A trip to the Cape in early March does not make for a nice vacation, but the Watertown boys’ hockey team will remember their trip forever after they won the state semifinal against Norwell 3-0 to clinch a trip to the TD Garden for the MIAA Div. 3 state final.
The game at Gallo Arena in Bourne started out rough for the Raiders, who absorbed plenty of offensive pressure from the Clippers in the first period. Watertown managed only five shots in the first stanza, while Raiders’ senior goalie Anthony Busconi stoped all 11 Norwell shots, some from just feet away.
“I thought the first period we weren’t very good,” Waterotwn head coach Mike Hayes said. “Tony made 11 saves. We sat back on our heels too much. Maybe it was nerves. I don’t know.”
During the break, Hayes called on his players to make some changes, and they did with good results.
“I thought we sagged back too much first period. They was no pressure” Hayes said. “We wanted to skate with the puck. We are a skating team. We changed our neutral zone, we changed our forecheck, and you saw difference in the second and third.”
Watertown came out firing after the break, almost scoring a few minutes in. Then 4:27 into the second period junior forward Tyler Gardiner struck for the first of his two goals on the night.
“Mike (Giordano) just came around the bottom of the circle,” Gardiner said. “I just whacked it and it went in. I kind of surprised myself.”
Gardiner returned the favor at the 12:02 mark of the second on an odd-man rush when he fed Giordano who slotted the puck home.
With a two-goal lead, the Raiders really clamped down on defense. Norwell coach Jim Casagrande complimented Watertown’s defensive scheme.
“We knew what we were going to see and we still couldn’t get it done against them. (And) their goaltender was fantastic,” Casagrande said. “That’s way better than anything I have ever seen (defensively).”
Norwell put on a flurry of attacks at in the waning minutes of the third period, including pulling the goalie for an extra attacker for the last two minutes, but Busconi was up for the task
“I just wanted to find the puck – you don’t want to let your eye off the puck,” said Busconi who had 30 saves on the night.
As the clock ticked down, Gardiner grabbed the puck and skated in for an empty net goal to make it 3-0. He could not celebrate too much because he got a slash on the wrist from the Norwell defender after scoring.
“I was focused on the wrist, he kind of hacked it,” Gardiner said. “It was a surreal feeling clinching the game at the end.”
Watertown heads to the TD Garden on Sunday at 1 p.m. for the Div. 3 state final against Agawam.