BOSTON, Mass. – Throughout its postseason run, Canton has been able to put teams on their heels almost from the drop of the puck and has mostly played from in front. On Saturday evening at the TD Garden, it was Tewksbury that got off to the quick start and the Bulldogs were never able to fully recover.
In a rematch of the 2019 Div. 2 title game, the Redmen came out with extra energy, scored twice in the first period and then held on in the third to secure a 3-1 win. Tewksbury clinched its first title since 2011, ended Canton’s win streak at 22 games, its postseason win streak at 13 games, and its bid at a third straight state championship.
“It was a heck of a hockey game,” said Canton coach Brian Shuman. “I think two of the better hockey teams in the state made it this far and Tewksbury came as advertised, outstanding team, especially on the back end, made it really hard to get any offense going in this game and then when you did get a couple opportunities against them their goalie made some great saves.”
He added, “Incredibly proud of our guys battling. It could’ve unraveled there when we went down 2-0 but we fought.”
It didn’t take the top seed long to show its intent to put pressure on the Canton defense. Jason Cooke forced a turnover in the attacking zone and fired a shot that freshman goalie Colin Davis turned aside with his blocker.
A couple minutes later, the Redmen took the lead. Caden Connors split a pair of Canton defensemen to get in on goal. He dragged Davis away from the net with a nice deke and the loose puck was knocked into the empty net by Matthew Cooke.
Things seemed to be just a little bit off for the Bulldogs. Passes didn’t seem quite as crisp or as accurate and pucks just seemed to be rolling off the blade at crucial times. Still, Canton kept battling and trying to create chances. Eddie Gillis set up a couple of shots, one from the blue line for Ryan Doucette and another on the forehand for AJ Thoams but Benjamin O’Keefe saved them both.
Davis came up with a big save with four minutes left in the first, as he stayed strong to deny a point-blank tip from Jason Cooke. Canton picked up a penalty on the back check and Tewksbury took advantage of the extra skater to double the lead. Connors again showed off his stick skills, weaving his way through three players before dragging it to the backhand while falling and depositing it in the open net.
“They did exactly what you want to do in a game like that, which is get the puck in the other team’s zone and keep it there for a while,” Shuman said about Tewksbury’s fast start. “Our goalie made some big saves. They set the tone for the game and, when that happens, it takes a little while to claw back in it, but I thought we did.”
Canton had a couple of chances at the end of the first. Eamon Kelly took a hit and forced a blocker save out of O’Keefe from the slot and Brennen Pecararo tried to match Connors with a dangle through the legs of the defensemen but O’Keefe closed down the five-hole.
Although shots were nearly even in the first (10-9), Tewksbury seemed to be creating more clear-cut chances. That continued at the start of the second. Another turnover gifted Cooke with a chance from close range that Davis saved. Two minutes in, Justin Rooney had a shot deflected and Doucette had to clear the rebound from the crease.
Brendan Tourgee tried to get things going with a steal in the neutral zone and a shorthanded slap shot that was partially blocked and kicked away by O’Keefe. With seven minutes left in the period, Canton had a great chance to get back into the game. Patrick Drurry’s shot from the left wing boards was kicked right to the stick of Brian Middleton in the slot, but the sophomore’s wrister was snagged by O’Keefe’s quick glove.
There were signs that the Bulldogs had turned the tide a little and they got a huge opportunity with their first power play. Sean Connolly twice had shots from the point saved, despite Jack Digirolamo providing a net-front presence, and Kelly forced a save with a wraparound try. Pecararo then hit Thomas right on the edge of the crease but again the Tewksbury goalie was there.
Canton made the breakthrough midway through the third period. Gillis collected the puck in the slot and slid a perfect pass into the path of an onrushing Thomas, who slammed in a one-timer to cut the lead to 2-1 with 7:13 to play.
“AJ’s had a great year,” Shuman said. “I think he surprised some people early on but he didn’t surprise anyone in our locker room. He’s got such a quick shot and he’s truly talented around the net.”
The spark of life from Canton was short-lived. In fact, it was Tewksbury that seemed to get a boost. Tyler Barnes spun and fired off a quick shot that Davis did well to turn aside, Ryan Flynn jumped on a mistake to race in alone but smacked the bar, and then Barnes got behind the defense on another breakaway only for Davis to shut down the five-hole and keep the Bulldogs in it.
