ATTLEBORO, Mass. – Through two periods of play, the Canton boys hockey team had controlled the game, dictated the tempo, dominated time in the attacking zone, and had a large advantage in shots on goal.
Despite all of that, the Bulldogs led just 1-0 through 30 minutes of play.
But instead of letting North Attleboro hang around in the third period, Canton emphatically slammed the door shut with four goals in the final frame, picking up a 5-0 win over the Rocketeers in a clash of the Davenport’s top teams.
“We didn’t really change anything in the third, we just kept trying to get pucks and bodies to the net,” said Canton head coach Brian Shuman. “We just focused on the next play. There wasn’t a better representation of our season so far than those first two periods. We had 40-something shots on net and only one goal, that’s how it’s been all season.
“Instead of focusing on missing a chance, we talked about focusing on the next play, the next opportunity. I think that’s what they did in the third period. I thought the guys did a nice job of getting to the net without being chippy out front.”
Holding a 1-0 lead and a 39-3 advantage in shots entering the third period, the Bulldogs wasted little time adding to its lead. Despite starting with a 5-on-3 opportunity, Canton took a penalty just 23 seconds in to make it 4-on-3.
North killed off the remaining 47 seconds to get a skater back to make it 4-on-4 but Canton cashed in just seconds later. After he first mishandled the pass across the blue line, senior Brad Murphy collected the puck off the boards, skated towards the center of the ice and unleashed a low wrist shot that found its way through traffic for a 2-0 lead.
“If there’s one thing we’ve really been working on the last couple of weeks its been getting more shots from the defense,” Shuman said. “We don’t need the big slap shot to generate goal scoring chances. I thought our defense did a fabulous job of getting shots through. Brad Murphy…talk about improvement of generating offense from the blue line. He’s a four-year player for us but this year he’s playing at a whole new level and I was happy to see him get his first tonight.
The goal seemed to give the visitors confidence as they were able to add to the lead just four minutes later. McNeice created the play from the beginning, knocking down and controlling a saucer pass as he entered the zone. He then dropped a pass right in front of goal that both Goyetch and Dadasis crashed the goal on. The puck popped free back to McNeice and he converted to make it 3-0.
“When you can establish that forecheck and then get a turnover and attack right away, you can catch some teams,” Shuman said. “We tried to do that…get a turnover, get a forward caught down low, use the point and generate the offense from there and I thought we did a pretty good job of that tonight.
“I thought our breakout was good tonight. When North did get the puck in the zone, we won the puck and we broke it out pretty well tonight. That was a big part of generating our offense.”
Just a minute later, Murphy rifled another low shot through traffic that North goalie Ryan Warren (52 saves) turned away with a pad save but Nolte latched onto the rebound and roofed his shot for a 4-0 lead.
With less than a minute to play, Canton put an exclamation point on the win when Goyetch tipped in a shot from Lehane from the blue line for the Dogs’ fifth goal.
Canton established control in the opening period, keeping the puck in its attacking zone for the majority of play and outshooting Big Red 14-3.
The Dogs had a couple of solid chances, including Ryan Nolte’s rebound bid off Nick Allen’s shot just a couple of minutes in, Mike Dadasis had his pass slide just ahead of the reach of both Bubba McNeice and Jack Goyetch at the midway point, and Nolte nearly pound McNeice with two minutes left but drew a tripping call on the play.
The second period is where Canton really asserted itself, finishing with a 24-0 advantage in shots. Big Red only had two half chances in the period and neither were on frame thanks to an uptempo pressure defense from Canton.
Despite the large margin in shots, the Dogs didn’t get a good scoring chance until they went on the power play with nine minutes left in the period. Less than a minute after going on the man advantage, Allen slid a pass along the blue line to sophomore Owen Lehane, who quickly fired a diagonal pass through the defense to Nolte. Nolte got a touch onto Johnny Hagan, who bored is chance from in close for a 1-0 lead.
“We recognize there is a target on our back,” Shuman said. “When you’ve had the success that this program has had, there is a target. We have really good teams in this league that bring out the best in us, and North Attleboro is one of them. They’ve been a good rival for some years now, they have some good players, it’s a good program. We know that we have to show up every game we play them.”
Canton boys hockey (5-0-0 Hockomock, 7-1-4 overall) returns to the New England Sports Village on Saturday in a non-league tilt against Bishop Feehan.
North Attleboro (3-4-0, 8-6-0) will try to bounce back next Wednesday when it welcome Stoughton.