By Ryan Lanigan, Editor-in-Chief
CANTON, Mass. – A year after Mansfield snapped Canton’s lengthy Hockomock League unbeaten streak, the Bulldogs opened this year’s slate of league games with a 3-1 win over the Hornets.
While each team scored in the first period, neither team found the back of the net in the second. It took until the first couple minutes of the final period for Canton to score the winner and until the final seconds for the insurance goal.
“It was an interesting game,” Canton head coach Brian Shuman said. “A lot of penalties which sort of disrupted the flow of the game. Our penalty kill was good. I wouldn’t say that we played undisciplined I just think we were too amped up sometimes and we had some big hits that often times can go either way. We killed the penalties we needed to kill and pulled out a win. I just told the guys it wasn’t our best game but we still pulled out a win. Mansfield is a good team, they had great goaltending, great defense and they had some guys on offense that really can go so it was a good game.”
Canton junior Jackson Maffeo the scoring inside the first five minutes of the game to give the Bulldogs the lead. A defenseman, Maffeo had the puck and a Mansfield forward coming at him. He batted the puck to keep it in the zone and then bodied the forward to the ground. He took a pass a second later, faked a shot to get around another charging forward, stepped to his right and fired a rocket through traffic that found the back of the net to make it 1-0.
“There was a lot of anger in that shot, Jackson’s had a couple of shots blocked this year that he wants to have back, it was a beautiful shot,” Shuman said. “It’s something we’ve been working on with him too, he walked into the middle and saw he didn’t have the shooting lane and walked it back, it was a great goal.”
It looked as though Canton would have an opportunity to add to the lead just over three minutes later when Mansfield was whistled for a hooking call. But for the first of two times in the period, the Bulldogs would erase the man advantage by taking a penalty while on the power play.
Right after Canton’s first penalty expired, Bobby Mullaney and Seamus Pecararo combined to force a turnover in Mansfield’s defensive end and then combined on a neat give and go by Pecararo’s close range bid was stoned by Mansfield goalie Anthony Visconti (33 saves).
“I thought he played phenomenal,” Mansfield coach Rick Anastos said of his goalie. “That first goal, I was right there on the bench, that was a bullet. We’ve been playing some tough teams and we don’t have a win but I think we just showed what we’re made of.”
With just over two minutes left in the first, Canton once again went on the power play when Mansfield was whistled for a cross check. But the power play only lasted 39 seconds because of a hit to the head called against the Bulldogs.
In a four on four situation, Canton head a shot blocked at the blue line by Mansfield’s Matt Farragher. Max Hoffman jumped to the loose puck and raced into the offensive zone and delivered a perfect pass to Farragher on the two on one and the junior buried it to tie it 1-1 with 1:07 left in the first.
The second period belonged to Canton in terms of shots on goal while Mansfield had the two best chances of the entire period but neither team scored.
Canton went shorthanded less than 90 seconds in for an interference penalty but were able to kill it off. Midway through the period, Maffeo ripped a shot that deflected twice by a diving Visconti was able to steer it clear before any big rebound chance.
Mansfield went on the power play with just over five minutes to play but a cross check a minute in made it four on four. Another Hornet penalty made it five on three for 31 seconds but Canton couldn’t cash in. When Mansfield’s latter penalty expired, Jack Garland raced out of the box and took a chipped pass up ice for a breakaway. He fired a shot that beat Canton goalie Justin Slocum but clanked off the post and out.
With less than a minute to play, Canton went on the man advantage but it was Mansfield who came away with a breakaway on goal with less than 10 seconds to play but Slocum was up to the task and made the save.
“It was one of those games, we were playing well and then all of a sudden a guy is out of the box and he’s on a breakaway or they shot blocked and they are on a breakaway,” Shuman said. “It just goes to show you in this game moves too fast to ever get comfortable. You think you’re in control but a strange bounce you can just go the other way and there is a scoring opportunity.”
It didn’t take long for Canton to find the back of the net in the third period. After a clearance by the Hornets hit the net, a face off came to the left of Visconti. There was a tie up but the puck eventually squirted free to the stick of senior Matt Lazaro and he ripped a shot from straight away right between the circles to the top shelf to put Canton up 2-1.
“That’s vintage Matty Lazaro right there,” Shuman said. “He moved his feet right away off the face off and creates some space and gets a nice little shooting lane and throws it where he always does in the top left, it was a great shot.”
Mansfield went on a power play with 1:02 left and with Visconti pulled, the Hornets had a six on four opportunity but Mullaney was able to pick off a pass in the center of the defensive zone and ripped a shot the length of the ice for an empty net goal for the insurance goal.
“It’s frustrating not to win especially when you don’t have one yet but I thought it was a great game, it could have gone either way,” Anastos said. “We had three breakaways and we hit the post once, there’s four opportunities blown right there. It all comes down to opportunities but I thought we played pretty good. They’re a pretty fast team and I thought overall, I don’t think they dominated us, it was was just a great game.”
Canton moves to 4-1-1 overall and 1-0 in Hockomock League play. The Bulldogs will be back in action on Wednesday when they take a trip to Foxboro Sports Center to take on King Philip (3-3, 1-0) at 8:00. Mansfield (0-4-2, 0-1) will look to break into the win column on the same night with when they host Stoughton at 5:40.
“Mansfield plays a tough schedule and they are battle tested,” Shuman said. “I remember last year coming in they had a similar record and they pulled it out. We knew this was going to be a battle because they played good teams tough but it’s good to get off to a good start in the league.”
Ryan Lanigan can be contacted at RyanLanigan@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @R_Lanigan.
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