Canton Extends Unbeaten Streak With Win Over KP

Canton boys hockey Eamon Kellyq
King Philip goalie Jasper Makudera (right) makes a save against Canton sophomore Eamon Kelly in the first period. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
CANTON, Mass. – It was back to the basics for the Canton boys hockey team.

After back-to-back games in which the Bulldogs needed a third period goal to ignite its offense, Canton focused on all of the little things to get things going from the start.

And it certainly helps when two-thirds of your top line returns from injury.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Senior Chris Savoie, the team’s leading goal scorer, returned after a three-game hiatus to join classmate Johnny Hagan and sophomore Eamon Kelly (who rejoined the lineup on Wednesday) and the Bulldogs found the back of the net in each period en route to a 5-2 decision over a good King Philip team.

With the win, Canton extends its unbeaten streak to 35 games.

“We checked a lot of the boxes tonight,” said Canton head coach Brian Shuman. “We learned from some of the games in the past against KP where you have to come out and do the little things like winning the battles, getting pucks to the net, working hard on the backcheck, and good things will happen. We kind of got away from that, even in some of the games we’ve played well, we have to realize the little things will lead to the goal scoring opportunities.”

Canton’s top line combined for three goals while Shane Marshall scored twice, finding the back of the net for the second straight game. The Bulldogs never trailed, turning a one-goal lead after a period into a two-goal advantage through 30 minutes. Canton had a four-goal lead before KP scored in the final minute of play.

“They don’t make many mistakes and they have three lines, one is as good as the next,” said King Philip head coach Paul Carlow. “They are well-coached and a deep team, they are good every year for a reason. It’s a good measuring stick, we need to play better to do well down the stretch. I think all the Hock teams are good but I think they are clearly the best.”

After a relatively even first 10 minutes, Canton seized the lead with just 2:25 to go. Not only did it give the hosts the lead and the momentum before the first intermission, it was a sign of things to come for the Bulldogs’ offense.

Just seconds after a 4-on-4 situation ended, Kelly made a hard drive to the net down the left side, cutting in front of the net but KP goalie Jesper Makudera made the stop. But Marshall was first the loose puck and batted the rebound in to give the hosts the lead.

King Philip responded well to start the second period, cashing in on its offensive zone pressure. The Warriors were able to force a loose clearance and sophomore Shaun Fitzpatrick won a stick battle to unleash a wrist shot. Canton goalie Joe Cammarata made the kick save but the rebound popped right to senior Noah Ray and he buried it to make it 1-1 with 11:15 left in the second.

While the Warriors seemed to have the momentum, they were whistled for a trip and the Bulldogs went on the power play. Canton needed just over a minute to cash in as senior defenseman Owen Lehane skated down into the right circle, firing a shot that Kelly tipped in for a 2-1 lead.

“We were battling out front, looked like a stick might have hit a skate…it was just a tough time for that call,” Carlow said. “We got some momentum back there with the goal early in the second and I felt like if we could play 5-on-5 for a good stretch, we were okay. But they took the lead right back on the power play, and right after we had a bad turnover that led to a breakaway.

“I think 5-on-5 we were okay tonight but obviously, [Canton] is a good hockey team, you can’t make mistakes against them. I didn’t think we played our best and I would have liked to see us play more 5-on-5 hockey but giving them the momentum right back certainly hurt us.”

King Philip had a chance to answer when it went on the man-advantage less than two minutes after Canton’s second goal, but instead, it was the Bulldogs that struck. Hagan took advantage of a turnover in the neutral zone, used his speed to race across the blue line and fired a low shot five-hole for a shorthanded tally, giving the Dogs a 3-1 lead with 6:50 left in the second.

“Getting Chris Lavoie back on the power play particularly, having that third option is really important,” Shuman said. “Ironically, those are two guys [Owen and Eamon] that often times don’t touch the puck as much. Owen did a great job taking the ice he was given and Eamon doing what we preach all the time, going with his stick to the net and he made a good play.”







The Warriors had another chance to cut into the lead late in the period on a power play chance. A loose puck popped right in front to Conor Cooke and his shot looked destined for the back of the net but Cammarata made a terrific stop to keep the two-goal lead.

KP couldn’t convert on an early power play chance in the third period and junior David Lawler blasted a shot from the blue line that saw a rebound bounce around in front, but no one on KP could get a stick to it.

