North Shrugs Off Slow Start, Rallies to Beat Foxboro

North Attleboro Boys Hockey
Sam Clarke (19) skates over to celebrate with Nik Kojoian after the Rocketeers battled back from three goals down against Foxboro to tie the game late in the second period. (Josh Pery/HockomockSports.com)

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ATTLEBORO, Mass. – Five minutes into Wednesday night’s game at the New England Sports Village and it looked like North Attleboro’s senior night was going up in flames. Foxboro had a three-goal lead and the Rocketeers had barely gotten into the attacking zone.

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North coach Ben McManama took his timeout with 10:22 left in the first to settle his team down, remind them that there was still 40 minutes of hockey to play, and try to stem the momentum that the Warriors had at the start.

Whatever was said in that huddle worked. From that point on, North was dominant.

The Rocketeers rallied, scoring once in the first and three times in the second period, then adding two in the third to pull out a 6-5 victory and clinch second place in the Davenport division. After struggling to get started in the game, North ended up with a 34-17 edge in shots on goal.

“We tried to slow them down but they came out flying,” McManama explained. “From that timeout on, I thought we played outstanding.”

He added, “The message was there’s a lot of hockey to be played and we had to go one goal at a time, one shift at a time, and if we have that mindset once that first one goes in then it starts to build. We just worked our butts off and I couldn’t be more proud of how they competed.”

Foxboro needed no time at all to grab the lead. Matt Grace went down the left wing, angled towards goal, and picked the far corner to make it 1-0 after just 58 seconds. The lead was double just 24 seconds after that. North turned the puck over in its defensive zone and Grace found himself free in the left circle for a one-timer.

Things went from bad to worse for the host a few minutes later. Foxboro caught North pushing up the ice and a stretch pass freed Grace down the wing again. This time he saucered the puck across the crease where Tom Marcucella knocked it into the empty net.

About 90 seconds after the timeout, North got one back and started to build momentum. It was a perfect breakout, as Jake Gruber fired a pass up the near boards to Tyler Sarro at the opposite blue line. Sarro drove into the zone and his perfect dot-to-dot pass found Nick Longa for a one-timer.

Ben Ricketts, who was credited with assists on each of the first two Foxboro goals, nearly answered right back, but his shot smacked off the crossbar.

Sam Clarke stole the puck just inside the blue line and forced a good save out of Jack Spinney (15 saves). Foxboro managed to scramble clear the rebound. On the other end, Brady Daly teed up Kirk Leach in front but Kyle Gruber (12 saves) stayed tall and made the stop. Clarke was again a handful and set up Brady Sarro in the slot but Spinney took it in the chest.

“Obviously we had good jump right at the beginning,” said Foxboro coach Mark Cedorchuk. “We got the forecheck going and we tried to sustain that after it was 3-0 and I thought we had them back up against the wall, but they just changed their forecheck and came out more aggressive getting the puck in front of the net and putting pressure on our D getting it deep.”

Controversy erupted just 26 seconds into the second period, as Nik Kojoian was sure that he had knocked in a rebound to make it a one-goal game, but the officials had lost sight of the puck and blown the play dead. North kept pushing, with Joe Quinn coming close off a nice feed by Mark Ayvazyan and Austin Comery’s shot from the point forcing a nice glove save out of Connor Callahan (13 saves).

“We were really positive on the bench,” said McManama. “We weren’t yelling at them after we went down 3-0, just saying it happens, it’s part of hockey. We’re a confident group. I don’t know what happened those five minutes but we were ourselves after that.”

When North’s second goal did come, it sparked a crazy sequence that saw the teams combine for four scores in a little over a minute.

Tyler Sarro got it started when he collected Longa’s angled pass from the point, dragged it around Callahan and deposited it inside the post. Forty seconds later, it was Brady Sarro knocking in a rebound to bring North all the way back to 3-3.

The celebrations had barely started when Foxboro jumped back on top. Grace capped off his hat trick by jumping on a loose puck and smashing a one-timer past Gruber. Twelve seconds after it was tied, Foxboro led. Fourteen seconds after that it was tied again. Anthony Westcott stepped into a shot from inside the blue line and slammed it under the bar to make it 4-4.

“It was going back and forth,” said Cedorchuk about that sequence. “We were exchanging punches. It just showed that they weren’t going to lie down and give up. We knew they were going to keep fighting and we tried to keep that effort up.

