Boys Ice Hockey Division III Championship
Guilford 5, Watertown-Pomperaug 3
By Mike Madera
Special to CIACsports.com
NEW HAVEN – The Guilford and Watertown-Pomperaug hockey teams are no strangers on the ice. Having met twice in the regular season with Watertown-Pomperaug winning both times, Guilford was looking to win the most important contest between the two teams.
Senior Ricky Sandella had something to say this time around. Scoring three times and adding an assist, the Guilford senior made sure the third time was the charm as Guilford rallied with four goals in the third period to defeat Watertown-Pomperaug 5-3 in the Division II finals at Yale University’s Ingalls Rink Saturday afternoon.
“I knew no matter what, this was going to be my last game,” Sandella said. “We wanted to go out giving the most effort as we could as a team. We knew we had not played as well as we could. We worked together as a team and executed what we talked about.”
The title was Guilford’s third in team history, second in Division II, and first since 2010 when the Indians defeated Brookfield/Bethel/Danbury for the Division III title.
“This is our 35th year as a varsity program,” Guilford coach Ralph Russo said. “We set a school record with 21 wins. We won the SCC championship. We put the bar up as high as we can go.”
Guilford (21-5-0) entered the third period trailing by a goal, but scored twice in 37 seconds to take a 3-2 advantage.
On the power play, Sandella picked up the second of his three goals when he lifted a shot from the point which just tickled past Watertown-Pomperaug goaltender Ryan Fleming to even the game at two with 3:16 gone by in the third. Less than a minute later, Jack Ring fed Sandella in front for a 3-2 Guilford lead and a hat trick for Sandella.
“They were fantastic,” Watertown-Pomperaug coach Vic Vicenzi said of Guilford’s Ring, Sandella and John DeLucia. “I think those kids were out there 35 or 40 minutes if not more. They created a lot. They are exceptionally skilled.”
Watertown-Pomperaug (18-5-1), which had 21 shots in the first two periods, fought back and got the equalizer with 5:23 left in the third as Ryan Dunfee scored on an odd-man rush.
“They didn’t quit,” Vicenzi said of his team. “I did not expect them to and they did not expect themselves to. We ran out of time and we ran out of energy.”
Just when it looked as if the game was headed to overtime, Guilford took the lead for good when DeLucia was the recipient of perfect passing with Ring and Sandella for the go-ahead goal with 3:10 to go. Ring added an empty-net goal to seal the title with 1:25 remaining.
“We had success when we had the puck around the net,” Russo said. “Once we got the goal, the confidence level went up.”
The second period was all Watertown-Pomperaug as it held an 11-4 shot advantage and scored the only two goals of the period to take a 2-1 lead.
After Patsy Harris was denied fom point blank range by Guilford goaltender Kyle Dwyer 5:20 in, Troy Harwell capitalized just 1:08 later to even the game at one. Off an assist from Peter Jorgensen, Harwell rifled a shot past Dwyer to even the game at one with 8:32 left.
Watertown-Pomperaug kept the pressure on, and capitalized once again with 2:20 remaining in the second. After perfect passing, Elijah Rosen one-timed a shot past Dwyer off assists from Harwell and Hunter Shay for a 2-1 Watertown-Pomperaug advantage.
Despite being outshot 10-5 in the opening period, Guilford scored the lone goal and led 1-0 after 15 minutes of play. Guilford’s tally came with 4:48 gone by in the contest as a loose puck was picked up in the slot by Sandella, who ripped a shot over the blocker of Fleming for a 1-0 advantage.
Fleming stopped a pair of opportunities by Ring in the period, denying the sophomore with a glove save with 9:40 to go and with a chest save seven minutes later.
Watertown-Pomperaug had plenty of chances in the opening period, but Guilford did a nice job containing those opportunities to the outside. Dwyer denied Dunfee twice, the second with a brilliant pad save from in front with six minutes to go in the opening stanza.