NEW HAVEN- Facing a hot goalie, Guilford boys hockey coach Ralph Russo knew he had to make an adjustment with Watertown/Pomperaug leading by a goal after two periods in the CIAC Division II semifinals.
The defending D-II champion Guilford Indians outshot the Watertown/Pomperaug Indians 20-2 in the second and couldn’t get a puck by goalie Ryan Fleming.
In the middle of the second period, Russo moved first line center Jack Ring to defense and moved Jake Watrous, who was dominating on face offs, to first line center and the move paid off in the third period.
Ring scored two goals, including the first from the right point, and Mete Yanbul had 17 saves to lead No. 3 Guilford to a 2-1 come-from-behind win over No. 2 Watertown/Pomperaug at Ingalls Rink on Monday. Guilford advances to the final and will face No. 1 seed Farmington Valley on Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Ingalls Rink. Farmington Valley defeated Conard 4-1 in the other semifinal.
“Fleming (32 saves) is a great goalie and he was hot tonight,” Russo said. “We were trying to figure out what we could do to make an adjustment. Jake was winning face offs and we needed to give Jack (Ring) some space to work with so we decided to move him to defense.
“I was disappointed in our first period where they outshot us 10-5. We picked it up in the second period, and even though we didn’t score in the second, we went into the third period with a lot of energy. We kept getting our shots on goal and Jack came up with two big goals for us. The whole team really contributed tonight.”
In the first period, Watertown/Pomperaug outshot Guilford 10-5. But Watertown/Pomperaug could only come away with a 1-0 lead thanks to nine saves by Guilford’s Mete Yanbul.
Nick LaBella gave Watertown/Pomperaug a 1-0 lead at 6:08.
Guilford had its chances to tie the game but Ryan Fleming made some stick saves to keep it a one-goal lead for his team.
One of the best chances came when a John DeLucia breakaway gave him a wide open shot. He took a shot about 10 feet in front of the net but Fleming made the stick save at 11:30.
Guilford had another chance with a scramble for the puck nearthe right post. Jack Ring took a shot and Fleming made the stick save. DeLucia got the rebound but Fleming made another stick save for the 1-0 lead at the first intermission.
Guilford dominated the scoreless second period. But Watertown/Pomperaug goalie Ryan Fleming put on a clinic to keep Guilford off the scoreboard.
DeLucia had four shots in the period with one of the best coming at 7:30. He skated in alone against Fleming and took a shot from about eight feet out but Fleming swiped the puck away.
Jack Dacey and Jack Ring had four shots each but neither skater could get a puck by Fleming.
Guilford kept producing scoring opportunities in the third period. Ring started the comeback with a rising slap shot from the right point, scoring a power-play goal to tie the game at 1 at 1:29.
Ring’s second chance came off a breakaway down the right wing. He took a wide open shot at the bottom of the right circle that flew past Fleming for the game-winning goal at 5:28.
“I have to tell you, I’m a little pumped up right now,” Ring said. “That second period was a little frustrating for us, but Fleming is a really good goalie. We stayed calm and cool because we knew we would break out with a goal at some point, especially with our fans getting behind us and screaming loud and cheering for us.
“On that first goal I just ripped it. To get the game-winner is a great feeling. Everybody on our team is so excited to get back to the final. This is so huge for our school.”
Guilford has won two CIAC D-II titles (2017, 1994) and a D-III title in 2010.
Guilford 2, Watertown/Pomperaug 1
GUILFORD 0 0 2—2
WATERTOWN-POMP. 1 0 0—1
First period: WP Nick LaBella (unassisted) 6:08; Third period: G Jack Ring (John DeLucia) 1:29; G jack Ring (unassisted) 5:28; Shots: G 34; WP 18. Saves: G-Mete Yanbul 17; WP-Ryan Fleming 32. Records: G 22-3; WP 19-5.