Canton made the visitors pay, scoring just before the midway mark of the third period. Ronan O’Mahony took and pass from Jack Connolly and laced a low shot through traffic from the blue line that Makudera stopped but Marshall was quick to pounce on the loose puck and buried it for a 4-1 lead.

With just under three minutes to go, Hagan skated in down the left boards and fired a shot that was stopped by Makudera but once again the Bulldogs were there for the rebound and Kelly tapped it in for a 5-1 advantage.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

“The third was our best period, we talked about the next goal (in the third) was huge,” Shuman said. “If they scored, they’d have a ton of energy and be back in the game. Or if we got it, we’d take a huge step towards winning the game. The fourth one came from a good shot, the defense made a good play, and Shane buried it.”

King Philip’s Aidan Boulger finished off a scrum in front of the net with less than a minute to play in the game. Jack Coulter and Cooke earned assists on the goal.

Canton boys hockey (3-0 Hockomock, 7-0-2) will host Oliver Ames on Wednesday evening while King Philip (1-1, 6-3-0) returns home to take on North Attleboro on the same night.

Kelly’s Third Period Goal Lifts Canton Over Mansfield

Canton boys hockey Johnny Hagan
Canton senior Johnny Hagan looks to finish off a move in front of goal in the third period against Mansfield. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
FOXBORO, Mass. – Canton head coach Brian Shuman planned on easing Eamon Kelly back into the lineup after the sophomore forward missed the past four games with an injury.

But that plan didn’t last long as Kelly’s time on ice quickly increased into regular shifts, and that ended up working out just fine for the Bulldogs.

Kelly scored the game-winning goal less than two minutes into the third period in his first game back as Canton grinded out a 2-0 win over Mansfield after an empty net goal in the final minute.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

“He gives good energy and we’ve missed that energy guy so far this year…and he brings it,” Shuman said. “I was really happy for him, he’s a hard worker and he deserved that [goal]. He’s been hurt for most of the season so far and we tried to ease him in but that lasted about half a period and we threw him out there in regular shifts.”

After 30 minutes of back-and-forth, up-and-down the ice at the Foxboro Sports Center, neither team had a goal to show for. Both Canton goalie Joe Cammarata (21 saves) and the Bulldog defense along with the Hornet blue line unit and goalie Sean McCafferty (28 saves) had done their part with the game scoreless heading into the final period.

Canton needed just 1:40 to break the deadlock at the beginning of the third period. Junior Donny McNeice won possession behind the net and quickly tossed a pass in front. The puck took a fortunate deflection off of a Hornet stick and fell right to Kelly, who made no doubt about it to put the Dogs up 1-0.

“We showed some promise in the second period towards the end, started to play better,” Shuman said. “I just think for our psyche we had to get a goal early in the third. Some of our guys are trying to score every time they touch the ice and putting a lot of pressure on themselves. They just need to go out there and outwork the other team and the opportunities will come.

“We’ve had to work for all of them, there hasn’t been an easy [game] all year. Credit to Mansfield, they are a good team, Mike does a good job with them. They had four lines going, they brought a lot of energy and they took it to us in the first half of the game. A typical game against Mansfield, they always bring their ‘A’ game and play hard, play tough. That was a good hockey game.”

The remainder of the third played out similar to the first two periods with both teams clogging passing lanes and applying a lot of pressure, making it tough for either team to connect more than a pass or two in a row.

Canton Johnny Hagan had the best chance of the period to double the advantage. The senior forward used his speed to race around a defenseman before cutting back in front of goal, just missing the inside the post.

Mansfield’s best chance at an equalizer came in the final two minutes. Senior Ben Ierardo ripped a shot from the blue line that was saved by Cammarata and covered as a pair of Hornets poked at the loose puck on the doorstep.

And a minute later, with the net empty, Hornet defenseman Jack Gormley rifled a hard shot that was redirected by Jake Lund but it was just over the net.

Canton senior Shane Marshall won a foot race to a loose puck and went in alone and tucked in an empty net goal with 34 seconds to play to secure the win.

“They are very skilled, they work hard, they are well-coached, Brian is a great coach,” said Mansfield coach Mike Balzarini of the Bulldogs. “We knew the task at hand but we had two really good days of practice leading up to the game. We did all the little things right, winning faceoffs especially in the defensive end was huge for us. Overall I thought we played really well.”

