STONEHAM — The goal for the Swampscott boys hockey team coming into the Division 3 state tournament was to win one game after three consecutive seasons of early exits. Swampscott won four but the fifth, Wednesday night’s state semifinal against Hanover, was a bit too tall a task for the Big Blue.
Hanover unleashed a high-powered offense that controlled the puck all night long, earning a 5-0 win over Swampscott at Stoneham Arena.
“We knew they were very skilled offensively,” Swampscott coach Gino Faia said. “They have guys that can move the puck and shoot the puck, especially on that first line.”
Swampscott senior goalie Dan Johnson, tested from start to finish, tallied 33 saves in another outstanding performance between the pipes. Johnson kept the Big Blue within striking distance through the game until the Indians (24-0-1), the undefeated South sectional champions, sealed their win with three goals in the third period.
“That’s another typical performance from Dan,” Faia said. “That’s why he’s one of the best goalies around.”
The first period gave Hanover an indication of how tough it is to beat Johnson when he’s on his A-game. The Indians opened the game with shots left and right through the first three minutes of play, testing Johnson early and often. The senior goalie was on his toes for the entirety of the first 15 minutes, keeping the Indians off the board.
Swampscott’s penalty kill survived two Hanover power plays, while the Indians killed one.
The first period, thanks in part to Johnson, ended scoreless. Hanover held a 15-10 edge in shots after one period of play.
“We wanted to try to be aggressive defensively and try to take away time and space,” Faia said. “But those guys, they’re just really skilled guys. they move the puck well, the whole team.”
The Hanover attack didn’t slow down in the second period. Johnson managed to keep the Indians at bay for the first 10 minutes of the period but with Hanover controlling time of possession, it seemed inevitable that a goal was only a matter of time when the Indians earned a power play with 5:50 on the clock.
Senior forward Thomas O’Keefe, seconds later, turned a Hanover mishap into a one-on-one with Indians goalie Kevin Chandler. The junior netminder denied O’Keefe on one of Swampscott’s best looks of the night.
It was Hanover co-captain Connor Morris who snuck the first one in on the 5-on-4 with 4:26 on the clock, giving the Indians a 1-0 lead. With 1:30 to play in the period, freshman Manning Morris lit the lamp to boost Hanover’s lead to 2-0. That’s where it stood after two periods.
“We just talked about trying to get the next one (in the second intermission),” Faia said. “We wanted to get it down to a one-goal lead and anything can happen from there. We talked about trying to score that next goal.”
Chasing a 2-0 deficit the Big Blue had to work quickly in the third period in need of an offensive spark. Instead, it was Hanover’s relentless attack that maintained its momentum. Indians co-captain Zach Taylor made it 3-0 when he wrapped around the net and snuck a shot behind Johnson with 10:15 to play. Manning Morris added his second goal of the game to cushion Hanover’s lead to 4-0 with 6:54 remaining, shortly after an Indians penalty kill.
Justin Conforti’s goal with 3:08 to play put the game away, icing the 5-0 victory and punching Hanover’s ticket to Sunday’s (1) Division 3 state final at TD Garden against Shrewsbury.
“Hanover’s just a really strong team,” Faia said. “They showed why they’re undefeated. Hats off to them.”
Swampscott closes the season at 13-6-6.
“It was an unbelievable season,” Faia said. “I can’t be more proud of the guys. Nobody expected us to be Division 3 North champions and go as far as we did. We won four playoff games. I’m really happy for the group and happy for our seniors.”