North Shrugs Off Slow Start, Rallies to Beat Foxboro

North Attleboro Boys Hockey
Sam Clarke (19) skates over to celebrate with Nik Kojoian after the Rocketeers battled back from three goals down against Foxboro to tie the game late in the second period. (Josh Pery/HockomockSports.com)

Josh PerryFollowJoshPerry


ATTLEBORO, Mass. – Five minutes into Wednesday night’s game at the New England Sports Village and it looked like North Attleboro’s senior night was going up in flames. Foxboro had a three-goal lead and the Rocketeers had barely gotten into the attacking zone.

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North coach Ben McManama took his timeout with 10:22 left in the first to settle his team down, remind them that there was still 40 minutes of hockey to play, and try to stem the momentum that the Warriors had at the start.

Whatever was said in that huddle worked. From that point on, North was dominant.

The Rocketeers rallied, scoring once in the first and three times in the second period, then adding two in the third to pull out a 6-5 victory and clinch second place in the Davenport division. After struggling to get started in the game, North ended up with a 34-17 edge in shots on goal.

“We tried to slow them down but they came out flying,” McManama explained. “From that timeout on, I thought we played outstanding.”

He added, “The message was there’s a lot of hockey to be played and we had to go one goal at a time, one shift at a time, and if we have that mindset once that first one goes in then it starts to build. We just worked our butts off and I couldn’t be more proud of how they competed.”

 

Foxboro needed no time at all to grab the lead. Matt Grace went down the left wing, angled towards goal, and picked the far corner to make it 1-0 after just 58 seconds. The lead was double just 24 seconds after that. North turned the puck over in its defensive zone and Grace found himself free in the left circle for a one-timer.

Things went from bad to worse for the host a few minutes later. Foxboro caught North pushing up the ice and a stretch pass freed Grace down the wing again. This time he saucered the puck across the crease where Tom Marcucella knocked it into the empty net.

About 90 seconds after the timeout, North got one back and started to build momentum. It was a perfect breakout, as Jake Gruber fired a pass up the near boards to Tyler Sarro at the opposite blue line. Sarro drove into the zone and his perfect dot-to-dot pass found Nick Longa for a one-timer.

Ben Ricketts, who was credited with assists on each of the first two Foxboro goals, nearly answered right back, but his shot smacked off the crossbar.

Sam Clarke stole the puck just inside the blue line and forced a good save out of Jack Spinney (15 saves). Foxboro managed to scramble clear the rebound. On the other end, Brady Daly teed up Kirk Leach in front but Kyle Gruber (12 saves) stayed tall and made the stop. Clarke was again a handful and set up Brady Sarro in the slot but Spinney took it in the chest.

“Obviously we had good jump right at the beginning,” said Foxboro coach Mark Cedorchuk. “We got the forecheck going and we tried to sustain that after it was 3-0 and I thought we had them back up against the wall, but they just changed their forecheck and came out more aggressive getting the puck in front of the net and putting pressure on our D getting it deep.”

Controversy erupted just 26 seconds into the second period, as Nik Kojoian was sure that he had knocked in a rebound to make it a one-goal game, but the officials had lost sight of the puck and blown the play dead. North kept pushing, with Joe Quinn coming close off a nice feed by Mark Ayvazyan and Austin Comery’s shot from the point forcing a nice glove save out of Connor Callahan (13 saves).

“We were really positive on the bench,” said McManama. “We weren’t yelling at them after we went down 3-0, just saying it happens, it’s part of hockey. We’re a confident group. I don’t know what happened those five minutes but we were ourselves after that.”

When North’s second goal did come, it sparked a crazy sequence that saw the teams combine for four scores in a little over a minute.

Tyler Sarro got it started when he collected Longa’s angled pass from the point, dragged it around Callahan and deposited it inside the post. Forty seconds later, it was Brady Sarro knocking in a rebound to bring North all the way back to 3-3.

The celebrations had barely started when Foxboro jumped back on top. Grace capped off his hat trick by jumping on a loose puck and smashing a one-timer past Gruber. Twelve seconds after it was tied, Foxboro led. Fourteen seconds after that it was tied again. Anthony Westcott stepped into a shot from inside the blue line and slammed it under the bar to make it 4-4.

“It was going back and forth,” said Cedorchuk about that sequence. “We were exchanging punches. It just showed that they weren’t going to lie down and give up. We knew they were going to keep fighting and we tried to keep that effort up.

