FOXBORO, Mass. – Skating five-on-five, there was very little to separate Canton and King Philip on Saturday night at the Foxboro Sports Center. When given the opportunity to skate 5-on-3, the Bulldogs found the back of the net and the Warriors had a shot come up and inch short of crossing the goal line.
In a game decided by the finest of margins, Olivia Maffeo’s power play goal in the first period turned out to be the game-winner and Lizzie Tassinari tacked on an empty net goal in the final minute, as Canton won 2-0 and took over first place in the league standings.
“We were way too deep and gave up way too many odd-man rushes and too many bad reads,” Canton coach Dennis Aldrich about his team’s play over the first two periods. “I think we slowed down mentally and just got back to what we usually do, which is get pucks behind them and grinding. We’re not a flashy team. We have a damn good record but we have to work.”
Aldrich was full of praise for the Warriors, calling them one of the top two teams that Canton has faced this season and first-year head coach Ken Assad was happy to hear that assessment of his team’s effort.
“Defensively we skated all three zones hard and we back-checked as best as we could do and took No. 16 (Maffeo) out of the play as much as possible,” Assad said. “I think the girls did a fantastic job with that and did exactly what I asked them to do.”
KP got off a to a good start, instantly putting pressure on the Canton defensive unit. Morgan Cunningham got space on the left wing and saucered a pass into the middle where Makenzie Shandley was able to beat two players to get to it, but couldn’t beat freshman goalie Carolyn Durand.
Three minutes later, Shandley again caused problems for the Bulldogs. She popped up on the left side and fired a shot from a tight angle that slipped underneath Durand but was hooked off the line by forward Maria Femia.
Canton was struggling to get anything consistent going in the attacking zone. That changed with 10 minutes left in the first when the Bulldogs went on the power play and then just 35 seconds later KP sent another player to the box.
Maffeo continued her impressive rookie campaign by taking advantage of the space and time in the left circle and roofing a shot over KP goalie Cristina Coleman (15 saves).
The Bulldogs nearly doubled the lead near the end of the period. Tassinari sparked the breakout from the defensive zone with a pass up the boards to Femia, who sent a pass cross-ice to Tess Khoury on the left wing. Khoury gained the zone and set Tassinari up in front of goal but Coleman made the stop.
There were even fewer chances for either team in the second period, but Tassinari had a good look off a Femia face-off win and Shandley took advantage of a slip by a Canton defenseman to create a scoring opportunity.
As the period wound down into the final three minutes, the Warriors got their own five-on-three chance. Shandley and Sydney O’Shea had a nice give-and-go on the right side and then set up Cunningham at the back post. It appeared that the puck had gone in and the Warriors all raised their arms to celebrate but the officials ruled that the puck hadn’t fully crossed the line and Durand (19 saves) scrambled to cover.
“We know they’re tough defensively and we just wanted to get pucks low and get girls on them,” said Assad. “We’re struggling offensively obviously and we wanted to get pucks to net and crash and I think we did a pretty good job of that. It’s tough to get a goal and that would’ve been a big boost for us but it didn’t happen.”
It was the moment that KP was looking for, but the Bulldogs remained in front. Coming into the third period with the lead, Canton was able to get back to its typical style of getting pucks deep, controlling play in the defensive zone, and putting pressure with the forecheck.
Maffeo continued to be Canton’s main offensive threat, as the freshman time and again carried the puck out of defense to get into shooting range.
While the Bulldogs were clamping down defensively, led by Meg Aldrich, Allie McCabe, and Olivia and Alexa Maffeo, KP did manage to create several chances to tie the game. Nicole Brady had a wrister gloved by Durand, Olivia Donovan spun and put a puck on net, and Gabrielle Trujillo had a shot from the point that caused a scrum in front nearly tipped in by Shandley.
Assad explained, “It’s just about getting the puck in the net. They’re battling and they just need to find that knack, and hopefully it will come soon. There’s a lot to gain from this.”
“Ken is doing a great job,” Aldrich said. “I would put them on par with Westwood. That’s a damn good team and he’s doing a fantastic job with them. The kids believe, they play with confidence, they’ve got an edge to them.”
He added, “I think at times we tried to get a little too pretty but for these kids it doesn’t suck being 7-0 and not playing as well as you want to but beating a very good team.”
Canton (7-0) will have a chance to extend its lead in the league standings when it hosts defending champion Franklin on Wednesday. King Philip (2-4) will try to get back on track when it hosts Shawsheen Tech.