Mansfield/Oliver Ames rallied from one goal down in the third period, taking the lead with just 1:41 left, but King Philip answered back only 43 seconds later with the goalie pulled and the two teams skated off with a point apiece following an exciting 2-2 tie. It was the season opener for both teams, who will meet again on the same ice less than 24 hours from when this game finished.
“I didn’t expect anything different,” said King Philip coach Ken Assad about the matchup with MOA. “I knew they were going to be tough beat. Our girls were picking things up day-by-day and I didn’t know how today would go. We still need to pick some things up speed-wise but they did a pretty good job today.”
King Philip had the game’s first good chance when Libby Curran fired a shot through a crowd that had to be knocked aside by MOA goalie Jess Widdop. The visitors came right back with chances of their own. Emma Pereira circled all the way around the zone, behind the net, and back in front where she picked out Julia Muttart for a chance that was saved by Mallory Johnston.
Ella Waryas showed off her stick-handling when she weaved through traffic starting at her own blue line, but her backhand shot was saved. Meg Sherwood set up Kelly Holmes for a chance right in front but Widdop made the stop and then the rebound was flicked just over the bar.
After a scoreless first period, MOA started the second brightly. Reese Pereira had two tries at the near post but Johnston kept her pad on the ice and blocked both efforts.
Just when it looked like MOA was starting to assert control, KP opened the scoring on the other end. Nicole Brady touched the puck past a defender and into the right circle before sending a low pass to the edge of the crease. Kara McWhinnie was in front and got the deflection under the pads of Widdop to make it 1-0.
Almost immediately after going in front, Sydney O’Shea had a chance to double the lead with a wrister from the slot, but Widdop saved. Reese Pereira then had a shot gloved by Johnston and Waryas was denied on the rebound.
KP finished the second with nearly four minutes of power play time and could have gone into the intermission with a bigger lead if not for the MOA goalie. Holmes fired a pass across goal to Avari Maxwell at the post but Widdop got the pad down to make a point-blank save. With less than 30 seconds left in the period, Katarina Precobb slipped a pass to Morgan Cunningham on the back post but Widdop’s blocker was in the way.
“In the first half of that game, she was the game for us,” said MOA coach Roy Bain. “She was the team. She had a blocker save that was huge, a leg save on a rebound. She kept us in it, kept us in striking distance.”
Assad added, “We need to take our opportunities that we created. She’s a great goalie and we’ve just got to be able to pounce on those rebounds. We practiced the power play a lot the last couple days and I’ll give the girls credit they ran it to perfection but we just have to put it in the net.”
It stayed a one-goal game heading to the third and MOA came flying out of the break in search of the tying goal. Emma Pereira had a blast from the point that Johnston parried. KP nearly snuck a second on the break when O’Shea’s pass sprung Jenn Daniels only for Widdop to stand tall again.
With 10:57 on the clock, MOA was level. Megan O’Hara got free at the left point and sent a shot through traffic that somehow found a little seam to get to the net and then ricocheted off the post and in. It was all MOA from that point on. After recording 10 shots on goal through the first period, the Warriors had 12 in the third period alone.
Emma Pereira continued to be the driving force for MOA. The senior defenseman raced down the left side and then turned towards goal, forcing Johnston (20 saves) into a good stop. Then, with 1:41 to play, Pereira cut across the high slot and forced a glove save out of Johnston. The rebound dropped right at the stick of Waryas, who made no mistake and slammed it into the empty net.
“We were able regroup,” Bain said about the strong third period from his team. “It took some time. They didn’t like where they found themselves but they came back like they always do. Kudos to KP, there was no quit in them either.”
MOA thought it had the come from behind victory, but there was still drama left in the game.
KP pulled Johnston for the extra skater. As the clock ticked down under one minute to play, Holmes made her first varsity goal a memorable one. The freshman got loose in the slot and sniped the space above Widdop’s shoulder to salvage a point.
“We’ve got some talented forwards on our team,” Assad said, “and we know we can score when we want to. When we pulled the goalie and put Kelly out there and she got the puck on her stick and she went end-to-end and got a great shot off.”
