NEW HAVEN >> When Hall/Southington’s Jeremy Fortin scored 9 seconds into the third period to tie Woodstock Academy at 3 in the CIAC Division III boys hockey final on Saturday, the momentum was on the side of the Warriors.
At that point Woodstock Academy forward Nate DeLuca told himself it was time for him to take control of the game.
And he did.
DeLuca scored a short-handed goal to take a 4-3 lead, the Centaurs would score three more unanswered goals, DeLuca finished the game with a hat trick and No. 1 Woodstock Academy ended up with a 7-3 win over No. 6 Hall/Southington at Ingalls Rink for its first state title.
“When they scored that quick goal to tie it at 3-3, I was concerned, we were all concerned,” DeLuca said. “I said to myself: I have to take over this game. They had the momentum and we had to switch that momentum to our side.
“That short-handed goal was off a 2-on-zero breakaway. I was all alone in front of the goal and I had to take the shot. That fourth goal was big for us and it gave us the momentum we needed. To win this title is awesome, it’s surreal. It speaks volumes of how hard this team has worked for this championship.”
The Centaurs 22-2-1 dominated the Division III tournament, outscoring opponents 34-4.
“Last year when we lost in the semifinals in overtime, the players didn’t want that to happen again this season, they didn’t want to have that feeling again,” Woodstock Academy coach Mike Starr said. “They have been determined and focused.
“Hall/Southington is a tough team and we expected a tough game. But our game plan is always to score in bunches. You score a goal and you don’t want to let up on the gas pedal, you want to keep that pressure on your opponent. Nate is a workhorse for us and had a big game today. This title today is for our players and all the seniors who have graduated.”
The Centaurs outshot the Warriors 14-8 in the first period. Defense ruled for most of the period until the final seconds when Ryan Black broke a scoreless tie.
Breaking down center ice, Black took a pass from Avery Riva near the Hall/Southington blue line. Black skated inside the right circle and wound up for a shot that flew into the upper right corner for a 1-0 lead with 3 seconds to go in the period.
The Warriors had some solid chances to score. Dusty Kilgore had a wide open shot at the bottom of the right circle but hit the right post at 1:30. Mike DiPietro was all alone in the at the top of the right circle and fired a slap shot. But Cal Cwilcox slapped the puck away with his stick at 5:35.
Both teams came out fired up in the second period.
Avery Riva gave Woodstock Academy a 2-0 lead at 2:31of the second period. But the Warriors got one back at 4:45 when Jacob Mohr scored his first goal off a close-range wrist shot to cut the lead to 2-1.
The Centaurs regained the two-goal lead off a rebound shot by DeLuca at 6:28 to make it 3-1 Woodstock Academy.
The 3-1 score looked good for the second intermission. But Mohr sent the Warriors crowd to their feet when he scored with 1 second left in the period. Mohr was at the right post and Jeremy Fortin fed him a pass. Mohr wristed the puck into the net for the goal and cut the Woodstock Academy lead to 3-2.
Enter the third period.
Fortin scored at 14:51 for the 3-3 tie and then DeLuca took over. After his short-handed goal made it 4-3 at 6:06, Avery Riva scored for a 5-3 lead at 10:35. DeLuca scored his third goal at 11:01 for a 6-3 lead and Will Liscomb’s goal at 11:52 provided the 7-3 final.
Hall/Southington goalie Zach Monti had 27 saves and Woodstock Academy’s Cal Wilcox had 26.
Woodstock Academy 7, Hall/Southington 3
(at New Haven)
Hall/Southington 0 2 1 – 3
Woodstock Academy 1 2 4 – 7
First period- WoodAc: Ryan Black (Avery Riva) 14:57; Second period- WoodAc: Avery Riva (Ryan Black) 2:31; STH: Jacob Mohr (Jeremy Fortin) 4:45; WoodAc: Nate DeLuca (Douglas Newton, Will Liscomb) 6:28; STH: Jacob Mohr (Miles Aronow, Jeremy Fortin) 14:59; Third period- STH: Jeremy Fortin (Jacob Mohr) :09; WoodAc: Nate DeLuca 6:06; Avery Riva (Ryan Black) 10:35; Nate DeLuca (Douglas Newton) 11:01; Will Liscomb (Nate DeLuca) 11:52; Shots- STH: 29; WoodAc: 34; Saves- STH: Zach Monti 27; WoodAc: Cal Wilcox 26; Records- Woodstock Academy 22-2-1; Hall/Southington 12-10-3