CANTON, Mass. – For the opening 12 minutes of Wednesday evening’s game, Canton junior netminder Quinn Gibbs was basically a spectator. Every once in a while, he would drop down to watch a puck dribble wide of the net for an icing, but was otherwise untroubled by the Pembroke attack.
That would not last, as the Titans would put 23 shots on goal in the final 33 minutes of the game, many of them through screens or from point-blank range. Gibbs would come through with stops on all of them, making 23 saves to record a shutout in the first round of the Div. 2 South tournament at the Canton Ice House.
Gibbs heroics kept the score level until late in the third period when sophomore Ryan Nolte fired in the game’s lone goal to lift Canton to a 1-0 victory over the Titans and a spot in the Div. 2 South quarterfinal.
“He played one of his best games of the season and we needed him,” said Canton coach Brian Shuman of Gibbs.
“Quinn’s tough as nails in net and against these guys, in particular in the third period both times we’ve faced them, he’s had some guys go in there hard and he just stepped up and just played big in those situations,” Shuman continued.
It was not until 2:49 remained in the first period and the game’s first power play before the Titans put a shot on goal and Gibbs was forced to make a strong save from the edge of his crease. In the second, Pembroke put eight shots on net and Gibbs was equal to all of them.
He was called upon again in the opening seconds of the third when Zach Simpson got free in front and one-timed a shot from four feet out but Gibbs stood tall to block it. A few minutes later he stuck out a quick toe to deny Joe Benting from the circle and Nathan Beath on a point-blank redirect.
Shuman explained, “You can easily get rattled when guys are going in there hard but he doesn’t; he’s unfazed and he made some big stops for us tonight.”
Canton came out of the gates flying and dominated the opening period. The Bulldogs had 14 shots in the first. Mike Dadasis set up Jack Goyetch for the best chance but the shot was saved by Pembroke goalie Justin Pijanowski. Tommy Kilduff stole a puck to the left of the goal and fed it to freshman John Hagan but that was also stopped.
In the second, Canton added another 10 shots (the Bulldogs finished with 35 in the game) but most were coming from the edges of play. Senior defensemen Jackson Maffeo and C.J. Martin both had several shots through a crowd and Bubba McNeice had a quick turn and a shot that was saved.
“We’ve been averaging more than four goals per game the second half of the season because we’ve been getting pucks to the net and bodies to the net,” said Shuman. “I feel like we got pucks there tonight, but no bodies. We were just a half second too slow.”
One player that was creating chances on a consistent basis was Goyetch. The junior forward was a constant thorn on the forecheck and his speed through the neutral zone created a power play and several scoring opportunities.
Shuman said, “Jack is a rock. Every single game you know what you’re going to get out of him and that’s energy. You’re always going to get a goalscoring chance or two…and we need a guy like that. It seemed like Jack was able to settle things down for us.”
Hagan nearly broke the deadlock just before the end of the second period after getting a feed from Nolte. The freshman forward settled the puck, took aim, and was unlucky to see his shot elude the goalie’s shoulder but carom back off the bar.
The Bulldogs struggled to get control in the third and it was Pembroke that had the edge in scoring chances, until the final six minutes. Canton was given a power play chance and Nolte made it count. He skated on the far side boards, circled back around and from the left face-off dot went high on the short side and roofed his wrister.
“What a shot,” said Shuman. “Ryan did not play his best game, and Ryan will tell you that, but he made a big shot when he counted and that’s what he’s all about. He’s a big game player for us.”
Charlie Malloy had a chance to seal the win with a steal and a breakaway but his shot was blocked aside. Kilduff nearly snagged an empty net goal in the final seconds but could not prevent the icing.
Pembroke continued to press and forced Gibbs to make a save and then watch a puck slide just wide of the post. It was exactly what Canton expected from a state tournament game.
“Typical D2 South game,” Shuman agreed. “As long as I can remember, we’ve had so many one-goal D2 South games. We’ve had a lot of one-goal games this year and we’ve been finding ways to win them.”
One of those one-goal wins was against Bishop Feehan and Canton (15-4-3) will face the Shamrocks again on Saturday in the Div 2 South quarterfinal at Asiaf Arena.