enters Thursday's game with 99 career points.
"Brian has had an unbelievable year and career so far," Roberts said. "He's at 99 points going into this game. I don't know the last time a junior has recorded 100 points. If he gets on the
board, that's going to be huge for our team. Mike's at 50 points and he's done a great job setting up scoring chances and distributing the puck. John's had a tremendous year for us. Those three have combined to put up 162 total points this year.
"We have to move the puck and get Dan moving side to side," Roberts added. "We have to get shots on him. I think we control the advantage on our first two lines. If we move the puck and crash the net hard with a physical presence, that's going to be the key to our success."
Defensively, the Jets will look to match Swampscott's physicality. Goalie Jack Gallant, who's come up big throughout the tournament, will need another strong performance.
"Our defense has gotten much better throughout the season," Roberts said. "They play very well. We have to push their forwards to the outside and not let them drive to the net on us. Our defense has gotten more physical as the season has wore on.
"Jack has played out of his mind throughout the tournament," Roberts added. "He has single handedly saved our season."
Roberts is confident that a battle against Swampscott will translate to his team coming ready to play Thursday night.
"I know my boys will be ready to play Thursday because we're playing Swampscott," Roberts said. "A lot of these guys played youth hockey together. I know my guys will be 100 percent ready for battle and that's to our advantage. When you play a familiar foe like Swampscott, it's all hands on deck. Everyone's going to be ready to play once their numbers called."