Two old reliables – Anthony Busconi and Tyler Gardiner – came through for Watertown Sunday afternoon at the TD Garden, and the Raiders skated home with the MIAA Div. 3 State Championship after beating Agawam 2-1.
Senior goalie, Busconi, kept Watertown in the game against the physical and talented Brownies. He made 13 saves while the Raiders could only muster four shots.
Things changed in the second period. Watertown (16-3-7) began to counter punch, and Gardiner, a junior forward, struck again for the Raiders with 6:16 left second period. He took a feed from junior forward Nick Martino. Junior forward Tyler Poulin also got an assist.
“(Mike Giordano) kind of flipped it up in the air, I came in with speed, I beat the defenseman, went by him and scored,” Gardiner said.
Agawam (18-4-2), the West Section and Western Mass champions, had chances of its own, and hit the post twice, but Busconi continued to make save after save. He ended up with 33 on the day.
“I just try to do my job” Busconi said. “We play for each other. My job is to stop the puck. I didn’t want to let them down. They did a great job. It was a great team win.”
In the third, the teams traded shots, but Watertown and Gardiner were the one to find the back of the net with 1:45 left in the third period. He and senior defenseman Brian Berkeley broke in on net after picking up the puck in the neutral zone. Berkeley slid the puck over to Gardiner who found his spot low against Agawam goalie Connor McAnanama.
“I went into this game and I wanted to score, being on the TD Garden (ice),” Gardiner said. “It really felt good. To score another one was just the best feeling.”
Agawam pulled its goalie with 1:30 left, which paid off when star senior defenseman Seamus Curran scored with 7.7 second left. But the game was essentially over.
Watertown’s captains lifted the Div. 3 state champions trophy – the school’s first.
Watertown head coach Mike Hayes said the championship was a total team effort.
“They are a family. Its the kid that never plays but fills the water, he’s just as important as Anthony (Busconi). we treat them all the same and they treat them all the same,” Hayes said. “You see it in the locker room – they just love each other. We try to build that. You have to have that foundation to be able to go out and compete against another team, because if you are a bunch of individuals, it’s never going to happen.
“To theses guys credit they buy in. and they preach it starting from the captains to the freshman kid who never plays and picks up the water bottles,” Hayes added.
Watertown has a small squad, with 19 players, five of whom rarely if ever hit the ice. Hayes said that does not mean his team lacks talent.
“We have the best goalie around, and we have, I think, the best public school line, (Gardiner, Tyler Poulin and Mike Giordano) and the second line works hard. They played great tonight, they really did.”
When the year began, Hayes said he knew the team could win the state championship. Watertown finished 16-3-7, and Hayes noted that the Raiders have lost only five games in two years.
“When you have a class like that, a goalie like that and defensemen like that and everyone else buys in – they are a family,” Hayes said. “It means a lot for the program, for the town and for these guys it means everything. They go out champions.”