Strong Start Carries Canton Over Oliver Ames

Canton boys hockey
Canton’s Chris Lavoie tries to skate past Oliver Ames’ James Beatty in the first period at Asiaf Arena. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
BROCKTON, Mass. – Every team aims to get off to a good start, but few accomplish it as well as the Canton boys hockey team did on Saturday evening.

The Bulldogs scored twice inside the first minute of the game and had a third goal before the midway point of the first period, eventually skating away with a 5-2 decision over Oliver Ames.

Canton needed just 12 seconds to find the back of the net, doubled the lead in similar fashion at the 58 second mark, and again won a battle down low with 9:51 to go in the first to build a 3-0 lead.

“That’s as a good as I’ve seen coaching Canton High,” said Canton head coach Brian Shuman. “It was a good start, we came out flying, but you knew it was going to settle down at some point and [Oliver Ames] was going to play better. And it did and it was an even hockey game. When you play like a team like OA, and you know each other as well as we do, it’s going to tighten up eventually and it did. They are a good team, they run three good lines, four good [defensemen] and a good goalie. It was a good hockey game.”

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

After quickly getting possession in the attacking zone, Canton senior Matt Martin fired a low shot that was turned aside by OA junior goalie Owen Connor (18 saves) with a pad stop but the rebound was won by junior Timmy Kelleher and he quickly lifted the puck into the back of the net for a 1-0 lead with 14:48 left.

Canton continued to apply pressure and doubled its advantage with a similar play. Junior Chris Lavoie came streaking down the left side along the boards before rifling a low shot that was once again denied by Connor. But once again, Canton had plenty of help in front with senior Ryan Nolte providing a screen in front and junior Shane Marshall there to clean up the loose puck to make it 2-0 just 58 seconds into the game.

“We’d like to have the first minute back, yeah,” said OA head coach Sean Bertoni. “We knew what we were in for and it’s kind of ironic because we worked on a lot of 3-on-3 down low all week and that’s how they scored the first three goals. They came out hard, they wanted it more…that’s how Canton plays. They were hungry out front and we weren’t. We just didn’t take sticks, we were in position, but we just didn’t take sticks, and Canton wanted it more.”

The Bulldogs didn’t relent after building a 2-0 goal, pushing forward and finding the back of the net just over five minutes into the game. This time the set up came from junior Ronan O’Mahoney, who sent the puck towards the net from a step inside the blue line. The puck didn’t make it through, blocked down by a body in front and Canton senior Joe Robinson was the first to react, batting in the loose put for a 3-0 lead, all before Oliver Ames was able to register a shot on goal.

The Tigers’ first shot on goal came with 6:45 left in the first and Oliver Ames made the most of it. Senior Brett Williams connected with classmate Max Ward in front and he directed the puck into the back of the net to get the Tigers on the board, down 3-1.

Oliver Ames started the second period with a power play, but it was quickly erased by a tripping call to make it 4-on-4. Canton had over a minute and a half of power play time when the 4-on-4 elapsed, but good forechecking from Williams and freshman Brian Kearns prevented Canton from creating any real chances.

Junior Johnny Hagan nearly extended Canton’s lead with 9:50 left in the second period when Kelleher set him up in the slot but Connor made a terrific save to keep the puck out and the deficit at two.

But just over a minute later, Connor had no chance when Lavoie was left all alone in front. Marshall did the dirty work, pinning the puck in behind the net and drew the attention of three OA players. Marshall delivered a perfectly weighted pass in front to Lavoie and he one-timed it in to make it 4-1.

OA had a power play in the final minutes of the period and had a couple of looks but couldn’t solve Canton goalie Michael Staffiere for a second time. First, Kearns centered a pass to junior Jake Gottwald but he was tied up by a pair of Bulldogs defensemen and couldn’t get a stick on it. Moments later, senior Julian Krowski fed sophomore Ross Carroll but his bid from in close was denied.

The third period belonged to the defenses as neither side could generate much offense. Ward had one of the best chances just over five minutes into the period but saw his shot go just over the bar. It wasn’t until 3:17 left in the game that the pace picked up again.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Ward was on the receiving end of assists from Williams and Kearns, finishing off a chance in front to bring the Tigers within two late in the game. OA had another good look on the stick of Williams, but Staffiere came up with a big save.

Kelleher scored an empty net goal on an assist from Hagan with less than a minute to go to ice the game.

Canton boys hockey (4-0-0 Hockomock, 8-0-0 overall) is back in action on Wednesday when it travels to Foxboro to take on the Warriors at 5:20. Oliver Ames (2-2, 7-4) will try to bounce back on Wednesday when it hosts North Attleboro at 5:00.

Power Play Goals Lift Canton to Win Over Mansfield

Canton boys hockey
Canton junior Johnny Hagan scored twice and assisted on another goal to help the Bulldogs beat Mansfield 4-0 on Hockey Fights Cancer Night. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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CANTON, Mass. – Every team talks about the importance of cashing in on power play opportunities, but teams don’t typically expect to have as many chances as Canton did on Saturday night. The Bulldogs were given a man advantage 11 times against Mansfield and scored three times, including twice in the first period to take control.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Special teams were the story of the night for Canton, which added a crucial shorthanded goal late in the third period that sealed the win, and the Bulldogs skated away with a 4-0 victory over the Hornets on Hockey Fights Cancer night at the Canton Ice House.

Mansfield started the game with a flurry of chances, using an early power play of its own to spark its offense. Matt Copponi, Jack Garland, and Jake Lund were some of the Hornets who created early scoring opportunities but were denied by Canton senior goalie Mike Staffiere (22 saves).

“We had good looks,” said Mansfield coach Mike Balzarini. “We didn’t give up, even the second period with all those penalties I thought the momentum was going our way. We had our chances but their goalie played well.”

With nine minutes left in the first, Brian Grant stepped up and had a chance driving to the net. Staffiere got a piece and the rebound trickled just wide of the post and seconds later Braedon Copparini had a shot that went narrowly wide as well.

“They’ve got a boatload of talent over there,” Canton coach Brian Shuman said. “They’ve got defensemen who are basically like forwards and we expected some flurries and it was good that we had a good goalie to back us up.”

Three minutes later, Canton took the lead. On the power play, Johnny Hagan weaved his way past several Mansfield defensemen and slipped a backhand shot under Mansfield goalie Sean McCafferty, who managed to keep it out but then the rebound was pounced on by Ryan Nolte.

Just three minutes later and the lead was doubled. After a penalty was called, the Bulldogs had a face-off to McCafferty’s left. Hagan was kicked out of the face-off and Nolte stepped in. He won the draw back to Hagan, who was cutting across the circle onto his forehand. The junior forward took the puck in stride and rifled a wrister inside the far post to make it 2-0.

Shuman said, “We had to mix it up a little bit. They knew we were going to run certain plays over and over and finally we just had to keep it simple and get some pucks to the net and get some guys out in front.”

McCafferty (35 saves) stopped a shorthanded breakaway chance by Tommy Ghostlaw before the end of the period and he kept that momentum going in the second, making 19 saves in that period alone. The Hornets were called for six penalties in the second and spent all but about three minutes on special teams in the period.

Hagan nearly got his second assist of the game when he set up Jack Connolly pinching in at the back post only to have McCafferty get across and get a shoulder to it. Hagan also hit the post and had another big chance saved when Connolly found him in space inside the circle.

Chris Lavoie had several chances driving towards the net from the right circle but couldn’t find the angle to beat the goalie. Tommy Vaughn had one of Canton’s best chances when he stole the puck from a Mansfield defenseman right in front of goal but sent his shot over the bar.

“You’re basically using six forwards and four ‘D’ and those guys get tired and credit to their goalie, he made some saves and they made some blocks,” Shuman explained. “It’s kind of ironic that when you’re on all those power plays it can wear you down a little bit, especially when you don’t score.”

