MIDDLETON — It was a history making night for the hockey Hawks of Essex Tech.
Senior captain Kyle Mahan turned in his second straight postseason shutout Sunday night and his teammates produced three special teams tallies as Essex Tech blanked Pembroke, 5-0, in a Division 3 second round clash at the Essex Sports Center.
“This team, there’s just something about them,” head coach Mark Leonard said. “They work hard, they’re so close, they have fun, and they’re good players.
“And they carry that chip on their shoulders that they’re ‘only’ a tech school team,” he added. “If people didn’t think we’re good by now, I think they’ll realize it when they see this score.”
For the first time ever, Essex Tech (now 20-1-2) has won two games in the same postseason. It marks only the third time in school athletic history this has happened; the 2015 football team won three playoff games and a Division 6 North championship, and the 2008 baseball team captured two playoff victories when the school was known as North Shore Tech.
Next up is the Division 3 state quarterfinals, where the Hawks will play top seeded Scituate (18-4-2) at Hobomock Arena in Pembroke at 6 p.m.
“It’s a team game, and everyone came to play tonight,” said senior Bryan Swaczyk, who had two goals and an assist.
“I felt we had this from the beginning, to be honest,” said Mahan, following his sixth shutout of the season (and 14th in the last two years). “If you don’t go into any game believing you’re going to win, so I have complete confidence in our team. We have a great group of guys, and every single one of us want it more than the other team.”
Sophomore linemates Brady Leonard (his team-leading 20th) and Jaydan Vargas (his 8th) both had power play goals for the Hawks against Pembroke’s 6-foot-4, 300-pound senior netminder, James Stone (27 saves). Swaczyk added a shorthanded empty netter with 1:02 to play, then added another 5-on-5 goal 32 seconds later.
Swaczyk, who has 10 goals and nine assists in 18 games, has played on the third line this season with younger players; Sunday night it was his regular left wing, freshman Ben Rehal (whose first period goal turned out to be the game-winner) and another ninth grader, Brian DeLisio. But the senior has no issues with it.
“I remember playing at Peabody High as a freshman before transferring here, and I had two senior linemates take me under their wing. Now I’m the one doing that,” said the 19-year-old, who will go into the Marine Corps after graduation.
Ninth seeded Pembroke (9-11-1),which had lost its last four regular season contests before blanking Saint Paul Diocesan, 2-0, in the opening round of the playoffs, hurt itself on this night by taking eight penalties. Most of their best skill players were forced to kill off infractions rather than go on the attack offensively.
One of Mahan’s best saves came when he denied the Titans’ most dynamic skater, junior center Brandon Perry, as he broke down the left wing boards while shorthanded and sizzled a shot on net. Mahan calmly stood his ground and knocked the bid wide.
Mahan (“a great goalie and leader who comes up big in the big games,” said Leonard) made another big stop when his team had the man advantage, flashing his glove to snare Trevor VanDerMolen’s wrister from down the right side.
The goaltender, who stopped 21 shots, praised his defensemen, Riley Sobezenski, Armani Booth (who had another of his trademark huge open ice hits), Mason Sutcliffe, Drew Carney and captain Cam Doherty, for their work in front of him.
“They do a phenomenal job,” said Mahan. “They keep everyone to the outside, they listen when I’m communicating with them … they’re just great. We wouldn’t be in this spot without them.”
“We’re going to Scituate now, and they’re a great team. But listen, we’re a great team too,” said Leonard. “I’m sure no one will give us a chance Wednesday, but we’re in the game and taking the ride.”
Essex Tech 5, Pembroke 0
Division 3 playoffs second round
at Essex Sports Center, Middleton
Pembroke 0 0 0 0
Essex Tech 1 1 3 5
First period: ET, Ben Rehal (Riley Sobezenski, Bryan Swaczyk), 11:46.
Second period: ET, Brady Leonard (Cam Doherty, Armani Booth), ppg, 10:45.
Third period: ET, Jaydan Vargas (Logan Casey, Mason Sutcliffe), ppg, 10:18; ET, Swaczyk (Vargas), shg-eng, 13:58; ET, Swaczyk (Sutcliffe), 14:30.
Saves: P, James Stone 27; ET, Kyle Mahan 21.
Records: ET, 20-1-2; P, 9-11-2.
Contact Phil Stacey