While it was during the infancy of the game, a pair of power plays in the opening five minutes might have been the Hornets’ best chances.

Going up a man just over a man, Mansfield’s best chance of the first power play came on a slap shot from senior Joseph Troiano but Cammarata was equal to the task.

Just seconds after killing its first penalty, Canton was whistled for its second trip of the game. Senior Chris Jenkins put a shot on goal with classmate Kevin Bellanger on the doorstep trying to bury the rebound, but the Hornets couldn’t find the back of the net.

Canton went on the power play late in the first period but the first two chances of that stretch went to the Hornets. Lund had a partial breakaway turned aside by Cammarata and Jenkins put his shot over the net after a steal in the neutral zone.




The Bulldogs’ best chance of the first came in the final seconds when junior TJ McCabe centered for senior Tommy Vaughan but his one-timer slid wide.

The middle period featured more chances for each side but nothing past either Cammarata of McCafferty. Belanger gained some space with a nice move but Cammarata saw it the entire way for the glove save.

Midway through the period, Canton’s fourth line produced a great chance with sophomore Sam Carlino linking up with senior Dom Cammarata but his bid was denied. A minute later, senior Jack Connolly had a blast knocked down and gobbled up by McCafferty.

“Our fourth line played great, they turned the tide for us,” Shuman said. “We gave them regular shifts the second half of the game because they earned it. Sam Carlino, Dylan Coyne, and Dom Cammarata…they played great and they deserve credit for helping us grind that one out.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Mansfield sophomore Kyle Oakley had a turn around wrist shot denied with four minutes left in the period and Cammarata had his best stop of the day, denying a wrist shot from Braedon Copparini with his stick on a chance in transition.

“We’ve been struggling the first five minutes of each game so I gave our green line, which is our fourth line [Dillon Benoit, Ryan Doherty, Jake Berdine], the start. And they responded great. We’ve been having trouble setting the tone and they certainly helped us tonight. We had two early power plays early with some good looks but overall I thought we played well.”

Canton boys hockey (2-0 Hockomock, 6-0-2 overall) wrapped up a three-game road trip with the win and returns home on Saturday to begin a three-game home stretch, starting with King Philip. Mansfield (1-1, 3-3-1) is back in action on Thursday at Brown University against Barrington.

Lavoie Steals Point for Canton in Battle of State Champs

Canton boys hockey
Canton players celebrate in front of the student section after Chris Lavoie scored with just :10 remaining to salvage a tie against Duxbury and extend Canton’s unbeaten streak to 31 games. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

Josh PerryFollowJoshPerry


CANTON, Mass. – Even as dominant as Canton was on its run to a state title last year, there were a few close calls that nearly put an end to its unbeaten run, but nothing was as dramatic as Monday afternoon’s meeting with defending Div. 1 state champion Duxbury at the Ice House.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

The Bulldogs scored two times in the final 1:11 of the game, capped by Chris Lavoie’s blast from the point with just 10 seconds on the clock, to stun the Dragons and earn a remarkable 3-3 tie. The unlikely point extends the unbeaten run to 31 games (28-0-3) going back to last season’s opener.

“We had them right where we wanted them,” Canton coach Brian Shuman joked. “They’re a hell of a team, they’re well-coached, they’ve got some skill players, a lot of talent. I think we were a little bit tentative at times out there and to their credit they were all over us.

“We were a little jittery with the puck but in the end we were able to put the puck in the net twice in the last minute to salvage a point.”

As the clock wound down in the third period, the Bulldogs were watching their unbeaten run rapidly tick away, trailing by two goals and struggling to get pucks to the net. At the tail end of its fourth power play of the night, Canton started to show some urgency and life.

Johnny Hagan won a puck on the near boards and played it out to Declan Pfeffer at the point. The defenseman fired a puck towards net that was just missed by Shane Marshall at the post. Seconds later, Jack Connolly teed up Lavoie for a close-range shot that was denied by a quick left pad from Duxbury goalie Steve Pisani (22 saves).

