WOBURN — Watertown’s boys hockey team struck once in each period and held Rockport/Manchester-Essex scoreless until late in MIAA Div. 3 North first round game to claim the 3-1 victory, Thursday night.
Watertown senior forward Keith Ricci lead the fifth-seeded Raiders with two goals. The victory moves the Raiders to the North quarterfinals, the round where they exited the tournament last year in an overtime loss to Dracut/Tyngsboro.
Vlachos revived the program after Watertown’s varsity team went on hiatus for a year, due to low numbers of players. For the second year in a row, Watertown made the tournament, and Thursday’s win at O’Brien Rink means the Raiders have an opportunity to get the bitter taste of last year’s loss out of their mouths.
“Most of the kids have been here. They know last year’s loss at the quarterfinals did not sit well with us,” Vlachos said. “Hopefully we’re ready to go back and make up for that.”
The players have provided good leadership for the Raiders this season, Vlachos said.
“My captains are doing tremendous, two senior captains (Brendan King and Kevin Green) two junior captains (Nick Dipace and Anthony Diallo), even the leadership with the underclassmen is pretty good,” Vlachos said.
Vlachos is assisted on the bench by his brother Chris, Tom Johnson and even has gotten some help from a former NHL player.
“We’ve got Andrew Raycroft helping with our goalies,” Vlachos said, referring to the Boston Bruins 1998 5th round pick who played 11 seasons with five NHL teams, and now is a studio analyst for NESN’s Bruins’ broadcasts.
Ricci kicked off the scoring with 8:21 left in the first period. In the second period, junior forward Raffi Lachinian picked up a loose puck and blasted it into the upper corner to give the Raiders a 2-0 lead with just over four minutes left in the period.
Just 11 seconds into the third, Ricci struck again to give Watertown a three-goal cushion.
Raiders’ senior goalie Kevin Green kept a clean sheet until 3:37 left in the game when Rockport junior Drew Rowen scored on a 2-on-1 breakaway. Rockport pulled its goalie to try to cut further into the Raiders’ lead, but then picked up a roughing penalty when the teams came together after the whistle.
Despite Watertown controlling the game on the scoreboard most of the game, Vlachos said 12th-seeded Rockport made them work for it.
“I though Rockport did a nice job, I think they worked hard,” Vlachos said. “Certainly there were times during the game that they were pressuring us a lot, but I thought our boys played well, not great, but well.”
Next up for Watertown (13-6-2) is Swampscott (10-11) on Monday, March 2 at 6 p.m. at Stoneham Arena. The 13th-seeded Big Blue upended No. 4 seed Essex Tech 2-0 on Thursday. Vlachos expects a challenge from the Raiders’ next opponent.
“We’ve got to come and play our best game. Everyone’s good. There’s no seed now — everyone is coming to play. A 10 (seed) team can beat a top team.”