2021 Hockomock League Girls Hockey All Stars

Below are the official 2021 Hockomock League Girls Hockey All Stars, selected by the coaches in the league.

Hockomock League MVP

Emma Pereira, Mansfield/Oliver Ames

Hockomock League All Stars

Lizzie Tassinari, Canton
Carolyn Durand, Canton
Allie McCabe, Canton
Maya Battista, Canton
Gabby Colace, Franklin
Amanda Lewandoski, Franklin
Libby Carter, Franklin
Lindsay Atkinson, Franklin
Avari Maxwell, King Philip
Sydney O’Shea, King Philip
Jen Daniels, King Philip
Morgan Cunningham, King Philip
Emma Pereira, Mansfield/Oliver Ames
Reese Pereira, Mansfield/Oliver Ames
Melissa Shanteler, Mansfield/Oliver Ames
Haley Nelson, Stoughton/Sharon
Morgan Lessa, Stoughton/Sharon

Below are the official 2021 Hockomock League Girls Hockey All Stars and honorable mentions, selected by the coaches in the league. Below are the official Hockomock League Girls Hockey All Stars and honorable mentions, selected by the coaches in the league. Below are the official Hockomock League Girls Hockey All Stars and honorable mentions, selected by the coaches in the league. Below are the official Hockomock League Girls Hockey All Stars and honorable mentions, selected by the coaches in the league. Below are the official Hockomock League Girls Hockey All Stars and honorable mentions, selected by the coaches in the league. Below are the official Hockomock League Girls Hockey All Stars and honorable mentions, selected by the coaches in the league. Below are the official Hockomock League Girls Hockey All Stars and honorable mentions, selected by the coaches in the league. Below are the official Hockomock League Girls Hockey All Stars and honorable mentions, selected by the coaches in the league. Below are the official Hockomock League Girls Hockey All Stars and honorable mentions, selected by the coaches in the league. Below are the official Hockomock League Girls Hockey All Stars and honorable mentions, selected by the coaches in the league. Below are the official Hockomock League Girls Hockey All Stars and honorable mentions, selected by the coaches in the league. Below are the official Hockomock League Girls Hockey All Stars and honorable mentions, selected by the coaches in the league. Below are the official Hockomock League Girls Hockey All Stars and honorable mentions, selected by the coaches in the league. 2021 Hockomock League Girls Hockey All Stars

Canton Avenges Loss to KP, On Brink of League Title

Canton girls hockey
Canton players celebrate a goal during a 5-1 victory at King Philip that puts the Bulldogs on the brink of a second straight Hock title. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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FOXBORO, Mass. – Canton has developed a well-earned reputation for being a team that finds ways to win big games. The Bulldogs focus on the defensive zone, get the puck deep and forecheck, and take advantage of the opportunities that are presented to them. Saturday evening’s league title showdown with King Philip at the Foxboro Sports Center was another example.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Even after falling behind inside the opening two minutes of the game, Canton never looked flustered. The Bulldogs went 3-for-3 on the power play, got three goals from defensemen, made timely saves to prevent KP from getting momentum, and skated to a 5-1 win that puts them just two points from clinching their third league title in four years and becoming the first Hock team to repeat as champion.

As if winning the title wasn’t enough motivation, the Bulldogs were also playing with head coach Dennis Aldrich in mind.

“They realized that they had an opportunity and I think they’re really motivated by Coach Aldrich,” said Canton assistant Nick Maffeo. “I think it means a lot to them that he’s watching from the hospital and that he’s pulling for them. They really believed in themselves and that was huge for us.”

He added, “That’s their goal in this shortened season, this crazy season, to try and capture the Hockomock League. It’s important to them, especially for the seniors.”

Just like in the first meeting between the teams, the Warriors got off to the perfect start. Freshman Kelly Holmes split a pair of defenders and drove to the net. Carolyn Durand (15 saves) made the initial stop but the rebound popped out to Jen Daniels on the post and she knocked it in for a lead just 1:44 into the game.

 

Unlike the first meeting, KP was not able to sustain that momentum past the opening few minutes.

“In their barn, we were flying the whole game, we were chasing pucks, were first on pucks, won one-on-one battles,” said KP coach Ken Assad. “Today was nothing like that except the first one or two minutes and I just don’t know why it’s not consistent.”

A power play sparked the Bulldogs into life. Maya Battista camped out on the edge of the right circle and she fired a wrister in off the post to tie the game. It was only Canton’s second shot on goal in the opening eight minutes.

Canton closed the first period with a flurry of chances. Lizzie Tassinari’s outlet pass sprung Maria Femia to drive at the KP goal, but Mallory Johnston (23 saves) kept her pads down to make the stop. Ellie Bohane’s pass across the crease nearly created a second goal, but Audrey Koen’s tip went just wide.

