When Wethersfield ended its previous co-operative arrangement following the 2020 season and went solo, who could have imagined what would happen within two years.
The Eagles struggled a bit at the end of the 2022 regular season, but came up clutch when it mattered, finishing with the CIAC Division 2 boys hockey championship Monday night following a 3-0 victory over top-seeded North Haven at People’s United Center in Hamden.
Sophomore Matthew Ruck finished with 22 saves to earn the shutout for the third-seeded Eagles, who got a goal and assist from senior Will McCarter as well as single goals from junior Jack Millen and senior Colby Quinn.
It was the second state championship in program history for Wethersfield, which won the Division 3 title in 2007.
Wethersfield had dropped three of its final four games before the tournament, including a 4-1 home loss to North Haven on Feb. 26. Then after beating North Branford in the tournament opener, the Eagles were on the ropes before using a three-goal surge to force overtime and eventually top Watertown Pomperaug, 4-3 in the quarterfinals.
It took a while for Wethersfield to get going in this one against senior goalie Jared Anderson (23 saves) and the Nighthawks, who had won 21 consecutive games since the start of 2022 following a 2-2 beginning to the season.
But thanks to Ruck and the defense, the Eagles were in a 0-0 tie entering the second period. Ruck made a nice glove save on North Haven senior Jake Hines from the low slot midway through the period to keep it scoreless, until Millen finally broke the ice moments later.
Quinn carried the puck into the left corner and then wrapped it all the way around the boards to junior Benjamin Caulfield at the right point. Caulfield sent the puck across the blue line to senior Thomas Mayfield (two assists), who flicked a deep shot on net. Anderson made the pad save, but Millen crashed in from the left circle and buried the quick rebound to put Wethersfield on the board at 8:07 of the second.
Wethersfield went on the power play late in the period and struck again to double the lead. Senior defenseman Shane Mazur – who scored the overtime winner against Watertown Pomperaug and then added a hat trick in the semifinal win over Lyman Hall – retrieved the puck after the Nighthawks cleared it the length of the ice on the penalty kill. Mazur circled the net and dashed up the ice and into the zone before dropping a pass to Quinn just inside the blue line. Taking a few strides, Quinn got to the top of the left circle and then snapped a wrister that beat Anderson over the glove to the top right corner.
Wethersfield put the finishing touch on the victory and championship after North Haven got caught with two many skaters on the ice in the final minutes.
Senior Ryan Mazur won a faceoff and McCarter popped the puck into the slot, where senior James Socha put a shot was tracking to go wide of the right post. But McCarter had crashed the net front already and stopped the puck with his skate, then quickly popped it in to start the celebration for Wethersfield with 1:17 to play.
North Haven was trying for its first CIAC Division 2 championship since 2004.