With 1:11 to play, Canton put some life into the building. Tommy Vaughan and Lavoie chased down a puck behind the net. It was played to Marshall, who fired a no-look pass into the slot and, whether by intention or luck, right to the stick of Hagan. The senior forward flicked a shot just over the goalie’s shoulder to cut the lead to 3-2.

Canton goalie Joe Cammarata (18 saves) was on the bench watching as the Bulldogs threw on an extra attacker for an attacking zone face-off in the dying seconds. The puck was knocked back towards the point and white jerseys scrambled to get in front of Pisani. Lavoie took a touch and then let rip on a shot that snuck through the crowd on the edge of the crease and into the back of the net.

The Bulldogs chased after Lavoie, who raced to the other end of the ice to celebrate with the Canton student section.

“We just had to try and get guys to the front of the net and get shots through,” Shuman explained. “That was really it. Our defense had been jumping in the play more, finally, towards the end of the game. They stopped thinking about letting up plays and they went down and created some offense.”

It was a game of momentum twists, befitting a game between two championship-caliber teams. Duxbury got the first punch in, scoring inside the opening two minutes when a puck took a kind bounce off the end boards to Billy Mrowka on the post.

Despite giving up an early goal, Canton responded by controlling the bulk of the opening period, outshooting the Dragons 13-6. Colby Ciffolillo nearly created an immediate answer when he set up Vaughan in front but Pisani made the stop. Marshall also was stuffed on a chance right on the doorstep.

Lavoie came close to getting Canton on the board but couldn’t hit the target on his first chance and had his second effort saved. Duxbury almost doubled the lead on the break, but Connolly used every inch of his 6-foot-4 frame to make a diving intervention.

The Canton pressure paid off with 1:39 left in the first. On the power play, Connolly lined up a shot from the point. Donny McNeice was parked in front of goal and got the telling tip to beat Pisani and tie the game.

Canton may have felt good going into the first intermission, but the Dragons started the second on a power play and grabbed control of the game. The Bulldogs were caught watching the puck and TJ Jones was able to pick out Will Nolan for the go-ahead score. Three minutes later, from a face-off, Friend Weiler got free in the slot and was able to beat Cammarata on the stick side.

Chances were suddenly few and far between for the Bulldogs. Ronan O’Mahony had a look from the left circle but was denied by Pisani and in the closing seconds of the period Hagan made a rush down the left wing and nearly snuck a shot in from a tight angle only to have it ring off the post.

Hagan had another rush early in the third, as a power play was expiring, beating his marker on the wing and getting to the crease only for Pisani to stay with the puck and stuff his backhand try. That would be Canton’s last good scoring opportunity for the next eight minutes, as Duxbury looked to be comfortably seeing out the win.

Shuman said, “It was so disappointing to come out in the third period and have the power play for a minute and have five guys that have played on the power play for three years for us come out and execute like they did at the start of the third period. They were just overthinking and I think they were getting down on themselves.”

The game turned around in the closing minutes, as the Bulldogs found their footing and found the attack that had been so potent during this streak.

“When you’re down two goals with two minutes left in the game,” Shuman said, “you stop thinking and you stop feeling sorry for yourself and I think they went out there and just tried to keep it simple and get shots on net and get guys to the net.”

Canton (3-0-2) will put the streak on the line again on New Year’s when they travel out-of-state to face Smithfield (R.I.).

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

2019-2020 Hockomock Boys Hockey Preview

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

By HockomockSports.com Staff

2019-2020 Hockomock Boys Hockey Preview

Attleboro

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

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

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

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

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

Canton

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

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

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

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

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

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

Foxboro

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

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

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

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

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

Franklin

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

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

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

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

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

King Philip

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mansfield

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

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

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

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

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

North Attleboro

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

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

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

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

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

Oliver Ames

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

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

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

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

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

Taunton

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

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

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

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

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

Marshall Nets Winner to Lift Canton Past Franklin

Canton boys hockey
Canton players mob Chris Lavoie (2) after he scored the first of his two goals in a season-opening win at Franklin. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

Josh PerryFollowJoshPerry


FRANKLIN, Mass. – Canton was on its heels for large portions of Saturday night’s season opener at Pirelli Veterans Arena, struggling with the speed of the Franklin forwards and struggling to find the outlet passes that would send the Bulldogs racing forward into the offensive zone.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Still, the Bulldogs know how to find ways to win games. Senior forward Shane Marshall took advantage of a fortuitous bounce off a skate to score a power play goal with 11:27 to play and it turned out to be the difference in a 3-2 victory that extends Canton’s unbeaten run to 27 games and makes it four straight wins against the Panthers.