He noted, “Our guys hung in there. We needed to get more pucks to the net obviously. After we went up 3-0, we just didn’t get enough pucks to the net and the shot total showed that but overall I’m happy with my guys’ effort.”

Playing two, high-energy games in two days seemed to take its toll on the Warriors and North took advantage in the third period, outshooting the visitors 9-4.

Midway through the third, North grabbed its first lead of the night. Longa got his second of the game, sniping the far top corner to make it 5-4.

Kojoian would hit Tyler Sarro with a cross-ice pass for an empty net goal in the final minute that turned out to be the game-winner because Leach popped up with another pinpoint shot into the corner but with only three seconds remaining.

“I think we had momentum, but more so we had the confidence that it was our game to win and if we just continued that effort shift-by-shift then we’d be fine,” said McManama about his team’s attitude heading into the third. “We were winning battles, puck races, and that’s how you win hockey games.”

North Attleboro (7-5) will play Bishop Feehan in a charity game and there is the possibility of a third meeting with Foxboro (4-6) at the NESV to close out the season on Sunday.

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Foxboro Blanks JPII With Strong Defensive Effort

Foxboro boys hockey
Foxboro’s Matt Grace (2) celebrates with teammate Brady Daly after scoring the first goal of the game in the first period. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
CANTON, Mass. – Scoring against Foxboro is challenging enough with senior goalie Espen Reager between the pipes.

Add in terrific performances from defensemen Kyle McGinnis, Dylan Pothier, Eoin Reager, andAlex Coviello, and its no wonder the 7th-seeded Warriors blanked the high power offense of #2 John Paul II.

The Lions, entering Sunday afternoon’s contest averaging over five goals a game and fresh off a dominating win over Greater New Bedford that featured 11 goals, were limited to very few goal-scoring opportunities throughout the 45 minutes of the D3 South Quarterfinal matchup with the Warriors.

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That was because of the pairing of McGinnis and Pothier made sure to keep every John Paul II attack to the outside. And Eoin Reager and Coviello were quick to clear the path to the goal, if any shot did get through, Espen Reager had no problem seeing it.

The result was a 3-0 upset for the Warriors, scoring once late in the first period and tacking on two more in the final minutes of the third period. With the win, Foxboro advances to the sectional semifinals for the first time in program history.

“It means a lot for the program, it’s huge for our confidence,” said Foxboro head coach Mark Cedorchuk. “It’s the first time we’ve reached this far in the tournament so we’re looking forward to the opportunity to challenge whoever we play next.

“We didn’t give [John Paul II] much. They were dumping and chasing for the most part, and the shots they had, they were from the outside and Espen is going to stop those 99.9% of the time unless it gets deflected. They didn’t have a lot of opportunities in the scoring zones, maybe a couple of scrambles, but we really kept them to the outside.”

Perhaps nothing summed the game up better than a three-minute span in the third period. With Foxboro holding a 1-0 lead and less than half of the period left, the Lions broke out of their own zone and into the offensive zone.

But only a few strides in, Eoin Reager stepped up and swept the puck free to the boards and went on to finish his check, and the Lions’ possession came up empty.

A minute later, as John Paul II tried to enter the zone again the Warriors’ backcheck broke the play up as sophomore Matt Grace hustled to get back into the play and broke the play up from behind. Once again, the Lions were without a shot at a crucial point in the game.

“They’re keeping a lot of shots to the outside which is making it a lot easier for me to put rebounds into the corner and only face one shot,” said Espen Reager. “The defense is really helping out right now and I’m really liking it. For the most part I was able to see everything, being able to see the puck obviously helps when you’re trying to stop it. The defense was clearing everyone out in front.”

The defensive work paid off as junior forward Kirk Leach used his speed to race into the offensive zone a minute later, getting past a defenseman before lifting a shot on net. JPII goalie Gunnar Stevens got enough of the puck to stop it from going in but the puck sat on the goal line and Foxboro sophomore Jack Watts crashed the net and buried it for a 2-0 lead with 4:53 to play.

“And on top of the defense, the thing we’ve been working on is our backcheck,” Cedorchuk said. “We don’t want to get caught with three guys down low. We had a certain forecheck going to make sure that wasn’t going to happen. We were backchecking the middle of the ice, staying with them. I’m happy with how the guys played, they played hard. All the guys that were in there really contributed for us.”

