CANTON, Mass. – Canton has been one of the top defensive teams in the Hockomock League this season, allowing only 19 goals in its first 12 games, but the Bulldogs have struggled at times to find consistent offense and that problem persisted on Saturday evening against potential Div. 2 South challenger Medway at the Canton Ice House.
The Bulldogs had one defensive lapse, leaving a Medway forward all alone in the high slot early in the third period, and that goal was all it took for the visiting Mustangs to walk away with the 1-0 win and the two points.
“When you score zero goals, there’s little margin for error and we had one back coverage in the zone and left that third guy high, which is where they generate a lot of their offense, and we didn’t account for him and he made a big shot,” explained Canton coach Brian Shuman after the game.
Canton had a hard time generating attack through the neutral zone, as the Mustangs clogged the middle of the ice and made sure to keep a forward in the middle to stop potential odd-man rushes. The Bulldogs could not get the typical breakouts that make their offense tick.
“They’re as good as a defensive team as there is,” said Shuman of Medway. “They always make sure to keep that third guy high; you’ll never see them give up a 3-on-2 or a 2-on-1 by being out of position. They play a good system that clogs that neutral zone, so it’s hard to get speed generated.”
Medway was not creating a lot of scoring chances early in the game either but had the best opportunities of the first period. James Anderson skipped past the check of Jackson Maffeo and forced Quinn Gibbs into one of his 18 saves. With a minute left, Anderson again created a chance and then Gibbs made the second stop on Andrew Diebus’ rebound effort.
The best chance for the Bulldogs in the first came from the defense, when senior C.J. Martin led the rush up ice and forced a Patrick Malloy glove save from the right circle. In the second period, Martin, Maffeo and Brad Murphy all had shots on goal for Canton, which was getting most of its chances from the defensemen.
“I think our wings in particular were really tentative and not doing anything on the breakout and the defense made up for that with their legs and getting the puck out of the zone,” said Shuman. “That’s why you have defensemen who can skate.”
Gibbs was forced into a good pad save to deny Jake Tomsik early in the second, while the best chance for Canton was created by freshman John Hagan, whose pass from behind the net to Tommy Kilduff was saved by Malloy.
Canton was outshot 17-13 through the opening two periods and Shuman was disappointed in the Bulldogs’ inability to get the puck deep and force Medway back into its defensive zone.
He said, “One of the things we didn’t do in the first two periods is get the puck down low and work from below the dot, which is what we do well, and we didn’t generate any shots from the point.”
The opening goal came 2:21 into the third period. Diebus drove the puck behind Gibbs and then flipped a pass out to Anderson, who was left wide open and gave Gibbs no chance with a one-time rocket into the top corner.
From the time of the goal to the final horn, Canton turned the tide and dominated play. The Bulldogs outshot the Mustangs 8-2 in the third but could not find a way past Malloy.
“In that third period, we had some really good chances and somehow didn’t find the back of the net,” Shuman said. “It just was one of those things where you play better and still lose the period.”
Hagan followed up a Kilduff shot but his shot was right into the goalie’s chest and with three minutes remaining Charlie O’Connor had an opportunity on a rebound after Malloy kicked aside a shot from Murphy, but the senior goalie recovered to save the second chance too.
Malloy made another kick save to deny Martin’s shot from the point through a screen, which have taken a deflection along the way. Despite the pressure, the Bulldogs could not find the back of the net and were shutout for the first time this season.
“I thought we played well defensively,” said Shuman. “Quinn played well, but if you score no goals then it’s tough to come out with the points.”
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