Despite playing down a player for much of the period, Mansfield did have a couple of chances. Nick Levine had a shot from the point that was saved and the rebound nearly caromed back in off a Canton defenseman. The best chance of the period fell to Austin Ricker, who got a clean breakaway shorthanded only to be stoned by a great blocker save from Staffiere.

“Mike was probably tested the most he’s seen this year and he played the best he has this year,” said Shuman about his goalie. “He’s an exceptional goalie and he would’ve been a starter on any other team for the past two years if he wasn’t playing behind Quinn [Gibbs].”

Mansfield cleared off 1:16 of a penalty that extended into the third period and the Hornets were still in the game, down just two goals. Canton had the first good chance of the third when Ryan Colby rode a pair of challenges and still managed to slide the puck just wide of the post. Hagan and Nolte combined again on another power play chance but again McCafferty made the stop.

With six minutes to play, the teams traded great chances. Copponi flicked a pass into the slot for Coleman O’Brien but the senior missed the net with his shot and then seconds later Joe Robinson had a breakaway but the puck slid off the toe of his stick when he went to shoot.

““The second period, I think we had two minutes of 5-on-5 hockey,” said Balzarini. “They scored three power play goals and a shorthanded, but I thought when we played 5-on-5 we played well.”

Staffiere came through again to protect the lead when he made the save on a chance for Garland in the slot. That proved to be critical inside a minute when Hagan blocked a shot at the blue line, turned it into a breakaway and then calmly picked his spot to beat the goalie for a three-goal lead.

“That was huge,” said Shuman. “Last year we struggled to get out to the point and block shots and the past two games in particular, Joe Robinson last game and Johnny this game making huge blocks. You have to pay the price in this game.”

John Gormley had a chance for Mansfield that hit the bar and stayed out and with just a minute later, with three minutes left, Canton secured the victory on its 10th power play of the night. Connolly fired a shot from the point and Timmy Kelleher had the deft tip to find the back of the net.

Hockey Fights Cancer night at the Ice House was held in honor of Reo Todesca and Kristin Rocha, who were both connected to the Canton hockey program and both passed away a year ago. Proceeds from the night were donated to the Reo Todesca Memorial Foundation and the Kristin Rocha Memorial Scholarship.

“It was an intense hockey game but it was for a good cause,” said Shuman. “That’s really what the night is all about. We play a silly game and tonight the money raised is going to two good causes, so we’re happy about that.”

Canton (6-0) will travel to face King Philip on Wednesday night, while Mansfield (7-2) will travel to the New England Sports Village to face North Attleboro.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Canton Cashes In With Late Period Goals, Beats Franklin

Canton boys hockey
Canton’s Ryan Nolte sets up for a shot in the first period that turned into the Bulldogs’ first goal. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
CANTON, Mass. – There’s 15 minutes in each period, and the Canton boys hockey team made sure to use every second of each one.

The Bulldogs scored with less than five seconds left in each the first and second periods, both on the power play, to pick up a 3-1 win over Franklin in a non-league clash between Hockomock hockey powers.

“It was wide open at times with a lot of chances and it was very tight at times, it was a typical Canton-Franklin game,” said Canton head coach Brian Shuman. “The first goal, that puck went off a skate, the shot was going to be wide but went off a skate and in. We lost one of our better players for 10 minutes but our guys responded. Colby Ciffolillo, first-year player, was asked to play on like three lines and three different positions and played great. It was a good response for us after a tough start.”

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Franklin took the lead less than a minute into the contest but Canton equalized less than four minutes later. Panther senior defenseman Matt D’Ericco had a puck pop out to him in the attacking zone and fired a low shot that deflected off a skate and into the net just 54 seconds in to the game.

Canton senior Ryan Nolte answered less than four minutes later to bring the hosts level. Nolte made a nice move to get around a defenseman and released a shot right in front that was partially saved by Franklin goalie Ryan Cameron (25 saves), but the puck trickled over the line to make it 1-1.

The teams traded chances over the final 10 minutes, with Franklin junior Colin Hedvig forcing Canton senior goalie Michael Staffiere (18 saves) into a tough save. Two minutes later Canton junior Tommy Ghostlaw came flying down the left wing, drew the defense, and centered a pass for Ciffolillo but his one-timer went off the post and stayed out.

Just when it looked like the teams would head to the locker room level, Nolte drew a tripping call in the attacking zone with 33.9 to play.

After an attacking face off, the puck squirted free to Owen Lehane at the blue line. Lehane quickly passed to his left to junior Jack Connolly, who quickly one-timed a shot in front of goal. Junior Chris Lavoie was positioned all alone in front, made one move and stuffed his bid in with 2.7 left in the period.

“Both power play goals were because of Jack Connolly,” Shuman said. “Both times, knowing the clock, knowing how much time was left, jumped into the play to create a four man attack. The first one, the one-timer to the net and the second one, jumping into the play and getting it down low and we had some guys down there.”

Despite the late goal in the first, Franklin came out reenergized in the second and controlled the majority of the period. Franklin senior Joey Lizotte forced a nice save from Staffiere and the rebound bid from CJ Spillanee hit off the post and stayed out.

Tom Tasker drew a tripping call with eight minutes to go, and the Panthers even had 5-on-3 for 14 seconds after a cross check, but Franklin was unable to solve Staffiere again during the two-man advantage opportunities.

“We filled a lot of boxes [of things we don’t want to do] tonight,” said Franklin head coach Chris Spillane. “We were soft on the puck, not strong with our sticks, they had more speed than we had and that’s going to kill you every time. They wanted to play harder than us. I thought we had a good second period minus 0.2 seconds, that was a killer. We allowed two power play goals, both at the end of a period and that takes a lot of air out. I thought we had a good second but the third was just soft all around. I expected them to show me something and we didn’t have any effort out there.”

The best chance came on the stick of Lizotte, who beat a defenseman with speed and rifled a shot on net but Staffiere turned the bid aside to keep the lead.

Despite controlling the period and having the majority of possession, Franklin wasn’t able to cash in and took a penalty with 1:38 to go.

Canton once again took advantage of a late man-up chance. As the final seconds ticked away, Ghostlaw blocked a clearance attempt, Connolly jumped on the loose puck and dumped it in front of net, and junior Shane Marshall settled the puck and fired a backhand attempt with Lavoie screening in front.

The shot hit the back of the net with under a second to play, just a moment before the buzzer sounded for the end of the second period.

“I thought we carried the play in the second, we outshot them, we had more opportunities,” Spillane said. “We actually forechecked and turned pucks over, we did what we needed to do. But that’s a backbreaker with 0.2 seconds left, it was a legit goal no question about it. We had two guys fan on it, that puck shouldn’t have been anywhere near the net. A lot of little mistakes turned into a very lopsided game, 3-1 doesn’t even indicate what that game was like.

Franklin had a pair of early chances to get back into the game but Canton’s penalty kill wouldn’t allow it. The Panthers had 38 seconds of 5-on-3 but didn’t register any significant chances. Hedvig fired a pair of shots on the man advantage, but both were stopped by Staffiere.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

“You can’t get better defensively unless you’re pushed and challenged,” Shuman said. “Franklin was all over us [in the second period], and we have to learn from that. Franklin played well in the third period too. We have a lot of experience but a lot of youth too and these guys need to be challenged to get better and I thought Franklin really controlled the play in the second period. We were able to hold them at bay for the most part, and credit to Mike Staffiere too, he played great.”

Canton had two chances at the midway point as Matt Martin had a shot deflected just wide by Ryan Colby, and just a minute later, Nolte had his chance denied and Lavoie nearly snuck the rebound in by Cameron made the stop.

Canton boys hockey (3-0) doesn’t hit the ice for another game for over a week, hosting Westwood on December 29th. Franklin (1-1) is back in action on Saturday when it goes on the road to take on Newburyport.

