The Bulldogs scored once in the second and two straight in the third to earn a 3-1 decision over Mansfield, marking Shuman’s 200th career win.
While the timing of Shuman’s 200th win and Saturday night’s “Hockey Fights Cancer” doubleheader was coincidental, it was only fitting that the big milestone came on a night that Shuman helped organized to benefit others.
Canton and Mansfield followed a clash between Xaverian and Malden Catholic, a doubleheader that raised money for the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in memory of Reo Todesca, mother of Xaverian assistant Paul Todesca and a beloved friend to many in the Canton hockey community.
Canton’s list of accolades on the ice, including numerous Hockomock titles, dozens of playoff wins and a state championship in 2010, is just about as long as the amount of charity work Shuman and his Bulldogs are apart of off the ice.
There’s the annual Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk every September that Shuman and his Bulldogs walk in to benefit The Jimmy Fund. And there’s the annual Evening of Hope Gala that Shuman helps organize with his wife Tara.
And Shuman and the Bulldogs spend plenty of time on the ice with the Bear Cubs Hockey program, which team chairman Matty Marcone is apart of. And who could forget two years ago when Shuman, along with Stoughton coach Dan Mark, worked to get Marcone on the ice of a varsity game.
The list goes on and on, which is why it’s so fitting that Shuman reached the milestone while helping raise money to fight cancer.
“I’m a bit embarrassed it happened on a night like this because it’s not about me, it’s a night to remember all of the people that have fought this battle [against cancer],” Shuman said. Canton wore special pink uniforms for the game. “But it really is special because some of the best nights I’ve been a coach in this program have been nights like this where we really together as a community in support of someone or a family, and that’s what makes it all worth it to me as a coach.”
And of course, Shuman was quick to deflect credit away from himself and to the program for getting to 200 wins in just 13 years.
“It says everything about the program. I’m incredibly fortunate to coach in a real hockey town. I think it’s one of the best hockey towns in Massachusetts. It says everything about our players, parents, families, community…just every single time I start or finish a season, I think how lucky I am. This is just one of those special moments that you reflect on how lucky you are.”
The visitors came out strong in the first period, having an edge in time of possession and attacking zone time. The Hornets also had a pair of power play opportunities, the first after a Canton cross-check with 11:17 left in the opening period, and again after a roughing call with 6:17 to go.
But out of those two man-advantage situations, the only real threat came late in the second one when freshman Matt Copponi went to circle the net but dropped a pass right in front of goal instead to his brother Chris Copponi, but the elder brother was unable to get the puck past Canton goalie Quinn Gibbs.
The Bulldogs came out flying in the second period and dominated the second period. Mansfield was able to kill off a cross-checking penalty but Canton was able to cash in a minute later. Junior Ryan Nolte connected a pass to sophomore Johnny Hagan, who lifted his backhand attempt top shelf to give the Dogs a 1-0 lead.
“I thought that first period, that was probably the most we have been outplayed in a period all year long,” Shuman said. “Mansfield has a good team, they play hard, they work hard, they have a great system and they are very, very well coached. I think the breakout for us was everything in the first period. I think the breakout sets the tone for so much of our offense and the flow of the game, and we could not break the puck out of the zone, we struggled in all facets of the breakout. Give credit to Mansfield, they made it hard for us.
“The second period was much better, I think a lot came from our breakout. I thought our line of Ryan Colby, Charlie O’Connor and Kevin Smith really gave us some life in that second period. They went out and had a really good shift and created some chances. Those guys are kind of a hybrid third/fourth line and I thought they played great.”
Canton had two more power play chances, including a brief 5-on-3 chance with just over three minutes to go, but the Dogs couldn’t add to their lead.
Mansfield’s best chance came when the Hornets killed off their third penalty. Senior Adam Anastos came out of the box, took a feed from Cullin Anastaia as he entered the zone, and then center a pass back to Anastasia but his tip effort sailed just wide of the post.
“I’m not sure what exactly happened in the second period, we had such a great first period, we came out with energy,” said Mansfield head coach Mike Balzarini. “Their first few shifts kind of set the tone, then we settled down and stuck to the gameplan. I can’t remember a time since I started here that we only had one shot on net in the period. But we had to kill three penalties in that second period, we played shorthanded for six minutes. That sort of gave us some life toward the end of the period and we had that late chance.
“I thought we had a better third period but Canton is a good team, they play every single shift and they play 200 feet.”
Canton senior Jack Goyetch nearly doubled the Bulldogs’ lead two minutes into the final period when he redirected a shot from Jack Connelly but Mansfield sophomore Sean McCafferty made a terrific glove save.
But the Bulldogs continued to put pressure as Goyetch and Mike Dadasis linked up before finding Bubba McNeice in front for a one-timer to make it 2-0. Canton cashed in on its fourth power play attempt with 9:20 left in the game.
Mansfield won the faceoff clean straight back, but McNeice was first to the loose puck and fired a centering pass to Goyetch for a tap-in.
The Hornets struck back just 17 seconds after Canton’s third goal. Fresh out of a timeout, Mansfield had a strong attacking zone possession before sophomore Joseph Troiano stepped into a loose puck and fired one into the back of the net.
“I have nothing but respect for Brian and what he’s done with Canton,” Balzarini said. Both Balzarini (’93) and Shuman (’98) graduated from Catholic Memorial. “It’s bittersweet for him to get the 200th win against us, but him being a CM guy, I like Brian a lot, he’s a really good coach and he deserves it.”
Canton boys hockey (7-0-0 Hockomock, 10-1-4 overall) is back in action on Wednesday when it hosts Franklin in a clash of Davenport and Kelley-Rex division champions. Mansfield (5-2-2, 7-5-4) will try to bounce back in a week when it travels to Brockton.
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