The Lions only managed one scrum in front that resulted in a shot that went wide, and one final shot from the neutral zone that Reager easily gloved down, after going down 2-0.










Foxboro senior Ronnie MacLellan lifted the puck out of the defensive zone, Leach carried into the attacking zone and laid it off to Watts for the empty net goal with 32 seconds left.

“Our schedule definitely helped prepare us for this,” Espen Reager said. “And we can look and compare the schedule and see who they’ve played. We’ve played some really good competition and we’ve shown we can stay in games with top teams. And that’s been a great confidence booster for us in the tournament.”

The Warriors wasted little time applying pressure on the 17-win Lions. Just a couple minutes in, Stevens was forced to make a big save when Foxboro sophomore Ben Ricketts found junior Ryan Jacobs right in front for a one-timer.

Minutes later, Leach set up MacLellan and his blast beat Stevens but was denied by the inside of the post, the rebound falling right underneath the goalie.

John Paul II went on the power play on a too many men call on the Warriors but only managed one clean look, turned aside by Reager. Sebastian Ricketts won a battle and got a big clearance to help kill the penalty.

Foxboro’s first line of Leach, Watts, and MacLellan had a pair of bids go begging but the Warriors’ second line came up clutch in the final minutes.

Sophomore Matt Grace won a battle in the neutral zone and carried the puck over the blue line. With an open look at goal, Grace ripped a wrist shot that beat Stevens to give Foxboro a 1-0 lead with 1:05 left in the first period.

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“It’s huge, it gives us a big lift,” Cedorchuk said of getting scoring from beyond the first line. “Getting that first goal from our second line, from Matt Grace, it just gives us a lot of confidence. And from there, it’s just a matter of time until our powerhouse line gives us something too. We had some really good chances, hit a couple of posts too. We’re happy with how we’re creating offense, we just have to tighten some things up.

“We felt like we were wearing them down, putting pressure on their defense with multiple lines.”

Reager’s biggest test of the second period came five minutes in on a wrist shot from the circle but the goalie reacted well to deny the bid. He came up with another strong save after PJII’s two-on-one failed, instead a strong shot from the blue line through traffic was gobbled up.

Foxboro boys hockey (12-4-5) will take on #3 Hanover (18-3-1) on Thursday at Gallo Arena with the time still to be announced.

Foxboro Passes Test Against Potential Playoff Foe

Foxboro boys hockey Kirk Leach
Foxboro junior Kirk Leach sets up for a shot in the third period against Abington. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
 
CANTON, Mass. – With the state tournament right around the corner, the Foxboro boys hockey team seems to be clicking on all gears.

The Warriors closed the regular season out in impressive fashion, skating to a dominant 4-1 win over Abington, a team Foxboro could potentially see in the Division 3 South tournament next week.

“I like the way we’re playing right now,” said Foxboro head coach Mark Cedorchuk. “We’re playing well offensive, we’re moving the puck, we’re getting hungry toward the net and we’re finishing our opportunities. And we’re playing well defensively too, keeping guys to the outside so Espen [Reager] can see the puck, picking guys up in front of the net and we’re starting to backcheck better too.

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“We’re playing with the team speed we know we have, we’re using it to our advantage. All of our lines are playing well on both ends of the ice. We needed to work on picking guys up in transition coming back, and we’re doing a much better job with that back check.”

After an up-and-down 1-3-1 start to the season, the Warriors have suffered just one loss in the last 14 games (2-0 to Canton), and are undefeated in their last 10 contests (7-0-3). The win over Abington, who entered the contest with the same amount of points as Foxboro, will likely give Foxboro a home game in the tournament without playing in a preliminary game.

While controlling the first period, the Warriors didn’t have anything to show for it, despite a 15-6 edge on shots on goal through the first 15 minutes. Junior Ryan Sullivan had a chance in the opening minutes, batting at a loose puck after Kyle McGinnis had a shot from the blue line saved.

But the biggest moments for the Warriors came shorthanded as Foxboro had to kill a pair of man-advantage chances for the Green Wave. Going on the power play just under five minutes in, Abington had just two saves, both handled by Espen Reager (18 saves). McInnis came up with a big clearance and senior Sebastian Ricketts was a menace on the forecheck, hampering Abington’s efforts to break out.

The Green Wave went back on the power play with 4:13 to play in the first but it was more of the same from the Warriors’ defense. Reager made a strong reactionary stop on a shot from Michael Pineau before Foxboro pushed up ice, Ricketts again setting the tone by applying pressure and drawing a penalty to make it 4-on-4.