By HockomockSports.com Staff
Player are listed alphabetically
Gabby Colace, Senior – Franklin
One of Franklin’s strengths the past few seasons is being difficult to break down. While the Panthers don’t have the same experience on the blue line as in years past, Colace is still between the pipes and that should make Franklin tough to score against this winter. She allowed only 1.95 goals per game last season, making 357 saves, and stopping more than 90 percent of the shots she faced. One of the league’s top shot stoppers, Colace uses her quickness and ability to read the play to be in the right positions. She sees the puck well through traffic and her athleticism allows her to cover a lot of ground quickly. Colace’s consistency and composure in net will be a big help to a relatively young Franklin defensive group this season and her experience as a three-year starter gives Franklin high hopes of reclaiming the league title.
Carolyn Durand, Sophomore – Canton
Goalie is not an easy position to step into and produce right away, especially not at a state championship-caliber level, but Durand jumped between the pipes for Canton last year and put together a remarkable season for the league champs. As a freshman, Durand allowed only 0.71 goals per game and made 293 saves, stopping 95 percent of the shots she faced and recording 14 shutouts. She was solid positionally all season, rarely over-committing and making sure to be in the right spot to deny someone on the rebound. Durand also showed poise under pressure, not backing down as teams crowded the crease in search of late goals or being over-awed by the moment during Canton’s run to the final. It was a great way to kick off her Canton career and Durand’s continued development is one of the reasons the Bulldogs remain the favorite to repeat as Hock champs.
Maria Femia, Senior – Canton
Canton doesn’t just count on its forward to find the back of the net, the Bulldogs also need them to start the defensive pressure with a tireless forecheck. Femia is a good example of defending from the front. The senior forward is relentless in chasing the puck in the offensive zone, allowing her teammates to get into good positions, forcing turnovers, and wearing teams down as they try to get the puck out. She scored four goals and had 13 assists last year and was a big reason for the program winning its first ever state title. A four-year varsity player, Femia has the speed to harass the opponent and the vision to turn a loose puck into a scoring opportunity for either herself or a teammate. With a few new faces on the roster this year, Femia will be counted on to pick up the scoring and try to make it three league titles in four years in Hock play.
Alex Ledin, Senior – Mansfield/Oliver Ames
Mansfield/Oliver Ames has top players back in each position on the ice and is looking to make a run at its first Hockomock League title. One familiar face back is senior Alex Ledin, a veteran that will be apart of the Warriors’ top line. Ledin is also joined by returners Reese Pereira and Ella Waryas, the trio combined for the majority of MOA’s points last season. Ledin’s speed gives the Warriors a lot of options in the attack and her experience means she knows what spots to be in on the ice. Having familiarity with her two linemates will also mean the trio can pick up where they left off last season. As a junior, Ledin was among the league’s leading scorers with nine goals scored and seven assists.
Morgan Lessa, Senior – Stoughton/Sharon
Stoughton/Sharon took a step forward last season, picking up three wins and another point through a tie and a big reason for that was forward Morgan Lessa. Lessa is among the most dangerous players in the Hockomock League and the surrounding area, possessing a combination of skill, hockey IQ, and speed that makes her very hard to stop. Despite getting a lot of attention from opposing defenses, Lessa finds a way to get space and is a great finisher in front of the goal. She logs of a lot of minutes during five-on-five but is also a key piece when the Black Knights go on the power play. And during the penalty kill, Lessa is often flying around the ice to disrupt opposing power plays. She was one of the top producers in the league last year, scoring 21 goals (second-most in the league) and adding 10 assists for a total of 31 points, one point off the league lead.
Amanda Lewandowski, Senior – Franklin
A standout in the rink and the field hockey field, Lewandowski knows how to find the back of the net and her tenacity means that opposing defenses don’t get to take a minute off while she’s on the ice. She was fifth in the league in scoring last year (and tops on the Panthers) with eight goals and 13 assists. Lewandowski can drive Franklin forward from her own zone, helping back defensively and then carrying the puck to a scoring opportunity on the other end of the ice. Quick, with good stick skills, and a motor that doesn’t stop, Lewandowski is able to find the little seams in a defense to get her shot on goal and isn’t afraid to get to the front of the net sniffing out rebounds or deflections. She can also cause the opposition fits with her forecheck, pushing teams back and making it difficult to get the puck out of the zone. She will be hoping to cap off her four years on varsity with a second league title in the past three seasons.
