Sports

Swampscott boys hockey returns an experienced group this season

Seniors Zach Elwell (above) and Casey Williamson will captain the Big Blue this season. (Katie Morrison)

SWAMPSCOTT — The 2017-2018 season was one to remember for the Swampscott boys hockey team. A 9-5-6 regular season mark granted the Big Blue the No. 8 seed in the Division 3 North state tournament. Swampscott ran the table in the sectional bracket, including wins over Lowell and Lynn, and reached the Division 3 state semifinal. That’s where the Big Blue’s ride ended, as Swampscott ran into a powerhouse Hanover team and fell 5-0. Swampscott ended the season at 12-5-6.

“It was a great year,” Big Blue coach Gino Faia, in his 19th season, said. “Going into the season nobody expected us to what we did. We had a great senior class, great leadership and the kids really worked hard.”

Swampscott graduated seven seniors from last year’s roster but returns a handful of players that took on key roles during the tournament run.

“We’re thin this year but we have guys that were part of that team,” Faia said. “Even the younger guys that didn’t play last year were exposed to (the state tournament). They saw it. Hopefully they learned it and it’ll carry over into this year moving forward.”

Seniors Zach Elwell and Casey Williamson will captain this year’s team. The assistant captains are juniors Drew Olivieri and Conor Donovan.

“I feel they’ll be great leaders, that’s why they were chosen,” Faia said “These guys have been around. They’re great leaders and they’re hungry. I think they’ll do a great job in leading the team.”

Elwell, Olivieri and Donovan, an experienced group, will lead the first line as Swampscott’s top scoring threats. Faia has full confidence in the trio.

“They’re definitely up for the challenge,” Faia said. “They know it’s going to be tough because other teams will key in on them. They’re a great combination. They work well together. I think they’ll be up for the challenge.”

Junior Chris Barnes and sophomore Griffin Bruhm will play key roles defensively. Senior Victor Kratik takes over as the starting goalie.

“Victor has some previous experience in there,” Faia said. “Him being a senior, that should really help us.”

Plenty of roles are up for grabs, especially defensively, as Swampscott continues to finalize its roster. Faia said the Big Blue would prefer to play three lines but will do what’s best for the team with the players they have.

“It’s definitely going to be a challenge but we keep telling the guys there’s spots available,” Faia said. “We’re going to play the guys we feel will contribute and help us. We’d like to play three lines but if we can’t, we can’t. Guys should should be chomping at the bit to fill those spots. We’re just hoping to bring out the best of them.

“We want to improve each day,” Faia continued. “We’ve had about six skates under our belt. Guys seem to be working harder and harder. Things are definitely improving. We can see the improvement.”
Faia expects a competitive Northeastern Conference this winter. Tournament mainstays like Gloucester, Lynn and Revere made for a tough conference schedule last year and things look to be the same in 2018-2019.

“The NEC South should be really tough,” Faia said. “Gloucester is the defending champ and should be tough. Lynn will be tough again. Revere’s much improved. There aren’t any gimmes here. All the league games will be tough battles. It should be a competitive division.”
Swampscott opens the new season next Wednesday evening (5:15) at Peabody.

“We’re excited,” Faia said. “We’re looking forward to the challenges this season.”

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