It didn’t take long for Foxboro to find the back of the net in the second period. The Warriors went on the power play 12 seconds into the frame and cashed in with just seconds left on the man-advantage. Sophomore Eoin Reager tried to center the puck but it was blocked right back to him and this time he took it himself, tucking it just inside the post for a 1-0 lead with 12:57 left in the period.

“We knew once we got that first goal, it just gave us the momentum and confidence,” Cedorchuk said. “We were outplaying them and the time of possession was in our favor so we just needed to get the first goal. We’re definitely happy with how we’re playing going into the playoffs.”

The lead last just over two minutes as Abington’s Dave McAruther used a nice move to get the puck on his backhand in front and lifted in the tying puck with 10:45 to go in the period.

But the Warriors were quickly back on the attack and took the lead before the end of the period with another power play goal. With sophomore Jack Watts battling in the corner, Leach skated over and picked up puck free, skating towards net and firing a shot into the top corner for a 2-1 lead with 3;48 to play in the second.










“We had a lot of shots yesterday [against East Bridgewater] so we’re creating a lot of offense,” Cedorchuk said. “I like the way the guys are finishing, we’re really playing well behind their defensemen.”

Foxboro nearly tacked on another tally before the end of the period but sophomore Ben Ricketts had a pair of chances denied by Abington’s goalie, and then another chance after a scrum knocked down by a defenseman in front of net.

Leach was the catalyst for the next goal, helping Foxboro take its first two-goal advantage in the game. He pounced on a loose puck and skated behind net, abruptly stopping and changing back to the direction he came from. He picked out Ronnie MacLellan in front, who squeezed his shot five-hole for a 3-1 lead with 11:04 left in the third.

Abington once again went on the power play but the Warriors were up to the task, getting their third kill of the game. Sophomore Matt Grace interrupted a pair of passes, leading to a clearance from McGinnis. The Warriors even had the best scoring chance during the stretch as Leach had a wrist shot denied after a nice clearance from Eoin Reager.

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Foxboro tacked on another insurance goal with 4:35 to play as Alex Coviello fired a shot on net that deflected off the goalie and an Abington defenseman, eventually popping free in the slot and Leach was first to it, blasting a shot into the back of the net with the goalie turned around from the scrum.

“We didn’t let them get back into it, didn’t let them get any confidence,” Cedorchuk said. “It was a good third period to see, we definitely keep the pedal to the metal so to speak, just kept coming and put a lot of pressure on them until the end of the game.”

Foxboro boys hockey finished at 10-4-5 and awaits tournament seeding, which will be released on Friday morning.

2019-2020 Hockomock Boys Hockey Preview

2019-2020 Hockomock Boys Hockey Preview
Canton’s Chris Lavoie tries to skate past Oliver Ames’ in the first period at Asiaf Arena in January 2019. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)

By HockomockSports.com Staff

2019-2020 Hockomock Boys Hockey Preview

Attleboro

2018-2019 Record: 10-10-2
2018-2019 Finish: Reached Div. 3 South Preliminary Round
Coach: Mark Homer

The Bombardiers will be looking to stretch their postseason streak to three years this season. It showed how deep the Kelley-Rex division was last year that the Bombardiers, who did not fare well in league games, made it to the state tournament.

One reason that Attleboro is hopeful for a spot in the state tournament is the addition of a couple of transfers to the program. Jake Ward joined the program and will apart of the Bombardiers top line alongside senior captain Ryan Morry and junior Aidan Diggin. Both Morry and Diggin have a plethora of experience at the varsity level so expect Attleboro’s top line to be a dangerous one in the offensive zone. Attleboro picked up some needed depth with the addition of junior Owen Dryjowicz and freshman Aidan Dryjowicz, who will join sophomore Nate Parker on the second line.

The third line could see some rotation but will mostly feature junior Austin Blais at the center spot, and senior Liam McDonough, junior Owen Graney, and senior Kyle Miniati on the wings. The Bombardiers will have some experience on the blue line with senior Sam Flynn and junior Zach Pierce holding down two of the top spots, with sophomore Sean Marshall also in the mix. The fourth spot between the top two defensive pairs is still up for grabs in the early going. Sophomores Nick Piazza and Michael Dutremble are battling for minutes in net.