“It was probably not as tightly played as we’re used to, but that’s a really good team,” Canton coach Brian Shuman said. “They’re a very skilled, high-flying team this year. They were doing some stuff that we hadn’t seen them do in the past. I was very impressed with them, they played very well, and they took it to us.”

He added, “We got a lucky bounce on the power play goal to go up and then we just kind of hung on.”

The first period was relatively even, the teams putting nine shots on goal apiece. Owen Lehane had the first good chance for the Bulldogs, pushing forward from defense, splitting a pair of Franklin players, but having the puck roll off the blade at the last second. A face-off win set Shea Hurley up for a chance that was saved by Canton’s Joe Cammarata and the rebound was tipped over the glass.

Chris Lavoie got into the act with a pair of chances off a Canton attacking zone face-off win, but was unable to beat Franklin goalie Ray Ivers at the near post.

With 6:34 left in the first, just after a power play had ended, Lavoie would put the Bulldogs in front. Johnny Hagan weaved his way behind the Franklin net and sent a pass right on the tape for Lavoie, who was left open in the slot, to one-time past Ivers.

Canton cleared off a two-man advantage but sophomore Dylan Marchand nearly tied the game before the end of the period when another face-off win set him up for a look from the slot. Declan Lovett dangled past the Canton defense on the left wing and forced another save from Cammarata, as the Panthers turned up the pressure.

It didn’t take long after the first intermission for Franklin to even the score. Sean Connelly was able to push past the first defenseman and then laid off a perfect pass across the crease to Shane McCaffrey, who smashed a one-timer into an open net less than a minute into the period.

The Panthers almost grabbed the lead when Marchand stole an outlet pass in the neutral zone and sped past the retreating Canton players. Cammarata stayed big and was able to stop the breakaway and then also recover to stop JT Dwyer’s follow-up effort.

Lavoie gave the Bulldogs back the lead on the power play. He corralled a loose puck in the slot, spun quickly onto his forehand, and fired a wrister just under the bar to make it 2-1.

Tom Tasker nearly set up a tying goal with a perfect angled pass from the right point to the far post, but Hurley was unable to knock it into the empty net. It was one of several good looks that the Panthers failed to capitalize on, as they outshot Canton 10-5 in the second. Franklin was also 0-for-5 with the man advantage in the first two periods.

“We had our chances, but I felt like we left a little on the table there and didn’t pull the trigger when we had to,” said first-year Franklin coach Anthony Sarno. “We were trying to be a little bit too polished and a little bit too cute and sometimes you just have to get the puck to the net.”

Just like in the second period, Franklin wasted no time to tie the game in the third. With 14:17 to play, Tasker stepped up to a loose puck on the near boards and let fly with a rocket of a slap shot blocker side, which gave Cammarata no chance.

Sarno said, “He’s got a shot like I’ve never seen before. He’s a big, strong kid and that goal he scored to tie the game was incredible. We need more of that. We need everybody to step up and contribute. We have to be committed.”

Also just like the second period, Canton wasted little time grabbing the lead back thanks to its dangerous power play (2-for-6 on Saturday). Ronan O’Mahony stepped up from the blue line to fire a shot on goal, which hit a skate in front and deflected directly to the stick of Marshall, who was stepping in from the left face-off dot. He didn’t need a second touch to knock it past the dive of Ivers.

“For the most part, for the first game we have a lot to learn,” said Sarno. “We need to take better care of the puck in our own zone. I thought we gave up a little too much space, especially on the initial rush. We need gap up a little better, take away their speed coming in, and force them to dump it in.”

Hagan nearly got his second assist when he set up Timmy Kelleher in front but Ivers was able to stay with the partially deflected shot and push it aside. The Bulldogs had an opportunity to put the game away after a major penalty was assessed to the Panthers, but Franklin managed to clear it off and also create a couple of chances to tie it in the final 1:15.

Lovett had the first chance with a shot from a face-off win, but it was stopped at the near post. Seconds later, Marchand had a slap shot that was sticked aside. Despite the Franklin pressure (the Panthers held a 29-21 advantage in shots for the game), and Canton looking shaky in its own zone, the Bulldogs managed to hang on.

