Hughes, Watertown extra special!

Raiders senior goalie stands tall against Shawsheen; WHS to play for Division 3 North crown on Monday

Amin Touri, Raider Times staff

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After 45 minutes of regulation, two six-minute overtime periods, and nine shootout attempts, the game comes down to one battle: Sean Collins vs. Jason Hughes.

Advantage, Hughes.

With Watertown High’s hockey season on the line Thursday night, the Raiders senior goaltender stayed square, stayed home, and made one final shootout save to give his team a dramatic 5-4 win for the ages.

Watertown Raiders MIAA hockey Shawsheen Division 3 North Grace DuguayRaider Times photo / Grace Duguay

“I was just thinking about everything coach has been telling me all year,” said Hughes. “Just match speed, square up to him, stay with the puck, and get ready to spring.”

Hughes saved four of five shootout attempts to bring his total for the night to 37, leading Watertown over Shawsheen Tech at Chelmsford Forum. The 13th-seeded Raiders (12-11-0), the defending state champions, punched their ticket to the Division 3 North finals in a heart-stopping thriller.

“I was actually pretty calm, to be honest with you,” said Raiders coach Mike Hayes. “A couple guys were sick today — [senior Tyler Poulin] and [senior Michael Giordano] — and just the resiliency they showed throughout the game to keep fighting and fighting and really staying out there most of the game, I can’t be nervous when I have kids that are willing to do whatever it takes.”

Shawsheen Tech Watertown High hockey Division 3 North MIAA Melissa RoseRaider Times photo / Melissa Rose

Two goals from senior Tyler Gardiner and one each from Poulin and sophomore Tim Connors helped the Raiders force overtime. Neither team could find a winner, pushing the affair to a shootout.

Poulin and Giordano each buried their shootout opportunities, and two goals were enough for the Raiders, as Hughes handled the rest.

“It was definitely nerve-wracking, but I had faith in our guys the whole way, especially with Jason in the shootout,” said Giordano. “He’s a great goalie, and I can’t score on him in the shootout in practice.”

“I just tried to stay calm the whole game, but it was insane,” said Poulin. “Every five minutes something happened. They scored, we scored, there’s a breakaway, something. So we have to stay calm, keep our emotions in check, and play together, as a family.”

Watertown High Division 3 North hockey Shawsheen Sarah LampasonaRaider Times photo / Sarah Lampasona

The first puck drop was delayed a half-hour because of scoreboard difficulties, but the Raiders wasted no time asserting themselves offensively. Gardiner picked up the puck on the left wing, gained the offensive zone, and fired one short side past Shawsheen’s Jack Stone to make it 1-0 just 1:22 into the game.

Stone was excellent in his own right, making 36 saves on the night in a losing effort.

The Raiders dominated early, but Shawsheen came out firing in the second period. Griffin Blanch and Aaron Bennett each managed to capitalize on rebounds, and the Rams led 2-1 after two periods.

Hughes struggled with his rebound control, and that proved costly.

“You know, you let in a few soft ones, you get down a bit, but you gotta stay up,” said Hughes. “I was just trusting my teammates to bail me out and they did. You just gotta focus on the next shot. Every save, every shot, you gotta focus on the next one.”

Watertown Raiders MIAA hockey Shawsheen Division 3 North Grace DuguayRaider Times photo / Grace Duguay

The ninth-seeded Rams (11-8-4) were absolutely dominant in the middle frame, outshooting the Raiders, 14-2.

“First period we came out flying, and we really had ‘em,” Gardiner said. “But then the second period was one of the worst we’ve played all year.”

As quickly as the tide shifted in favor of Shawsheen, it shifted back toward the Raiders. A 2-1 Shawsheen lead became a 3-2 Watertown advantage in the span of 40 seconds.

With 12:12 left in the third period, Connors got himself on the scoresheet for the first time this postseason, burying a rebound to knot things.

Just 40 seconds later, Poulin found himself open in the slot, and slipped it through Stone’s 5-hole to return the lead to Watertown and send the Raider faithful into pandemonium.

Shawsheen Tech Watertown High hockey Division 3 North MIAA Melissa RoseRaider Times photo / Melissa Rose

The roller-coaster ride wasn’t close to over, however. The Rams popped two goals of their own in quick succession midway through the third.

