Watertown hockey coach Mike Hayes worked with what he was given, and took the Raiders to the state title on Sunday. He hopes to stay in the hunt next year even after losing some key seniors.
The Raiders skated to the MIAA Div. 3 state title at the TD Garden Sunday with a 2-1 victory over Agawam. The team did it with a roster of 19, and Hayes said five of those players did not hit the ice.
Watertown’s game plan starts from the back on defense, and creates offensive opportunities off that.
“There’s no secret to our game,” Hayes said. “We have to skate. We have to make chances and reverse the ice.”
The rock for Watertown all year has been senior goalie Anthony Busconi. He only allowed five goals in six tournament games and did not let more than one goal after the third game of the year.
The Raiders also played only four defensemen, but they had lots of experience. All are seniors – Austin Farry, Sean Peschier, Brendan Berkeley and Matt Murphy. Hayes said they get the job done.
“These D, they may not be like a defenseman at (Malden Catholic) – polished and skilled – but they know how to play, they run the system, they have bigger hearts than anyone you will ever see,” Hayes said. “They are tough and they get the job done as well or better than anyone else.”
The top two offensive lines played most of the game. Hayes called his top line – Tyler Gardiner, Tyler Poulin and Mike Giordano – the best public line in the state. These lines were given a spell by the third line at key moments, said Poulin, who had an assist on one of Gardiner’s two goals.
“Our third line came in clutch for us today,” Poulin said. “They gave us a rest … we needed it.”
The good news for next year is Watertown gets all of its forwards back. The bad news is they lose their top goalie and top four defensemen.
Farry, a co-captain, said he is confident in the team next year.
“As a senior, playing my last game at the Garden, winning the state championship my last game, is amazing,” Farry said. “We have a lot of good players coming back. Our back up goalie (Jason Hughes) is phenomenal as well. I am proud of the underclassmen for stepping up and hope they can keep it going.”
Hayes said he is confident he will get a team together for next year. He expects to have some freshmen coming in to fill the roster.
“Watertown’s program has always been up and down,” Hayes said. “There are some numbers coming up. they are never huge. I think 20 is the most we have ever had. That’s OK, you don’t need the numbers, you need to coach them up. That’s my job. to make them understand how to play.”