With Canton pressing forward in the final minute and the net empty, Connors was able to break free down the left wing and he sealed the win for the Redmen.
When asked what it meant to be back playing at the Garden, especially after the Bulldogs were denied that opportunity in 2020, Shuman said, “Give me this any day of the week, to be here and give the kids the chance to play in this wonderful place, this amazing venue, and it’s just great to be back playing postseason sports. There’s nothing like it.”
Canton (22-3-1) has lost only four games in the past four seasons, including two unbeaten campaigns. In that span, the Bulldogs have won four league titles, extended their win streak in the Hockomock League to 43 games, won two state titles, made three state title game appearances, and compiled a remarkable record of 79-4-6.
“It’s a testament to the kids that we have,” Shuman said about the sustained success of the program. “You look up in the stands there and you see all these Canton youth hockey players and these younger players from Canton that dream about being out there and they work hard so that they can make it out there and they work hard so they can make our program great when they do make it here.
“I think it’s a community effort and a community love for the sport and I think it just feeds itself.”
LOWELL, Mass. – It isn’t often that Canton goes into a game as an underdog, but with No. 2 seed Gloucester waiting in the Div. 2 semifinal at the Tsongas Center, the third-seeded Bulldogs knew that they were facing a battle-tested opponent with a strong resume.
All of the concerns about the Fishermen were thrown overboard just five minutes into the first period when Canton stormed out of the locker room and scored four goals on their first seven shots. Behind two goals apiece from senior defensemen Sean Connolly and Brennen Pecararo, the Bulldogs rolled to a 6-3 victory and return to the TD Garden for the third straight season.
Canton, the two-time defending state champion, has now won 22 straight games this season (following an 0-2-1 start) and has won 13 straight in the playoffs dating back to the 2018 South semifinal.
“You have to just look at this crew and have so much respect for what they’ve done because they have big shoes to fill,” said Canton coach Brian Shuman. “We have some alums here right now that were part of those 2019 and 2020 [state title-winning] teams and they feel the pressure and I think they really did take it one game at a time. It’s not a cliche, just their approach to the game.
Connolly, who was a freshman on the 2019 team that played at the Garden, said, “It means everything. It’s what we all dreamed about as kids. Hoisting that trophy above your head is a memory that’s going to last a lifetime.”
When asked about getting back to the Garden after the pandemic took away that opportunity in 2020, Connolly replied, “It’s a redemption game. I remember sitting in a classroom, all of us bawling our eyes out. To get the chance to get right back at it, I can’t wait.”
Just seconds into the game, Gloucester looked like it might have the chance to grab the lead when Emerson Marshall got behind the defense but a strong back check helped dislodge the puck right before he was able to shoot. Things swung down the other end and it was Canton that grabbed the advantage. Pecararo, who joined the team after playing in juniors for three seasons, sniped a shot over Gloucester goalie Nick Tarantino’s shoulder on the first shot of the night.
Only 86 seconds later and the lead was doubled. This time it was Connolly, who limped off the ice two rounds ago after an injury in the closing minute against Plymouth North, throwing a puck at the net. It went through a crowd of bodies in front and past the unsighted goalie.
Before the Canton crowd had even settled down, the Bulldogs added another. Only 13 seconds into a power play (and 48 seconds after the second goal), Brendan Tourgee made a perfect angled pass from the left wing boards right to the stick of Connolly, who didn’t need a second touch, knocking his one-timer into the open net.
“Those two guys have played well all year long,” Shuman said about Connolly and Pecararo. “There are two guys who have been huge forces for us offensively, but most importantly defensively. Their game starts in the D zone out and I thought they played great defensively and generated some opportunities in the offense too.”
Things went from bad to worse for the Fisherman a little over a minute later. Tarantino made the initial stop by Eddie Gillis was on hand to collect the rebound and put it away. Even up 4-0, Canton didn’t stop, as Tourgee and Eamon Kelly forced Tarantino into good pad saves and AJ Thomas dragged his way past a defenseman and put a backhand off the goalie’s pads. Canton outshot Gloucester 18-5 in the first (41-21 for the night).
