Raiders to play for state championship!
Anthony Busconi stops 33 shots as Watertown High defeats Norwell, 3-0, in MIAA Division 3 EMass boys' hockey title game
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Five down, one to go.
Riding the tails of a flawless 33-save shutout performance by senior goaltender Anthony Busconi, the Watertown High boys’ hockey team punched its ticket to the Division 3 state championship game, rolling to a 3-0 win over Norwell on Wednesday, March 11, at Gallo Arena in Bourne.
As EMass champions, the Raiders (15-3-7) will play the winner of Thursday’s game between North Middlesex and Agawam for the state title. The game will be Sunday, March 15, at TD Garden.
“It feels great,” said senior captain Brendan Berkeley, “I’ve been dreaming about this all my life. It hasn’t sunk in yet. To have my [high school] career end at the Garden, I wouldn’t dream it any other way. Growing up, going to the Garden all my life … I’m speechless right now.”
The Raiders’ top line of juniors Tyler Gardiner (two goals, one assist), Michael Giordano (one goal, two assists), and Tyler Poulin (three assists) was clicking on all cylinders in the biggest game of their careers.
“It’s indescribable,” said Gardiner. “It’s a dream come true to be able to play at the Garden. We’ve worked so hard all year. It’s an amazing feeling to go play at the Garden on Sunday.”
Despite Watertown’s being outshot, 33-11, a stunning performance by Busconi — as has become the norm for the reigning Middlesex League MVP — powered the Raiders.
“He’s unbelievable,” said Gardiner of his goaltender. “He comes to the rink every day and works his butt off. He’s an unbelievable goalie and he definitely kept us in the game, and he does that every single night and that’s why we come out victorious every time.”
Busconi immediately deflected the credit in the direction of his defense.
“[Our defense] clears the front of the net pretty well,” he said, “I saw a lot of clear shots. It was just one of those things, one of those nights where I just didn’t want to let them down.”
The Clippers (21-2-3) came out firing, winning the shot count in the first period, 11-2, but the game was scoreless after one. The Raiders knew they were under serious pressure and needed to adjust.
“The first period, they took it to us,” said Berkeley. “We really didn’t move our feet, but we got into the locker room, we made some adjustments, and from the second period on, we were flying. They didn’t know what to do with us. It was our game from there on out.”
Though the shot count had them down 22-8 through two periods, the Raiders found themselves with as many clear-cut scoring opportunities as their opponents. Poulin was inches away from opening the scoring just two minutes into the second frame, pouncing on a turnover in the Norwell zone, but could only ring the post as things stayed even.
Poulin would play a part in the opening goal, picking up the secondary assist when Gardiner threw one on net that found its way past Clipper goaltender Sean McGowan five minutes into the second period.
Watertown’s talented junior trio combined eight minutes later for a goal of pure beauty, when Gardiner led a 3 on 1 with Poulin and Giordano on his heels. Gardiner got the Norwell defender to bite on his fake, slid the puck in front to Poulin, who left it on a platter for Giordano to one-time past a helpless McGowan into a wide-open net to double the Raider advantage.
It was a rough night for the Clippers’ sophomore goaltender, who recorded eight saves on the 10 shots he faced, while dealing with persistent taunts from a raucous Watertown fan base.
Busconi continued to shut the door in the final 15 minutes. Even when Norwell pulled McGowan for an extra attacker, the Clippers couldn’t find a way to get Busconi to budge.
As the Clipper faithful attempted to block out the singing of “Hey, Hey, Hey, Goodbye,” coming from the Watertown end, Gardiner buried the empty-netter for his second goal of the game to seal the victory. The Raiders were then able to celebrate their victory, relishing the opportunity that lay ahead at TD Garden.
“We had a goal at the beginning of the year, that we wanted to play the Garden,” Busconi said. “We want to end the season with a win.”
–March 11, 2015–