But not these Canton Bulldogs.
#6 Canton erased a two-goal deficit, survived being down a man for a third of the first overtime period and scored the game-winning goal less than a minute into double overtime to get a 3-2 win over #3 Bishop Feehan.
Sophomore Ryan Nolte scored 48 seconds into the second overtime period – his second goal of the game – to give the Bulldogs the win.
“The word is resilient…these guys are resilient,” said Canton head coach Brian Shuman. “We saw it just at the end of the season when we battled back after being down 3-1 to Boston Latin. This is arguably the most resilient team I’ve ever coached in over a decade here. We know we’re not the most talented but there’s something about this team, they just don’t get rattled when we get down. I can’t say enough things about the entire performance.”
It seemed the momentum was fully on the side of the Bulldogs after cutting the deficit in half in the second period and finding the equalizer just over five minutes into the third period.
The Bulldogs had a pair of power play chances but that’s when the momentum changed. After 45 seconds of a man advantage opportunities, Canton was whistled for a slash to make it 4-on-4 with 2:32 to play. Canton killed 46 seconds of Feehan’s power play.
With just two minutes to play, there was a wild swing when Canton freshman Johnny Hagan ripped a shot off the crossbar that appeared to cross the line, sending the Bulldogs into celebration mode. The ref immediately waived no goal, Feehan went racing the other way and Canton’s players had to scramble back. It ended up being Hagan that sprinted back in time to thwart the chance.
A minute later, Canton was whistled for just its third penalty of the game with 1:02 to play, giving the Shamrocks a man advantage for the rest of the game. The Bulldogs didn’t blink though, and sent the game into overtime.
Feehan had the 4-on-3 power play for 28 seconds to start the first overtime. The Bulldogs were able to kill that but were whistled for another penalty with 2:48 to play. Not only was Canton able to kill that one as well, but senior defenseman CJ Martin had the best chance. He blocked a shot, raced in, deked around a defenseman but his backhand attempt was wide.
That sent the game into double-overtime and into a 3-on-3 situation. The Bulldogs rolled out Hagan, Nolte and senior defenseman Jackson Maffeo.
“If we need a stop at the end of the game, Johnny Hagan is out there,” Shuman said. “If we need a goal at the end of the game, Johnny Hagan is out there. He’s a freshman but he plays like a senior. I can’t tell you how many times at the end of games this year, he’s out there and makes a big play for us. It was a no brainer getting him out there.”
Bishop Feehan had the first opportunity but Canton goalie Quinn Gibbs came up huge. Shamrock senior forward Kyle Browne raced into the offensive zone and released a shot. Gibbs made the save with his mask, the rebound went right back to Browne, but his second bid was also turned aside by Gibbs.
Hagan raced up the other way and unleashed a wrist shot but his shot was kicked aside. Browne came back the other way but Nolte and Hagan combined to take possession back. Hagan then found Nolte streaking up the right side. The sophomore crossed over the blue line, stepped around the defenseman, faked his shot before switching to his backhand and depositing it past the Feehan goalie.
— Ed McDonough (@Digucator) March 5, 2017
“Quinn, huge two saves there…Ryan Nolte, he just has a flair for the dramatic,” Shuman said. “He just loves to play in games like this. He’s exhausted, he’s out there a long time but he went and tried one more time and man, what a move.”
“Coach was telling me to dump it in but I saw I could make a move on the kid so I went around him and tucked it in,” Nolte said. “He tried to step up so I just went out wide on him. I knew I was going to go with the back hand once I got around the defenseman.”
Feehan originally took the lead in the first minute of the game. Josh Nelson sent his shot from the blue line wide off the boards, the bounce finding Connor O’Brien in front for an easy tap in.
Down 2-0, Canton didn’t panic and continued to battle back.
Canton nearly had the equalizer midway through the first when Mike Dadasis fired a shot that was partially stopped but the puck sat on the goal line behind Feehan goalie Derek Dattero but O’Brien was the first to it to prevent it from crossing.
Feehan had the top two chances to start the second period. First, John Anghinetti had his one-timer turned aside after a nice pass from Jason Sullivan. Just over five minutes into the period, the Shamrocks capitalized on a turnover from a Canton defenseman. Browne raced in, centering a pass for Jack Callahan’s tip in in front.
The Bulldogs got life just over the five minute mark when the Shamrocks were whistled for a cross checking penalty, just a seconds after killing a holding penalty.
After cycling the puck around, it eventually bounced out to Maffeo, who settled the puck and then stepped into a slap shot that rocketed through traffic and left Dattero with no chance at a save.
“By far, these first two playoff games are the best two games I’ve ever seen him play,” Shuman said of Maffeo. “He was phenomenal tonight defensively. He got that huge goal. That’s why he’s out there, that’s why he’s the league MVP, that’s why he’s who he is. I can’t say enough good things about Jackson, he really has anchored that defensive unit.”
“We just knew we had to play our game,” Nolte said. “We knew we were the better team, they were good but we had some good chances we just hadn’t scored. Jackson scored that big one to get us going.”
Canton nearly tied the game just before the end of the period when Martin tossed a shot in front that Tommy Kilduff got control of and lifted a backhand shot, but Dattero made a nice save to keep it out.
Three minutes into the third period, Hagan faked out a defenseman to get a chance but his back hand was just wide. On a power play chance, junior Nick Allen had his shot from the blue line whistle just wide as well.
The Bulldogs finally broke through to tie the game on the power play. Martin fired a shot that was saved but the rebound was left in the crease and Nolte pounced, pushing it across the goal line to tie the game.
“He was a fourth liner that didn’t see the ice at all in the tournament a year ago so this is his real first state tournament action,” Shuman said of Nolte. “For him to step up and be the player he has been this year, it’s just a testament to how good of a player he is. He has those intangibles that you just can’t teach. He really is someone that has a knack for the game and you saw that on the last play.”
Canton hockey (16-4-3) advances to the D2 South Semifinal to take on #2 Medway. The Bulldogs will play the Mustangs on Tuesday, at 5:30 at Gallo.