Teams of the Decade #1: 2019 Canton Boys Hockey

Canton boys hockey

Team: Canton Boys Hockey
Year: 2018-2019
Record: 25-0-1
2019 Davenport Division Champions
2019 Division 2 State Champions


There has been a lot of talented teams in the Hockomock League over the past decade, and narrowing it down to a select few was a tedious and challenging task. With nearly 40 state championship teams, dozens of state finalists, and numerous sectional champions, there was no shortage of talent to select from.

When it came to selecting the top team for the list, there was one squad that stood out above the rest: the 2018-2019 Canton boys hockey team.

Like all of the teams at the top of the list, Canton was loaded with talent on the roster from the first player through the last, and the Bulldogs also checked every box when it came to championships, winning at the league, sectional and state level.

But what really separated this group from the rest was the manner in which they dominated the competition from day one up until the Division 2 State Championship at the TD Garden. Outscoring opponents 133-23, the Bulldogs picked up marquee wins throughout the regular season; they were great from the first game (7-2 over Plymouth South) all the way to their crowning achievement against Tewksbury (6-2).

Some of the great teams on this list have had slow starts while others came up just short late in the tournament or in the state championship. And of course, there were some teams that had a hiccup here or there in the middle of the season against top competition.

This Canton team rolled from the opening puck drop down in Bourne, a season-opening win over Plymouth South to avenge a heartbreaking loss that abruptly ended their season a year prior. In fact, you could circle that game — the 2018 D2 South Semifinal 5-3 loss to Plymouth South — as one of the biggest motivators for the 2018-2019 squad.

“I’m going to use a word that HockomockSports came up with for this team and that’s relentless,” said Canton head coach Brian Shuman. “I think that was the perfect word that sums up this team, they just did not stop. I think we scored the more goals in the opening couple of minutes of a game than I’ve ever been apart of as a coach.

“From the opening puck drop to the very end, just not stopping. Coming shift after shift, three or four lines, and six or seven defensemen playing consistently. Just non-stop and you don’t have to be a hockey aficionado to know that this team was a relentless group of driven and talented hockey players who were on a mission. Not even from day one, it was from the end of the season before from that heartbreaking loss to Plymouth South.”

And when the postseason rolled around, the Bulldogs were at their very best. Against the best competition in the area, Canton made it look easy by outscoring teams 29 goals in just five games, scoring six or more goals in four of those contests.

“We were just so close with each other,” said Ryan Nolte, a senior captain and forward that registered an impressive 71 points (32 goals, 39 assists) that season. “Most of us played together our whole lives growing up. We all had the common goal of playing for the varsity team, we were all together for one last ride my senior year so we wanted to make the most of it.

“We were just so competitive in practice, no one wanted to lose. I think that translated onto the ice in games. And off the ice, I think it was probably the closest group out of all four years I was there. We were always together, even after film and after practice, we’d hang out together. I think being such a close-knit group played a huge role in our season.”

Canton notched two impressive wins before the new year, knocking off a good Franklin team (that went on to the D1 South Finals that season) and dominating Westwood, 4-0. The Wolverines entered unbeaten and didn’t lose a game the rest of the regular season, eventually meeting with the Bulldogs in the South final.

When league play began in January, Canton continued to have its way with opponents. The Bulldogs won their first six league games by outscoring foes 36-5. A good non-league win over Newburyport preceded a two-game span that ended up being a big defining point in the season.

A Wednesday night trip to Franklin nearly derailed the perfect season as Zac Falvey and Scott Elliott each scored to put the Panthers up 2-0 through two periods. But in true fashion of a great team, the Bulldogs battled back. Nolte set up Jack Connolly less than a minute into the first period and Tommy Ghostlaw tied it 2-2 less than two minutes later. Despite playing with a 101-degree temperature, junior Johnny Hagan (21 goals, 31 assists) scored the game-winner with under two minutes to play.

“I’d say the moment when we kind of realized we were really good was that second Franklin game,” Nolte said. “Johnny Hagan was playing with the flu, we were down 2-0 and probably played two of our worst periods of the year, and we went out, in Franklin, and scored three in the third to come back and win 3-2. In the locker room after that game, it was like ‘Okay, we have a real shot at this.’”