2018-2019 Hockomock Boys Hockey Preview

2018-2019 Hockomock Boys Hockey Preview
The Hockomock League boys hockey season is kicking off and should be as competitive as ever. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)

By HockomockSports.com Staff

2017-2018 Hockomock Girls Basketball Preview

Attleboro

2017-2018 Record: 9-10-2
2017-2018 Finish: Reached Div. 3 South preliminary round.
Coach: Mark Homer

After a two year drought of postseason hockey, the Bombardiers made it to the playoffs last year and are aiming to make it two years in a row. The Bombardiers only had three seniors on the roster last season, so the majority of the squad is back, plus a familiar face is back in the fold this season.

One of the three seniors that graduated was Jake Parker, who led the Bombardiers in scoring last season with 26 goals and eight assists. But Attleboro is slated to return its next three scorers in senior Cam Littig (12 goals, 14 assists for 26 points), junior Ryan Morry (11 goals, 15 assists for 26 points) and senior Kyle McCabe (three goals, 10 assists for 13 points).

Another positive is that the Bombardiers have some experience in goal. Both senior Evan Andrews (13.66 games played) and junior Derrik Rivet (6.33 games) are set to return. Having an experienced goalie is a huge positive but having a strong backup helps even more. Andrews had 270 saves last season with a 0.882 save percentage while Rivet turned away 144 shots and had a 0.842 save percentage. In front of goal, McCabe, Sam Flynn, and Matt Viveiros will be joined by Liam McDonough, Kyle Miniati, and Zach Pierce as members of the defensive unit.

While Littig and Morry will try to replicate their success from a season ago, one name that could help bolster the offense is senior Sam Larkin. Larkin played his freshman year and had seven goals and seven assists before switching over to juniors. His experience should give Attleboro a boost during the season.

“We have had some additions to our team this year that has created a little more depth that had been absent in previous years,” said Attleboro coach Mark Homer. “We are working on maintaining a better consistency in our play. We are still in our tryout mode and hoping to find the right mix to make us more competitive this season, especially in our league games.”

Canton

2017-2018 Record: 17-3-4
2017-2018 Finish: Reached Div. 2 South semifinal.
Coach: Brian Shuman
Canton comes into every year with high expectations and the Bulldogs will be favorites to bring home a ninth straight Davenport division title and 11th Hockomock League title in the past 12 seasons. While the league campaign is a priority, the Bulldogs will also be comparing themselves to the top teams in Div. 2 and hoping this will be the year to break through in the South sectional and get back to the TD Garden for the first time since 2010.

After a dominant winter, the top scoring line is back in full for Canton. Senior Ryan Nolte, the reigning HockomockSports.com Player of the Year, and junior Johnny Hagan, the reigning HockomockSports.com Underclassman of the Year, will draw most of the plaudits but junior Timmy Kelleher gives the Bulldogs strong play on the other wing as well. That line combined for 69 points last season (27 apiece for Hagan and Nolte) and will be one of the league’s best going into this year. Canton also has juniors Tommy Ghostlaw and Chris Lavoie back to add scoring punch to the second line.

At the blue line, juniors Owen Lehane and Jack Connolly will both be expected to eat up a lot of minutes after strong sophomore seasons, and the Bulldogs will be looking for other players to step up and fill in defensively. After consistently strong goaltending from Quinn Gibbs over the past few seasons, Canton will turn to senior Mike Staffiere, who has been a backup the past two years and is drawing great reviews for his play during the preseason.

“Overall, we have a lot of experience returning up front at the forward position, but that’s true for a lot of teams in our league and in our division,” said Canton coach Brian Shuman. “The real question will be how much these players improved from last year, which we won’t know for sure until the games get going.”

Foxboro

2017-2018 Record: 10-9-2
2017-2018 Finish: Reached Div. 3 South preliminary round.
Coach: Mark Cedorchuk
Foxboro is coming off the best season in program history, as the Warriors won 10 games and qualified for the state tournament without relying on the Sullivan Rule. Now, the Warriors come back this season hoping to build on that season and make another run at the state tournament behind an offense that, according to coach Mark Cedorchuk, is as deep as it has ever been.

Junior Ronnie MacLellan and sophomore Kirk Leach are two of the forwards to keep an eye on this season for the Warriors after the duo combined for 15 goals and 32 points last season. Also up front will be senior Tanner Kennedy and juniors Sebastian Ricketts and Josh Bertumen, who combined for 10 goals last year and are looking to continue their development to add depth to the attack.

Senior Brendan Tully will lead the defensive effort but is also the team’s leading scorer. The blue line standout scored 18 goals and had 19 assists and is going to be a major factor in all three zones as well as a leader on the penalty kill and power play. He will be joined on the blue line by junior Kyle McGinnis, while junior Espen Reager will be between the pipes this year.

“Even though we had a successful season last year, best in team history,” Cedorchuk said, “our players are not satisfied, they are hungry to improve on that.”

Franklin

2017-2018 Record: 12-6-5
2017-2018 Finish: Reached Div. 1 South first round.
Coach: Chris Spillane
Franklin started well last winter, reaching the final of the prestigious Mount St. Charles tournament and taking a point off Malden Catholic for the first time, but the Panthers couldn’t carry the momentum throughout the season and were knocked out in the first round of the tournament. As usual, Franklin graduated a lot of players, but also return a strong corps of experienced players to take on arguably the program’s toughest regular season schedule, which is loaded with some of the state’s top teams.

The Panthers return 11 seniors for this season, including eight forwards, but also have a group of eight sophomores that are jumping up from the JV to contribute on varsity this season. The forward line has plenty of experience and should be able to fire in the goals this year. Seniors Joey Lizotte, Zac Falvey, Scott Elliott, Dan Magazu, and C.J. Spillane will all be able to jump into the top scoring lines after playing major roles last year.

Defensively, the top five defensemen will be juniors Tom Tasker (who was on the HockomockSports.com All-Underclassman Team last year) and Colin Hedvig and seniors Cam Casella, Matt D’Errico, and Evan Forbes. Three sophomores will also see time on the blue line for the Panthers this season. After graduating three senior goaltenders, the job is open to senior Ryan Cameron and junior Ray Ivers, who are both making the jump from JV.

“Our hope is that team speed will drive the offense and that our returning defense will have the experience to make sound decisions in our end,” said Franklin coach Chris Spillane. “The boys are looking forward to the upcoming season. I see the Hockomock as an extremely competitive league this year. We will also challenge our boys with a high-end non-league schedule.”

King Philip

2017-2018 Record: 8-12-1
2017-2018 Finish: Missed postseason.
Coach: Paul Carlow

King Philip brings 11 players back from last year’s squad and is hoping a tough schedule will result in a battle-tested team ready for the D1 South Tournament at the end of February. It starts with the seniors for the Warriors with four of them back, plus a transfer.

There will be a lot of experience in the top line for KP, as well as its first defensive pair and between the pipes. Captain Ryan Fitzpatrick (10 points) had a strong season last year and will be trying to replicate that this year. Fitzpatrick is joined by assistant captain Luke D’Amico (13 points) as wingers while senior transfer Brendan Shandley steps in at center to give the Warriors a formidable line to work with. Juniors Chris Daniels (13 points), Joe Boselli (11 points), and Jack Coulter (10 points) are all back after successful sophomore seasons and should provide KP with good depth.

On the blueline, veteran Garrett Maxwell is the lone senior back from last year so he will be relied on for leadership. He is one of the strongest players in the league and plays in all situations for KP, including the power play plus the penalty kill. There will be some other familiar faces on defense for KP with junior Kyle Gray (seven points) and sophomore Rocco Bianculli (eight points) both back with varsity experience.

Senior James Lewis takes over in the crease as the starting netminder for the Warriors. Lewis saw action in three games last season, including a pair of wins and shutouts. While new to the starting position, Lewis has plenty of experience and that bodes well for the Warriors. Jesper Makudera and Nate Ihley will be pushing for minutes in net as well.

“I expect the team to have some good chemistry and get off to a good start,” said King Philip head coach Paul Carlow. “Practice has been good, and we have good leadership this year with a strong core. The Hockomock League is always competitive, the Kelley-Rex is a strong division, and we have a tough non-league schedule too, so we want to challenge ourselves.”