“We hope to improve our record from last year through commitment and hard work collectively, and gain entry to the state tournament,” said Attleboro head coach Mark Homer.

Canton

2018-2019 Record: 25-0-1
2018-2019 Finish: D2 State Champions
Coach: Brian Shuman

Having won nine straight Davenport division titles, Canton is used to having a target on its back as the rest of the Hockomock League tries to knock the Bulldogs from the top. But this year, that target is even bigger than before.

Fresh off one of the best seasons in both program and league history that ended with a D2 State Championship, the Bulldogs will be getting everyone’s best game in and game out. And while Canton certainly graduated some key pieces, like two-time HockomockSports.com Player of the Year Ryan Nolte, the Bulldogs enter this season as not only the favorite for a 10th straight division crown but will certainly be in the mix when it comes to the 2020 D2 State title.

While replacing Nolte will be tough, the Bulldogs have several key forwards back from last year’s championship team. It will all start with senior Johnny Hagan, who was named HockomockSports.com Underclassman of the Year as a sophomore and racked up 51 points with 21 goals and 31 assists on the season. Hagan will have a lot of experience to work with in senior Timmy Kelleher (seven goals, seven assists last regular season), senior Tommy Ghostlaw (five goals, six assists), and senior Chris Lavoie (13 goals, 12 assists). Lavoie could be poised for a breakout year, scoring twice in the season-opening win over Franklin.

Canton also brings back top players along the blue line with Jack Connolly and HockomockSports.com Second Team selection Owen Lehane. Both seniors, Connolly and Lehane not only are among the best defensive players in the league but play a big part of the Canton offense with their shooting. Seniors Ronan O’Mahony and Declan Pfeffer are also experienced defensemen that will see increased roles this year. Canton turns to senior Joe Cammarata to start in between the pipes with junior Liam Polles impressing early on and could push for starting minutes.

“We have a lot of experience returning, but that’s true for a lot of teams across the state,” said Canton coach Brian Shuman. If our preseason was any indication, there are a lot of outstanding, talented teams this year that improved greatly in the offseason. We will have our work cut out for us in the Hock and with a tough non-league schedule.”

Foxboro

2018-2019 Record: 12-7-3
2018-2019 Finish: Reached Div. 3 South First Round
Coach: Mark Cedorchuk

Foxboro built upon its 10-season win two years ago with its best season in program history last year, picking up 12 wins including one in the postseason. After posting back-to-back successful seasons, the Warriors are hoping that trend continues.

With a good amount of returners back this year, the Warriors will be in good position to compete in the Hockomock League and will be aiming to make a deeper run into the state tournament behind a beefed-up schedule. One strength for Foxboro this year will be its offense with its two top regular season point producers back in junior Kirk Leach (15 goals, 20 assists) and senior Ronnie MacLellan (14 goals, 20 assists). That duo provided the Warriors with a lot of its offense last season and will be one of the top returning duos this season. Senior Sebastian Ricketts brings a vast amount of experience to the offense while sophomore Jack Watts (10 goals, four assists) will be looking to build on an impressive freshman year. Brady Daly, Eoin Reager, Josh Bertuman, Ryan Jacobs and Ben Ricketts will provide needed depth offensively.

Defensively it all starts with senior goalie Espen Reager, the defending Hockomock League MVP back after a strong junior season between the pipes for the Warriors. Reager has the ability to keep his team in teams, and he showed last year that he can help steal a game like he did against Mansfield. In front of Reager, senior Kyle McGinnis is one of the more experienced defensemen in the league and will be the anchor of the blue line group for Foxboro. Freshman Alex Coviello has impressed early on and will be a key piece of the defense.

“Our strength on offense this season will be our depth and overall team speed,” said Foxboro head coach Mark Cedorchuk. “We have more depth on offense than we’ve ever had. We’re looking forward to this season, with a lot of depth up front, excellent team speed and a great goalie we feel we can compete with any team on our schedule.”

Franklin

2018-2019 Record: 12-10-4
2018-2019 Finish: Reached Div. 1 South Final
Coach: Anthony Sarno

A new chapter begins in Franklin boys hockey with Anthony Sarno taking over on the bench after longtime Panther coach Chris Spillane stepped down following last season. While the Panthers might have a bit of a new look, expectations are still high inside Pirelli for the defending Kelley-Rex champs.