Avari Maxwell, Senior – King Philip
You could pick any of the three members of King Philip’s top line to be on this list like juniors Morgan Cunningham and Sydney O’Shea, but we’re going with the senior captain Avari Maxwell. A longtime member of the Warriors, Maxwell will lead the charge offensively this season for a team that is looking for its first Hockomock League title. Maxwell sets the tone with her work ethic, a strong two-way player that gets back and factors in defensively while also being a strong offensive player. Working alongside Cunningham (24 points) and O’Shea (20 points), Maxwell completes one of the most dangerous lines in the league. As captain, her leadership both on and off the ice will be key.
Allie McCabe, Junior – Canton
Canton has become known for its impressive defensive record during its recent run of three state title games in four seasons. That should be no different this year, as the Bulldogs try to become the first team to repeat as Hock champion. McCabe will be one of the main factors for Canton’s continued defensive solidity. Strong and imposing in her own zone, McCabe is also a good skater who can beat a forward to the puck or get physical in the corner and take the puck away. She read angles well to cut off space and keep everything away from the front of the net. Although not a prolific scorer from the blue line, McCabe has a good shot from the point and good vision for an outlet pass to spring the forwards into the offensive zone. Graduation and transfers took away some of the top defensive pairings from last year, but McCabe’s experience will make her a leader for the new faces on the blue line this season.
Haley Nelson, Senior – Stoughton/Sharon
No matter the situation happening on the ice, you’re like to find Haley Nelson in the lineup for the Black Knights. Whether it’s five-on-five, a power play opportunity, or Stoughton/Sharon is on the penalty kill, Nelson is likely out there especially for the biggest moments of the game. The leader of the defensive corps for the Black Knights, Nelson is a veteran player with plenty of experience. We saw Stoughton/Sharon take a big step forward last season after a tough 2019 campaign and Nelson was a big reason why. Not only is she a reliable defenseman for the program, she gets involved in the offense. Her work ethic is contagious and sets the tone for the Black Knights. Last season, Nelson had nine goals and six assists.
Emma Pereira, Senior – Mansfield/Oliver Ames
An MVP candidate a year ago, Mansfield/Oliver Ames senior Emma Pereira returns as one of the top players in the Hockomock League this season. The Warriors will have one of the toughest defensive units in the league this year with the entire group back from last year. Pereira will lead the way as a very reliable player, doing a good job of breaking up passes and blocking shots. She reads the play really well and always seems to be in the right position defensively. On top of that, Pereira is a weapon on the offensive end of the ice. She carries the puck out of the back, through the neutral zone, and into the attacking zone and makes a play on her own. She plays on both the penalty kill and power play units and logs a lot of minutes on ice for the Warriors. Last season, she recorded 16 goals and added seven assists to lead Mansfield/Oliver Ames in scoring.
CANTON, Mass. – So much about this season is unfamiliar and out of place, but with its return to the new and improved Metropolis Rink (aka Ponky) Canton found something recognizable. It was a lot brighter (and considerably warmer) than its previous incarnation but the Bulldogs looked right at home in Wednesday night’s season opener.
Franklin started quicker. The Panthers tested Durand early, forcing her into three saves in the opening minutes. Lindsay Atkinson had the best chance for the visitors after a shot from the point bounced to her on the edge of the crease but Durand stayed with it to make the stop.
“Our big thing was making sure we had a good start and I think we did that but as the game went on we may have gotten a little away from our position,” said Franklin assistant Mike Lubin, who was in charge in the absence of head coach Margie Burke. “For us having a few girls out and it being the first game, I thought we played excellent. I think we’ll definitely build on it.”
It took Canton seven minutes to get its first shot on target, as sophomore Maya Battista forced Gabby Colace into a glove save. Battista went almost all of last season before scoring her first career goal, but she was Canton’s best offensive threat in the first period, recording five of the team’s seven shots on goal.