KP nearly regained the lead a minute into the second. Daniels went one-on-one with Canton defender Kylie Martone and forced Durand into a good pad save.

Again it was a penalty that would stall the KP energy and put Canton in front for the first time. This time it was Allie McCabe that popped up with the goal, as she eased in from the blue line, taking the space that the KP defense was giving up, and fired a wrist shot through a crowd and inside the post.

“I think our defense has been a strength for years and years and this is something we’ve worked on all season,” Maffeo explained. “Our defense is committed to offensive zone, neutral zone, and defensive zone and we work on that and practice that and they have confidence in that.”

Sydney O’Shea was one of KP’s best outlets on offense and she forced Durand into another good stop, but Canton was taking control of the game and doubled its lead with 6:59 left in the period. Battista’s shot from the point was kicked aside, but Canton kept the puck in the zone and it cycled around to Koen in the left circle. She turned and fired and found the back of the net to make it 3-1.

The game could have been put away in the second. Canton outshot the Warriors 15-7 in the period and dominated zone time. Johnston came through with a pair of point-blank saves to deny Tassinari on the doorstep and then McCabe saw a shot come back off the post.

“The depth they have is incredible,” said Assad. “You have to match line-for-line with them and we tried. A team like that, once you score a goal you’ve got to stay on them, keep pressuring them.”

Even with Canton controlling play, KP had a couple of chances to make it a one-goal game. In the final seconds of the period, Avari Maxwell got free for a one-timer inside the left circle that seemed destined for the back of the net only for Durand to get across with her blocker. Fifteen seconds into the third, Katarina Precobb fired a pass from the near boards out in front to Morgan Cunningham but she was unable to get a clean shot off and Durand covered.

“It was there and I thought it was a goal but she came out of nowhere with that pad,” said Assad about Maxwell’s chance. “I thought that would’ve been great being down one going into the third. We had a great talk between periods, they came out and did exactly what we wanted to do, went after the net, and it just didn’t happen.”

Those misses would be costly. Just 32 seconds into the third, Battista whipped a shot in from the left point that somehow eluded the bodies in front and snuck past Johnston to make it 4-1.

Canton is a tough team to play against when they have a lead late in the game. The Bulldogs spent long stretches in the attacking zone. Although they weren’t creating a lot of chances, they were keeping the Warriors pinned back.

Maffeo said, “Because of our commitment to the defensive style of play, once we can get some offense generated then we can play the game we’re most comfortable with, all of our forwards back-checking and supporting our D.”

KP did have a couple of opportunities to maybe get back into the game. Holmes and Daniels forced a double save out of Durand with 10 minutes remaining. A minute later, O’Shea drove at the goal from a tight angle and tried to stuff in a backhand, but again had no way past the Canton netminder.

With 1:18 to go, on another power play, Tassinari wrapped up the win for the visitors. She spun on the puck in the high slot and ripped a shot past Johnston’s outstretched pad to make it 5-1.

Canton (7-1, 5-1) will take on Mansfield/Oliver Ames twice in the next two days needing a point to clinch at least a share of the league title. King Philip (4-3-1, 3-2-1) will face Stoughton/Sharon and root for the Warriors to trip Canton up.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Atkinson Double Secures Franklin Win at Mansfield/OA

Franklin girls hockey
Lindsay Atkinson (5) scored both goals, as Franklin pulled out a 2-1 win at Mansfield/Oliver Ames. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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FOXBORO, Mass. – Every game in the Hockomock League is a grind. Games are tight, chances are at a premium, and sometimes it takes the right bounces or the puck ending up on the right stick at the right time to find the back of the net.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Twice in Wednesday night’s game at the Foxboro Sports Center, the puck bounced to the stick of sophomore Lindsay Atkinson and she buried a pair of rebounds to lift Franklin to a 2-1 victory against Mansfield/Oliver Ames in what was another even matchup between these two teams.

Following the game, both coaches talked about how happy they were to be back on the ice. Franklin had not played since Jan. 23 and had been off the ice for a week and was without its assistant coaches due to COVID protocols. MOA was missing four players on Wednesday and hadn’t played since Jan. 18.

“It’s been a very interesting year,” said Franklin coach Margie Burke. “We’re a small league and we all know each other and we’ve all been around for a long time. We can all appreciate everyone’s situation and we all get it.”

MOA coach Roy Bain added, “Everyone in the Hockomock League has been in this boat at one point or another. At the end of the day, we played a hockey game tonight at a time when a lot of people thought they wouldn’t. Everyone that plays wins this season.”

As is usually the case when these teams square off, scoring chances were few an far between at the start of the game.