Sarno is hoping that momentum will carry over from the Panthers’ impressive playoff run from a year ago when Franklin upset Mansfield in overtime and knocked off Catholic Memorial in the semifinals. But there won’t be any nights off for Franklin with a loaded schedule that features Malden Catholic, Pope Francis, and a loaded Mt. Hope tournament — and that’s just December.

“It will be a work in progress and we will look to develop a solid team chemistry with a relentless work ethic, staying true to consistency, and discipline in an environment where effort and attitude is paramount, and not up for discussion,” Sarno said.

Up front, the Panthers will be leaning on seniors Shane McCaffrey, Kevin O’Rielly, and Shea Hurley to lead the way. McCaffrey is the team’s top scorer returning from a year ago so it will be vital for new players to step up and contribute. Juniors Conor O’Neil and Declan Lovett are also going to be important pieces to the Panthers’ offense. Senior Ray Ivers returns between the pipes are stepping in last season and playing well. In front of Ivers, Franklin will have two of the best defensemen in the league with senior Tom Tasker, a HockomockSports.com First Team selection last year, and junior Joe LeBlanc, who had a breakout sophomore campaign.

King Philip

2018-2019 Record: 10-11-0
2018-2019 Finish: Missed postseason
Coach: Paul Carlow

After missing out on the state tournament in back-to-back seasons, the Warriors have a chance to end that drought in 2020 behind an experienced group of players after losing just five players to graduation.

Head coach Paul Carlow says this is the most experienced group he’s had at his disposal since taking over behind the Warriors’ bench in 2015. There are nine seniors back this year and eight juniors so King Philip certainly boasts a lot of depth, and players that have played plenty of minutes at the varsity level. It starts with senior captain Chris Daniels, senior assistant captain Joe Boselli, and senior assistant captain Jack Coulter. All three have skated plenty of minutes for Carlow over the past couple of years and will be relied upon for their leadership.

Daniels is a crafty forward that scored five goals and had six assists while Coulter is the top returning scorer back this year after scoring six goals and recording nine assists a year ago. Seniors Bryan Lucente and Noah Ray will also be in the mix offensively alongside Daniels, Coulter, and Boselli. The Warriors will also rely on a handful of juniors to chip in offensively including forward Conor Cooke. Cooke had a terrific season with 10 goals and four assists and could be poised for a breakout year.

Defensively, there is a lot of veterans along the blue line for King Philip. Seniors Kyle Gray and Ethan McGuire are joined by junior Rocco Bianculli, a Hockomock League All Star and a HocomockSports.com All Underclassman selection a year ago. Gray is a three-year player that provides physicality while Bianculli is one of the top scoring defensemen in the entire league, scoring seven goals and adding seven assists during his sophomore season. Seniors Nate Ihley and Jesper Makudera will battle for minutes in net.

“I’m really looking forward to this season,” Carlow said. “On top of the seniors and juniors, we also have a strong sophomore class competing for spots. We have speed up front, we’re strong on the back end, and we have two good goalies. I’m looking forward to working with this group and fully expect them to make the tournament.”

Mansfield

2018-2019 Record: 14-6-3
2018-2019 Finish: Reached Div. 1 South First Round
Coach: Mike Balzarini

Mansfield head coach Mike Balzarini was a little concerned about his team’s depth coming into the season after graduating nine players and losing two top players to prep school. But after tryouts and a strong preseason, Balzarini believes this year’s squad will be just as deep as last year’ 14-win squad.

Losing a talented senior class hurts, and with Matt Copponi (eight goals, 28 assists, 2019 HockomockSports.com Underclassman of the Year) and Brian Grant (HockomockSports.com All Underclassmen Team) off to prep schools, the Hornets will need new faces to step up and contribute on both ends of the ice. But Balzarini and the Hornets have something that none of the other Hockomock teams have and that’s senior goalie Sean McCafferty. Now in his fourth year starting, McCafferty is a game-changer. Even if the Hornets aren’t having their best games, they’ll still likely have a chance to win because of McCafferty.

In front of McCafferty, the Hornets will turn to senior Joseph Troiano to anchor the defensive unit. He will be joined by Jack Gormley and Conor Benoit, both of whom picked up valuable minutes last season and should help Mansfield be one of the stingiest defensive groups. Offensively, the Hornets do get a boost with the return of senior forward Chris Jenkins. Jenkins was named to the HockomockSports.com All Underclassmen Team in 2017 after he had 11 goals and 10 assists as a freshman. He will join veterans Jake Lund and Kevin Belanger to form a talented first line for the Hornets. Cam Paige, Liam Anastasia, and Ben Ierardo will team up on Mansfield’s second line.