He noted, “Our guys hung in there. We needed to get more pucks to the net obviously. After we went up 3-0, we just didn’t get enough pucks to the net and the shot total showed that but overall I’m happy with my guys’ effort.”

Playing two, high-energy games in two days seemed to take its toll on the Warriors and North took advantage in the third period, outshooting the visitors 9-4.

Midway through the third, North grabbed its first lead of the night. Longa got his second of the game, sniping the far top corner to make it 5-4.

Kojoian would hit Tyler Sarro with a cross-ice pass for an empty net goal in the final minute that turned out to be the game-winner because Leach popped up with another pinpoint shot into the corner but with only three seconds remaining.

“I think we had momentum, but more so we had the confidence that it was our game to win and if we just continued that effort shift-by-shift then we’d be fine,” said McManama about his team’s attitude heading into the third. “We were winning battles, puck races, and that’s how you win hockey games.”

North Attleboro (7-5) will play Bishop Feehan in a charity game and there is the possibility of a third meeting with Foxboro (4-6) at the NESV to close out the season on Sunday.

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Player of the Week: Liam Anastasia, Mansfield Hockey

Liam Anastasia
 
By HockomockSports.com Staff

Mansfield junior Liam Anastasia has been selected as the HockomockSports.com Player of the Week, presented by Morse Insurance, for Feb. 7 through Feb. 13. Anastasia is the 12th player chosen as Player of the Week for the 2020-21 school year and sixth in the winter season.

Anastasia was a key performer in Mansfield’s two wins this week, extending the win streak to three games and getting the first divisional win of the season. He scored three goals and recorded two assists, as the Hornets beat North Attleboro and Attleboro.

“Liam has been a work horse all year long,” said Mansfield coach Mike Balzarini, “and has done a great job in all three zones, especially the defensive zone as a center and his face-off win percentage is tremendous.”

After starting the season with five straight losses, Mansfield got on the board with a win against North Attleboro last week. The Hornets followed that up with a shutout of Attleboro, the first league win of the season. Anastasia created the third goal of the game with a steal in the near corner and then pass across the crease to Kyle Oakley. In the final minute, Anastasia added an empty net goal to put the game away. Against North Attleboro, Anastasia added a pair of goals and an assist, as the Hornets rolled to a 9-3 victory.

The Player of the Week, presented by Morse Insurance, is selected by the HockomockSports.com staff. Nominations can be submitted throughout the week up until Saturday night at midnight. There may be a poll posted on every Sunday with the nominations. The results of the poll influence the selection but do not strictly dictate the decision.

Liam Anastasia
Liam Anastasia The Player of the Week, presented by Morse Insurance, is selected by the HockomockSports.com staff. Nominations can be submitted throughout the week up until Saturday night at midnight. There may be a poll posted on every Sunday with the nominations. The results of the poll influence the selection but do not strictly dictate the decision. Liam Anastasia The Player of the Week, presented by Morse Insurance, is selected by the HockomockSports.com staff. Nominations can be submitted throughout the week up until Saturday night at midnight. There may be a poll posted on every Sunday with the nominations. The results of the poll influence the selection but do not strictly dictate the decision.

Canton and Franklin Skate Away With a Point Apiece

Franklin Boys Hockey
Canton and Franklin boys hockey renewed their rivalry at Metropolis Rink and the rivals battled to a 2-2 tie with all the goals coming in the second period. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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CANTON, Mass. – Even in the most irregular of seasons, Canton and Franklin’s rivalry on the ice matters.

When the two teams met on Thursday night at the Metropolis Rink, the game had no bearing on either winning yet another league title and neither team was preparing for its typical postseason run. But, regardless of the circumstances, both teams skated a little faster and things were a little more intense because of who was on the opposite bench.

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Five days ago, Franklin battled back to tie the game only for Canton to score a late winner. On Thursday, nothing could separate the two teams. Twice Franklin went in front and twice Canton found the tying goal. The teams skated to a 2-2 tie, with all four goals scored in the second period.

“We were on the phone for hours one night figuring out how to do this in a shortened season,” said Canton coach Brian Shuman. “I know the kids appreciated it immensely on both teams.

“That’s the best team we’ve faced all season and they’re one of the best teams in the state with their skill and their speed. A lot of our guys have never experienced this rivalry before at this level and I’m really proud of them for how they battled.”