“I thought she was going to be better, but she’s been awesome, the confidence she’s been playing with” Canton coach Dennis Aldrich said of Battista. “My personality is that I’m a defensive coach, but I’ve got to let the horses run a little bit and we’ve got to talk about picking our spots. She was incredible.”
With 4:35 left in the first, the Bulldogs got a power play opportunity that seemed to flip the momentum of the game. Although Canton wouldn’t find the back of the net, the ice started to tilt towards Colace.
Payton McDonough set up Battista in the slot for a good chance then McDonough got a stick on a blast from Allie McCabe that Colace tipped aside. Koen drove to the net and left the puck for Ellie Rae Roberts but Stephanie Bell was able to clear off the line. Roberts teed up Battista for a drive from the point that Colace (28 saves) was able to stay with through a crowd.
“I told the girls the first five minutes are going to be crazy and don’t get too high or too low,” said Aldrich. “They just grind and you’ve just got to withstand and then hopefully our legs will take over. You don’t have to score on the power play, you just have to turn the momentum a little bit. We’ve been working on it and I thought we got some good looks.”
The momentum carried into the second, which was dominated by the home team. Canton outshot the Panthers 14-2 in the period. Another power play early in the second sparked the Bulldogs into life. Battista’s cross-ice pass to Maria Femia forced a pad stop from Colace and then McDonough went cross-ice to Battista, drawing another good stop.
Colace continued to impress, stopping McDonough on a breakaway after the forward snuck behind the defense.
“Gabby always comes up big,” said Lubin. “She’s just a rock and such a calming presence for everyone. It’s just nice to know she’s back there and always competing.”
The pressure finally paid off with 5:10 left in the period. Tess Khoury’s initial shot was saved and the rebound led to a scrum in front of goal. Lizzie Tassinari managed to knock in the loose puck for what turned out to be the game-winner. One minute and one second later, Koen picked off a pass and was free in the slot, ripping a wrister to the blocker side for a 2-0 advantage.
Aldrich noted that the Bulldogs are missing 30 goals from last season, after standout freshman Olivia Maffeo transferred, and he is counting on a team effort to make up the difference. He said, “Last year Audrey worked so hard and I think she got half her goal output tonight that she had all last year and that’s what we’re expecting. I need six [players] to get five [goals] and I think that’s the mentality.”
Franklin bounced back in the third period and created a few chances to try and get back into the game. Nina Iannuzzi set up Atkinson in front but Durand stayed with the tip. Ashley Puleo would later force a blocker stop from the Canton goalie and Maggie McCaffrey weaved her way through traffic and found Atkinson at the post but Durand was in the right spot to make the save.
By then Canton had put the game away. Again, the Bulldogs struck twice in a short span, this time two goals in 41 seconds.
Ellie Bohane got free in the left circle and her wrist shot was blocked down by Colace but right to the stick of Koen, who smashed in the rebound. McCabe would tack on one more with a shot from the point that went through a crowd in front and snuck inside the post.
It was a convincing win to start the season, but Aldrich knows there are a lot of challenges to overcome for the Bulldogs to claim another league crown. He chuckled, “We’re carrying this target. I’m good friends with all of those coaches but I know they want to beat me every time they see me.”
By HockomockSports.com Staff
2020-2021 Hockomock Girls Hockey Preview
2019-2020 Record: 19-1-4
2019-2020 Finish: Division 2 State Co-Champion
Coach: Dennis Aldrich
The pandemic has cost Canton an opportunity to defend its first D2 state championship, but the Bulldogs have an experienced squad that will be looking to claim a second straight league title. Although dynamic defenseman Olivia Maffeo has transferred, Canton can count on 13 returning players, including nine forwards, so there is plenty of continuity as the program makes its move to the rebuilt Metropolis Skating Rink.
Maffeo’s goals will certainly be missed, but the Bulldogs will expect the forward lines to pick up the slack. Seniors Maria Femia, Lizzie Tassinari, and Ellie Rae Roberts all have four years of experience at the varsity level and each is capable of putting the puck in the net on a consistent basis. The forwards will also be the first line of defense, as their forechecking ability puts pressure on the opponents in all three zones.
