FOXBORO, Mass. – With 2:38 remaining in the game, Canton senior attacker Ben O’Neil stepped into a shot that seemed destined for the bottom corner. He put his arms up to celebrate what he thought was the go-ahead goal, but then just as quickly dropped them when he realized that Foxboro goalie Jake Addeche had somehow stopped the ball on the line.
The game stayed tied and Foxboro transitioned into the attack. The ball swung around to Andrew Whalen who drove at the net and flicked a behind-the-back pass to sophomore Louis Piccolo with time and space. He fired a rising shot just over the stick of Canton goalie Chris Albert (10 saves) and under the bar.
Piccolo’s goal with 2:03 remaining, his third goal of the game, handed Foxboro a come from behind 5-4 victory at Sam Berns Community Field and command of the Davenport division at the midway point of the league season.
Each of the last three seasons, this match-up has produced games that have come down to the wire. Three years ago, Canton ended a long losing streak with an overtime win on its way to a league title and last year the Bulldogs won by two goals to help Sharon get to the top of the division.
Foxboro coach Matt Noone did not hide the importance of this game to his players. He explained, “I told them this could be the season today. You want to play for something and that’s what we’re playing for – the Hock.”
There is a lot of respect between the two programs and two coaches and the rivalry has turned into one of the most competitive in the Hockomock. Noone added, “We’re the same. It’s two small towns getting after it; it’s fun.”
Canton coach Bill Bendell saw his team lose a 4-2 lead in the second half, but he also stressed the importance of having this rivalry to prepare his team for making a run in the postseason.
“It’s just great for the league and great for us to play teams like this,” he said. “Sometimes it’s those bounces, those pipes, those one or two plays that can make the difference.”
Albert made four of his saves in the first quarter alone, as the Bulldogs struggled to mount a sustained attack. Foxboro was also off to a tough start with a number of shots sailing high or wide. But, with the clock winding down Trey Guerrini spun past his first marker, bounced off a second, and then spun a third time before beating the goalie from the edge of the crease at the buzzer.
Canton would take the lead in the second quarter by beating the Warriors in transition. Shaun Kirby scored the first of his two goals with a bouncing shot to the far post on a man-down situation to tie it at 1-1.
With 4:14 left in the quarter, Kirby would feed freshman Mike Shaw on the break to make it 2-1. The play started with Albert, who made a great save on the other end and then fired a perfect half-field outlet pass to the attackers.
Kirby extended the lead to two goals just 47 seconds into the second half with a rip to the bottom corner, but a two-minute locked in penalty to Jake Ragusa offered Foxboro the chance to get back in it.
Piccolo scored his first on a rip just under the bar 10 seconds into the EMO, but Canton would answer back 22 seconds later when Joe Mulkay spun middle and bounced a man-down goal past Addeche.
The game did not feature a lot of attacking play from either side, as the defensive units were mostly on top. Ragusa and Mike Pigeon were major factors for the Bulldogs, while Bobby Kierce and Brian Buckner continued to make plays for the Warriors.
“They were hurting us a little bit with their exchanges behind, so we went to a little bit of a zone and it seemed to help out a lot,” said Noone. “We were pressing early and they were killing us in transition, so we sat back, conceded the ride and figured lets have them beat us six-on-six.”
Piccolo would cut the lead to one with 5:32 left in the third with a shot on the run and then three minutes later, Foxboro completed the comeback when Guerrini dodged past his marker to set up Brendan Tully.
“In a game like this it’s really a playoff atmosphere but we fought hard the entire game…I think they just out-executed us,” said Bendell. “Things that we normally do well, they took us out of our comfort zone, and we didn’t execute things as well as we would’ve liked.”
Foxboro hit the post midway through the fourth quarter and Addeche (six saves) and Albert traded big stops to keep the game tied. Finally, with 2:03 remaining Piccolo found a seam and made no mistake with his shot.
“We called a timeout to call pressure defense down by a goal and we just didn’t execute it. We usually do,” said Bendell.
The Canton coach heaped praise on Albert for keeping the team in the game and having another big performance against Foxboro. He said, “Goalies feel like they’re responsible and I’m sure Albie feels that way too, but that’s not his fault. That was a beautiful shot. He had his hands free, we weren’t on his hands, but [Chris] played a great game.”
Noone called Piccolo a “goal-scoring machine.” The sophomore was coming off a career-high, 11-assist game against Milford on Wednesday, but Noone shook his head when asked if that game (a 25-1 win) had any positive impact on how his team played on Friday.
He said, “I don’t think we learned anything from that game to be honest…Feelings are hurt on both sides. We were running the clock the whole time; we’re not getting anything out of that.”
The Warriors (7-2, 5-0) have the edge in the Davenport at the moment, but have several tough games coming up in the league and Bendell knows that Canton (4-4, 2-4) has important games coming up to stay in the mix.
He said, “I didn’t know how I was going to like going from two games down to one…but it does add more meaning to this game. This is a big game. We’ll see if someone can upset them and I’m sure that Foxboro-Sharon and Canton-Sharon will be big games.”
Josh Perry can be contacted at JoshPerry@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @Josh_Perry10.