“We have a little bit of a sour taste after how last year ended,” Balzarini said. “We want to get over that hurdle of the first round of the playoffs. This group really plays well together, they play as a team. They’ve gelled nicely since the first day of tryouts.”

North Attleboro

2018-2019 Record: 11-9-2
2018-2019 Finish: Reached Div. 2 South Quarterfinals
Coach: Ben McManama

North Attleboro will be leaning on its defense in order to get back to the tournament again this season. With the defending state champs in Canton as well as an improved Foxboro squad, the Rocketeers have their hands full with a difficult three-team Davenport division.

Seniors Jake McNeany, Will Yeomans, Jeff Baker, and junior Charlie Connolly are all back this season to give North Attleboro a veteran defensive group. With a handful of experienced players leading the way defensively, it should make the transition from four-year starting goalie Ryan Warren a bit smoother. Another reason that transition should go smoothly is senior goalie Nick Digiacomo, who has been impressive in the preseason so far this year.

Senior Dennis Morehouse is back after a breakout junior campaign and will be in the mix as one of the top players in the Hockomock League this season. Morehouse was second on the team in points last year with 15 goals and four assists and is the top returning scorer back for the Rocketeers. Senior Jack Connolly is another experienced forward that will be a key piece of the offense while junior Tyler Sarro will look to build upon a solid sophomore season.

“For us to be successful, we need to be discipline and get scoring from our second and third lines,” said North Attleboro coach Ben McManama. “We are not as big as we were in years past so we need to play tough and physical.”

Oliver Ames

2018-2019 Record: 14-9-1
2018-2019 Finish: Reached Div. 2 South Quarterfinal
Coach: Mike Zucarelli

There is a new face at the helm of the Tigers this season, but its a familiar one. Mike Zucarelli takes over after serving as an assistant coach and is optimistic about the upcoming season.

Replacing one of the league’s top forwards in Brett Williams won’t be easy, but the Tigers boast experienced returners at every position on the ice. Senior Owen Connor is back for his third year in between the pipes. He took a big jump from his sophomore to junior year and that Zucarelli expects that trend to continue for the 2019-2020 season. In front of Connor, OA returns senior defensemen Ryan Gottwald and Matt Nosalek. Gottwald, one of the team’s two captains, had an impressive junior year and will be the leader of the defensive group this season.

Offensively, there will be some familiar faces including senior captain Hunter Costello. Costello, who scored nine goals and had 15 assists in the regular season a year ago, is joined by fellow returners Jake Gottwald, Duncan Pereira, and Brad Powers. All four of those seniors will be vital in the attack while juniors Ross Carroll and Matt Nigro should see expanded roles this year.

“We are going to be a gritty, hardworking team this year,” Zucarelli said, citing a preseason scrimmage with Milton. “We held our own during the first as Milton took it to us. We came out flying in the second, tied up the game and took the momentum into the third period with a huge penalty kill. The overall play of the team after one week was great to see.”

Taunton

2018-2019 Record: 8-12-1
2018-2019 Finish: Missed playoffs
Coach: Kris Metea

The Tigers enter the season with a relatively young squad but the goal is to integrate all of the youth with the returners and make a push for the state tournament by the end of the season.

Junior Mike Albert will be the main guy on the offensive end. Albert, who scored 10 goals and added 19 assists last season, was the leading scorer for the Tigers as a sophomore and is looking to take the next step this year. Junior Steve Roderick and sophomores Jack DeMoura and Michael Lucier are all new to the program and should be in the mix right away to help bolster the Taunton attack.

Head coach Kris Metea is also counting on some of the younger players to have breakout seasons, including sophomores Nathan Fernandes, Loren Corcoran, and Evan Perreira. On the defensive side, junior Brady Nichols will anchor the blue line unit. Although just a junior, Nichols has a wealth of varsity experience and the Tigers will lean on him to guide a young defensive core. Senior Andrew Gomes and junior Sean Bunker will battle for minutes in net.

“We have a group of young players that we will look to continue to develop over the course of the season,” Metea said. “The key to our success will be the meshing of the new players with the development of young players. The sky’s the limit for this group with continued commitment.”