Both teams flew out of the gates and the action was end-to-end. Even if the scoring chances were limited in quantity, there were high quality opportunities for both teams to break the deadlock.

 

“You’ve kind of got to bring yourself back down a little bit because everybody’s amped up tp play,” said Franklin coach Anthony Sarno.” Our guys have a ton of respect for those guys and those guys have a ton of respect for us, coaches included, and it’s just good hockey all-around.”

He added, “A season without Canton, wouldn’t have been a season.”

The Panthers had a good early chance with a quick breakout. Joe LeBlanc’s outlet pass from the defensive zone hit fellow defender Justin Abely, who redirected it to Dylan Marchand. Canton goalie Liam Polles (23 saves) made the first stop and then was able to get a block on Justin Magazu’s follow up chance on the rebound.

Eddie Gillis forced a pad save from Franklin netminder Gary Mandia (21 saves) with a deflected shot. Sam Carlino nearly created a great opening for Dylan Coyne right in front of goal, but the Franklin defense managed to get a block and then the loose puck slid away from the stick of Leo Owens at the post.

Magazu was able to open a lane for Domenic Lampasono, but Polles stayed strong and was able to stop the close-range chance.

“They’ve got a lot of quick forwards, lot of speed, so we were just trying to step up and play between the dots, take away the bodies and make them dump the puck in,” Sarno explained. “Neutral zone, we weren’t trying to play with it too much, short passes. In this rink, any turnover in the neutral zone and it’s a breakaway and if anyone can exploit that it’s Canton.”

It was a defensive-zone turnover that would lead to the opener. Just 90 seconds after the intermission, a reverse pass caromed off the end boards and right out in front to Aidan Hunt. Polles nearly made a great save. He was able to catch the one-time, but as he was scrambling across goal to get in position he was deep in the crease and he ended up on the wrong side of the goal line.

Momentum from the goal didn’t last long. It only took a minute for the Bulldogs to even things up. Sean Connolly’s shot from the point was parried by Mandia, who somehow saw the puck through the crowd in front. Franklin wasn’t able to clear the rebound, with Andrew Valkanas keeping it alive and getting it back to Connolly at the blue line. The second shot had eyes and snuck through traffic and into the back of the net.

Seconds after Mandia was able to deny Tommy Phaneuf what looked like a sure goal, the visitors regained the lead. Magazu raced down the left wing and flipped a pass across the slot to Marchand at the far circle and his one-timer gave Polles no chance, sneaking inside the post.

This time, the lead lasted seven minutes before Canton again found an equalizer. Valkanas created the chance by teeing up Jeffrey Chaput. Mandia made the blocker save but Valkanas was there for the rebound.

Things tightened up in the third period, as neither team wanted to take a big risk that could lead to a winning goal for their opponents. Mandia was forced into a good save on Phaneuf and Lampasona dug out the rebound, but Canton was noticeably tiring in its second game in as many days.

“We exerted so much energy in the first and second periods and in the third, credit to them, they were flying and still had their legs and we were hanging on,” said Shuman. “Classic Franklin/Canton game. Comes down to the third period and the last minutes and so happy we had a chance to experience it this year.”

Franklin still had its legs and created a couple of chances that could’ve won it. Magazu was a constant thorn in the Canton defense’s side and he somehow split a pair of defensemen at the blue line, drew a third, and laid a pass off to Lampasona, who missed the net from close range.

With five minutes to play, Marchand got free in the zone and fired a shot that Polles stopped at the near post. Marchand stayed with the rebound and set up Magazu right in front, but again the Canton goalie came through with a big save to preserve a point.

“They played hard this year,” Sarno said. “We didn’t know if we were going to have the season, then we were, then we weren’t. Hats off to the boys, they fought through some adversity.”

Canton (9-0-1), which remarkably has lost one game in the past three seasons combined, will close out its league campaign against Oliver Ames and Foxboro. Franklin (10-2-1), which has clinched at least a share of the Kelley-Rex title, closed out its season on Thursday.

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Attleboro Holds Off OA to Earn Chamberlain First Win

Attleboro Boys Hockey
Attleboro goalie Nick Piazza made 23 saves to help the Bombardiers beat OA 5-3 for their first victory of the season. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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ATTLEBORO, Mass. – Heading into Wednesday night’s meeting at the New England Sports Village, Attleboro and Oliver Ames had combined to play just five games in the opening four weeks of the season. Even this game was a last-minute addition when OA’s game with Canton had to be postponed because of a rink closure.