Just days later, Canton was put to the test against a hungry North Attleboro squad. After letting a 2-0 lead slip away, Nolte notched his 100th career point by setting up Owen Lehane for the game-winner with just over two minutes to go.

“The two games back-to-back that really showed the grit and mettle was the game at Franklin which we were down 2-0 at their place and came back with three goals in the third period to win 3-2,” Shuman said. “And then to gut out a tough win against a really good North Attleboro team, who had us on the ropes, and we scored a late goal to get the win. That showed they had the mental toughness to do something special.”

Canton completed its unbeaten league schedule with a win over Taunton and then really beefed up its resume by knocking off top non-league foes: Bishop Feehan (6-0), Smithfield (8-1), Shrewsbury (5-0), Hanover (4-3), and Natick (3-0), garnering them attention for the Super 8 (Division 1A) Tournament.

“This team was unique and one way was because some of our best players had a confidence — not a cockiness — but a confidence that when they played well, we would win,” Shuman said. “Ryan Nolte, Johnny Hagan, Mike Staffiere…those guys in particular, the guys we were leaning on to score big goals and make big saves. They were definitely the most confident group I’ve coached. That mentality was contagious and infectious throughout our team. When they have that attitude, it really filters throughout the team.

The lone “blemish” of the season came in the opening round of the Quinn Tournament. Hagan scored a late equalizer for the Bulldogs against Boston Latin, with the game going down as a 2-2 in the MIAA record books. Since it was a tournament, it went into overtime and Hagan added another goal to give Canton the win. In the tournament finale, the Bulldogs put an exclamation mark on their resume with a 6-1 beating of Coyle & Cassidy.

The Super 8 committee met two days later and there Bulldogs got four votes in the first round of nominations to advance to the second stage, but didn’t get nominated again and were not selected despite boasting a 20-0-1 record.

“Honestly, I thought we had a shot at it,” Shuman said of the Super 8. “To go undefeated is incredibly difficult. If you’re involved in sports, you know how hard it is, day in and day out, game in and game out, get everybody’s best and respond like we did, it was pretty remarkable. We didn’t talk about (the Super 8), but I think it was on everyone’s mind, including myself.

“I felt the MIAA and the coaches association had opportunities to shake it up over the years and get teams into the Super 8 tournament that never had the chance before. Teams have those windows where they have a great group and they can hang with the best teams in the state. Like Wilmington had a good run, and Franklin had a good run in Division 2 that those teams should get a chance. I thought we made a great case…if they didn’t give it to us, they’ll never give it to a Division 2 team as far as I’m concerned. I think it would have been fun, it would have been special but everything works out for a reason.”

Longtime Franklin coach Chris Spillane, who guided the first Hockomock team to the Super 8 tournament in 2015, saw the Bulldogs a handful of times throughout the season and suffered a pair of setbacks to Canton as mentioned above.

“It’s heartbreaking that Canton didn’t get a look [in 2019] and didn’t get a sniff this year,” Spillane said. “The process is flawed tremendously because people get so caught up on Div. 1 and Div. 2 and there’s no doubt in my mind watching Canton play last year and this year there was no doubt in my mind that not only would they have held their own they probably would’ve had success.”

If the Bulldogs were disappointed by the snub, they certainly didn’t let it translate to their play on the ice. When the Division 2 South tournament started the following week, it was all business for Canton. And for the rest of the bracket, it was trouble.

“You always want to be playing your best hockey going into the playoffs and that’s what this team was doing,” Shuman said. “You look at that Boston Latin overtime win, it was like a playoff game so it showed we were ready for the postseason. As bummed out as a lot of kids were that we tied the game, it showed me we were ready for the playoffs that we went on to win in overtime.

“When you get to the playoffs, everyone is good. We looked at our side of the bracket, you could not have structured a more difficult road to the Garden from D2 South.”

It was like a revenge tour for the previous decade during the playoffs. After drubbing Norwood (6-0) to start the tournament, the Bulldogs welcomed league rival Oliver Ames to the Ice House. Despite holding a 5-2 win over the Tigers from earlier in the season, OA was a team with a successful track record against Canton in the tournament. Back in 2011, the Tigers stunned Canton in overtime, and two years later OA posted a 2-0 shutout in the semifinals.