“We’ve been in a couple of those games over the years,” Shuman explained, “late round games that we start off really well and it’s great, don’t get me wrong, but you know that there is a lot of game left and they are a really, really good team. For our guys to come out and play with that kind of poise at the start was really awesome, I’m so proud of them.”
If the Fishermen though that the intermission would slow Canton down, Pecararo showed that was wishful thinking. He made a nice move to keep the puck in at the blue line and fed Thomas, who went top shelf to make it 5-0 less than 90 seconds into the period. With 8:55 left in the second, Pecararo doubled his tally for the night with a pinpoint shot from the point.
“He’s awesome, one of my best friends, and I was glad to get him back this year,” Connolly said of Pecararo. “We do well together and he’s a great addition to our locker room and on the ice.”
Throughout the postseason, Shuman has talked about teams playing with more urgency and desperation when trailing. Taking advantage of a power play, Gloucester started to find that sense of urgency and tallied twice in only 23 seconds to try and make a game of it. Joseph Orlando knocked in a rebound for the first and a nice pass across the crease from Jack Costanzo to Brett Cunningham accounted for the second.
Gloucester turned the tide in the final few minutes of the second and started to put pressure on freshman goalie Colin Davis, who made a series of big stops down the stretch despite the Fishermen throwing as many bodies at the net as possible. Davis made a big stop early in the third after a long rush by Costanzo and denied Colby Jewell on a point-blank stop to keep the four-goal lead.
As the third period wore on, Canton regained its footing and created a series of chances against Gloucester’s backup goalie Riley De Haan. Connolly’s shot forced a save and Jeffrey Chaput sent the rebound just wide. Another Connolly shot was tipped in front by Sam Carlino, but the goalie stayed with it. Tommy Phaneuf had a wrap around try stopped by the goalie’s toe.
Although Gloucester would get a third on a Costanzo power play goal with less than a minute remaining, Canton was able to celebrate another victory and another trip to a state final. It is a special moment for a team that missed out on a chance to skate at the Garden two years ago.
“I think it’s exciting just to be back out there in the playoffs,” said Shuman. “Last year, we were so lucky just to be out there skating and this is great. You cannot beat a playoff high school sports season.”
Canton (22-2-1) will take on top seed Tewksbury in the final, in a rematch of the 2019 championship game that the Bulldogs won 6-2 to complete an unbeaten season. The game is scheduled for Sunday at 3:15 at the TD Garden.
CANTON, Mass. – It took a few minutes for Canton to find its footing in Wednesday night’s Div. 2 Sweet Sixteen matchup with No. 14 seed Plymouth North at the Canton Ice House. The Bulldogs found themselves on the wrong end of a 5-on-3 power play and their play didn’t have its typical sharpness.
But, the Bulldogs still found the breakthrough midway through the first and then took full control of the game with a two-goal burst in the final minute of the period, including a goal from AJ Thomas with no time on the clock. That surge turned out to be decisive, as the two-time defending state champs would hold off the Eagles for a 4-1 victory.
Canton extended its win streak this season to 20 games and its playoff win streak to 11 games, going back to the D2 South semifinal in 2018.
“It started off well and then some penalties and stuff that kind of took us out of our rhythm, but they’re a good team,” said Canton coach Brian Shuman. “They worked hard from start to finish and they played with more of a sense of urgency when they were down but we had our chances. We had plenty of chances and their goalie played very well.”
The game got off to a sluggish start in part because, before either team had gotten into a flow, there were three penalties called in the opening four minutes. Canton was spent almost 90 seconds down two players, but managed to kill off the Plymouth North power play and keep the game scoreless. It was a big early boost.
“Credit to our guys killing off that 5-on-3, that was huge,” said Shuman. “You still see some nervous energy out there with some of our younger guys and we just have to battle through it and not find ourselves in the penalty box early in the game. Credit to our PK team, they did a great job killing those early ones off.”
Patrick Drury had one of the few good chances early in the game for Canton when his shot from the right wing circle forced a pad save out of Kaden Bono. About two minutes later, Canton had the lead. Eddie Gillis blocked a clearance in the slot, spun quickly and snapped off a shot that went inches wide. The Bulldogs kept battling to keep the puck in deep and Gillis wound up in the right spot to jam in a shot at the near post.