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It is certainly not the ideal circumstance to be taking over a program, but first-year Attleboro coach Greg Chamberlain had reason to smile after the Bombardiers held off a comeback by the visiting Tigers and picked up a 5-3 victory. It was Chamberlain’s first win as head coach.

“It’s been quite the interesting ride thus far,” Chamberlain said with a laugh. “We’re just happy to get a game in and my first win, it’s nice. With no state tournament, now is the time to teach. You have to have these guys playing and learning from their mistakes.”

After slow starts in both of the first two games, including a three-goal, first period deficit against North Attleboro on Friday, Attleboro made a point of getting off to a good start against OA. The Bombardiers would take control of the game early, scoring three times on their first four shots.

Four minutes into the game, Aidan Diggin got free in the offensive zone and beat OA freshman goalie Nolan Gemmiti to open the scoring. It took another eight minutes for the hosts to double their lead, but then just 12 seconds to tack on a third.

Nate Parker created the second goal with a long rush down the right wing and then a perfect feed across the crease to Diggin camped out at the back post for an easy tap in. Almost right from the face-off, Attleboro had another rush and a shot by Colin Flynn that found the back of the net.

 

“The first two games we had bad starts and then marched back, so that was the key to the game today to get off to a quick start,” Chamberlain explained. “Knowing their coaches and hearing they’ve been going through the same thing (with Covid-related cancelations), it was like okay boys let’s jump on it, we’ve been practicing all week.”

Despite trailing 3-0 after the first period, OA had created its fair share of chances. Matt Lawson forced a pad save from Attleboro goalie Nick Piazza with a shot from the point, Sean McCarthy raced down the wing and drew a shoulder stop, and Jack Perron teed up Lawson for a shot in the slot only for Piazza to again make the save.

“We’ve had two Covid issues and been shut down, we’ve played three games, we’ve probably had seven practices so far, so we haven’t really had a chance to work on anything,” admitted OA coach Mike Zucarelli. “They played with passion and heart today and that’s all I ask them to do. Just play for each other and play it’s like your last game.”

Attleboro pushed the lead to four less than two minutes into the second period. On the power play, Parker controlled the puck behind the OA goal, faked like he was heading out one side and then ducked back around to stuff it over the line at the near post.

It looked like the game might get out of hand, but then OA answered back.

Freshman Andrew Livingstone capped a good spell of pressure in front of Piazza by forcing a save with a snap shot from the high slot. After being forced to the bench and being treated for a cut on his chin during the first period, Livingstone returned to the ice and buried a rebound from Kevin Tremblay’s shot from the point. It was his first varsity goal.

The Bombardiers were spurred into action after the goal. Diggin fired a pass to Parker right in front only for Gemmiti to stand tall and make the save. With 7:28 left in the period, Attleboro’s pressure paid off with a fifth goal. The puck was sitting on the goal line and Jake Ward was able to knock it across for a 5-1 lead.

After a tough start to the night, Gemmiti settled down and made six saves in the second period. He stopped an Aidan Dryjowicz chance from the right wing right before OA got its second, as McCarthy finished from a tight angle.

“He put the pads on this year so we could have a JV program,” Zucarelli said of Gemmiti. “He got thrown in our second game against KP and earned his stripes that night. I couldn’t be prouder of that young man right now. He played outstanding today. For someone who’s never played net before this year, he played awesome.”

Down three goals heading to the third period, OA came back out on the ice with a purpose. Livingstone had an early chance smack off the crossbar. Gemmiti came up with another big stop on Parker before the Tigers struck for a third. Ross Carroll cut inside from the right wing boards and went top shelf with a wrister that gave Piazza no chance.

The Tigers kept pressing. OA would outshoot the Bombardiers 9-2 in the third (and 26-14 for the game), but couldn’t find a way past the Attleboro netminder. Landon Grothe (one of the eight freshmen on the OA roster) forced the best save with a shot from the point through traffic that Piazza managed to get a toe on.

“He’s the best goalie in the league,” Chamberlain said. “To have what we have with him is an absolute luxury. It’s a new system too that I’m teaching all of them, so it’s good to have a kid with a ton of poise back there because I want to have the ‘D’ be more aggressive.”

Attleboro (1-2) is next scheduled to play at Franklin next Wednesday. Oliver Ames (0-4) is scheduled to play at Canton on Friday.

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