BOSTON — The Watertown High School boys hockey team made all the right moves on the way to the TD Garden, and the Raiders looked like they might have one last magical moment to clinch the MIAA Div. 4 State Championship. In the second overtime, however, it was Sandwich that found the puck magic, prevailing 3-2.
Coming inches short of the school’s second state championship is not bad for a team that basically didn’t exist five years ago. The seniors joined the team when Watertown brought back its varsity hockey team after going with just a JV team due to lack of players.
Watertown Head Coach John Vlachos said the team has created a new attitude, which has helped get the team to the State Final.
“When I took over the team it was just a JV team at the time, and we were independent, still. We just built on that, put in a different culture of commitment, and the kids bought in,” Vlachos said. “Our first year we just missed the playoffs by one game, two points, and I think we really ran on that.”
Early this season, Vlachos had high hopes for the Raiders.
“This year was the big year, just because we had a little bit more seniors,” Vlachos said.
The first two periods of the State Final mostly went the way that the coaches planned.
“I thought the first two periods we basically out played them,” Vlachos said. “I thought in the third period we basically needed to generate more shots, but I didn’t think the shots that they got in the third were that dangerous, except really at the end, Casey (Williams) made a couple big saves.”
The Raiders took advantage of their first power play. Senior Mason Andrade scored with 4:26 left in the first period, and was assisted by junior Anthony Venezia.
Watertown almost took the lead to the locker room, but Sandwich’s Colin McIver scored unassisted with 8.5 seconds left.
“I can’t complain on how we played,” Vlachos said. “Would I have liked to have seen us do a better job with that first goal with eight seconds to go? Yeah. I think that kind of gave them some momentum.”
The Blue Knights controlled the play early in the second period, but it was Watertown’s Colin Campbell who found the back of the net. He scored with 6:46 left in the second on a breakaway after taking a pass from James Erickson.
Four minutes later, Sandwich knotted the score 2-2 with a Caleb Richardson goal, assisted by Christopher Cardillo.
In the third period, Watertown switched goalies. Casey Williams replaced the starter, Jared Norton. The pair had switched off who started every other game this season. Vlachos said he hoped to change something up in the game, and noted that Williams is good at handling the puck with his stick.
“We needed to change it up there. I wanted to change it up and Casey has been stellar for us,” Vlachos said. “It was a risky move but I just thought Jared played well and I thought Casey would play just as well, and he did.”
The move also meant that all 21 healthy players took part in the State Final.
Neither team scored in the third, meaning they would play one eight-minute sudden-death overtime of four-on-four hockey. If no one scored they would go to a second eight minute period of three-on-three.
“I thought we played really well four-on-four,” Vlachos said. “I thought we were going to take them four-on-four.”
The Raiders almost did win it in the first extra period. Andrade had a breakaway attempt near the end of the first overtime, but Sandwich goalie Mitchell Norkevicius stopped his shot.
Early in the second overtime, Sandwich’s Jack Connolly fired a shot into the upper corner of the Watertown net 1:46 into the period to clinch the game. Connolly also scored the double-overtime winner in Sandwich’s victory over Norwell in the Final Four.
The goal ended Watertown’s title hopes, and it was also the first time that they had trailed during the entire State Tournament.
“Imagine that. Five games and the last trail we had was the winning goal,” Vlachos said.
While he was unhappy with the final result, Vlachos said he was happy with how his team played.
“I thought our game plan was on point. We were able to play 21 of our players, so everyone got that experience. I was happy about that,” Vlachos said. “I was not happy that we lost, because I thought we played really well. Even in the overtime I thought we had our chances in the overtime. Mason with the break away just fell short.”