The Swampscott Big Blue hockey team celebrates beating Essex Tech in the first round of the Division 3 North tournament Thursday at Stoneham Arena. (Item Photo | Spenser R. Hasak)

Swampscott boys hockey upsets No. 4 Essex Tech

STONEHAM -- Sometimes, a game can turn on one play. Such was the case Thursday night as the No. 13 Swampscott boys hockey team upset No. 4 Essex Tech with a 2-0 shutout victory in the opening round of the Division 3 North tournament at Stoneham Arena.

Drew Olivieri scored twice and freshman goalie Jack Russo made 17 saves to lead the way for the Big Blue.

Both coaches -- Gino Faia of Swampscott and Mark Leonard of Essex Tech -- said that the big play of the night came in the first period when the game was scoreless. 

Essex Tech was killing a penalty when Chris Grout grabbed a loose puck and went in alone on Big Blue goalie Russo. But Russo stood tall and made the save, and instead of a big boost for the Hawks it was Swampscott that picked up the play and had several chances to score before the first 15 minutes were up.

After being outshot in the first 10-8, Swampscott really stepped it up in the second period looking for that first goal, according to Faia.

“The second period we definitely took it to them, their goalie (Jared McLaughlin) is unbelievable," said Faia. "We knew it was going to be tough getting one past him, and when we finally did, it really gave us some momentum. I thought we had good pressure in the second. We scored and we were able to keep that up in the third period."

Swampscott got the only goal it would need when the Blue worked it deep in the Hawks end. Olivieri, who was parked at the side of the cage, deflected Ronan Locke’s shot in past McLaughlin’s stick side, and the Blue were on top with 3:42 left in the second.

After several great chances to make it a two-goal lead in the third -- by Olivieri, Conor Donavan and a Chris Barnes slap shot that hit the crossbar -- Olivieri whipped home his second from the slot with 2:37 left in regulation. Barnes and Locke picked up the assists on the clincher.

Olivieri gave credit to his goalie and his teammates for setting him up in the game.

“Conor Donovan got the puck in deep, the puck came to me and I got it to Ronan, he shot it and I got a piece of it. On the second one we were forechecking, Ronan forced a turnover and got me the puck, and I got lucky I guess,” Olivieri said.

Both Olivieri and Faia said that the tough schedule they played down the stretch against good teams, prepared the Blue for Thursday’s playoff test. 

Hawks coach Mark Leonard said the missed opportunity on the breakaway in the first period really turned the tide of the game. Swampscott outshot the Hawks in the second and third periods, leading overall, 23-17.

“Credit to Swampscott, they played well, we just did not have a lot of great scoring chances, and the ones we did have, (Russo) made the saves,” Leonard said.

The Big Blue (10-11-0) now move on to face No. 5 Watertown in the Division 3 North quarterfinal Monday evening (6) back at Stoneham Arena.

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