True to form, the Tigers gave Canton their stiffest test of the tournament. Going stride for stride, up and down the ice, trading hits, it was one of the most competitive games of the year. A one-minute span in the second period changed the game as Nolte tipped in a shot from Connolly, and just 52 seconds later, Chris Lavoie redirected a shot from Matt Martin. Staffiere (17 saves) stood tall in net as the Tigers continued to pressure but Hagan recorded his 100th career point with an empty net goal to secure the win.

Up next was a trip to Gallo Arena, which had recently turned into a house of horrors for the Bulldogs in the month of March. Dating back to 2013, Canton reached at least the semifinals each season, which meant a trip down over the bridge to Gallo. And unfortunately, it also meant heartbreak. A 2-0 loss to OA in 2013, a 3-2 loss to Medfield in 2014, a 4-1 setback to Westwood in 2015, being upset 4-2 by Scituate in 2016, and back-to-back heartbreakers: a 3-2 loss to Medway in 2017 and the 5-3 defeat to Plymouth South a year prior.

“The word was that we couldn’t win at Bourne,” Nolte said. “We wanted to keep the haters in the rearview and prove them wrong.”

Not only did Canton go on to win at Bourne, they decimated the competition. Going against one of the best goalies in the region in Norwood senior Austin Reardon, the Bulldogs put together a terrific performance, scoring six goals against one of the stingiest defenses around.

To top that performance, Canton went on to light the lamp eight times in the South sectional final. Westwood, which hadn’t lost a game since its setback to the Bulldogs in December, entered with a 16-1-6 record but it took Canton less than a minute to score and the rout was on from there.

“You talk about being relentless? We scored early in that game and that set the tone for the entire game,” Shuman said. “We just didn’t stop at that point, we continued to put the pressure on. There aren’t many times you can look back and see an 8-0 win in the sectional final. It’s tough to beat a team twice and tough to beat a team with that much talent but it was truly a team effort. Our depth really carried us that game, that was the most complete game of the season.”

While nothing is given, and the Canton boys hockey program had certainly seen its share up ups and downs during the postseason over the past decade, it certainly felt like the state championship was just a formality; that’s how good this team was playing at the time.

If there was any doubt or nerves while playing under the bright lights at the TD Garden against Tewksbury for the D2 State Championship, it certainly didn’t show. In typical fashion, Canton needed just five minutes to find the back of the net. Lehane blasted a shot from the point and Timmy Kelleher buried the rebound. Just 90 seconds later, Ronan O’Mahony set up Connolly for a blast for a 2-0. And just 16 seconds later, Nolte joined in on the scoring party and suddenly Canton had a 3-0 lead just 7:49 into the game.

Tewksbury battled back in the second, cutting the deficit to 4-2, but Staffiere came up with some big saves to preserve the lead and Hagan added two more goals to complete the hat trick, earning a 6-2 win and the state championship.

“You dream of getting off to a good start like we did but it’s a 45-minute hockey game and you don’t win a game in 15 minutes,” Shuman said. “We knew Tewksbury didn’t play their best, they played much better in the second and scored a couple of goals but credit to our guys, we responded and fought back like we had all year long. We came out swinging early on, took a few blows in the second but then closed it out in the third.”






Listening Options:

                                        


Canton boys hockey
Canton boys hockey

Opponent
Result
Plymouth SouthW, 7-2
Plymouth NorthW, 5-0
FranklinW, 3-1 (Recap)
WestwoodW, 4-0
AttleboroW, 9-0
MansfieldW, 4-0 (Recap)
King PhilipW, 2-1
Oliver AmesW, 5-2 (Recap)
FoxboroW, 4-0
StoughtonW, 12-2
NewburyportW, 3-1
FranklinW, 3-2 (Recap)
North AttleboroW, 3-2 (Recap)
TauntonW, 5-0
Bishop FeehanW, 6-0
SmithfieldW, 8-1
ShrewsburyW, 5-0
HanoverW, 4-3
NatickW, 3-0
Boston LatinT, 2-2 (W, 3-2 in OT)
Coyle & CassidyW, 6-1 (Recap)
MedwayW, 6-0
Oliver AmesW, 3-0 (Recap)
NorwoodW, 6-1 (Recap)
WestwoodW, 8-0 (Recap)
TewksburyW, 6-2 (Recap)