Things started to click into gear as time went on in the first. James Young made a nice pass up the far boards into the path of Andrew Valkanas, who raced down the left wing and forced another good pad save from Bono.
Canton’s best passing move of the night led to the second goal. Brendan Tourgee drove forward through the neutral zone and flipped a pass out to the left to Eamon Kelly, who in turn dropped a pass into the path of defenseman Brennen Pecararo. The senior, who played juniors for his first three seasons and started the season as a forward, smashed his one-timer past Bono.
“As soon as we moved him back to D, the third or fourth game, things have really settled down back there,” Shuman said of Pecararo. “He’s just a really strong defender but he sees the ice really well, can move the puck, and he’s been a real offensive and defensive strength for us this year.”
The Bulldogs beat the buzzer to add to the lead. Brian Middleton took a perfect outlet pass right down the middle but his breakaway opportunity was denied by Bono. Thomas was hustling to follow up the play and he was able to collect the rebound and snipe the top far corner just before the horn sounded.
Leading 3-0, Canton could’ve relaxed but the Bulldogs came out aggressive to start the second. Jay Kelleher held a puck in at the blue line and set up Thomas going to the net only for Bono to make a good stop.
Three minutes into the second, Thomas had another chance saved. The loose puck popped out to Pecararo pinching in but his shot just missed the open net. Thomas continued to fight for the puck on the side of the net and roofed a shot for his second and the team’s fourth.
Valkanas teed up Tourgee for a quick release shot that forced a pad stop from Bono and Pecararo later kept a puck in the zone to set up Thomas for a chance at a hat trick but the Eagles’ goalie made another good save.
The visitors would be outshot 32-19 for the game but weren’t without chances of their own. Evan Hallissey and Kevin Norwood both gave the Canton defense some issues with their speed but freshman Colin Davis continued to be a rock in goal, denying the Eagles from close range on several chances over the final two periods.
Plymouth North did get some momentum before the end of the second. Josh Bates had a steal at the blue line and raced forward for a shorthanded breakaway and he ripped it high to the glove side to make it 4-1.
Rather than let the Eagles build on that momentum in the third, Davis and the Canton defense were able to largely keep things tight in the defensive zone and the attackers were able to keep pressure down the other end of the ice.
There weren’t a lot of great chances for Canton, Valkanas had one shot saved and nearly connected with Tourgee right in front and Kelly forced a nice blocker save after a steal, but the Bulldogs remained in control throughout.
Shuman explained, “Those games are often tough, when you get up early on a team, desperation kicks in on their side, they really elevate their game, and that’s what happened to Plymouth North. They really elevated their game in the second and third period, in particular, and I thought our guys did a good job of still controlling the play and getting some chances.”
Canton (20-2-1) will face No. 6 seed Walpole in the D2 quarterfinal at a date, time, and location to be determined.
CANTON, Mass. – Despite Canton dominating play in the third period and holding King Philip to just two shots in the final 15 minutes, the Warriors went into the final three minutes holding onto a one-goal lead. It would be a rare win for KP in the series, a rare win for any Hockomock League team against the Bulldogs, and a chance to take a big early step towards a second straight league title.
But, there is a reason that Canton went into Wednesday night’s game at the Metropolis Rink having won 36 straight league games. The Bulldogs scored a pair of goals in 1:39, completed a comeback after being down two goals twice in the game, and pulled out a dramatic 4-3 victory.
“It’s huge for our psyche,” Canton coach Brian Shuman said. “It’s good for our guys to see that they can come from two goals down. Hopefully they’re not in that position too often, but it’s still good to build that mental toughness.”
After the game, KP coach Paul Carlow rued the missed opportunity to grab a lead in the Kelley-Rex division, even if it is just three games into the league campaign.
“They pinned us in in the third,” he explained. “They outshot us and outplayed us in the third period. Instead of continuing to take it to them, it felt like we were more trying to hang on. That never works.”
It was all KP at the start of the game. The Warriors came out flying and needed only 27 seconds to pick up the opening goal. Shaun Fitzpatrick did good work down the right wing, driving at the net and drawing a couple of Canton defensemen. He flipped the puck out in front to Sean Crowther, who sent the puck through a crowd of legs across the crease where James Boldy was standing all alone to tap into the empty net.