Mansfield

2017-2018 Record: 9-7-5
2017-2018 Finish: Reached Div. 1 South first round.
Coach: Mike Balzarini

The Hornets have a strong core of players back this season, along with the addition of a couple of new faces, and head coach Mike Balzarini is hoping that combination will result in success this season.

Experience will be a strong suit for Mansfield as five of its top six forwards played significant minutes last year. Chris Copponi (12 points) and Matt Copponi (16 points) will be on the wings around center Coleman O’Brien for one line while Jake Lund (eight points) and Kevin Bellanger are returners on another line. The sixth forward will be center Jack Garland, who played juniors last year but is back in the fold for the Hornets this year. Ben Ierardo, Cam Page, and Braedon Copparini will be in the mix for minutes as well.

Defensively, while there are certainly some holes to fill, Balzarini has some talent to rely on the blue line. Two-time HockomockSports.com selections Mike Arnold and Tyler Oakley graduated so there is a little bit of a void, but Austin Ricker has stepped on early on to anchor the Hornet defensive unit. Ricker is joined by Brad Grant, who played for the Hornets previously before switching to juniors. Nick Levine and Joe Troiano gained valuable experience last year, and Jack Gormley and Brian Grant should be in the mix as well.

Mansfield also has experience in the goalie position with junior Sean McCafferty back between the pipes after having a breakout sophomore campaign. McCafferty was one of the top goalies in the league last year, earning HockomockSports.com All-Underclassman honors. He had 377 saves and a 92 save percentage, which bodes well for the Hornets this year.

“We obviously want to pick up where we left off after making the playoffs the last two years,” Balzarini said. “With the returning players plus new additions, I think we’re a little bit deeper and we know what we need to do to be competitive and make sure we’re playing well at the end of the season.”

North Attleboro

2017-2018 Record:
2017-2018 Finish: Reached Div. 2 South first round.
Coach: Ben McManama

Defense will be key for the Rocketeers during the 2018-2019 season. With a handful of returners back on the blue line as well as veteran goalie Ryan Warren, North Attleboro boasts a talented defensive unit.

Senior captain Brendan McHugh will anchor the defensive group alongside juniors Jeff Baker and Will Yeomans. All three are very experienced players that put defense first. They can all get involved in the offense as well. Warren has shined between the pipes each of the last three seasons, earning HockomockSports.com Underclassman of the Year as a freshman and was a HockomockSports Third Team selection last season. Warren is pushed in practice each day as Chris Ulrich and Nick Digiacomo push for time.

Offensively, North Attleboro only lost two forwards from last year’s group, but those two players (Drew Wissler, Jason McNeany) combined for nearly half of the Rocketeers’ 76 goals a season ago. So this year, Big Red will need forwards to step up and contribute. Captain Anthony Zammiello scored 13 goals last year and will look to continue his success this season. Todd Robinson, Justin Moccia, Dennis Morehouse, Jake Ebert, and Jack Connolly are all candidates to have big years for the Rocketeers.

“We are a very big and physical team that works hard,” said North Attleboro head coach Ben McManama. “We will need to stay out of the box to have success this year. Defense and depth will be the strength of our team. We will also need three lines that can score. I am very optimistic on the season because it is obvious that all our players put a ton of work in during the offseason.”

Oliver Ames

2017-2018 Record: 13-9
2017-2018 Finish: Reached Div. 2 South first round.
Coach: Sean Bertoni
Speed has been the strength of the Tigers since Sean Bertoni took over the team and Oliver Ames will be relying on that speed and aggressiveness to try and challenge Franklin at the top of the Kelley-Rex division and to make a run in the state tournament. With a few players coming back from juniors to join with an experienced group, OA has high hopes of pushing the Panthers for the league title.

Senior forward Brett Williams will be the key player in the attack, coming off a season in which he scored 21 goals and recorded 15 assists and was named to the HockomockSports.com First Team. Williams will have plenty of help up front from senior Colin Bourne, who is one of the fastest skaters in the league and had 13 points last season. Senior forward Cullen Gallagher will also give the offense a boost, as he comes back to the program after a year in juniors.

Senior Matt McCormack was one of the league’s top defensemen last year and his steadying presence on the blue line will be critical to OA improving on that end of the ice, after giving up 54 goals as a team last year. Senior James Beatty is back after a year in juniors and should be a big boost to the blue line. Junior Owen Connor is back in net and looking to build off last season’s efforts.

“We are a team that will rely heavily on our team speed,” Bertoni said. “Our aggressive style of defense will lead to a successful offense. We will have to establish our forecheck to be effective. Our transition game will be a strength for us this year, creating turnovers and getting on the attack.”

Stoughton

2017-2018 Record: 1-20-1
2017-2018 Finish: Missed postseason.
Coach: Dan Mark

Overall, the Stoughton Black Knights will be on the young side but they have a veteran first line that will lead the way.

The Knights will be looking to improve on last year’s record, while possibly trying to surprise some teams along the way. Leading the way offensively will be senior Sean Doherty. Doherty was Stoughton’s second-leading scorer last year behind Brendan Campbell (graduated). Doherty was second on the Black Knights with 12 goals and added 11 assists and will be relied upon to be a key piece of the offense this season. Joining Doherty on the first line will be senior Luke Bainton, who brings a lot of varsity experience to the table. Bainton will look to improve on last year after recording seven points (four goals, three assists).

Senior Josh Hough will anchor the blue line for the Black Knights. In his fourth year on varsity, Hough has logged a lot of minutes on the ice over the past couple of seasons and will be one of the most experienced defensemen in the league. Hough is able to create on the offensive end as well, scoring a pair of goals last year along with seven assists. Senior Thomas McCoy is set to return in goal after getting experience between the pipes a season ago.

Taunton

2017-2018 Record: 12-10-2
2017-2018 Finish: Reached Div. 2 South semifinal.
Coach: Kris Metea
Taunton has been a program on the rise for the past few seasons and last year the Tigers took another big step forward by making a push to the Div. 2 South semifinal. That unexpected tournament run as the No. 13 seed, which included wins over No. 4 Old Rochester and No. 5 Nauset, has boosted the team’s confidence heading into a new year in which all but four players are back.

Scoring has not been a problem for the Tigers in recent seasons. Last year, Taunton scored a league-best 98 goals, five more than Davenport champ Canton, and senior forward Cam Sneyd (30 points) and junior Mike Albert (32 points) both eclipsed the 30-point mark. Senior Jack Patneaude added 15 points last year and he is poised for a big year along with classmates Jaden Weyant, Owen Ross, and Nick Vandermeel.

The defense is almost completely returned from last year, led by senior Andrew Carter, who was solid in the defensive zone but also chipped in with 20 points. Senior Brady Nichols and sophomore Dylan Nichols are also back for the Tigers. Junior Sean Bunker returns in net after a solid performance in the tournament run and he will be backed up by classmate Andrew Gomes, who has shown that he is a capable replacement when needed.

“The players have embraced the enjoyment of the journey, the process, and working hard to get better every day,” said Taunton coach Kris Metea. “They have the potential to continue their accomplishment of new heights. They will be fun to coach, and watch grow throughout the season.”

Dogs Drop Heartbreaker After Improbable Comeback

Canton boys hockey
Canton senior Jack Goyetch fires a shot in the first period against Plymouth South. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
 
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
BOURNE, Mass. – A punch in the gut.

That’s what it felt like for the Canton High boys hockey team on Thursday evening. The Bulldogs had just scored their third straight goal, erasing an early three-goal deficit to tie the game with just 1:53 left to in the third period.

But just 14 seconds after Canton completed its comeback, Plymouth South senior Joey Van Winkle saw his slap shot somehow find its way through a crowd in front and into the back of the net. The Panthers added an empty-net goal in the final minute to notch a 5-3 victory in the D2 South Semifinals.