Canton boys hockey

Canton boys hockey

Canton boys hockey

Canton boys hockey

Canton boys hockey

Canton boys hockey

Canton boys hockey

Canton boys hockey

Canton boys hockey

Canton boys hockey

Canton boys hockey

Canton boys hockey

Canton boys hockey

Canton boys hockey

Canton boys hockey

Canton boys hockey

Canton boys hockey


Teams of the Decade #8: 2015 Franklin Boys Hockey

Franklin boys hockey

Team: Franklin Boys Hockey
Year: 2014-2015
Record: 17-4-3
2015 Kelley-Rex Division Champions
First Ever Hockomock Super 8 Selection


Following three straight appearances in the Div. 2 state title game at the TD Garden, Franklin hockey found itself bumped up to Div. 1. It was a new challenge for the program, but one that it met head on. After reaching the South quarterfinal in year one, the Panthers brought back a team loaded with experience and that group not only made Franklin history but broke new ground for the league as well.

In just its second season as a Div. 1 team, the 2014-15 Franklin hockey team became the first Hock team to get an invite to the prestigious Super 8 tournament.

“At that time, it was our second year in Div. 1, so we had a lot of doubters,” said Ryan Spillane, a senior forward on the 2014-15 team. “It felt great to put Franklin hockey on the map and to prove people wrong. I remember the entire school was behind us, so it was definitely a special time to be wearing a Franklin hockey jersey.”

Even for a program accustomed to success, there were high expectations for that year’s team, largely because the Panthers were returning 21 seniors who had grown up through the town’s youth hockey program and had been playing together for the better part of a decade.

“They had tremendous coaching in youth hockey that gave them the basics and when they got to me it was basically just fine-tuning some lines and stuff like that,” said head coach Chris Spillane. “We didn’t know how special it would be but we knew we had a team that if it all came together right could have a great season.”

The Panthers opened with a tie against perennial power Springfield Cathedral, sending an early message about their potential, and followed it with a win against rival Canton. Franklin went 1-1-1 in the annual Mount St. Charles tournament, finishing with a win against LaSalle Academy (Pa.). That win, and the start of league play, seemed to spark Franklin into life, as the Panthers would lose only once more in the regular season.

 

“We played as a team,” Ryan said. “We didn’t really have any big individuals. There were no egos on the team, nothing like that. We moved the puck around and the camaraderie we had playing as a group for so long together and having that many seniors we had a whole lot of leaders.”

A lot of that attitude came from the coaching staff. Ryan explained, “He’s definitely that type of coach that he wants the game to revolve around the team and not a player. He wants a full team effort. If you played selfish, then you were getting sat. He’d bench anyone.”

Chris added, “I knew they were a tight locker room. Everyone knew their role on that team and no matter who we played we were going to rally and we were going to be competitive.”

Franklin went 10-0 in the league, including a second one-goal win against Canton, to secure the Kelley-Rex division title. In the middle of that run, the Panthers added non-league wins against St. John’s Shrewsbury and Newburyport, and the conversation around possibly getting a Super 8 bid started to pick up momentum.

When the Panthers played at Maden Catholic in the second week of February, they twice grabbed a lead in the first period and were hanging tough with the defending Super 8 champions. Following the game, Chris spoke with one of the tournament committee members who was on hand scouting and was told that the Panthers had been impressive.

“At that point, the coaches started to get together and say we need to get in front of this with the kids and have a discussion,” he said. “They all sort of bought into my philosophy that if you’re an athlete then you want to be challenged at the highest level. So, if we get an offer and we do get through the whole process, then you can’t say no to that. That’s something you’ve got to buy into.”

Nothing was set in stone, as the tournament watch lists indicated, but the team felt that a good showing at the end of season tournament in Barnstable could decide it. A pair of 5-1 wins against Marshfield and Westfield put the Panthers at 16-2-3 on the season and 15-1-1 over their final 17 games.

“We were definitely just focused on what was in our control,” Ryan said. “If we didn’t get that bid for the Super 8, then we would have been focused on playing for a state championship going into D1 South. It didn’t really matter to us.”

Being new to the Super 8 process, Chris almost missed out on the coaches association meeting and a chance to talk up his team. A timely tweet by the Boston Herald’s Bruce Lerch got him away from chipping ice off his roof just in time. While Franklin wasn’t included on the recommendation from the coaches association, the main committee had a different outlook.