Rather than being a wake up call for the home team, the goal seemed to spur the Warriors on for more. Fiztpatrick collected the puck against the right wing boards and turned towards goal. He had a free path right at Canton goalie Aiden French (18 saves) and stuffed the puck under the pads to make it 2-0 less than six minutes in.
Shuman said, “KP does a great job of getting pucks and bodies to the net and you saw that on the first goal. That’s their bread and butter and we struggled with that mightily tonight. We just weren’t tough enough out in front, we were puck watching, and losing guys. They play a tough brand of hockey.”
KP got a chance on the power play midway through the first and Max Robison forced French into a tough save on a shot from the point. Canton cleared the rebound. It was one of a couple chances that the Warriors had to try and extend the lead, but the Bulldogs held on and got the kill.
Only 13 seconds after getting back to even strength, Canton was on the board. AJ Thomas’ pressure on the forecheck caused a turnover in the attacking zone. His first shot from point-blank range was stopped by KP goalie Kyle Abbott (28 saves) but Thomas stuck with it and knocked in the rebound, cutting the lead in half.
The goal seemed to give Canton momentum, as the Bulldogs went into the locker room on the front foot, but it didn’t carry over to the second period. Only nine seconds elapsed before KP added a third. Boldy snapped off a wrsiter just as he was entering the zone on the left wing and French appeared to be unsighted as the puck flew under the bar on the stick side.
“We had some really good chances and then didn’t convert,” said Carlow. “Canton had the momentum off the kill and then I think they scored the very next shift and now it’s a one-goal game. We got a goal to start the second and I think we just kind of ran out of gas.”
Canton needed a spark. Sophomore Brendan Tourgee nearly had a quick response when he sailed into the zone, split a pair of defensemen and got off a backhand shot from a tight angle that Abbott kept out. Sam Carlino had a partial break for the Bulldogs but Robison hustled back to get a piece of the shot from the right face-off dot.
The Bulldogs were able to cut into the lead midway through the second. After a couple of shots from the point by Sean Connolly that Abbott pushed aside, they swung it across the blue line to Ryan Doucette. His shot was heading wide of the post but sophomore Brian Middleton was able to get a telling touch on it to sneak it past Abbott low at the near post.
“To get one there was big and that line of Middleton, (Patrick) Drury, and Blake continue to get it done and I think our other guys can learn a little bit from them because they’re having success and getting big goals just by getting to the tough, dirty areas,” said Shuman.
KP tried to hold on in the third, blocking shots and trying to keep the Bulldogs away from the crease. Eddie Gillis nearly set up Thomas for a tying goal, but Abbott stayed with the tip in front and kept it out. Tourgee then showed off his strength on the puck, holding off two defensemen to allow the Bulldogs to get back onside and then turning into the zone, forcing Abbott into a good save with his shoulder.
Connolly had another shot from the point that forced Abbott into a save. Tommy Phaneuf corralled the rebound in front but was pressured off the puck and couldn’t get a shot on target.
While the chances were piling up, the clock was winding down. Finally, with 2:42 to play. Tourgee found the back of the net. He dragged the puck through a stick check on the left wing boards and then angled towards goal. His backhand shot through the crease somehow snuck through a thicket of legs and found the far corner.
“He’s so gifted on the puck,” Shuman said of Tourgee. “He’s strong on the puck, he’s fast, he’s just got a nose for the net. I think he’s got to trust getting pucks to the net instead of always trying to pick those corners because you can see how offensively gifted he is.”
The pressure continued, as Canton outshot KP 13-3 in the final period. With 1:03 to go, the Bulldogs got the winner. Brennen Pecararo dropped a pass back to sophomore Colin Blake and he pounced on the chance in the slot, slamming the puck into the back of the net.
KP had one last look with the goalie pulled and less than 10 seconds on the clock, but Brad Guden’s shot from the point hit a body to the side of the post and ricocheted into the corner.
“We just got off to a tough start this year with injuries and illness,” Carlow said. “I think we had eight out sick the first week of the season, so we got off to a tough start and we’re just trying to get rolling.”