“That’s what it felt like,” Shuman said. “We were bad off of the faceoff on two goals…off that center ice faceoff, they got two goals against us. It’s tough, we played hard, I’m proud of the guys for battling back like they did. That’s this team. We haven’t been down three goals all year and they fight back and made it 3-3… but [Plymouth South] just found a way to get a shot through at the end.”

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The game couldn’t have started worse for the Bulldogs or any better for the third-seeded Panthers. Plymouth South scored on its first shot of the game, just 13 seconds into the game when defenseman Jack Worrick fired a shot that found its way between a defenseman’s legs and right into the top corner.

The momentum stayed with the Panthers as they doubled the lead before a minute had expired on the game clock. A turnover in the neutral zone allowed South’s Sean Colbert to skate into the zone and his low wrist shot found its way in at the far post to make it 2-0.

It looked as though Canton might be able to get one back quickly when Plymouth South was whistled for too many men on the ice, but even the power play couldn’t help the Bulldogs.

Forty seconds into the man advantage, a miscommunication on a pass allowed South to skate out of its zone, coming down on a 2-on-1. Panthers senior Daniel Lincoln elected to shoot, hitting the crossbar and in for a 3-0 advantage.

Though down 3-0 midway through the first period, the Bulldogs started to get their legs underneath them and started to plant the seeds of the comeback.

The best chance in the first came with four minutes to play when Bubba McNeice tossed a pass in front that was deflected into the air. Senior Jack Goyetch got a good chunk of it by batting it out of the air but somehow South goalie Cam McPhee kept it out. The rebound found its way around before Mike Dadasis sent it in front again but McPhee covered the puck as Goyetch tried to bury it.

The second period was completely different than the first as the Bulldogs dominated from the opening faceoff. Canton outshot South 16-1 in the fame, scoring a pair of goals to right back into the game.

Despite having to kill a pair of power plays, the Dogs were on the front foot throughout. Shortly after a 21-second power play of their own, Canton finally got on the board.

Junior Joe Robinson read a clearance attempt from the Panthers, knocking it down with his glove. He skated towards goal, and despite having his stick lifted, his was able to slide a pass over to sophomore Chris Lavoie who buried his chance from in close with 5:13 left in the second.

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Constant pressure in the offensive zone led to a tripping call on the Panthers, and Canton made sure to cash in. Junior Ryan Nolte picked up a loose puck after a face-off, skated towards behind the goal but dropped the puck off to sophomore Johnny Hagan. Hagan tossed the puck on goal, and despite having a tough angle, the puck hit off the post and in to bring Canton within one with 1:03 to go in the second.

The third period was a bit more even with the early edge to South. But Canton continued to push to tie the game. Hagan had another tough angle shot bang off the crossbar just over three minutes into the frame.

As the clock ticked under six minutes to play, Canton amped up its pressure. McNeice came flying into the zone only for his shot to whistle just wide of the post. And then with 1:53 to play, the Dogs scored their third.

Sophomore Owen Lehane alertly pinched on a clearance attempt and then skated behind the goal to draw the attention of the defense. With all eyes on Lehane, he slid the puck through the crease to the waiting stick of Hagan, who roofed his shot to tie the game.

“This group was special, they really were,” Shuman said. “They showed all kinds of resiliency all year long. I think that’s a credit to the seniors, all 14 of them. They embraced every role we asked of them and they couldn’t be better teammates. The guys on the bench were rooting them on all the way and the guys on the ice fought like hell. It’s just a testament to this team, they were a really great team. It’s always tough to lose at the end of the year like that but I’m still proud of them nonetheless.”

Unfortunately, Plymouth South stole all of the momentum back just 14 seconds later. South gained possession down low, and as Canton’s defense collapse, the puck was sent back out to the defense and Van Winkle somehow got the puck to find its way through traffic.

Canton finished with a 36-19 advantage in shots on goal but it could have been much higher. South’s defense blocked at least a dozen more attempts in front of McPhee.

“I think blocking shots was the key to that game,” Shuman said. “They blocked a lot of our shots, and blocking shots is an art form. I give all the credit in the world to Plymouth South, they wanted that game. And a lot of times you can tell how badly you want to game by how well you block shots. They blocked more of them and a couple of their shots from the points snuck through and that was the difference”

Canton boys hockey finishes the season 17-3-4.

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Canton With Dominant Performance to Reach Semifinal

Canton boys hockey
Canton celebrates the fifth goal with its fans in a big win over Westwood at the Canton Ice House in the D2 South quarterfinal. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

Josh PerryFollowJoshPerry


CANTON, Mass. – The fans were jammed into the Canton Ice House on Saturday night, not surprising since both Canton and Westwood call it home, with lines stretching out into the parking lot at game time and people filling not only the rink’s lot but the parking lots of businesses down the street.

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The massive crowd was expecting to see a close game between two contenders for the Div. 2 South title, a game that would go down to the wire. What the crowd got was a second straight dominating performance by the Bulldogs.

Canton outshot the Wolverines 38-13, controlled play the full length of the ice, and were relentless in a 5-0 victory that moves the Bulldogs into the sectional semifinal. Canton has now scored 16 goals without reply in two playoff games and gave head coach Brian Shuman some bragging rights when he returns to his classroom at Westwood High on Monday morning.

“This time of the year, you have to play every shift like it’s 0-0,” Shuman said. “It can’t just be a saying, you can’t be just talking, you have to play every shift like it’s 0-0 and I thought they did a good job of that.”

Special teams were critical for the Bulldogs on Saturday. Canton went 3-for-6 with the man advantage, including a pair of goals in the first period, and also killed off all four Westwood power play opportunities, while limiting the Wolverines to half-chances and long-range shots.

“They had maybe just a couple of shots on the power play,” said Shuman, praising his defensive corps for keeping senior goalie Quinn Gibbs (13 saves) largely untroubled. “Our neutral zone play on the penalty kill in particular was very good. They didn’t give them a chance to possess the puck in the neutral zone to get any possession coming into the zone.”

The dominance began right from the opening face-off, as Canton came out skating hard and creating chances. Ryan Nolte had the first good look on goal skating across the slot onto his forehand but the shot was saved by Westwood goalie Justin Anderson (34 saves).

With 7:26 remaining in the first, Canton broke the deadlock on the power play. Nolte was the first to a loose puck in the crease and he was able to knock it in for a 1-0 lead, Johnny Hagan and Timmy Kelleher picking up assists. Two minutes later, the lead was doubled as Bubba McNeice picked the top corner to Anderson’s blocker side.

Westwood had one good scoring chance in the first when Tim Dalton drove hard at the net from the left side, but Gibbs kept his pad and stick in place to block the shot at the near post and it was cleared. Kelleher and Hagan both had good chances soon after but both narrowly missed the net.

The Bulldogs went up a man with 21 seconds left in the first and quickly made the opportunity count. Nolte set up Hagan in the slot for a one-timer that gave Anderson no chance and gave Canton a 3-0 lead.

“Those power play goals in the first period were huge,” said Shuman. “I think we really moved the puck well and for those guys to get that one right before the end of the period was big.”

Nolte, a junior forward, had a goal and an assist in the first, hit the crossbar in the second and he continues to put together strong playoff performances on both ends of the ice. “Ryan is laid back but he’s had a different look about him the first couple playoff games,” Shuman said. “He’s really stepped up and been consistent for us every game this season and he had another good game tonight.”

The Bulldogs did not take their foot off the gas in the second period, although Anderson did his best to tap the brakes. The Westwood goalie made 12 saves in the second alone, denying Canton on a number of golden scoring chances.

Mike Dadasis was fed in front by Jack Goyetch but Anderson made the point-blank save and he also stopped Hagan after the sophomore danced around several Westwood defensemen to get free for a shot. He then denied Nolte with a scrambling pad save on a shot from the edge of the crease and stopped Joe Robinson right in front.