Defense has been a strength for Canton throughout this impressive run of success. This year, there will be a few new faces on the blue line but junior Allie McCabe and sophomore Maya Battista will lead the defensive unit and both stood out last year for their strength, skating, and passing out of the zone. Backstopping the Canton defense is sophomore goalie Carolyn Durand, who recorded 14 shutouts as a freshman.
“I look for our team defense to be a strength as usual and am looking for our experienced forwards to find the back of the net more often with the confidence gained by capturing the first state title for Canton High School Girls Ice Hockey,” said Canton coach Dennis Aldrich.
2019-2020 Record: 7-9-5
2019-2020 Finish: Reached D1 Preliminary Round
Coach: Margie Burke
Last winter, Franklin pushed its league title defense right to the final game of the regular season and this year the Panthers will be hoping to reclaim the crown in what should be a typically competitive league campaign. Franklin will hope that a young defensive group can get up to speed right away to complement the experience that the Panthers have in attack.
The forward line should be a strength for Franklin this season. Senior Amanda Lewandowski is back to be the focal point after recording 21 points as a junior. Fellow seniors Libby Carter and Katelyn Brown will add experience and energy to the forward line, providing not only scoring punch but also helping out in the defensive zone as well. Sophomore Lyndsey Atkinson is coming off an impressive rookie season in which she led the team with 10 goals.
Defensively, Franklin graduated a group of players that had several years of varsity experience so it will be new faces that will have to step in this year. Junior Katie LeBlanc and sophomore Shaw Downing are two of the defenders back from last year’s squad. If teams get through the Franklin defense, senior goalie Gabby Colace is back to keep things difficult for opposing forwards. Colace was one of the league’s top shot stoppers last year, allowing fewer than two goals per game.
“We are very grateful to have the opportunity to get on the ice and compete,” said Franklin coach Margie Burke. “This year we expect to have a balanced squad. The Hock should be very competitive as always. ‘Play every game like it’s the last’ will be our motto.”
2019-2020 Record: 10-11-1
2019-2020 Finish: Missed playoffs
Coach: Ken Assad
After coming up just one point shy of the state tournament last season, the Warriors are entering the 2020-2021 campaign with a lot of determination, ready to make a run at the Hockomock League title.
The Warriors have a large amount of returning players back for this season and all now have a year of experience under their belts playing for head coach Ken Assad, who enters the season with plenty of optimism and excitement. Assad will look to role three to four lines throughout the season, giving the Warriors a lot of flexibility with their offensive looks. In senior captain Averi Maxwell (18 points) and juniors Moran Cunningham (24) and Sydney O’Shea (20 points), King Philip has one of the most dangerous attacking units in the league. Not only will the Warriors get a lot of production from that line, but it should also open things up for everyone else on the ice.
Junior Jen Daniels (16 points) is back after a breakout sophomore campaign, sophomore Katarina Precobb will look to follow up a strong freshman season, and seniors Nicole Brady, captain Olivia Donovan, Kara McWhinnie, and sophomore Bridgette Nally will all be in the mix offensively for the Warriors. There will be a lot of familiar faces on the defensive end for the Warriors as well with senior assistant captains Gabriela Trujillo and Libby Curran anchoring the blue line unit. Juniors Meg Sherwood and Alison Donovan bring key experience from last year while sophomores Brielle Hearon and Emma Sullivan will factor in defensively as well.
Mallory Johnston picked up some valuable experience between the pipes last season filling in for an injury and will now take over the starting job in net for KP. The Warriors also have a strong freshmen class ready to contribute right away with Kelly Holmes (forward) and Mara Boldy (defense) in the mix.
“With the experience we have this year and always being very optimistic for a good start, I expect them to work hard in all three zones and be a top contender for a Hockomock title this year,” Assad said. “There is great team chemistry on this team and with our captains’ leadership, they will definitely give it 110%. The girls accept the fact there is not going to be a tournament and are very excited to get on the ice no matter what the season will look like and for that, I continue to be very proud of them and what they have gone through.”
2019-2020 Record: 10-10-1
2019-2020 Finish: Reached D1 Preliminary Round
Coach: Roy Bain
Coming off a strong 2020 campaign and with a group of veteran players on the roster, MOA head coach Roy Bain has a positive outlook on the upcoming season for his Warriors.