The Panthers beat out perennial contenders Hingham and Arlington Catholic to earn the 10th and final spot in the tournament and got a play-in game with Xaverian.

“I think we were down a goal with like two minutes left and looking back I don’t even remember that we were down with that little time to go,” said Ryan about the Xaverian game. “We were playing stress-free. We were just trying to put the puck in the net in the last two minutes but it wasn’t as stressful as other playoff games I’ve been in because we knew we had nothing to lose.”

DJ Shea tied the game at 1-1 with less than 10 minutes to play. It was just his fifth goal of the season. After Xaverian regained the lead, Ryan Shea made a huge stop on a point-blank chance to keep the Panthers in it and then, with the goalie pulled and just 31.7 left on the clock, defenseman Nick Morris crashed the net and tipped in a pass from Alex Campbell to send it to overtime.

Two minutes into the OT period, Spillane sprung Alec Borkowski for a rush into the Xaverian zone. After a scrum in front, the puck popped out to Spillane, the league MVP and HockomockSports.com Player of the Year, at the far post and he buried it, securing the Panthers a dramatic win and a chance to play in the Super 8 proper.

“Just to be part of the process was really special and the kids really enjoyed it,” Chris reflected. “People say you could’ve won a state title in Div. 1, but nah this is where we had to play and this is where we belonged.”

Franklin got a rematch with Malden Catholic in a best-of-three series and the Panthers more than held their own, especially in game one. Campbell scored to put Franklin ahead 1-0 in the second and Borkowski had a series of three breakaway chances to try and tie it but the Lancers pulled out the 2-1 win. Ryan Shea stopped 39 shots in the loss.

“Offensively, it was different guys scoring every night,” Chris explained. “Defensively, you could run six defensemen out there and every one of them was skilled, and then you had Ryan Shea in net and he was phenomenal. He was an extremely quiet kid but at practice you could see him come out of his shell and start talking smack to the players for not being able to score on him and it added to that practice environment where it got really competitive.”

Although the season came to a close in the second game against the eventual Super 8 champions, Franklin had put itself on the map and proved it belonged in the conversation of top teams in the state. It opened up the program to more non-league opponents, building its strength of schedule, and helped keep kids who might have otherwise chosen to play somewhere else.

It may not have been a state title, but it was a unique experience for the players and the program. Ryan said, “We were all-in on what we were doing that year and definitely no regrets for having that experience of the Super 8.

“It was fun to go through that with all those seniors on the team. We were all best friends and being able to enjoy that together was definitely a special time.”






Franklin boys hockey
Franklin boys hockey

Opponent
Result
Springfield CathedralT, 3-3
CantonW, 1-0 (Recap)
Bridgewater-RaynhamT, 1-1
Bishop HendrickenL, 5-1
LaSalle Academy (RI)T, 1-1
LaSalle Academy (PA)W, 6-2
MilfordW, 8-1
Oliver AmesW, 3-1
FoxboroW, 10-1
MansfieldW, 6-1 (Recap)
King PhilipW, 10-0
North AttleboroW, 7-2
CantonW, 2-1 (Recap)
StoughtonW, 11-1
St. John's ShrewsburyW, 3-1
NewburyportW, 1-0
Malden CatholicL, 6-2
AttleboroW, 10-0
TauntonW, 8-0
MarshfieldW, 5-1
WestfieldW, 5-1
#10 Xaverian (Super 8 Play-in)W, 3-2 (OT) (Recap)
#2 Malden Catholic (Super 8)L, 2-1 (Recap)
#2 Malden Catholic (Super 8)L, 5-1






Franklin boys hockey


2020 Hockomock League Boys Hockey All Stars

Below are the official 2020 Hockomock League Boys Hockey All Stars, selected by the coaches in the league.