Canton (4-2-1) will be back home on Saturday afternoon to face Mansfield, which was the last team to hand the Bulldogs a league loss back in February 2017. King Philip (2-4-1) returns to Canton on Saturday night, this time at the IcePlex, to take on Archbishop Williams.
By HockomockSports.com Staff
2021-2022 Hockomock Boys Hockey Preview
2020-2021 Record: 1-8-0
Coach: Greg Chamberlain
Attleboro had a difficult 2020-21 season, as delays and big breaks early in the season led to three games in three days to close things out. The Bombardiers will be hoping that they can build off that experience and make a push to get back into the postseason mix with several underclassmen stepping in to supplement the returning corps.
The offense has depth to it this season and head coach Greg Chamberlain is expecting a lot of grit and effort in the attacking zone to create scoring chances. Senior Nate Parker will be the leader of the forward line but he will get help from juniors Colin Flynn and Mike Lachance, who have both had two seasons on varsity already. Freshmen Austin Bessette and Nate Conroy have impressed the coaches in the preseason and could be ready to contribute right away.
Defense could be a strong unit this season, as the Bombardiers have decent skaters and decent depth along the blue line. Senior Sean Marshall will be the key to that group, providing on-ice leadership. Sophomore Dane Holske had a good first season on varsity and can help out both in defense and at forward. Senior Nick Piazza is capable of being one of the top netminders in the league and will be back between the pipes for Attleboro this season.
“Biggest thing that is a positive for us is the guys wanna earn some respect and be tough to play against,” said Chamberlain. “We understand what we have but we think our schedule can help us gain some real confidence.”
2020-2021 Record: 11-0-1
Coach: Brian Shuman
The Davenport division has been ruled by Canton, which has won the title every season since the league split. The Bulldogs bring back a lot of returning players to hunt a 12th straight league title and defend the Div. 2 state title that they won back in 2019-20, but for many of the players, this will be their first season with a full slate of games.
Canton is known for its goalscoring, but the Bulldogs typically start from the defensive zone and this year should be no different. Senior Sean Connolly, the reigning league MVP, will be back at the blue line alongside classmate Ryan Doucette. Juniors James Young and Leo Owens should also see plenty of time on the ice with seniors Brennen Pecararo and Jay Kelleher slotting in at defense or at forward. The goalie job is up for grabs coming into the season with a three-way battle going on between senior Aiden French, junior Carson Eagles, and freshman Collin Davis.
As usual, the Bulldogs should be potent in front of the goal this winter. Senior Eamon Kelly, the team’s leading scorer last year, is back for his fourth season on varsity. Seniors Andrew Valkanas, Tommy Phaneuf, Sam Carlino, and Eddie Gillis will all chip in and junior Jeff Chaput could be poised for a big season after scoring 13 points last year.
“Solid team defense is the expectation as always this season, and we ask all positions to be important players all over the ice,” said Canton coach Brian Shuman. “Our forwards need to be able to shut down opponents and our defense must contribute to our offensive production to have a successful year.”
2020-2021 Record: 4-6-0
Coach: Mark Cedorchuk
Just two years removed from one of the best seasons in program history, Foxboro comes into the winter with an experienced squad, featuring nine seniors, to try and make another push for a state tournament berth. Although the Warriors went 4-6 in the shortened 2020-21 season, four of those losses were against Franklin and Canton and the other two were to North Attleboro by a combined three goals, so there is potential for the Warriors to get back to their 2019-20 form.
The forward line should have plenty of firepower this season with the return of seniors Jack Watts, Matt Grace, and Ben Ricketts, who combined for 13 goals in 10 games last year. Fellow forwards Derek Axon and Steven Bridges will give Foxboro good leadership and depth in the forward line. The Warriors also got plenty of scoring from the blue line, with senior Tom Marcucella adding four goals and three assists last winter.
Improvements in the defensive zone (and not playing almost every game against the league’s top-scoring teams) will be expected this season. Marcucella is listed as a defenseman but has the versatility to line up in multiple positions and he will be helped on defense by classmates Dylan Pothier and Brady Callahan. Junior Alex Coviello and sophomore Sully Kenneally are also going to step into bigger roles on the blue line this season.
