Boston High School: Tristan Bradley

D3 boys final: Westfield 4, Swampscott 1

March, 18, 2013
BOSTON – Swampscott was making its first-ever appearance in the state title game, but nerves did not seem to be an issue for the Big Blue as they fired shot after shot on the Westfield net in the opening period.

It could have been nerves that got the better of Swampscott on its first trip to the TD Garden, but instead, it was Bombers senior goalie Nick Liberto that ruined the afternoon for the North sectional champs.

“We couldn’t have done it without him,” said Westfield senior forward Adam Collier about his goaltender. “I’ve personally watched him since freshman year and he stands on his head every game. I couldn’t ask for a better goalie.”

Liberto made 22 saves and Collier scored a pair of goals as the Western sectional champions made the most of the long drive to Boston and earned the program’s third Division 3 state title with a 4-1 victory on Sunday afternoon.

Veteran head coach C.B. Matthews, Jr., who has been at the helm for all three of the team’s state championships, was also full of praise for Westfield’s senior netminder.

He remarked, “He brought us here and he kept us in the game tonight. He made some enormous saves. We were running around a little bit and he kept us in the game.”

Liberto deflected praise to his teammates and commented that his primary focus is giving his team the chance to get the game’s first goal.

“I was just trying to stay focused and I always want to give my team the first goal,” explained Liberto. “I feel like that’s huge. So, I’m good from the start.”

Swampscott freshman goalie Tristan Bradley was also excellent in the first period, but the Big Blue was caught out on two odd-man rushes by Westfield. With 4:16 left in the period, Connor Sullivan finished a two-on-one from Chris Sullivan to make it 1-0. Inside the final minute, Collier scored his first to double the Bombers’ lead.

“We gave up a couple of two on one’s, which resulted in goals but I thought for the most part we had some great opportunities, but we weren’t able to put the puck in the net,” said Big Blue head coach Gino Faia.

Collier added his second and the team’s third midway through the second period. Sean Spohr, who also assisted on Collier’s first goal, and Brandon Miemiec got the assists. Matthews called the forward his team’s “unsung hero.”

“My line has been doing great,” noted Collier about his goalscoring success in the tournament. “We just try to get to the net, move the puck well, and get the puck on net. Luckily, it’s paid off.”

Westfield nearly let a third period lead slip in the semifinal against Wachusett, so there was still pressure on the Bombers despite the three-goal advantage. That pressure increased when Robert Serino scored a wraparound goal with 8:55 remaining to make it 3-1.

Swampscott pushed forward and continued to fire shots toward Liberto, but the Westfield defensemen held firm and blocked a number of efforts in the closing minutes. Corey Carmody nearly made it a one-goal game late in the third, but his shot slid through Liberto’s five-hole and all the way through the crease.

Anthony Cagliostro tacked on an empty net goal to ice the game for the Bombers in the game’s final minute.

“Normally third periods have been our best periods all season long and we told them that we’ve got to get the one,” said Faia. “We did score and got some energy, but we kind of ran out of time there.”

Collier admitted that the Medway game was on the players’ minds as the third period began on Sunday.

“We gave up four goals in the third period [against Wachusett on Thursday] and going into the third period here we knew that we couldn’t let down and the title was ours,” he commented.

Westfield celebrated the program’s third title and Matthews noted that, no matter how many championships the program wins, it never gets old.

“It’s a good feeling,” he reflected. “They’re all special. These young men will never forget them.”

MIAA championship hockey picks

March, 16, 2013
No. 1 Duxbury (21-1-2) vs. No. 2 Falmouth (19-1-2), 11 a.m., TD Garden

Players to watch: Duxbury – F Hannah Murphy, F Marissa Fichter, F Jane Dudley, F Meredith Wright, F Julia Nolan, D Ally Hammel, D Payton Donato, G Rachel Myette; Falmouth – F Alexa Scribner, F Rachel Moore, F Madison Haberl, F Kelly Ferreira, D Hannah Ghelfi, D Alexx Good, G Madison Scavotto.

Breakdown: It is perhaps the most predictable of all of Sunday’s matchups and the most anticipated. The Dragons and Clippers renew a burgeoning rivalry, intensified by last year’s duel at the Garden and invigorated by the fact that either team’s lone loss of the season was handed to them by the other. Duxbury has been playing lockdown defense throughout the playoffs and haven’t allowed a goal in more than six games, including the regular season. The Clippers’ young corps will look to get over the hump, building on a bittersweet experience on the Bruins’ home ice sheet one year ago.

X-factor: Scavotto. As dominant as Duxbury’s defense has been in front of and including Myette, the Clippers are capable of the same. And their sophomore netminder is a big reason why. She could steal one.

Pick: Duxbury, 1-0.

