CANTON, Mass. – The first two periods had been largely dominated by the 18th seed. Walpole held, by one count, a 23-9 edge in shots, including a 14-5 edge in the second period and had Canton on its heels in Sunday afternoon’s Div. 2 opening round game at the Canton Ice House.
It turned out the Bulldogs, and especially junior forward Maggie Malloy, were saving the best for last.
Malloy scored a natural hat trick in the third period to break open a tie game and lift second seed Canton to a 4-1 victory over the Rebels that sends the Bulldogs back to the Div. 2 quarterfinal and sets up a rematch with Notre Dame Academy (Hingham), which Canton faced in last year’s state title game.
“The first couple, we weren’t playing like us,” said Canton coach Dennis Aldrich. “I don’t know if it was the week and a half layoff or playing a heck of a team but they kind of took it to us a little bit and we were losing a few more battles than I’m used to us losing.”
He added, “All we talked about is no matter what happened, we can’t control whether we win or lose, but we can beat them on then compete level and I think we definitely did that in the third period, finally.”
Although Walpole had the advantage in shots in the opening period, it was Canton that had the lead. Sophomore Alexa Maffeo set up Kendra Farrelly in the slot for a rare scoring opportunity and the senior made no mistake, going bar down with her shot to beat Walpole goalie Kiera McInerny.
The Rebels came out flying to start the second and almost immediately found an equalizer on the power play. Amanda Janowicz was able to shed a defender behind the Canton goal and caught goalie Colleen Kelleher looking the wrong way when she stepped forward and slid the puck into the open net.
Kelleher (26 saves) was the backbone to the Bulldogs’ run to the TD Garden in last year’s playoffs and their inaugural Hockomock League championship and she came through with a series of big stops to keep the game tied in the second.
Janowicz nearly got her second power play goal only to have Kelleher block it aside and then get down quickly to stop the rebound shot as well. Audra Tosone skated through a couple of Bulldogs before stopping on a dime and firing a wrister that Kelleher gloved.
The best chance for Canton in the second came from junior Lauren Fitzpatrick, who showed off her stick-handling skills to dance through the Walpole defense, but her shot attempt was blocked on the edge of the crease.
Aldrich said, “The talk we had with them [after the second period] was, we haven’t even played our best hockey and I think they’re playing as well as they’re going to play.”
He continued, “[Walpole] had the body language, they had everything, they were ready to go and for us to answer that bell…we talked about, you’re used to this type of game, it’s not new, you know how to come out on top, and I don’t know that they do.
After two periods on the back foot Canton came out flying for the third and snatched back the momentum after just 27 seconds. Malloy skated three-quarters of the ice down the left wing and drove towards the goal. She faked as though she was going to carry the puck across the crease to get McInerny to give up the near post and then just calmly slid it past the goalie’s trailing leg.
“She was shot out of a rocket on the go-ahead goal to start the third and a natural hat trick in the third period,” Aldrich raved. “You can’t beat that.”
Canton went on the power play with 6:06 remaining and on the ensuing face-off Malloy nearly got her second only to have McInerny make the point-blank stop. Twelve seconds later, Malloy scored. This time, she found space inside the left circle and was set up with a perfect pass from Farrelly, took a second, and then placed a shot just inside the far post.
Katie Trerice had a blast from the point tipped on goal by Fitzpatrick, but the Walpole goalie did a good job reading the shot through traffic and was able to get a pad on it.
In the final minute, Malloy took advantage of hesitation by a back-pedaling Walpole defenseman to latch onto a loose puck on the edge of the blue line and she easily dispatched an empty net goal for her hat trick and to clinch the win.
Last year, Canton was the 14th seed and played the role of the plucky underdogs all the way to the final. This year, the Bulldogs are expected to make a run and now have the target on their backs.
“Every team that we played last year said that the better team didn’t win,” Aldrich said. “Every team starting from Shrewsbury on down and that was fine because we were the hunter and this year we’re the hunted.”
Aldrich credited some of the seniors on his bench that do not see much ice time for the leadership and positivity that they bring to the Bulldogs bench. He said, “One of the biggest things that we have is the support of our non-playing seniors. They bring us up when we’re down and we owe a lot of that third period to them.”
Canton (16-3-3) will get another shot at NDA on Tuesday night at the Warrior Arena in Brighton. Aldrich knows that it will be a tough test against one of the best in the state, but he and his players are excited for the challenge.
“If you don’t want that shot, then you don’t belong playing sports,” he said. “Yeah we maybe would want to face them in the final, but you’ve got to beat good teams to get there and it would be another feather in the cap. Last year, we maybe weren’t sure but this year we’re sure, we can skate with them.”