EAST HAVEN — These teams have played 90 minutes of tight hockey. They could play 90 more, or even more. When it’s Watertown/Pomperaug and Guilford, though, what else is new?
Another close one went to Guilford on Wednesday at DiLungo Rink, with freshman Connor Hagness’ second goal breaking a tie in the third period on the way to a 5-3 win.
No. 10 Guilford (10-2, 3-0 SCC/SWC Division II) has won eight in a row since Watertown/Pomperaug won the teams’ first meeting 3-1 just before Christmas. The teams could meet twice more, in the SCC/SWC and the CIAC Division II tournaments.
“We’ve had a chance to work a little more as a team since that first meeting,” Guilford coach Ralph Russo said. “We scored a lot of goals early in the year. We were having trouble with our team defense. We’ve had a chance to work on it.”
John DeLucia’s goal with 1:40 left finished it off, dropping No. 8 Watertown/Pomperaug to 8-2-2, 3-1-1.
“It’s a tough way to go,” WP coach Vic Vicenzi said. “You let a guy like DeLucia get to open pucks, that 20 (Connor Hagness) is a (heck) of a player too, they’re not going to miss too many times. We made some mistakes, left them uncovered too many times and paid the price.”
The teams have met three times in the postseason the past two years. It has developed into an entertaining rivalry, and with officials letting them play in the second period, things got close to boiling.
“They’re intense. They’re fast. They’ve got two solid lines; they’re probably more balanced than they’ve ever been,” Vicenzi said.
“They came out and played hard, played physical. We didn’t quite match that intensity.”
But Watertown/Pomperaug fought back and tied it early in the third, Zach Smith burying James Moaddel’s feed to knot the game at 3.
About five minutes later, Hagness and Watertown/Pomperaug defenseman Trevor Davis were tied up behind the play, to WP goalie Ryan Fleming’s left. After they finally separated, that meant Hagness was open to take Greg Litvyn’s breakaway pass.
The freshman scored glove side with 6:11 left.
“We were resilient,” Russo said. “We could’ve folded, but I liked the resilience. We got the lead, and one of our captains (DeLucia) was able to get a big goal and ice it at the end.”
Guilford took a 3-1 lead 6:18 into the second on Shea Thibault’s goal on the rush. Guilford had controlled play for a long stretch before Watertown/Pomperaug finally got a clear.
Troy Harwell got Watertown/Pomperaug back within one with 4:44 left in the second period, deflecting Patsy Harris’ shot after his team’s first extended push in a while. Watertown/Pomperaug had hit two posts, put one rebound wide and had a point-blank chance stopped by Alex Attruia (25 saves).
Hagness beat a defenseman and scored with 19.2 seconds left in the first period to give his team a 2-1 lead. The teams had traded power-play goals earlier, Jake Watrous for Guilford, then Sean Dunfee for the visitors.
GUILFORD 5, WATERTOWN/POMPERAUG 3
WATERTOWN/POMPERAUG 1 1 1—3
GUILFORD 2 1 2—5
Records: Watertown/Pomperaug 8-2-2, 3-1-1 SCC/SWC Division II; Guilford 10-2, 3-0. Goals: WP—Sean Dunfee, Troy Harwell, Zack Smith; G—Connor Hagness 2, Jake Watrous, Shea Thibault, John DeLucia. Assists: WP—Patsy Harris 2, Ryan Magee, James Moaddel; G—DeLucia 2, Hagness, E.J. Vickerman, Thibault, Greg Litvyn, Jack Dacey. Goalies: WP—Ryan Fleming (19 saves); G—Alex Attruia (25). Shots: WP—28; G—24.