No. 4 St. Mary’s of Lynn (18-3-4) vs. No. 7 Arlington Catholic (17-4-2), 9 a.m., TD Garden

Players to watch: St. Mary’s – F Alison Butler, F Kaleigh Finigan, F Gabby Crugnale, F Madison Molea, D Tatiana Doucette, D Amanda Donahoe, G Lauren Skinnion; AC – F Adrieanna Rossini, F Jess Piracini, F Duggan Delano, F Hayle Rudin, D Melissa Richard, G Megan Messuri.

Breakdown: The Catholic Central rivals meet for the second straight year on championship Sunday and, like their Div. 2 counterparts, also split their season series at a game apiece. Behind the benches, both the Spatans’ Frank Pagliuca and the Cougars’ Maggie Taverna have done work worthy of Coach of the Year honors. St. Mary’s has the feel of a team of destiny, neither a short bench nor nagging injuries all season long have kept the Spartans from returning to the biggest stage, all while dispatching No. 1 Woburn in the process.

X-factor: Rossini. You’d be hard pressed to find a young player in recent memory who has scored more clutch playoff goals than the AC sophomore.

Pick: St. Mary’s, 3-2.

Swampscott (19-5-0) vs. Westfield (18-3-2), 3:30 p.m., TD Garden

Players to watch: Swampscott – F Corey Carmody, F Noah Maercklein, F Nunzio Morretti, D Chris Carman, D Trevor Massey; Westfield – F Sean Spohr, F Mike Santinello, F Anthony Cagliostro, F Adam Collier, F Neil Parrow, D Nate Barnes.

Breakdown: The Big Blue took down defending D3 finalist and South sectional champion Medway (thanks to an OT goal from Maercklein) to advance to the program’s first title game appearance. Westfield returns to the Garden ice after a one-year hiatus after taking a scorched-earth policy to Western Mass. competition, while averaging more than 5.5 goals per game.

X-factor: Swampscott freshman goaltender Tristan Bradley. The first-year backstop has been a key element to the Big Blue’s success, maintaining a 91.5 save percentage through the season.

Pick: Swampscott, 5-4.

Wilmington (20-3-2) vs. Franklin (17-7-2), 1:30 p.m., TD Garden

Players to watch: Wilmington – F Cam Owens, F Brendan McDonough, F Jake Rogers, F Dylan DiNatale, D Brian Pickett, D Cam Collins, G Drew Foley; Franklin – F Cam Curley, F Dennis Pisani, F Aidan Isberg, F Troy Donahue, D Kyle Powers, D Kyle Filbert, G Devon Maloof.

Breakdown: The third of six rematches on the day, after the Wildcats claimed a 3-2 victory over Franklin a year ago on championship Sunday, propelled by a hat trick from Owens. The Panthers will be looking to avoid their third straight fruitless trip to the Garden, having dropped title tilts with Wilmington and Tewksbury. The Wildcats, who had Super 8 aspirations until late in the season, are eying their second straight title.

X-factor: McDonough. He’s been the break-out performer of the tournament and provides a great complement to Owens on Wilmington’s top line.

Pick: Wilmington, 3-2.

Burlington (13-6-5) vs. Marshfield (20-6-0), 8:15 p.m., TD Garden

Players to watch: Burlington – F C.J. Grinnell, F Joe Berardi, F Joey Scali, D Adam Crowley, D Sean Costa, G Derek DeCastro; Marshfield – F Mike Carbone, F Pat Burchill, F Joe Admirand, F Pat Shea, D Matt Burchill, D Trevor Salmon.

Breakdown: While this isn’t another rematch, these teams are no strangers to this stage, with the Red Devils and Rams representing as the last two Div. 1 state champions. Both teams were near .500 squads through the first month of the season, and closed their regular-season slates with momentum they’ve carried over into the playoffs. Both these teams can skate with the best of them, but they also pay attention to the little things in the defensive zone as well.

X-factor: Crowley. I’d expect a defensive struggle in this one and so I’m going with the Red Devils’ blue-liner who always makes his presence felt.

Pick: Burlington, 3-1.

No. 4 Austin Prep (16-1-6) vs. No. 7 Malden Catholic (15-6-3), 6 p.m., TD Garden

Players to watch: AP – F Nolan Vesey, F Bobby Carpenter, F Frankie Candelino, F George Sennott, F Eric MacAdams, D Andrew Cross, D J.J. Layton, G Elijah Harris; MC – F Ara Nazarian, F Mike Iovanna, F Tyler Sifferlen, F Pat Wrenn, F Austin Goldstein, D Casey Fitzgerald, D Nick Rolli, G Connor Maloney.

Breakdown: AP, while short on years, is not short on talent. I think we all knew coming into this season that they were capable of reaching this stage, but it might have been a question of when. The Cougars earned their way to Sunday after dispatching town rival Reading and then No. 1 seed St. John’s Prep in Wednesday’s semifinal. It seems like years ago since there was a time when the Lancers were in jeopardy of missing the tournament all together, but they’ve played the best hockey in the state during the last month.

X-factor: Nazarian. It’s his tournament, the rest of us are just living in it.

Pick: Malden Catholic, 4-2.