MOA recorded double-digit wins last season and nearly pulled off a gigantic upset in the opening round of the state tournament (5-4 loss to #8 seed Boston Latin). The Warriors have 11 seniors on this year’s roster and that, plus a strong mix of experienced underclassmen, should mean good things for the season. The defensive unit for the team remains intact with senior Emma Pereira, the team’s MVP from a season ago, back to anchor that unit. She’ll reunite with junior Julia Muttart for one pairing while seniors Melissa Shanteler and Megan O’Hara are back together on the blue line again this year.
Not only will there be familiar faces along the blueline, junior Jess Widdop returns for her third season between the pipes for MOA. Widdop had a strong season in goal for MOA a year ago and with so much familiarity among the defensemen, the Warriors will be one of the toughest teams to score against. Freshman Kata Callanan will push for time in net as well.
On the other end of the ice, Bain has compiled four lines that could all see time on the ice. Senior Alex Ledin (16 points), senior Ella Waryas (15 points) and sophomore Reese Pereira (17 points) accounted for the majority of the Warriors’ scoring last year and will be among the most dangerous lines in the league. The line of Sam Ledin, Kylie O’Keefe, and Emma Garland will provide a change of pace, using their speed on both ends of the ice; the trio of seniors Lily O’Brien and Tess Luciano centered by junior Cierra Doherty will provide veteran leadership; and sophomore Mya Waryas will be surrounded by freshmen Maeve Anastasia and Cam Shanteler for a youthful option.
“This team only graduated two players, it has essentially the same personnel from last year, but with a renewed sense of the possibilities of what they can build for this program,” Bain said. “Some of the seniors were cheated out of their seasons in other sports and know what’s at stake for girls hockey. I’m impressed by the focus they’ve shown this far. The rules they play under may have changed, but their mindset and their love of the game has not.”
2019-2020 Record: 3-15-1
2019-2020 Finish: Missed postseason
Coach: Rich Grasso
2020-2021 Hockomock Girls Hockey Preview
The Black Knights took a step in the right direction last season, picking up points in four contests including three wins. Stoughton will look to build on that this year in a very competitive Hockomock League.
Morgan Lessa was one of the best forwards in the Hockomock League last season, second in the entire league with 21 goals scored and tied for second-most in points with 31. Haley Nelson also had a strong junior campaign and was a big reason for Stoughton seeing an improvement on the ice from the season before. Nelson accounted for nine goals and six assists.
Zofia Bangs made an immediate impact for the Black Knights last season and is coming off a strong field hockey season. Both Bangs and Jillian Parker played key roles in the attack for the Black Knights. Stoughton will have to replace goalie Brianna Buckley (graduation). Buckley recorded over 350 saves last season and was a key piece in the Stoughton defense.
Below are the official 2020 Hockomock League Girls Hockey All Stars, selected by the coaches in the league.
Hockomock League MVP
Makenzie Shandley, King Philip
Hockomock League All Stars
Lizzie Tassinari, Canton
Alexa Maffeo, Canton
Olivia Maffeo, Canton
Meg Aldrich, Canton
Gabby Colace, Franklin
Tina Pisano, Franklin
Amanda Lewandowski, Franklin
Makenzie Shandley, King Philip
Morgan Cunningham, King Philip
Sydney O’Shea, King Philip
Sammy Robison, King Philip
Emma Pereira, Mansfield/Oliver Ames
Melisa Shanteler, Mansfield/Oliver Ames
Alex Ledin, Mansfield/Oliver Ames
Samantha Ledin, Mansfield/Oliver Ames
Morgan Lessa, Stoughton/Sharon
Haley Nelson, Stoughton/Sharon
Carolyn Durand, Canton
Jordan Dwyer, Franklin
Avari Maxwell, King Philip
Ella Waryas, Mansfield/Oliver Ames
Samantha Sherman, Stoughton/Sharon
But unfortunately, neither team will hit the ice at the TD Garden. In fact, none of the six hockey games scheduled for Sunday will happen after the MIAA decided to cancel them due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The MIAA also canceled all of the basketball state championship games scheduled for Saturday.
