CANTON, Mass. – Canton had allowed only 15 goals in 21 games coming into Saturday afternoon’s Div. 2 first round game against Norwood, including a shutout of the Mustangs in the regular season. So, it came as a little bit of a shock when Norwood took advantage of a huge deflection to tie the game at 1-1 in the first period.
The goal gave Norwood momentum that carried into the second period, but the Bulldogs managed to hold out and regained control, scoring once in each period and pulling out a 3-1 victory at the Canton Ice House and advancing to the quarterfinal round.
“For the last part of the period, they really came at us,” said Canton coach Dennis Aldrich. “We talked beforehand that no matter who scored first it was going to be a battle.”
Olivia Maffeo, who scored a hat trick in the regular season meeting between the teams, had the first good chance for the hosts with a long rush up ice and a shot from the slot that forced a save. Fellow freshman Audrey Koen followed up, but that was also stopped by Norwood goalie Jenna Mazzola.
Three minutes later, the same combo created the opening for the first goal. Maffeo had the first effort that was stopped and Koen forced a pad save from in close. The puck popped out to Caroline Tourgee and she slipped a shot under the goalie and it trickled across the line.
Lizzie Tassinari also had a good look for the Bulldogs in the first when her shot from the left wing was gloved by Mazzola.
Canton freshman goalie Carolyn Durand had only had to make one save to that point, but Marissa Cataldo took advantage of a loose pass to get free in the slot. Her shot hit the back of a Canton defender and took a horrible ricochet that left Durand stranded and the net gaping.
Maffeo nearly had the perfect response when she smashed a shot off the post 20 seconds later, but the Mustangs finished the first with energy and came out of the locker room with a flurry of chances.
Durand responded exactly as the Bulldogs would have hoped. The freshman goalie stood strong to deny Maeve Glavin’s drive to the net and then made stops on a pair of shots from Erinn Wagner.
Aldrich said, “Carolyn, as a freshman, her mental toughness that’s the thing I was really worried about especially playing with a team that’s had success in the past and knowing that she’s basically it. Not only has she handled it well but she’s embraced it and she’s been very confident.”
Tourgee had a good chance for her second of the game, but it was blocked at the post by the Norwood defense. Maffeo forced a blocker save with another strong wrister and then Meg Aldrich tested Mazzola with a shot through the screen of Ellie Bohane. Maria Femia teed up Tess Khoury for a look in front, but again the goalie was up to the test.
The breakthrough came on the power play and it was Maffeo that provided the dagger. As she raced up ice and just as she was gaining the zone, Maffeo let loose with a rocket of a slap shot that picked the top corner.
“They were trying to take Olivia out,” said Aldrich about Norwood’s approach to Canton’s leading scorer. “It’s not too often you see a defenseman get shadowed like that early on but I think they realized it probably wasn’t going to work too well for them.”
Five minutes into the third period, Canton doubled its lead on the power play. Khoury controlled the puck on the near boards and she picked out Tassinari alone in the slot. She took a touch before ripping a wrister, while being knocked down, that made it 3-1 and put the Bulldogs in a more comfortable position.
“I was waiting for another squirter too,” said Aldrich about leading by just a single goal. “I told them I didn’t think they’d get one more but I knew they weren’t getting two more so if we got one then we’d be all set. I wanted them to have the confidence that we’re not in trouble here.”
The Bulldogs hadn’t played in 10 days between the end of the regular season and the playoff opener. Aldrich admitted, “We had to shake some of the rust off. We had some uncharacteristic things, lost a couple of marks there, but hopefully we’ll fix that going forward. The first game of the tournament is really hard to win, especially when you’ve played the team before.”
Canton (17-1-4) will face No. 6 seed Ursuline Academy in the Div. 2 quarterfinal. At the time of writing, the date, time, and location had not been determined.