NORTH EASTON, Mass. – Not all scoreless ties are the same. Sometimes, offenses are limited and it becomes a midfield stalemate. Other times, there are chances galore and at the final whistle you are left wondering how it was possible no one found the back of the net.
Sunday morning’s game at Muscato Stadium was definitely the latter.
In a battle for first place in the Davenport division, Oliver Ames and Canton finished 0-0 thanks in large part to the stellar play of the two goalies, Canton’s Riley O’Connor and OA’s Peyton Phillips, and two resilient defenses making critical last-ditch stops.
“It was kind of the battle of the goalies,” said Canton coach Chrissy O’Connor. “They both did such a great job. I thought my defense played a great game today, unfortunately we just weren’t able to put it in the net. I’m not unhappy, it was a good battle back and forth.”
The goalies wasted no time in making their presences known, as the first quarter was end-to-end and featured chance after chance for both teams.
OA jumped out to a quick start, using its speed to cause problems for the Canton back line. Just two minutes in, Georgia Costello teed up Haley Gilman right in front of goal but O’Connor made the stop. Less than a minute later, Emily Han made a strong play to stop the Bulldogs from breaking and then turned it into a break for Costello, who was denied again by O’Connor’s pads.
A minute later and the visitors had their first great chance. Ellie Bohane got behind the OA defense and was clean through on goal only for Phillips to stop not only the first shot but also the rebound. Julia Maclaine then picked out Lexi Gennis on the doorstep but O’Connor read the tip and kicked it to safety.
Canton had two good chances in the final two minutes of the quarter. First, great stick work by Maria Femia sent Meghan LaBelle on a breakaway that Phillips stopped and then Bohane sent Erin Lane clear of the defense only for the goalie to stand tall again.
“She just started playing goalie last year,” Lawrence said of Phillips, who is in her first year as the starter. “She’s really come alive this year and she’s been amazing. She’s got the size, intensity, and athleticism, and that’s built her confidence this season. She’s showing it now.”
Everyone took a much-needed breath during the first break and things settled down for the first half of the second quarter before a flurry of chances to close out the half.
Sofia Anestam showed off her skills, dancing around a pair of Canton defenders before forcing a save out of O’Connor. Two minutes later, Costello slipped a pass through to Anestam on the break but again the goalie was equal to it.
In the closing seconds of the first half, Canton had another break. Lizzie Tassinari started it with a steal in the defensive zone and an accurate outlet pass down the wing to LaBelle, who in turn slid a pass to spring Femia clean through on goal. Phillips aggressively came out and made a sliding block to prevent the goal.
“I’m going to cringe watching those again,” said O’Connor about the chances missed in the first half. “We definitely had those chances, but it’s how to capitalize without putting it right at the goalie’s pads.”
Femia injured her ankle on that play and Canton’s leading scorer was forced to the sidelines for the remainder of the game.
It would have been difficult to follow up that action after the break and chances were harder to come by in the second half. Most of the third and fourth quarters was played in the OA attacking third with the Tigers pressing for the go-ahead score but thwarted by the trio of Allie Gefteas, Carly Fitzgerald, and Tassinari.
“I really felt like Lizzie had probably her best game of the season,” O’Connor said. “You know, these big games is where you see who is ready to really play and she clearly was.”
When OA did get through, O’Connor was still there to make the save. Maggie Woods pushed forward three minutes before the end of the third and her diagonal pass just missed the stick of Maclaine at the back post.
In the final seconds of the quarter, Han again started a break for the Tigers with a pass to Erin Cottam, who was able to hit Costello wide open a few yards from goal. O’Connor was well-positioned and managed to get a foot to the shot, denying another great chance for the hosts.
“Not only her skill but her intensity and her mental toughness, she won’t give up on anything,” Lawrence said of Han, who missed the bulk of 2019 with a broken leg. “She’s the mental anchor back there. Abbey Boyce too, she’s so fast, she’s a very smart player. The two of them are very dynamic.”
Without Femia up top, Canton was finding it hard to sustain attacks and OA continued to press in the final 15 minutes. Woods again found space and fired a pass across the face of goal, but Fitzgerald cleared at the far post. With a minute to play Cottam got free in the middle and forced yet another save out of O’Connor, who made sure the game stayed tied to the end.
“Just keep playing your game and it’s going to fall, it’s going to fall,” said Lawrence about the message to the team in the fourth quarter. “Erin and Georgia kind of alternate the top spot but I put both of them in towards the end because they’re so fast and scrappy around the net. They had the great combination that the goalie got a toe on.”
Oliver Ames (6-0-2) will take on Stoughton this week knowing that two wins will earn the Tigers a Davenport title in their first year back in the division. Canton (6-1-1) is one point behind OA entering the final week and will take on Foxboro hoping to catch the Tigers and win back-to-back league titles.
“We’re not taking Stoughton lightly,” said Lawrence. “We’ve got two games left. We’ll come out tomorrow and have a good practice and finish strong.”