Hockomock League MVP

Johnny Hagan, Canton

Hockomock League All Stars

Nick Piazza, Attleboro
Johnny Hagan, Canton
Chris Lavoie, Canton
Jack Connolly, Canton
Owen Lehane, Canton
Espen Reager, Foxboro
Kirk Leach, Foxboro
Ronnie MacLellan, Foxboro
Tom Tasker, Franklin
Kyle Hedvig, Franklin
Dylan Marchand, Franklin
Joseph Boselli, King Phillip
Chris Daniels, King Phillip
Kyle Gray, King Phillip
Rocco Bianculli, King Phillip
Sean McCafferty, Mansfield
Kevin Belanger, Mansfield
Dennis Morehouse, North Attleboro
Jake McNeany, North Attleboro
Ryan Gottwald, Oliver Ames
Michael Albert, Taunton
Brady Nichols, Taunton

Honorable Mentions:
Ryan Morry, Attleboro
Ronan O’Mahony, Canton
Jack Watts, Foxboro
Colin Hedvig, Franklin
Jack Coulter, King Philip
Chris Jenkins, Mansfield
William Yeomans, North Attleboro
Owen Connor, Oliver Ames
Jack DeMoura, Taunton

Canton Boys, Girls Hockey Teams Named Co-Champs

Canton hockeyByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
 
With both the boys and girls hockey teams set to play for state championships on Sunday night, Canton was ready to host its own version of a “Garden Party.”

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.

The same goes for the six seniors on the girls’ team: Kaitlyn McLaughlin, Caroline Tourgee, Alexa Maffeo, Meg Aldrich, Rose Malloy, and Vicky Revanche.

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.

Hagan Carries Canton To Second Straight South Title

Canton boys hockey Johnny Hagan
Canton senior Johnny Hagan battles for the puck against Bishop Feehan’s Tyler Ahmed in the first period. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
BOURNE, Mass. – For the first time in two years, the Canton boys hockey team found itself in unfamiliar territory.

With just 15 minutes left in the D2 South Sectional Final, the Bulldogs were knotted at 1-1 with the 15th-seeded Shamrocks of Bishop Feehan.

Dating back to the start of last year’s state tournament, it was the first time in eight playoff games that Canton did not lead entering the final period. And on top of that, it was the first time in that same stretch that the Bulldogs didn’t have a two-goal cushion with one period left.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

But in a matter of 19 seconds, Canton’s #19 — senior forward and captain Johnny Hagan — broke the game wide open. Hagan scored twice in that time span, tacking on an empty netter late to finish with four goals to lead the Bulldogs to a 4-1 decision over the upset-minded Shamrocks.

With the win, Canton claims its second straight D2 South Sectional title and returns to the TD Garden to defend its D2 State Championship.

“For all the experience we have in that locker room, we haven’t had the experience of really have to grind out a third period and the end of a game in the playoffs the last two years,” said Canton head coach Brian Shuman. “And that’s what they had to do tonight, they stepped up. All the credit in the world to Bishop Feehan, what a season they had. They are a heck of a team, well-coached, a lot of skill and they had a great run in the tournament.

 

“The playoffs so far, we’ve had our way against teams. We talked in-between periods how this is how it’s supposed to be, it’s supposed to be 1-1 going into the third in a championship game. We had to embrace that, we had to embrace the hard part of the game. I think the mentality went from being afraid to lose, to winning the final period. I think the switch in that mentality plus our second line and red line played great in the third, they set the tone for the third period.”

In last year’s playoffs, Canton led by an average of nearly four goals going into the final period of play. This year, the Bulldogs led by scores of 4-0 (against Taunton), 6-1 (against Medway) and 3-0 (against Whitman-Hanson) going into the final stanza.

Canton was close to taking a one-goal lead into the third when Hagan opened the scoring in the game with 2:25 left in the middle period. The senior converted a partial breakaway with a great low shot that beat the goalie five-hole to put the top-seeded Bulldogs ahead.

But Feehan needed just five seconds on the power play to knot the score. Jason Sullivan’s low show through traffic from the right circle found its way into the back of the net with just 30.4 seconds left in the middle frame.

With just 15 minutes to play, the Shamrocks were level with the Bulldogs.

“I think they outplayed us in the second,” Hagan said. “We came back into the locker room and decided as a team that we had 15 minutes left, it was in our own hands and that we control our own destiny. Feehan is a good team, if they did the seedings the right way [strength of schedule], they’d probably be a top-five seed. It’s a playoff game, it’s the South final so we knew it was going to be close.”

Similar to the first period, the Canton offense applied a lot of pressure over the course of the first couple of minutes of the third. The Bulldogs’ second line of Tommy Ghostlaw, Shane Marshall, and Timmy Kelleher set the tone with a couple of good chances early.

