It started with a pregame ceremony honoring the 10th anniversary of Canton’s 2010 D2 State Championship squad and it ended with the 2020 Bulldogs clinching the program’s 10th straight Davenport division title with a 3-1 win over rival Franklin.
The Canton boys hockey team is the only program in the entire Hockomock League in any sport to win ten 10 straight division championships. The Bulldogs are the only team to win a Davenport title for boys hockey, winning every year of the decade since the league split into two divisions.
“It’s a great thing, we’re very lucky to be apart of something like this here in Canton,” said Bulldogs coach Brian Shuman, who quickly went from one rink to the other inside the Ice House, coaching a 6th/7th grade Canton youth team immediately following the Bulldogs’ win over Franklin. “All of these guys were watching our game before coming over here for their game, and all of our guys watched the teams before them.”
Canton erased a one-goal deficit after a period of play, scoring twice in a two-minute window in the second period and tacked on an insurance goal in the third period to secure the win. The Bulldogs went a perfect 4-for-4 on the penalty kill.
A pair of those kills came in the first period, including one just under three minutes into the contest. A tripping call put Canton down a man but an aggressive kill prevented the visiting Panthers from registering a serious chance on goal.
After Canton had a power play go without a goal shortly after, the Panthers once again had a man-advantage chance just past the midway point of the period. Again, the Bulldogs applied plenty of pressure, not allowing Franklin a good look in the offensive zone.
Instead, the best chance of that two-minute span fell to the Bulldogs. Senior Johnny Hagan pounced on a loose puck, slammed on the brakes as he crossed the blue line to shake a defenseman, dropped a pass to senior Chris Lavoie, who dished it back across to Hagan in front but the senior center couldn’t get his stick on the puck in time as the bid went just wide.
The Bulldogs knocked on the door against as the clock ticked under two minutes as Dylan Coyne connected with Donny McNeice but Franklin goalie Ray Ivers (18 saves) came up with the save and covered the rebound.
Although it was Canton who had the best chances for the majority of the period, it was Franklin that found the back of the net first. Junior Conor O’Neil connected with classmate Sean Connelly as the pair entered the offensive zone. Connelly worked his way past a defenseman and tossed the puck back in front and O’Neil completed a hard crash on net with the final touch into the back of the net.
Canton came out strong to start the second period, with Lavoie smashing a shot off the crossbar in the opening minute. The equalizer came just under four minutes into the period as sophomore Eamon Kelly drove hard behind the net, dishing the puck in front just before circling around. Hagan found the puck in the middle and dished it off to senior defenseman Jack Connolly, who deposited a shot into the top corner to make it 1-1 with 11:13 left in the second period.
The Bulldogs went on the power play shortly after and needed just seven seconds on the man advantage to go ahead. Lavoie dished it back to senior defenseman Owen Lehane after an offensive zone faceoff win and, after skating towards the center of the blue line, Lehane unleashed a wrist shot. With both Kelly and Hagan in front screening, Ivers had no chance as the puck found the back of the net for a 2-1 lead.
“Just a huge goal…when you think too much on the power play, you get in trouble,” Shuman said. “Our guys tonight, they really did a phenomenal job moving the puck. And when they had the opportunity, just rip it. If you wait a half second longer or think too much, you miss the chance. We want Owen to shoot more at the top and he just fired it, it was a huge goal.”
Franklin had a golden chance with five minutes left in the second as Connelly came up with a turnover in the attacking zone, firing a pass over to Shane McCaffrey in front but the senior forward couldn’t get all of it on his shot and it went just wide.
The Panthers went on a power play in the final minutes of the second but were unable to convert. Dylan Marchand had a shot denied by Canton goalie Joe Cammarata on one try, and Cammarata made a stop on a tip from Connelly on a shot from Joe LeBlanc.
“We gave them too much space,” said Franklin head coach Anthony Sarno. “We didn’t take good care of the puck…we have to be better in every facet of the game. We have to be committed to our game, stick to our game, we have to forecheck hard. We can’t give them that much space on the blue line…instead of forcing a dump in we were giving them 20 feet of room to maneuver. Against a good team like that, you have to minimize your mistakes.
“Special teams is going to make or break you in a game like that. They brought it and we didn’t. The first period was fine but after that, they wanted it more than we did.”
Coyne delivered the insurance goal for the Bulldogs. The junior forward whipped a low shot on goal as he crossed the blue line and the puck eluded Ivers and bounced into the back of the net for a 3-1 lead.
Franklin had a final power play chance to cut into the deficit but again without a goal. Tommy Tasker blasted a low shot but Cammarata read it the entire way without traffic in front. The Bulldogs went on to block two more shots and deflect another pair out of play to kill the penalty.
“We spend a lot of time on it, at least once a practice,” Shuman said. “And I think that was the best game we’ve had so far on the penalty kill. They were aggressive, and you have to be aggressive against [Franklin] because they are aggressive on their power play. You look at a kid like TJ McCabe, filling in for one of our best penalty killers in Tommy Ghostlaw, and he had a great game.
“It’s about being smart in those situations. You have to recognize what’s around you when you have the puck and make the right decisions, and we had some chances tonight. They put some forwards on the point [on the power play] so they aren’t used to playing defense so you can kind of take advantage of that.”
Canton boys hockey (6-0-0 Hockomock, 11-0-2 overall) is back in action on Wednesday when it hosts North Attleboro. Franklin (3-1-2, 5-4-3) will host King Philip on Wednesday in a battle of the top two teams tied atop the Kelley-Rex division.