NEW HAVEN >> The Watertown/Pomperaug boys hockey team had Guilford’s number in the regular season, winning a pair of matchups.
On Saturday in the Division II championship game, key phases of the game were going Watertown/Pomperaug’s way again. It dominated puck possession and outshot Guilford 26-15. The difference this time was timely scoring and solid defense by Guilford.
Kyle Dwyer had 23 saves and Rick Sandella had a hat trick to lead No. 4 Guilford to a 5-3 win over No. 2 Watertown/Pomperaug at Ingalls Rink for its third state title and second in Division II. It won a D-II title in 1994 and also won a Division III title in 2011.
“The difference today was our defense, everyone contributed on that end of the ice,” Guilford coach Ralph Russo said.
“Watertown/Pomperaug is a grind it out, tough team that usually plays close games. We had problems getting the puck around their net today, but when we did, we were able to have some success. Our seniors did a great job. Rick Sandella came through with a big hat trick and John DeLucia scored our fourth goal, that was huge for us.
“This has been a great season for our team. We won our first SCC/SWC Division II championship, we win another state title and we set a school record with our 21st win (21-5). It doesn’t get much better than that.”
Watertown/Pomperaug outshot Guilford 10-5 in the first period, but Dwyer came up with the saves and defenseman Cam Bagnall stopped a pair of 2-on-1 breakaways. Despite just a handful of opportunities, Sandella provided the only goal of the period to give Guilford a 1-0 lead.
Jack Ring, at the bottom of the left circle, sent the puck to Sandella between the two circles, Sandella’s wrist shot sent the puck into the lower left corner at 4:38 of the first period.
Watertown/Pomperaug (18-6-1) continued to swarm Dwyer and outshot Guilford 11-4 in the second period. The puck possession and pressure eventually took its toll with Watertown/Pomperaug taking a 2-1 lead into the third period.
Troy Harwell grabbed a loose puck inside the left circle and his slap shot flew into the right corner to tie the game at 1 at 6:28 of the second period.
With Bagnall serving a cross check penalty, Watertown/Pomperaug took its only lead. Elijah Rosen wound up for a slap shot at the right circle and sent the puck into the upper left corner for the power-play goal and 2-1 lead at 12:40.
Sandella got Guilford back on track in the third with a pair of goals 37 seconds apart. He scored a power-play goal at 3:16 to tie the game at 2 and gave Guilford a 3-2 lead at 3:53.
“We knew we weren’t playing well in the first two periods, so we had to come out hard in the third period,” Sandella said. “I knew this my last game, all of us seniors understood that, and we knew we had to give the most effort possible to win. We stepped it up in the third and made our opportunities count.
“It was great to get a hat trick, but everyone contributed today. This was a great year for our team. We played this game for our school and our town and now we’re bringing home a state championship.”
On one of Guilford’s rare defensive lapses, Ryan Dunfee was left all alone in the left wing circle. He wristed a shot that tied the game at 3 at 9:57 for Watertown/Pomperaug.
DeLucia responded, finishing off a 3-on-3 breakaway to give Guilford a 4-3 lead at 11:50. Jack Ring scored an open-net goal for Guilford for the 5-3 final.
Watertown/Pomperaug’s Ryan Fleming had 10 saves.
Guilford 5, Watertown/Pomperaug 3
(at New Haven)
Guilford 1 0 4 – 5
Watertown/Pomperaug 0 2 1 – 3
First period- GU: Ricky Sandella (Jack Ring) 4:38; Second period- WPP: Troy Harwell (Peter Jorgenson) 6:28; Elijah Rosen (hunter shay, Troy Harwell) 12:40; Third period- GU: Ricky Sandella 3:16; Ricky Sandella (Jack Ring) 3:53; WPP: Ryan Dunfee 9:37; GU: John Delucia (Ricky Sandella, Jack Ring) 11:50; Jack Ring 13:35; Shots- GU: 15; WPP: 26; Saves- GU: Kyle Dwyer 23; WPP: Ryan Fleming 10;
Records- Watertown/Pomperaug 18-6-1; Guilford 21-5.