 

Five minutes in, freshman Maeve Anastasia fired a pass from behind the net to Reese Pereira out in front but the sophomore wasn’t able to knock it in. Melissa Shanteler had a good look from the right wing circle, but Franklin goalie Gabby Colace (12 saves) made the stop.

Midway through the first, Franklin had its first nice passing exchange in the offensive zone. Katie Leblanc played it ahead to Avery Greco who fed it on to Dana Stott, but MOA goalie Jess Widdop (12 saves) was at her post to make the save.

The best chance of the first period fell to Ciera Doherty, as the Warriors forward pounced on a loose puck in the neutral zone and flew towards goal. Her first shot was saved and Sammy Ledin’s rebound effort was blocked in front before Colace covered up.

Stott had an early chance in the second period but Widdop kept the pads down to block the close-range effort. Atkinson nearly got on the board with a shorthanded break, but Emma Pereira chased her down and got a solid stick in the way of the shot.

Molly Hurley drew a save with a wrister from the circle and Shanteler had another try from just inside the blue line, as both teams started to be more aggressive getting pucks to the net. MOA came the closest to sneaking a shot through when Emma Garland wrist shot struck the inside of the post and somehow slid along the goal line but not across it.

The Warriors would get a golden opportunity with 3:19 left in the period when a second Franklin penalty gave them 1:34 of five-on-three. The Panthers held firm, not allowing a shot on target while down two skaters. Two minutes later, they grabbed the lead.

Katelyn Brown got behind the MOA defense for a breakaway, but Widdop stood tall to get a shoulder on the shot. The puck caromed off the goalie’s pads then her glove and kicked out to Atkinson who flicked a backhand shot into the back of the net to make it 1-0.

The lead lasted six minutes into the third period. Reese Pereira, who was the source of the bulk of MOA’s attacking threat, entered the zone with speed, cut inside the right wing circle and fired a shot off Colace and in at the near post, tying the game at 1-1.

“Reese Pereira set the tone with the first shift and didn’t stop,” Bain said. “She played half of the game with no letdown. That’s the best game I’ve ever seen her play. She busted her butt tonight and did it for her teammates.”

Emma Pereira forced Colace into a save with a shot from the blue line and seconds later Atkinson had a shot blocked aside by Widdop. Reese Pereira set up Doherty for a chance in front that was blocked and the puck bounced right back to Pereira but Colace covered the post to keep the rebound out.

“Sometimes, in some situations, I’m very comfortable with that because I’m very confident we’re going to finish and win,” Burke said about trying to grind out a close win, “but tonight with a team like Mansfield/OA going into the third period up 1-0 and that’s nerve-wracking. Our league is so competitive, you never know.”

With 2:31 to play, Franklin snagged the winner. Good pressure in the zone forced Widdop into a save and a scramble right on the edge of the crease. On the third attempt, the puck bounced to Atkinson and she lifted a shot over the prone goalie, putting the Panthers in front.

There was still time for one more chance and unsurprisingly for MOA it fell to Reese Pereira. On a two-on-one, she got the puck on her forehand in the left circle and fired a shot that looked headed for the back of the net only for Colace to flash a quick glove and preserve the win.

“Huge save,” Burke raved. “Gabby is a great goalie. We all know that, she’s done it for years.”

Bain said, “Any of the games in the Hockomock League can go either way and it didn’t go our way tonight. The girls didn’t quit and we just didn’t get a couple bounces and they did.”

Franklin (4-3) will be back on the ice next week for two games against Stoughton/Sharon. Mansfield/Oliver Ames (3-2-1) will have another nine-day break before facing Bishop Feehan.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

KP and MOA Share Point After Back and Forth Opener

King Philip girls hockey
King Philip and Mansfield/Oliver Ames battled to a 2-2 tie in the season opener for both teams. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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FOXBORO, Mass. – It was a game that ebbed and flowed. First one team had momentum and then the other would make a play and the ice would start to tilt back the other way.

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.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

“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.”

King Philip (0-0-1) and Mansfield/Oliver Ames (0-0-1) will meet again on Saturday afternoon in Foxboro.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Girls Hockey: Ten Players to Watch in 2020-2021

Senior Emma Pereira (22) is one of the players to watch this season, as she tries to lead Mansfield/Oliver Ames to its first league title. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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 Shuts Out Title Rival Franklin in Season Opener

Canton girls hockey
Canton sophomore Audrey Koen (17) scored a pair of goals to lead the Bulldogs to a season-opening win against Franklin. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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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.

Audrey Koen scored twice and Carolyn Durand made 12 saves to record a shutout, as defending Div. 2 state co-champ Canton beat rival Franklin 4-0 to kick off its league title defense.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

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.”

Canton (1-0) and Canton (0-1) will meet again on Saturday afternoon at Pirelli Arena.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.