With the cancellations, all of the teams that were scheduled to play in the final are considered co-champions. The Canton girl’s hockey team shares the title with Wellesley while the boys share the crown with Lincoln-Sudbury.
There will be a lot of anger, frustration, and disappointment among other emotions. Time will tell if this incredibly tough — and rather unprecedented — decision the MIAA made was the best choice. While it’s hard to swallow, keeping student-athletes safe is and should always be a top priority.
“We understand this is disappointing news however, this decision was made in the best interests of all our student-athletes, schools and communities,” read a statement on the MIAA website. “Schools who would have been participating in the State Finals will be considered Co-Champions.”
It’s tough to put in words how unfair it is to take away this opportunity from those who have earned it. One thing is for sure, it’s heartbreaking for all of the players, coaches, and team personnel involved that started this journey together back in December with hopes of reaching this point, only to have that opportunity taken away.
“I’ve been in the locker room in the past trying to console players after a heartbreaking loss but when we found out about the decision after practice, it was like nothing I’ve had to do before,” said Canton boys head coach Brian Shuman. “Sadness, frustration, disappointment…the full gamut of emotions.
“I wish I had the right words to make them feel better.”
Over the past week, we’ve seen the professional sports leagues like the NBA and NHL postpone their current seasons due to the outbreak. The MIAA also announced that the start of the spring season will be pushed back at least two weeks.
As the week went on, school systems across Massachusetts starting to announce closures ranging from days to up to a month in some locations.
“It’s just really horrible for us and for our opponents,” Shuman said. “We both had remarkable seasons and we were both looking forward to closing it out on Sunday. It’s just really unfortunate, I’m really bummed out for the kids.”
The Bulldogs would have entered Sunday’s championship game with a record of 21-1-3, the lone loss coming to their opponent Lincoln-Sudbury back on February 12th. At the time, it snapped Canton’s 43-game unbeaten streak that dated back to the 2018-2019 season, a year in which the Bulldogs went undefeated and won the D2 State Championship.
While Shuman noted the goal was to always return to the Garden to try and defend the title, there has to be an extra layer of frustration that the Bulldogs won’t get a shot at avenging their lone blemish in a remarkable two-year stretch.
“The kids worked incredibly hard every single game, not just skating, passing, and shooting, but emotionally and mentally every single day was such a grind. Not just this season, but for two years. It requires such mental toughness and commitment. To go through that, and then to not have that final test or final opportunity to hopefully put the cherry in top of a remarkable run is overwhelming.”
Without the state championship game, it means the high school hockey careers have come to a close for over a dozen Bulldog seniors: Chris Lavoie, Tommy Vaughan, Jack Connolly, Dom Cammarata, Tommy Ghostlaw, Shane Marshall, Colby Ciffolillo, Timmy Kelleher, Owen Lehane, Johnny Hagan, Declan Pfeffer, Ronan O’Mahony, and Joe Cammarata.
It would have been the third trip in the past four years to the TD Garden for the Canton girls team. It would have been a chance for those seniors to skate together one last time, a chance to deliver the first state championship in program history.
Canton (19-1-4) would have entered Sunday’s D2 Final as the underdog against the top-seeded Raiders (22-1-0) but that hasn’t stopped the Bulldogs from winning before. Back in 2017 as the 14-seed, Canton gave a scare to top-seed Notre Dame Academy, and a year later, the Bulldogs nearly knocked off the Raiders in a one-goal game.
In the run up to the final, Canton outscored its three opponents 11-2 and knocked off #2 Norwell in the state semifinal.
Unfortunately, we won’t get to see if the third time would have been the charm for the Bulldogs.
Three different Bulldogs scored in Sunday night’s state semifinal against Norwell at the Warrior Ice Arena and Canton’s defense put in a strong display of how to block shots and clear the middle of the zone. The Bulldogs skated away with a 3-1 victory and they will now face top seed Wellesley in next week’s title game.
“It’s awesome,” said junior forward Lizzie Tassinari, whose second period goal turned out to be the game-winner. “You kind of feel like a celebrity when you’re out there and you see your whole entire school and everyone you know out there cheering you on. It’s the best feeling ever.”