“I would say all nine of our seniors are going to be major contributors and that’s definitely a first for Foxboro hockey and it’s a good thing!” said Foxboro coach Mark Cedorchuk. “I would say we will be skilled and experienced.”
2020-2021 Record: 10-2-1
Coach: Anthony Sarno
This will be a new-look Franklin team that takes the ice this season, looking to win its 11th straight league title and make a deep run in the postseason. The Panthers graduated 16 seniors from last year’s team and only return seven players with significant varsity experience to try and manage a schedule loaded with some of the best teams in the state.
Senior forward Dylan Marchand is the key returning player in the forward line. The team’s leading scorer last year, the speedy center scored eight goals and nine assists in 13 games. Seniors Justin Magazu and Domenic Lampasona and juniors Ben Jarosz and Ryan Sicchio will also return to add more firepower to the attacking end of the ice. With 14 new players on the roster, there could be a lot of new names on the score sheet this winter.
Defensively, the Panthers will lean on experienced players like seniors Aidan Hunt and Jack MacKinnon to guide the younger players, as they take on the high-end talent that Franklin will face right from the start of the season. In goal, sophomore Cole Pouliot-Porter and freshman Jack O’Connor will both get chances between the pipes.
“I am optimistic with the youth we have and excited to watch us grow together,” said Franklin coach Anthony Sarno. “We will just have to weather the ebbs and flows, try to remain even-keeled, communicate, and trust each other as a team in order for us to grow and move forward as a complete unit.”
2020-2021 Record: 9-1-0
Coach: Paul Carlow
Last season, King Philip won a share of its first league title since 2006, picking up a rare win against rival Franklin in the process. With 12 returning players and a roster that has 16 upperclassmen, the Warriors will try to make more history by winning back-to-back titles for the first time in program history and also put together a run in the state tournament.
There are four players coming back this year that averaged a point per game in 2020-21. Three of those players are forwards. Seniors Shaun Fitzpatrick and Sean Crowther and junior James Boldy, who combined for 15 goals and 22 assists in 10 games last season. Senior Nolan Feyler will be a big boost, as the forward had a strong sophomore season but missed all of last year due to an injury. Senior Kevin Birenbaum is another of the nine seniors on the forward line.
Sophomore defenseman Brad Guden is the fourth Warrior who averaged a point per game last year. He broke into the lineup and scored 10 times and had 10 assists in his first varsity season. Seniors Nolan Jackson and Quin Garstka add leadership and experience at the blue line and sophomore Max Robison returns after an impressive rookie season. Senior Kyle Abbott will be back between the pipes for the Warriors.
“We have a tough schedule this season but we are looking to challenge for another Hockomock League title,” said KP coach Paul Carlow. We have great leadership from our seniors and a good mix of skill and speed with the younger players. I’m really looking forward to working with this group and build on last year’s success.”
2020-2021 Record: 5-6-0
Coach: Mike Balzarini
With its top six forwards all back from last year, there is optimism that Mansfield will consistently put the puck in the back of the net and in turn, challenge for the Kelley-Rex division title.
And another big positive for the Hornets is junior Chris Hormann back between the pipes with a solid amount of varsity experience now under his belt. That combination of experience in the offensive zone and in the crease is what Mansfield is hoping translates to success. The challenge will be getting a new mix of defensemen working together as the Hornets graduated the majority of that unit.
Leading scorer Mark DeGirolamo returns with a lot of varsity experience under his belt, coming off a season with eight goals and five assists. He’s joined by Dillon Benoit (7 goals, 5 assists), Kyle Oakley (2 goals, 5 assists), Doherty (2 goals, 3 assists), Liam Anastasia (6 goals, 5 assists), and Brayden Purtell (4 goals, 2 assists). As the stats suggest, the Hornets have a very even top two lines which means head coach Mike Balzarini can trust both units to get it done.
Looks for the line of Cullen Egan, Cody Gordon, and Connor Davey to provide energy and some offensive punch throughout the season. Balzarini is looking for some new faces to step up on the blue line. A mix of depth pieces are back, and the Hornets have converted some forwards to defensemen looking to solidify that unit. Patrick Gormley, Brendan Flynn, Will Cameron, Ryan DeGirolamo, and Ty Carroll are all in the mix to get some minutes.
