By Jarett Leonard, HockomockSports.com Contributor
TAUNTON, Mass. – For the second straight Hockomock League game, an opponent that Canton once may have breezed past gave the Bulldogs a run for their money.
But for the second straight game, the Bulldogs clawed out a narrow victory, edging Taunton 3-1 on Saturday.
“It’s a testament of how strong the league is,” Canton head coach Brian Shuman said. “I think the league is a great hockey league with great teams. You saw tonight a team [Taunton] that was young a couple years ago and all these guys are coming into their own as juniors and seniors now, and they’re a great hockey team.”
After a scoreless first period, Mike Dadasis put Canton on the board early in the second. Dadasis redirected a pass from Jackson Maffeo in the right circle past Taunton freshman goaltender Griffin Speicher.
Taunton answered quickly, though, as Will Walsh ripped a wrist shot from the right side over the shoulder of Canton goalie Justin Slocum on a two-on-one rush with Tyler Pietrzyk.
“Will is an emotional leader,” Taunton head coach Kris Metea. “He wears his heart on his sleeve and he will sacrifice everything for his teammates. When he does well, our team feeds off his energy. He has an absolute passion for the game and it shows.”
But just as quickly, Seamus Pecararo buried his own rebound on the doorstep to restore the Bulldogs’ lead at 2-1. The eventual game-winning goal was Pecararo’s fourth tally of the season.
Early in the third period, Matt Lazaro added some insurance for Canton, netting his fourth of the year after finding the puck on his tape in the crease. Taunton put some pressure on Slocum and the Bulldogs with an extra attacker in the final minute, but the senior goaltender preserved the win.
“He’s calm and composed in the net,” Shuman said of Slocum, who made 11 saves in the game. “He’s shown maturity over the years by not letting a goal like that rattle him. He made some big saves. They’ve got some guys that can shoot on that team and he made some big saves and didn’t give up any rebounds. Justin’s been our rock all year and he continues to be our rock.”
Taunton played a hard, physical game, preventing the Bulldogs from the time and space that they thrive on, and Shuman had high praise for the Tigers.
“They’re going to be a tournament team, and you saw why tonight,” Shuman said. “They were fast, they were skilled, they had some great goaltending, and it was a great high school hockey game.”
Speicher, who had won his two prior starts this season but allowed eight goals combined, stopped 35 of the 38 Canton shots he saw but suffered his first loss of the year.
“Griffin is very good in tight, and we knew that coming into this game,” Metea said. “We knew this would be a game that he would do well in because he would face a lot of in tight shots. He works hard as a freshman, he deserves a good opportunity, and lived up to everything we thought.”
Metea was also pleased with the effort of the skaters in front of Speicher, keeping pace with one of the top teams in the league.
“The work ethic was there,” Metea said. “They worked all night long. Sometimes we overworked instead of playing smarter hockey. We just worked so hard and put ourselves out of position sometimes. But give Canton all the credit in the world, they’re one of the best teams in the state for a reason.”
Canton improves to 6-1-1 overall, 3-0-0 in the league, and will travel to Stoughton on Tuesday at 7:30. Taunton, now 7-3 overall and 1-2 in the league, will be off until Wednesday when it hosts King Philip at 6:00.
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