After Hughes made a brilliant glove save on the penalty kill, Shawsheen senior Zach Buckland snuck a wraparound past the Raider goaltender to tie it up at 3. Collins put the Rams in front 90 seconds later, firing a slap shot past Hughes from close range to seemingly put the nail in the coffin with 5:00 to go.

But this isn’t a Watertown team that goes away easily.

After Collins went to the box for a major penalty for a vicious boarding hit on Connors, the Raiders had four minutes to set up their power play and force overtime.

The Raiders had multiple chances on the long power play, but weren’t able to convert their first few opportunities. The puck eventually fell to Gardiner at the blue line, and the Raider forward fired a wrist shot that got through everything and found the back of the net, adding yet another twist to an already-exhilarating game.

With the game tied at 4 going into overtime, the Raiders managed to kill off an early penalty, before Hughes made a big glove save with 49 seconds to go. Watertown managed to clear the puck after a scramble in the crease.

Watertown High Division 3 North hockey Shawsheen Sarah LampasonaRaider Times photo / Sarah Lampasona

So the sides went to a 4-on-4 second overtime, where the extra open ice meant even faster play.

Watertown senior Nick Martino had a huge opportunity to put the game away 30 seconds in, but Stone made his biggest save of the night to deny the breakaway, and keep his team alive.

The Raiders dominated the second overtime, but couldn’t find a winner and one of the craziest games Watertown has played in recent memory took one final twist, as the game went to a shootout.

Hayes went with Poulin first, and the Raider forward slotted the puck into a wide-open net after getting Stone to bite on a slick forehand-backhand move.

After Hughes stoned Blanch on the other end, Giordano followed in his teammate’s footsteps, using a quick backhand-forehand move to get Stone to bite to his glove side. Giordano buried it to give his team a quick 2-0 advantage.

“I just saw Pooly make a nice move to fake him out,” said Giordano, “and I knew the goalie was coming out, so I used some speed, gave a little pump fake, he went down, and I went around him and put it away.”

Watertown Raiders MIAA hockey Shawsheen Division 3 North Grace DuguayRaider Times photo / Grace Duguay

Hughes made another big stop to put his team in great position, but after Gardiner fired his shot wide and Martino’s shot hit the post and just barely stayed out, the Rams converted their fourth attempt to make it 2-1 going into the fifth and deciding round.

After Stone made a big kick save on Connors to keep his team alive, it all came down to Sean Collins and Jason Hughes, and Mike Hayes never had a doubt.

“One hundred percent [confidence],” said Hayes. “Honestly. We do it in practice every day, and he’s been really really good at it. One hundred percent confidence. I knew he was going to win it for us.”

Hayes’ confidence was well-placed, as Hughes made the biggest save of his career to send a nervous Raider crowd into one final frenzy.

After 57 minutes of hockey and 10 shootout attempts, the Raiders were finally able to skate off with a 5-4 victory.

Watertown High Division 3 North hockey Shawsheen Sarah LampasonaRaider Times photo / Sarah Lampasona

“I’m tired,” said Gardiner, doubled over and coughing. “I feel exhausted, but I feel good. We came together, even when we weren’t playing well, and we managed to pull out a shootout victory, so there’s not much to say. I feel good.”

“Not our best game overall,” said Hayes, “but you gotta give credit to the other team. They did a lot of good things, a lot of really good things. I do think that a couple guys being sick doesn’t help, especially when they’re out there for 60 percent of the game, but Shawsheen did a lot of things that we had trouble with. Kudos to them, but kudos to our guys, they made the adjustments and really implemented them in the third and we dominated that period and we ended up with a shootout win.”

Hayes knows where his team needs to improve going forward.

“D-zone,” he said. “Two goals we just gave them, with missed assignments, and it pisses me off. D-zone. It’s everything. We weren’t very good there tonight.”

The win sends the Raiders to the Division 3 North finals, where they’ll face Wayland on Monday, March 14 at 7 p.m. at the O’Brien Ice Rink in Woburn. The sixth-seeded Warriors (13-6-4) rolled over No. 7 East Boston, 7-3, hours before Watertown’s dramatic victory to earn their spot.

“They’re very good,” said Hayes. “They’ve got really good forwards, two really good D-men, and a good goalie. It’s going to be a grind.”

Shawsheen Tech Watertown High hockey Division 3 North MIAA Melissa RoseRaider Times photo / Melissa Rose

–March 10, 2016–

 

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