“He made some incredible saves in the second period,” said Shuman of Anderson. “He kept the score where it was making some incredible post-to-post saves. It was big to get some early because if you let him get hot then it’s a game from start to finish.”

The Bulldogs finally ended any doubt on the power play with five minutes gone in the third period. Anderson stopped the first two shots but the puck squirted loose to McNeice on the far post and he took his time to roof the rebound for a 4-0 lead.

“Bubba’s goal in the third period was huge,” Shuman explained. “That’s the kind of goal you need to score this time of the year, especially against a good goalie who makes those initial stops. For him to finally put that one in was big, not only for the game but also for our goal-scoring psyche as well.”

With 3:29 left, Hagan slid in an empty net goal for his second of the night and third point. The goal wrapped up another convincing win for the second-seeded Bulldogs.

Shuman was not getting carried away after the win. He said, “It’s a good start but as you know this side of the bracket is tough and the next opponent up, whether it’s Medway or Plymouth South, is going to be just as good so we need to continue that.”

Canton (17-2-4) will face either Medway or Plymouth South on Wednesday at Gallo Arena.

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Dogs Deliver Drubbing In D2 South Opener

Canton boys hockey
Canton’s Charlie O’Connor tries to get his stick on a loose puck in front of the Somerset-Berkley goal. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
 
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
CANTON, Mass. – When the end of February rolls around, and March on the horizon, expectations in Canton are sky high.

The Bulldogs have been the most successful team in the Division 2 South bracket over the past decade, reaching the semifinals nine times and the finals four times. Only one team made the finals more (Franklin) in that span but no one has been as consistent as the Bulldogs.

With another playoff season upon us, the Bulldogs made a statement that they plan on making another deep run.

#2 Canton dominated from start to finish, skating past D2 newcomer #15 Somerset-Berkley with an 11-0 decision.

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“A lot of these guys have been here before, they want it,” said Canton head coach Brian Shuman. “They know there are expectations and pressure. As much as we like to say there aren’t seeds and everyone is 0-0, they expect a lot of themselves so it was good to see them work through those first 10 minutes when they weren’t playing up to their potential and comeback and have a good second period.”

Canton scored a pair of goals in the first period but delivered the knockout blow with seven goals in the second period. The Bulldogs scored the first two goals of the period just 22 seconds in and then buried three goals in a period of 92 seconds later in the frame.

“I thought the first 10 minutes or so we played very nervous,” Shuman admitted. “You could feel it on the bench, they weren’t talking on the bench, they weren’t talking on the ice.”

But after those 10 minutes, Canton went on cruise control.

Sophomore Owen Lehane finally broke the statement just over 10 minutes into the game. He took possession behind his own goal, skated the length of the ice and past the defense but had his bid in close denied.

While the puck bounced around in front of goal, Lehane alertly got back into position at the blue line. The puck popped free onto the stick of the sophomore and he ripped a low shot through traffic to give Canton a 1-0 lead.

The Dogs capitalized on the momentum, adding a second tally with under a minute to play. Off of an offensive zone faceoff, junior Ryan Nolte was the draw clean right back to sophomore Johnny Hagan. Hagan skated between the circles and fired a wicked wrister top shelf to make it 2-0.

“I think goal scoring is equally as mental as physical,” Shuman said when asked how scoring the first goal changes his team. “All it takes is to squeeze the stick a fraction of a second too long or squeeze the stick half a pressure too tight and that makes all the difference. When you get the first one, and then the second, guys start to relax a little more and make some more plays.”

It didn’t take nearly as long for Canton to find the back of the net in the second period. Nolte won the opening draw back to Hagan who skated along the boards on the left side. He tossed a pass back in front to Nolte and the junior played the puck off of his skate and onto his backhand and flipped in his shot to make it 3-0.

Nolte gained possession of the puck himself on the ensuing faceoff. After losing it briefly, he picked the puck back up again, circled into the center of the ice and rifled a wrist shot in for a 4-0 lead just 22 seconds into the second.

Canton continued its offensive pressure with a fifth goal less than five minutes into the second. Sophomore Jack Connolly dumped a puck in, senior Jack Goyetch did well to keep possession, eventually getting it back to Connolly. The sophomore delivered a shot through traffic that senior Bubba McNeice got a tip on, making it 5-0 with 10:05 to play.

The Bulldogs went on the power play for the first time in the game shortly after their fifth tally and cashed in late with the man advantage. After a lengthy possession in the offense zone, senior Matt Casamento to across the blue line to junior Brad Murphy. Murphy took his time, allowing the forwards to get possession in front of goal. Murphy then released his shot and Joe Robinson redirected it off the post and in to make it 6-0.

The offense continued to dominate for Canton, especially its top line of Hagan, Nolte and Timmy Kelleher. Just a minute over Robinson’s tally, Nick Allen dumped the puck in deep, Hagan touched it along to Nolte, Nolte lifted a pass in the air in front of goal and Kelleher batted it out of the air and into the net to make it 7-0.

“That was a good start, that’s the line that’s getting that’s sort of getting a lot of the production this year,” Shuman said of the Hagan-Nolte-Kelleher line. “Ryan Nolte had the two goals and Johnny Hagan threw that nice pass to Timmy Kelleher for one. That line seems to get the big goals for us when we need it, to get us going. They like to be the go-to line.”

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Off the ensuing face-off, Tommy Ghostlaw won it back to Murphy, who connected up ice to Chris Lavoie. Lavoie skated to his left and fired a wrist shot to make it 8-0.

Less than two minutes later, Goyetch found the back of the net himself to make it 9-0 with 4:42 left in the period.

In the third period, Charlie O’Connor and Ryan Colby set up Kevin Murphy on the right side, and the senior drilled his shot off the post and in. The Dogs added a final goal when Colby tipped in a shot off the stick of senior Brian Ghostlaw.

Bulldog senior Quinn Gibbs made one save in two periods of play while senior Niko Donovan turned away two chances in the third period.

Canton boys hockey advance to the D2 South Quarterfinals and will take on either #7 Westwood or #10 Oliver Ames. The Dogs are familiar with both teams, sharing a home rink with the Wolverines while splitting the season series with the Tigers. The game is scheduled for Saturday with the time and location to be determined.

“Our side of the bracket is brutal, anybody can beat anybody,” Shuman said. “OA has proved that, Westwood has proved that. The difference among these teams is razor thing. Whoever plays well on any given night can get the win. From now on in there are going to be some tough games.”

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Canton Takes Quinn Tourney on Late Nolte Winner

Canton boys hockey
Canton won its third Joseph Quinn Tournament in the past four seasons thanks to a pair of third period goals from junior Ryan Nolte. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

Josh PerryFollowJoshPerry


RAYNHAM, Mass. – For the fourth straight year, Canton found itself in the final of the annual Joseph I. Quinn Memorial Tournament at the Raynham IcePlex, but the Bulldogs also found themselves down a goal to the host team, Coyle & Cassidy, heading into the third period.

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Junior forward Ryan Nolte scored 21 seconds into the third to tie the game and then he popped up with just 54 seconds left on the clock with the tournament-winning goal, handing Canton a 3-2 win, its third Quinn Tournament title in the last four seasons, and a chance at the top seed in Div. 2 South.

“It was a good comeback,” said Canton coach Brian Shuman. “It was a great third period. We responded well in the third and I’m proud of the guys for that.”

The Bulldogs got off to a perfect start to the game. Nick Allen’s shot from the blue line was kicked aside but right to the stick of forward Timmy Kelleher. The sophomore knocked in the rebound for a 1-0 lead just 34 seconds into the game.

While Canton got the early strike, Coyle did not allow the Bulldogs to control the game, quickly regaining the momentum in what turned out to be an evenly played period that did not feature many clear-cut scoring chances.

“We were talking about learning our lessons from past games,” said Shuman. “We went up early and I think we took our foot off the gas a little bit. We got fired up on the bench and we talk about good starts but you’ve got to have a good start and sustain it.”