Norwell proved to be a tough out, with its speed through the neutral zone causing problems for Canton early in the game. Allie McCabe had to be quick to backtrack and prevent Margaret Leivi from getting off a shot on a break just a minute into the game and Carolyn Durand stayed tall to stop the loose puck at the near post.
Canton started to get some luck in the offensive zone through its aggressive forecheck. Ellie Rae Roberts nearly teed up Maria Femia for a chance in the slot, but they couldn’t connect. Olivia Maffeo got the first shot on target for the Bulldogs with a trademark rush through three zones and a wrister that was blocked aside by Norwell goalie Nicole Prescott.
It was a freshman defenseman that put Canton in front, but surprisingly it wasn’t Maffeo (who was coming off a four-goal game in the quarterfinal). Her Junior Eagles teammate Maya Battista, who moved up from Texas this year, sent in a shot from the point that fooled Prescott and snuck under the bar.
“Maya has been playing so well,” said Canton coach Dennis Aldrich. “She’s just a steady, stay-at-home defenseman. She scored in our very first scrimmage and I thought, we’ve got someone who’s going to score a lot for us, but she hasn’t scored again until now. What a big goal, so I’m so happy for her.”
The lead lasted six minutes before the Clippers found an equalizer. Casey Messina had her first shot saved by Durand (20 saves) but she stuck with the play and managed to squeeze the rebound across the line to make it 1-1.
Norwell carried the momentum into the second period and started with a flurry of chances that Durand and the Canton defense repelled. McCabe, Maffeo, Battista, and seniors Meg Aldrich and Alexa Maffeo were putting their bodies in front of as many shots as possible to kill off a pair of Norwell power plays.
“The amount of blocked shots tonight was incredible,” said Aldrich. “Every time I looked up, we were in a shooting lane. That’s kids who are putting the team and the game ahead of themselves because that hurts.”
Just four seconds into their own power play, and on their first shot of the period, the Bulldogs regained the lead. McCabe showed off her skating ability to gain the zone down the left wing. She threw a puck towards goal and it was picked up by Tassinari, who flung a backhand at Prescott. It was only partially saved and the puck trickled over the line.
“She kind of fumbled it a little, so I kind of saw the opportunity to take the puck and I shot it kind of blindly just to get shots on net,” Tassinari said. “We both saw it turning, her kind of leaning backwards and couldn’t grab it, and it was just trickling in and across the line.”
The goal seemed to energize the Bulldogs, who finished the second period with several chances. Ellie Bohane did well behind the net and put a shot on goal and the loose rebound was snapped on goal by Caroline Tourgee, forcing a pad stop from the goalie.
Leading by one heading into the third period, Canton upped the pressure on its forecheck and remained aggressive in the offensive zone.
“Everything we do, get the puck deep and establish the forecheck and just kind of remember everything we do every single day and tire them out,” Tassinari said about the discussion ahead of the third period. “Just never give up really.”
Aldrich explained, “We knew how we wanted to attack them and got away from that a little bit, so we went in the third period to more of a 2-3 because we were getting caught deep and giving up too many odd-man rushes. It wasn’t like they didn’t have chances, but I like the flow of the third period much better than the first two.”
Norwell had a great chance to try and tie the game. Casey Ward raced into the zone and cut across the slot from right-to-left. As a Canton defender slipped, Ward suddenly had acres of space to wind up, but Durand was in the right position to make a smart pad save.
The missed opportunity proved to be costly for the Clippers. With six minutes remaining, Olivia Maffeo put the game away. She weaved her way through the neutral zone and into the right face-off circle. She showed great patience to pick her spot, lifting a shot up over Prescott’s glove hand and just under the bar.
“She’s pretty good huh?” Aldrich asked with a smile. “It’s fun to have a kid like that because it just brings everybody up. She’s the first one in line for drills. She has to win, has to be first, and it’s just contagious in that locker room. The whole attitude in there is different having her around.”
Canton (19-1-4) will face the two-time defending state champions Wellesley at the TD Garden. It is a rematch of the 2018 final that the Raiders won and last year’s first round game, also won by the Raiders.