BOSTON, Mass. — As a freshman, Canton’s Jeff Chaput didn’t have the chance to step on the ice at the TD Garden after the season was cut short just before the state championships game.
After a sophomore campaign without playoffs and a loss in the final as a junior last year, Chaput had one final chance to raise the MIAA state championship trophy.
Chaput and the rest of the Bulldogs delivered. After scoring just four goals during the regular season, he lit the lamp for the fifth straight postseason game — after netting just four goals during the regular season — to help Canton secure a 4-1 win over Hopkinton for the program’s third title in the past five years/four seasons.
“Determination,” Chaput said of the postseason turnaround. “I wasn’t going to lose, any of these playoff games could have been my last game so I wanted to give it my all, empty the tank every single game.
“Goals have to come from somewhere. In the regular season, it was my linemates and things just started clicking in the postseason and I came through when we needed it.”
Chaput’s tally came with just under three minutes to go to give Canton a much-needed insurance tally and a 3-1 lead. Fittingly, it was Chaput’s classmate and linemate AJ Thomas that sealed the deal with an empty net goal with 25 seconds to go.
Chaput and Thomas have emerged as the go-to players for the Bulldogs. The former was assisted by the latter in the first-round win over Medford, both players lit the lamp in a 6-0 win over Wilmington, and Chaput’s goal gave Canton a two-goal cushion against Newburyport.
The duo wasn’t done there as Chaput came up with a huge goal early in the third period that leveled the score in the state semifinals against Duxbury, and then Thomas buried the game-winning goal with just under five minutes to go. Similar to Sunday morning, Thomas had the empty net goal in the win over the Dragons to ice the win.
“They were definitely frustrated sometimes during the season with their lack of goal scoring and we just kept saying, ‘Hey, you’ll score when it matters,’” said Canton head coach Brian Shuman. “Jeff Chaput [scored] four goals in the regular season, five in the playoffs. He’s a guy that’s a four-year player for us and he knows what it takes to win. He stepped up big time. AJ is someone that every person on the other team knows about. They key on him and try to shut him down, but he still finds ways to be productive.”
Hopkinton took the lead just 3:12 into the game, only the second goal the Bulldogs had allowed all postseason. It was also just the second time Canton trailed throughout its tournament run. Juniors Brendan Tourgee and Brian Middleton scored a minute apart at the end of the second period to turn the deficit into a lead.
“We’re all brothers, there’s no way other way to explain it,” Chaput said. “We weren’t going to let what happened last year happen again. We ride for each other, we love each other.”
The Chaput/Thomas duo combined for one final time with Thomas dropping a nice pass to Chaput in stride, setting up a wrist shot top shelf for a 3-1 lead.
“It feels amazing,” Thomas said. “We weren’t going to let what happened last year happen again. After they scored the first one, we were down a little bit but we weren’t going to let it go. We came together in the locker room and came out in the second and put it to them.
“Me and Jeff were put on the same line about midway through the season and ever since then we’ve become so much closer. We’re more than friends, we’re brothers. It’s amazing to do this with him, I’m so proud of him and he’s earned everything.”
Over the last four years, with Chaput,
Thomas, and fellow seniors Leo Owens, Griffin Hughes, Jack Lauro, Jack Digirolamo, James Young, Carson Eagles, and manager Matt Yeaton in the program, Canton finished with a 76-8-5 record, four Davenport division titles, three state finals appearances, and two Division 2 state championships.