Kevin Murphy and Jack Goyetch each had shots on target midway through the first, Murphy from the slot and then Goyetch following up the rebound, but both shots were turned aside. With 1:17 left in the first, Coyle finally connected on a long outlet pass, catching the Canton defensemen wide and pushed forward, and Drew Arpin made it count with a five-hole finish on goalie Quinn Gibbs.

Canton came out of the gates on fire in the second period, despite having to kill off an early penalty. Shorthanded, Nolte created havoc on the forecheck and forced a turnover that he nearly put away with a wraparound chance and then John Hagan was denied as he got to the rebound.

Five minutes into the second, with Canton clearly in control of play, the Bulldogs made a mistake trying to clear the puck out of the defensive zone. It hit Jacob Ducharme on the leg and he was able to step forward clean through on goal. His backhand effort slipped under Gibbs for a Coyle lead against the run of play.

“It doesn’t matter shots in the end, who had zone time, puck possession, all that matters is the scoreboard and after two we were down,” said Shuman. “We were panicking a little bit. We just said, this time of year, you can’t let one- or two-goal deficits get in your head. You just have to take it one goal at a time.”

Canton had plenty of chances to tie the game in the second, outshooting Coyle 15-2. Sophomore Chris Lavoie had a shot from the left circle tipped just past the top corner and into the netting and Nolte took a shot from the same spot on a 3-on-1 break that was comfortably saved. Despite dominating play in the period, the Bulldogs went into the third down by a goal.

Starting the third with a power play, the Bulldogs wasted no time in getting level. Hagan had the first chance on the edge of the crease but the puck was blocked right to Nolte at the far post and he roofed his close-range shot to make it 2-2 just 21 seconds into the third.

Shuman explained, “You saw there with the power play at the end of the second period, we had a 5-on-3, we were panicking and just throwing shots on net from bad angles and I think those guys showed some poise [in the third] and made a good shot.”

The game settled into a similar pattern with Coyle trying to sneak players behind the aggressive back line of the Bulldogs, but the defenseman continuing to make plays to keep the Warriors from getting off shots. Jack Connolly, Owen Lehane, Matt Casamento, Charlie Malloy, Brad Murphy, and Allen all made big plays to stop Coyle in the neutral zone or at least keep the Warriors from getting a clean look. Gibbs faced only three shots in the final 30 minutes of the game.

Malloy also had one of Canton’s best chances in the third with a blast from the point that was saved to the corner. Charlie O’Connor also had a couple of chances but multiple times hit the side of the net in the third. Allen had Canton’s best chance after he stepped up into the attack with Kelleher and Hagan, but his one-timer missed the net by inches.

Just seconds after Hagan saw a shot that looked destined for the top corner gloved to the back boards, Nolte again found himself in a battle on the edge of the crease and managed to find the back of the net with the go-ahead goal.

“It’s great when one of your most skilled players is also one of your best defensive players,” said Shuman of Nolte, who he praised for his all-around performance. “Ryan played great defensively this game and his goals just came from being in the middle of the ice. A lot of times, Ryan will make a move, deke, and beat guys but he also needs to score in those dirty areas and he had a couple today.”

It was the second time in the past three games that Canton had scored a game-winner in the final minute, a trait that could be the difference between a potential tournament run and an actual one.

Canton (15-2-4) will wait for the result of a coin toss to see if it ends up with the top seed in Div. 2 South.

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Canton Beats Franklin In Clash Of Division Champs

Canton boys hockey
Canton sophomore Declan Pfeffer looks to play the puck while being pursued by Franklin’s Kenny Demerchant. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
 
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
CANTON, Mass. – Holding a 2-1 lead with under five minutes to go, the Canton boys hockey team was whistled for too many men on the ice.

It was just the second penalty of the game for the Dogs, but the visiting Panthers of Franklin High needed just 20 seconds in the second period on their first chance of the man advantage to cash in.

With the game on the line, Canton’s penalty showed it had learned its lesson from earlier on, coming up with a near perfect kill. The Bulldogs went on to score just over a minute after killing the penalty, and again with the net empty, to earn a 4-1 win in a clash of Davenport and Kelley-Rex division champions.

“That was a great kill,” said Canton head coach Brian Shuman. “Bubba [McNeice] had a great game with the two goals but he was great on the kill. Jack Goyetch, Johnny [Hagan], Ryan [Nolte]…they all had a big kill. They learned their lesson from the first one around. They played very smart on that second kill, that was a huge part of the game.”

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Franklin needed just seconds on its first power play of the game with senior Brendan O’Rielly finding classmate Luke Downie at the back door for a simple one-timer. The goal had tied the game at 1-1 early in the second period.

“I was happy with our effort in the first period and a half,” said Franklin head coach Chris Spillane. “I thought we competed with them, skated with them, and even had some stretches where we controlled the play. But the second half of the game, they just outplayed us. All three zones, they wanted it much more than us and it showed.”

This time around, Canton didn’t even let the Panthers have a sniff at a scoring chance. Matt Casamento blocked an early chance, leading to a clear from Hagan. When Franklin attempted to bring it back in, Casamento forced the puck loose with a hit and Charlie Malloy came in and made the clear.

“I thought the defense was ready,” Shuman said. “I thought Matt Casamento played the best game I’ve ever seen him play, he was exceptional. Talk about a guy that played every other shift for us. Losing Brad Murphy put a little strain on the defense but Matt has stepped up like I’ve not seen a defenseman step up before. He played at a whole new level tonight, big hits, big plays. Charlie Malloy played well as well too. The defense stepped up and played well.”

Franklin had its lone shot of the power play up next but Quinn Gibbs (20 saves) made the save right into his chest. From there, McNeice had a pair of clearance, the latter helped along by a nice stick lift from Nick Allen.

Shortly after the penalty was killed, Canton’s Timmy Kelleher linked up with Nolte, but his backhand attempt was just wide. Nolte then returned the favor, finding the sophomore in front for a one-timer but Franklin goalie Owen Ginley (31 saves) made a point-blank save.

With Franklin pushing numbers trying to find an equalizer, Canton was able to take advantage of a mistake in the neutral zone. McNeice jumped on a loose puck a Franklin defenseman couldn’t handle, skated in on a breakaway and roofed his shot to make it 3-1 with 1:19 to play.

McNeice added an empty-net goal in the final seconds to put an exclamation point on the win.

“The line of Bubba, Mike Dadasis and Jack Goyetch…they thrive in that type of game,” Shuman said. “They’re all about getting pucks to the net, playing hard, playing in tight spaces…they love a game like that. They aren’t flashy, they might not have the flashiness of some of the other guys but they get their nose dirty, they play hard. I thought they were probably our one consistent line and we built on that going forward.”

While Canton had the strong finish to the game, Franklin was the team that came out on the front foot. The Panthers’ speed caused problems for the Bulldogs and the visitors had a lead in shots until the final few minutes.

Franklin’s best chance of the opening period came when senior Kenny Demerchant took a pass against the grain, catching the defense going the opposite way. That allowed him to skate in alone but Gibbs came up with the pad save on Demerchant’s tough angle bid.

Canton picked up some momentum at the end of the period when Franklin was called for tripping with 1:09 left. Ginley stopped a shot from Allen, and then a follow-up chance from McNeice. And then Owen Lehane had his shot stopped and Dadasis saw his rebound chance blocked.

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The power play carried over into the second period, and the Bulldogs needed just 13 seconds to convert. After winning the opening faceoff, Kelleher linked up with Hagan in front of goal, and the sophomore used his backhand to go upstairs to beat Ginley for a 1-0 lead.

Franklin tied the game exactly four minutes later, just 20 seconds into their first power play chance.

With the rest of the period playing out equally, Canton grabbed the momentum back with four minutes to go. Nolte had a chance at the right post but went just wide. On the ensuing scrum in front, Kelleher was able to get his stick onto the puck and into the back of the net to make it 2-1.

