The Warriors peppered Kelly for two periods but only lit the lamp once while North gained traction offensively in the third, including the tying goal early in the fame. But Abbott came up with two of his biggest stops with under a minute to go.
With 21.9 seconds left in the game, KP senior James Boldy won a faceoff in the defensive zone back to classmate Sam Naggar, who whipped a clearance around the boards and out of the zone. North collected the puck in its own zone but heavy pressure from junior Rowan Boulger down low forced a turnover at the blue line.
With the clock ticking down, Naggar released a quick slap shot that deflected off a defenseman’s leg and through the five-hole with just 5.8 seconds left in the game to deliver King Philip a stunning 2-1 win over North Attleboro.
“Just put it on the net in that situation, good things will happen when it gets there,” said first-year King Philip head coach Toby Carlow. “The first half of the game we were better for sure. The third period, give credit to [North] because they came out and played very hard, they didn’t want to go home with a loss. In a game like this, one mistake ends up as the difference in the game.”
King Philip carried a 1-0 lead into the third period thanks to a second period goal from junior Tyler Douglas. The Warriors had a hefty advantage in offensive zone time and a large edge in shots on goal (29-10) entering the final period.
The chances for North started early in the final and snowballed from there. A weird bounce off the glass on a clearance from KP presented North senior Mark Ayvazyan with a good chance right in front but Abbott came up with the stop.
“I think the kids deserved a better fate,” said North Attleboro head coach Kyle Heagney. “Nate Kelly played very well for us. We had a very sluggish start but we got better as the game went on, got better each shift. The third period, I thought we controlled the majority of the puck but just a simple breakdown at the end destroyed our destiny.
“There’s always a lesson in a win and a loss, but there always seems like a bigger lesson in the loss. When you lose with five seconds in the game, as a coach, you’re always wondering what if, what if, what if. It comes down to inches and milliseconds…there were a lot of what ifs.”
The Rocketeers’ pressure was rewarded with a power play opportunity and despite having limited offensive zone time through the first 30-plus minutes, North wasted very little time cashing in.
Brody Gaulin took the faceoff, Joe Quinn skated in and dished the puck back to Ayvazyan at the blue line and his low shot/pass found Kaden Burns skating in front of the net all alone and he tucked away a low backhand shot into the back of the net just five seconds into the man-advantage situation to pull the Rocketeers level at 1-1 with 10:09 to go in the game.
North kept it going and had another power play chance just two minutes later but Abbott and the KP defense was up to the task. Boldy and Naggar had early clearances, and the line of Nate Garstka, Douglas, Cam Lehan-Allen, and Sonny Bianculli denied North any chances.
The best chance of the power play came when North defenseman Gavin Arabian ripped a deflected shot that took a bounce right in front of goal but Abbott gloved it comfortably and held on.
North had two good chances in the final two minutes. First, Dominic Bertino came flying down the right side but his wrist shot was snagged by Abbott. And right before the final face-off that sent KP to the win, Ayvazian had a good bid from a similar spot but Abbott had another stop.
“Kyle made two huge saves and he was ready for them,” Carlow said. “It’s tough sometimes when for the first half of the game, you’re not seeing a lot so you have to stay ready for when it does come and he was. Their goalie played outstanding too.
The Warriors came out on the front foot and registered 20 shots on Kelly in just the opening 15 minutes. Jack Gresham had two early chances, Evan Regan had a good shot after a feed from Trevor Pelkey, and Tim Mullen had a shot through traffic but all of KP’s chances in the first were turned aside by Kelly.
“Nate showed up and did his job,” Heagney said. “The defense and the forwards, we didn’t do our job for Nate tonight. I thought he played very well and he’s the reason we were in the game so late.”
KP’s breakthrough came just over a minute into the second period. Douglas won a faceoff in the offensive zone, Robison battled in front with a defenseman and Douglas came skating back through and finished a low shot from in close to make it 1-0 at 13:56 of the second.
“Give credit to KP, I thought they outplayed us, I thought they beat us to pucks, and I thought they were tougher on pucks,” Heagney said. “It just seemed like it was their night, I don’t think we put enough pressure on them or tested their goalie. In order to win a game, you need effort, energy, and execution and we were lacking in execution tonight.”
King Philip boys hockey (3-0 Hockomock, 7-1 overall) travels to Canton on Saturday for a big showdown with the Bulldogs at 6:20. North Attleboro (1-2, 4-3) has a non-league tilt at home against Dartmouth.
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