Written by Dom Nicastro / Hockey Night in Boston
BOSTON — Wachusett won its first state title with a 3-2 win over Hopkinton in the MIAA Division 3 boys state championship at TD Garden. Grant Gardula powered the Mountaineers with two goals and an assist on the day that ends the Massachusetts high school hockey season. He scored 2:59 into the game and 4:34 into the middle period.
Each team searched for its first state title today. Hopkinton (17-7-2) had never won an Eastern Mass. title until this season. Wachusett (18-4-2) had won four Central Mass. titles entering today.
“I don’t have the words for it right now,” Wachusett head coach Matt Lane said after the game. “It is still sinking in what we have accomplished. We went on a run the last few weeks. There is a tremendous amount of heart in our locker room.”
Hopkinton’s Kyle Rogers scored off a rebound in front on a Hillers’ power play with 5:10 left in the game to cut into a 3-1 Wachusett lead. And about 10 seconds later, a loose puck was inches from the Wachusett goal line as Hopkinton pressured but the Mountaineers cleared it out and held on for the final five minutes. The Mountaineers’ pressure prevented Hopkinton from pulling goalie Cole Thomas until 17 seconds left, and Hopkinton only managed one shot afterward.
It was Gardula’s day to shine. He took a loose puck ahead of the Hopkinton defense in the Hillers’ end and dumped in a backhander past Hopkinton goalie Thomas for a 1-0 lead 2:59 into the game.
He also scored on a nifty wrap-around off a rebound in the second. Hopkinton had a golden opportunity to cut into a 2-0 deficit with four straight minutes of power play on two Mountaineer penalties – from 9:04 to about five minutes left. But they came up empty, though, managing a few shots but nothing serious. Wachusett’s penalty-kill was so good the Hillers had to ice the puck at one point.
But Hopkinton didn’t quit. Will Quinlan buried home the puck through traffic out front to put the Hillers on the board with 1:26 left in the middle period. Andrew Gilbert and Jacob Weinstock had the assists.
It sent the teams into the final period with Wachusett ahead, 2-1. Quinlan had the Hillers’ last three goals of the postseason. He scored two against Lowell in the 8-3 Eastern Mass. title win.
But the dagger to Hopkinton’s heart came on a power-play goal 5:53 into the final period. Kevin Skagerlind found a rebound out front on Gardula’s slapper and put it home for a 3-1 lead.
Rogers scored four minutes later to make it 3-2.
Sean Walsh had the Hillers’ best chance in the first period on a clean breakaway from the left side, but Wachusett goalie Jackson King (30 saves) turned him away with the leg-pad save. Walsh picked up the puck alongside the left boards in the Mountaineers end and didn’t have all that much room to work with as he approached King.
Hopkinton had the final 37 seconds of the period to work with the opening frame’s only penalty. It mustered two shots that King saved.
Written by Dom Nicastro
Published with permission from Hockey Night in Boston
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