“That was a great goal, [Franklin] has a great power play,” Shuman said. “It was well drawn up by the coaches…nice shot, nice goal. Couldn’t do much about it. But getting one back was big, we had to respond. In the past, they’ve gone up or they’ve scored and we haven’t responded, and that was a time we had a good response.”

“It took a little wind out of our sails but we still had a whole 15 more minutes to come out and play hockey,” Spillane said of Canton’s late second-period tally. “We had a power play late in the third and had nothing to show for it. We looked like a tired team out there, they looked fresh. They are a great hockey team and they just wanted it more than us. I don’t think the players that we lean on played to their capabilities.”

A win for Canton boys hockey (8-0-0 Hockomock, 11-1-4 overall) meant avenging its lone loss in regulation this season. The Bulldogs fell to Franklin earlier this season in the second game of the season in a non-league clash. Not only was it their lone loss in regulation, it was just one of three games they had allowed two or more goals in three periods of play.

That, on top of senior, with bragging rights between division champs on the line, resulted in a spirited effort from the home side.

“We sometimes talk about having the best record in the Hockomock,” admitted Shuman, but added that there wasn’t much talk about the first meeting. “These guys have done a pretty good job of looking forward. There’s so much of a difference between the first week of December and February. We don’t really look back, we didn’t even watch that film to get ready for it. We watched some more recent film because its two different teams from then and now. It was a good hockey game, Quinn made some save, their guy made some saves. It could have gone either way, but just a good hockey team between two good teams.”

Franklin (12-3-3) dropped its second straight game after falling to Hingham 6-2 earlier this week.

“We’re in a good position but you want to be playing your best hockey in the last week or two of the season, and we’re having a hard time finding that again,” Spillane said. “I think our locker room has to do some soul-searching. The 22 guys that suit up and ultimately have a say in the game, they just aren’t performing the way they should.”

Canton is back in action on Saturday when it takes on Oliver Ames at Warrior Ice Arena at 8:00 while Franklin returns to action on Valentine’s Day for a date with St. John’s Shrewsbury at 6:00.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Canton Skates Past Mansfield To Earn Shuman’s 200th

Canton boys hockey
Canton’s Ryan Nolte looks for someone to pass to in the first period against Mansfield. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
 
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
CANTON, Mass. – Even on a night with plenty to celebrate for himself, Canton head coach Brian Shuman made sure the focus was on something much bigger.

The Bulldogs scored once in the second and two straight in the third to earn a 3-1 decision over Mansfield, marking Shuman’s 200th career win.

While the timing of Shuman’s 200th win and Saturday night’s “Hockey Fights Cancer” doubleheader was coincidental, it was only fitting that the big milestone came on a night that Shuman helped organized to benefit others.

Canton and Mansfield followed a clash between Xaverian and Malden Catholic, a doubleheader that raised money for the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in memory of Reo Todesca, mother of Xaverian assistant Paul Todesca and a beloved friend to many in the Canton hockey community.

Canton’s list of accolades on the ice, including numerous Hockomock titles, dozens of playoff wins and a state championship in 2010, is just about as long as the amount of charity work Shuman and his Bulldogs are apart of off the ice.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

There’s the annual Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk every September that Shuman and his Bulldogs walk in to benefit The Jimmy Fund. And there’s the annual Evening of Hope Gala that Shuman helps organize with his wife Tara.

And Shuman and the Bulldogs spend plenty of time on the ice with the Bear Cubs Hockey program, which team chairman Matty Marcone is apart of. And who could forget two years ago when Shuman, along with Stoughton coach Dan Mark, worked to get Marcone on the ice of a varsity game.

The list goes on and on, which is why it’s so fitting that Shuman reached the milestone while helping raise money to fight cancer.

“I’m a bit embarrassed it happened on a night like this because it’s not about me, it’s a night to remember all of the people that have fought this battle [against cancer],” Shuman said. Canton wore special pink uniforms for the game. “But it really is special because some of the best nights I’ve been a coach in this program have been nights like this where we really together as a community in support of someone or a family, and that’s what makes it all worth it to me as a coach.”

And of course, Shuman was quick to deflect credit away from himself and to the program for getting to 200 wins in just 13 years.

“It says everything about the program. I’m incredibly fortunate to coach in a real hockey town. I think it’s one of the best hockey towns in Massachusetts. It says everything about our players, parents, families, community…just every single time I start or finish a season, I think how lucky I am. This is just one of those special moments that you reflect on how lucky you are.”

The visitors came out strong in the first period, having an edge in time of possession and attacking zone time. The Hornets also had a pair of power play opportunities, the first after a Canton cross-check with 11:17 left in the opening period, and again after a roughing call with 6:17 to go.

But out of those two man-advantage situations, the only real threat came late in the second one when freshman Matt Copponi went to circle the net but dropped a pass right in front of goal instead to his brother Chris Copponi, but the elder brother was unable to get the puck past Canton goalie Quinn Gibbs.

The Bulldogs came out flying in the second period and dominated the second period. Mansfield was able to kill off a cross-checking penalty but Canton was able to cash in a minute later. Junior Ryan Nolte connected a pass to sophomore Johnny Hagan, who lifted his backhand attempt top shelf to give the Dogs a 1-0 lead.

“I thought that first period, that was probably the most we have been outplayed in a period all year long,” Shuman said. “Mansfield has a good team, they play hard, they work hard, they have a great system and they are very, very well coached. I think the breakout for us was everything in the first period. I think the breakout sets the tone for so much of our offense and the flow of the game, and we could not break the puck out of the zone, we struggled in all facets of the breakout. Give credit to Mansfield, they made it hard for us.

“The second period was much better, I think a lot came from our breakout. I thought our line of Ryan Colby, Charlie O’Connor and Kevin Smith really gave us some life in that second period. They went out and had a really good shift and created some chances. Those guys are kind of a hybrid third/fourth line and I thought they played great.”

Canton had two more power play chances, including a brief 5-on-3 chance with just over three minutes to go, but the Dogs couldn’t add to their lead.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Mansfield’s best chance came when the Hornets killed off their third penalty. Senior Adam Anastos came out of the box, took a feed from Cullin Anastaia as he entered the zone, and then center a pass back to Anastasia but his tip effort sailed just wide of the post.

“I’m not sure what exactly happened in the second period, we had such a great first period, we came out with energy,” said Mansfield head coach Mike Balzarini. “Their first few shifts kind of set the tone, then we settled down and stuck to the gameplan. I can’t remember a time since I started here that we only had one shot on net in the period. But we had to kill three penalties in that second period, we played shorthanded for six minutes. That sort of gave us some life toward the end of the period and we had that late chance.

“I thought we had a better third period but Canton is a good team, they play every single shift and they play 200 feet.”

Canton senior Jack Goyetch nearly doubled the Bulldogs’ lead two minutes into the final period when he redirected a shot from Jack Connelly but Mansfield sophomore Sean McCafferty made a terrific glove save.

But the Bulldogs continued to put pressure as Goyetch and Mike Dadasis linked up before finding Bubba McNeice in front for a one-timer to make it 2-0. Canton cashed in on its fourth power play attempt with 9:20 left in the game.

Mansfield won the faceoff clean straight back, but McNeice was first to the loose puck and fired a centering pass to Goyetch for a tap-in.

The Hornets struck back just 17 seconds after Canton’s third goal. Fresh out of a timeout, Mansfield had a strong attacking zone possession before sophomore Joseph Troiano stepped into a loose puck and fired one into the back of the net.

“I have nothing but respect for Brian and what he’s done with Canton,” Balzarini said. Both Balzarini (’93) and Shuman (’98) graduated from Catholic Memorial. “It’s bittersweet for him to get the 200th win against us, but him being a CM guy, I like Brian a lot, he’s a really good coach and he deserves it.”

Canton boys hockey (7-0-0 Hockomock, 10-1-4 overall) is back in action on Wednesday when it hosts Franklin in a clash of Davenport and Kelley-Rex division champions. Mansfield (5-2-2, 7-5-4) will try to bounce back in a week when it travels to Brockton.