Senior defenseman Owen Lehane found Marshall for a shot in the slot with Kelleher screened, but Feehan goalie Ryan D’Amato (saves) was in position for the stop. Seconds later, Ghostlaw connected with Marshall, who dished it along to Kelleher for a shot but again D’Amato made the stop and then stuffed Marshall on the doorstep on the rebound.

Senior Chris Lavoie carried the puck into the zone down the left side and tossed it in front. With a handful of bodies in front, the puck popped free to Hagan and he buried his shot to make it 2-1 with 10:19 left in the game.

Hagan needed just 19 seconds to complete his hat trick, pinching down to the right corner and winning a battle. He carried the puck toward goal and picked the top corner on the near side to make it 3-1 with 10:00 to play.

“What a career he’d had…he’s arguably the greatest player that I’ve coached, one of the greatest athletes we’ve seen at Canton High,” Shuman said. “He’s a fierce competitor and he was going to go out there and do what he could in that third period.”










Bishop Feehan was limited to just three shots on goal in the third period but had a couple of serious chances. The Shamrocks stormed into the offensive zone just past the midway point with an odd-man rush but Bulldog defenseman Declan Pfeffer made a decisive sweeping motion to knock the puck free and break up the chance.

And the Shamrocks’ best chance, again on the stick of Sullivan, came with just over two minutes to go after a Bulldog turnover gave him an open look right in front but Joe Cammarata stood tall to deny the chance.

With just over a minute to go, Canton caught the Shamrocks in a line change and tacked on an empty net goal to seal the win.

While it was all Canton in the first period (15-5 advantage in shots on goal), the Bulldogs couldn’t break through. Lavoie, Hagan, and Donny McNeice all registered serious scoring chances in the opening minute, and sophomore Eamon Kelly had a nice shot saved with 10 minutes to go.

Senior Jack Connolly had a pair of shots from the blue line knocked down in front, and fellow defensemen Ronan O’Mahony and Sean Connolly also had bids turned aside.

Ghostlaw and Kelleher did their best but couldn’t solve D’Amato, the goalie making a toe save on Kelleher at the midway point. Hagan blasted a shot off the mask with five minutes to go, Kelly’s tip on a rip from Sam Carlino was denied with four minutes to go, and Lavoie dangled past a pair of defenseman only for his shot to be stopped.

After scoring seven goals on the Shamrocks in the regular season matchup, Canton was held to just one through two periods.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

“I think these guys have done a good job of forgetting past games against teams. [Thomas Reilly] is a great player for them, a game-changer, and we didn’t see him the first time. Their goalie [Ryan D’Amato] was on a heck of a run and we didn’t see him the first time, so we knew it was going to be a different game. Plus they are just a really good team.

“We caught them on a bad night the first time around. We knew this would be a tough game. They are not a 15 seed…strength of schedule rankings they would be up higher…clearly one of the best teams in the south that deserved to be there at the end.”

Canton boys hockey (21-3-1) returns to the D2 State Championship game on Sunday at the TD Garden, with the time yet to be announced. The Bulldogs will take on either Triton or Lincoln-Sudbury, who battle for the North sectional title on Monday. Lincoln-Sudbury handed Canton its lone loss of the season in February (6-4 on February 12th).

Franklin Blanked By Bishops In South Semifinals

Franklin boys hockey Ray Ivers
Franklin senior goalie Ray Ivers makes a save on a shot from Archbishop Williams’ Alex Umbro in the second period. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
BOURNE, Mass. – The Franklin boys hockey team had a sizable advantage in shots on goal, chances in the offensive end, and time in the attacking zone, but the Panthers walked away from Gallo Ice Arena with nothing to show for it.

Despite outplaying the 14th-seeded Bishops of Archbishop Williams for most of the game, the Panthers came up empty-handed. Archies scored a pair of power play goals and added a shorthanded one to skate to a 3-0 decision over the 10th-seeded Panthers.

