The Raiders dominated Wayland most of the game in the 4-1 MIAA Div. 3 North Section semifinal win reached a round that Watertown has not visited in decades.
Watertown (13-3-2) fell behind early Tuesday evening at the Chelmsford Forum, but junior Nick Martino tied the score less than three minutes later with 6:25 left in the first with an unassisted goal.
Junior Tyler Gardiner scored the first of his two goals 4:22 into the second period when he took a pass from junior Tyler Poulin and beat Wayland goalie Andrew Ludwig with a backhand move.
The goal provided some redemption for Gardiner and the Raiders who fell last year in the same round to Wayland 1-0 in overtime. Last year Watertown came in as the top seed and Wayland was the fourth seed, but a year later, Wayland was the higher seed, sixth vs. Watertown’s seventh.
“There was definitely a lot of pressure on me (after) missing the break away last year,” Gardiner said. “We definitely had to bounce back. It was good test for us with a team that we were supposed to be better than last year and they were supposed to be better than us this year.”
Gardiner doubled the lead with a goal with 4:10 left in the third period.
“It was a good forecheck by Pouly (Tyler Poulin) and Gio (Mike Girodano) happened to find me in front of the net and I tipped it and it went in,” Gardiner said.
Giordano got a goal of his own on an empty netter with 56 second left in the game while Watertown was on the power play.
Watertown head coach Mike Hayes said he did not view the game as revenge for last year.
“We wanted to beat them, of course. for me it just game three (of the tournament), one step more,” Hayes said. “It feels good. They deserve it they worked hard. Sometimes you play bad and sneak one through, I think we deserved it.
The Raiders tried to forecheck Wayland and control the game, Hayes said.
“We got in on them. They got frustrated. We made the dump into the zone,” Hayes said.
The Raiders also benefited from clutch goaltending from senior Anthony Busconi, who “stood on his head,” according to Gardiner. He stopped 31 out of 32 shots.
Next up for Watertown is Bedford, who beat Weston 3-2 in double overtime Tuesday. The Div. 3 North Section final will be back at Chelmsford Forum at 6:30 p.m. on Friday.
Gardiner said he did not know when the Raiders last reached the section final.
“It must have been a while since I have no idea,” Gardiner said.
Assistant Coach Jamie Venezia said he played on a team that reached the state semifinals in 1991, and he believes that was the last time the Raiders got that far.