“Last season was difficult for everyone so we’re excited for a more normal year,” Balzarini said. “We’re going to be quick and we have multiple lines that can be a factor for us. We’ve seen some success on offense in our scrimmages so scoring should be a strength, these kids are working well together.”
2021-2022 Hockomock Boys Hockey Preview
2020-2021 Record: 8-6-0
Coach: Kyle Heagney
North Attleboro returns 14 players from last year’s roster, including two of the league’s top three scorers, and the Rocketeers will be looking to use that experience under first-year coach Kyle Heagney (who formerly coached Norton and was a North assistant the past two seasons) to challenge Canton at the top of the Davenport division and to put together a playoff run.
Although the Rocketeers bring back senior forwards Nik Kojoain and Brady Sarro, who combined for 41 points in 14 games last year, North is a team built on hard work and team effort in the offensive zone, rather than on individual stars. Seniors Sam Clarke and Nick Longa and juniors Joe Quinn and Mark Ayvazyan will provide plenty of help in front of goal and all have plenty of experience at the varsity level.
North graduated only one of its defensemen from last year. Senior Austin Comery will be the leader for North at the blue line and he will be assisted by classmate Anthony Westcott. Sophomore Kyle Gruber is back in goal for North after an impressive debut season, where he was thrown in against some of the league’s top teams, including a first appearance against Canton.
“Our strength is that we are not a team of superstars,” said Heagney. “We are a team of hockey players that will win first in the locker room before the ice. We look forward to the season and having fun. These are memories that will live forever with our players.”
2021-2022 Hockomock Boys Hockey Preview
2020-2021 Record: 1-10-0
Coach: Mike Zucarelli
Oliver Ames has been in a rebuilding phase under head coach Mike Zucarelli. The Tigers won just once in the shortened 2020-21 season and head into this winter with a roster loaded with underclassmen. While this may be a difficult season, Zucarelli is excited for the potential on his team and the growth the program is making for the future.
Seniors Cam Tower and Eliot Cohen will be instrumental in shoring things up at the blue line. The two defensemen will need to provide leadership for the younger players and help limit the opposition scoring chances. Junior forwards Sean McCarthy and Jack Perron will hope to improve the team’s scoring punch as well, after OA was held to 10 goals in 11 games last year. Zucarelli is already seeing more confidence and better decision-making in the offensive zone and is hoping the team’s work rate will lead to more chances.
With seven sophomores on the roster, OA will rely on its youth movement to turn things around. After a lot of growth in the offseason (both physically and mentally), Zucarelli thinks that the septet is ready for the challenges of playing varsity hockey day-in, day-out. Winger Andrew Livingstone and center Matt Lawson will add to the team’s production in the offensive zone and defenseman Landon Grothe could be a standout in the defensive end of the ice. Junior Brandon Burke had a solid summer with his club team and will be the starting goalie for the Tigers this winter.
“If we continue to put in the effort I have seen both on and off the ice to start this year, I believe these young men have the opportunity to do something special,” Zuccarelli said.
2020-2021 Record: 0-6-1
Coach: Kris Metea
Taunton had a tough 2020-21 season, as the Tigers were only able to six games, and come into a winter of transition. The roster is going to be very young, with only nine upperclassmen (juniors and seniors) in the program, so there will be a lot of younger players getting their first taste of varsity action and others experiencing a full season for the first time.
The forward line has a lot of speed and the Tigers are going to rely on that energy to try and create scoring chances. Senior Nathan Fernandes is the most experienced forward returning and he will be joined up top by junior Connor McGrath.
Defensively, the Tigers will be an inexperienced group but there is potential and the desire to get better over the course of the season. Senior Ethan Ross will be the leader at the blue line and junior Colton Scheralis can add his experience there as well. Freshman Cameron Tomaszycki will be jumping between the pipes this season to get his first varsity action.
“We are happy to be back for a full year,” said Taunton coach Kris Metea. “Last season was full of delays, pauses, and feelings of frustrations that made for a very long, short, season. The lessons learned from last season has made the players within the program grateful for a return to a more normal season. We will plan to improve every day and be a better, more complete team by the end of the season.”