“The seedings, you can throw them away,” said Franklin head coach Anthony Sarno. The D1 South Semifinals featured 9, 10, 12, and 14 seeds. “It’s about who comes to play, who wants it more. You’ve got to be on the right side of the puck and tonight, we had our chances we just couldn’t put it away. I thought we carried a lot of the play in the first and second periods, we just couldn’t put on behind the goalie.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

“You can’t put your finger on one single thing, but it just wasn’t our night. I told the seniors, don’t hang your heads. We tried to do the best we could tonight, we just didn’t have it tonight. But it’s a great group of boys and they worked hard from start to finish.”

Franklin peppered the Bishops’ net with 30 shots, plus a handful of good bids that went just wide or high, and at least a dozen chances blocked down by the Archies defense, but couldn’t solve sophomore goalie Nick Buccella.

What looked like a good opportunity to start the game ended up being a big boost for the Bishops. Franklin went on the power play just 1:09 into the game on a cross-checking call. The Panthers kept the puck in the offensive zone for the first 30 seconds before a shot from the blue line was blocked.

 

Archies junior John Riley quickly pounced on the puck that he just blocked and raced into the attacking zone with Franklin’s Declan Lovett going stride for stride with him. Riley unleashed a shot that was turned aside by Ray Ivers but Riley batted in the rebound to give the Bishops a 1-0 lead less than two minutes into the game.

“In all honesty, I felt like we were on our heels the whole first period,” said Archbishop Williams head coach Derackk Curtis. “We got that lucky bounce and John Riley worked his ass off on that first goal, we’ve been working on that banging in the rebounds. Franklin had the momentum, they were on us a lot and we weathered the storm. I thought it kind of evened out after that. [Franklin] is a good team, they are a hard-working group but my team worked hard too.”

“We knew they were aggressive on their penalty kill,” Sarno said. “From that point on, we were chasing them. You have to tip your hat to Archies, they played hard. They kept picking up our sticks, they were playing through our sticks, they were pesky. And we didn’t make the most of our power plays either. We weren’t moving it quick enough knowing they’d be aggressive. “

The Panthers still had time left with the man advantage and nearly tied the game when Kyle Hedvig redirected a shot from Will Sheehan but Buccella squeezed the pads to prevent the puck from going five-hole.

Franklin spent the majority of the period in the offensive zone but didn’t have a ton of quality chances to show for it. Archies nearly doubled its advantage late in the period in a similar fashion to its first goal as Christian Koylion blocked a shot at the blue line and raced into the offensive zone but Franklin defenseman Paddy Dolan recovered well and swept the puck clear.

Dylan Marchand’s battle in front helped draw a penalty on Archies with 10:39 left in the second period, giving Franklin its second man-advantage chance of the game. But Franklin had just one quality bid when Colin Hedvig blasted a shot that was saved and Kyle Hedvig’s rebound chance was stuffed.

The chances continued throughout the second, as Kevin O’Rielly settled a puck for a shot from Justin Abely that was saved. Minutes later, Domenic Lampasona connected with CJ Jette, but his shot from close was misfired. And the best opportunity came with just under five minutes to go as Colin Hedvig intercepted a clearance and rifled a shot that was off the iron and stayed out.

“We were just snakebitten, it seemed like everything we threw at the net he was there,” Sarno said. “We had plenty of chances, it just wasn’t our night. You can have 30 or 40 shots on net and sometimes it’s just not your net.”

Archies went on the power play with 2:08 in the period on a trip call, and a second tripping penalty 1:15 later gave the Bishops a 5-on-3 chance for 45 seconds. The Bishops made the most of the chance as Ivers denied a pair of shots in close but Archies sophomore Jackson Sylvester lifted the third chance over the sprawled out goalie to make it 2-0 with 28.2 seconds left in the middle period.

Starting the third period with the power play, Archies needed just eight seconds to tack on an important insurance goal. Thomas Page rifled a shot after striding over the blue line that went under the bar for a 3-0 lead.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Franklin pushed to get on the board but was unable to find the back of the net. Marchand and Colin Hedvig linked up but the latter couldn’t lift his backhand past Buccella. With nine minutes to go, Conor O’Neil blasted a high shot that Buccella had to fight off, and seconds later, Sean Connelly blasted a shot with O’Neil screening in front but it was saved.

Even with just under two minutes to go, the Panthers had a perfect play with Connelly finding Lovett in front for a one-timer but Buccella was in the perfect position and made the pad stop to preserve the shutout.

Franklin boys hockey finishes the season at 11-8-4.