“Our guys who have been around struggled tonight,” Shuman admitted. “Usually our strength is in the ‘D’ zone and breaking out and the guys who’ve been around really struggled. Hopefully it’s just first game jitters.”

They are now 26-0-1 in their last 27 games dating back to the start of last season, although Shuman is quick to turn the page on last year’s state championship.

“We rarely talk about last season, unless we’re asked about it and even then we kind of dismiss it,” he explained. “Based on scrimmages, based on this game, other teams got a heck of a lot better and we’re still figuring out how much better we got it. We had some magic last season and this season is going to be totally different.”

Canton (1-0) will host Shrewsbury in another tough non-league contest on Wednesday. Franklin (0-1) will host perennial power Malden Catholic on Tuesday night.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Spillane Stepping Down After Two Decades at Franklin

Chris Spillane
Franklin hockey coach Chris Spillane has announced that he is stepping down after 21 years of coaching at his alma mater. He won 14 league titles, a state championship, and reached the Super 8 during his tenure. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

Josh PerryFollowJoshPerry


Midway through the 1998-99 hockey season, Franklin had an unexpected opening for a varsity coach and the program turned to a former star player, and state champion, to fill the void. Chris Spillane, who had one-plus year of JV coaching experience, was promoted to finish out the winter. The Panthers won 10 of their final 14 games that season and advanced to face Duxbury in the Div. 2 South championship game. Twenty years later, Spillane’s coaching career has come to a close following another trip to the South final and, just like his first year, another meeting with the Dragons.

Spillane officially submitted his resignation on Monday, after telling his players that he was stepping down at the team’s end-of-season banquet on Sunday night. During his two-decade tenure as head coach, the Panthers went to the playoffs every season, reached five state championship games (including three Div. 2 finals in a row), won the Div. 1 state title in 2016, and became the first Hockomock League team to be selected for the Super 8. He finished with more than 300 career victories, second on the program’s all-time win list behind only his high school coach Bob Luccini.

“I’ve missed so much of my kids’ college hockey,” said Spillane when asked why he decided to retire. His daughter Kaitlyn just wrapped up a successful career at St. Anselm and his son Ryan has one more year left for the Hawks. His son C.J. was a senior on this year’s Franklin team. “My wife and I were talking and I was like, it’s time to follow him. I’ll miss this, but I can’t get that back.”

The idea of retirement was first addressed in the summer and Spillane told his coaching staff about his decision. He explained that the assistant coaches “basically coached the team this year” to prepare them for the possibility of taking over for the 2019-20 season.

After two decades without missing the playoffs, Spillane nearly saw his final season end early. The Panthers made the tournament with a record of 8-9-4 and were the lowest seed in D1 South. Franklin only qualified as the Kelley-Rex division champion (its eighth straight division title and 14th Hock title under Spillane), but the Panthers got a lot of help on a wild night to earn the crown.

Franklin thought the title and its postseason hopes were gone when it lost to North Attleboro, but then Mansfield and Oliver Ames were both beaten the same night, handing Franklin the title. Spillane said, “We showed up for practice the next day and I was like, you’re not going to believe this boys but we just won the league.”

When asked about his team taking advantage of that break and then making an improbable run to the South final, Spillane replied, “It was always in our kids, just this year took a little bit longer to pull it out of them and get them to see what they’re capable of.”

Talking to coaches that have faced Franklin during Spillane’s tenure and there are several common phrases that pop up – hardworking, consistent, disciplined. It was established from the start what was going to be expected of the Panthers every season and almost always the team met those lofty goals.

“Chris is the best coach I have seen in all my years of coaching… without question,” said Canton coach Brian Shuman. “His players are expected to outwork their opponents every shift and to play tough, fast and physical every time they touch the ice. You can tell that his players have the highest respect for him and would go through a wall for him.’

Long-time Stoughton coach Dan Mark added, “Chris has been a class act and I know I will miss him. The last 10 years my teams have struggled and he has never run up the score and has always been gracious and complimentary to me and my teams.”

Spillane credits a lot of his coaching philosophy from what he learned playing for Luccini and his coaches at UMass Boston, Gary Doak and Bill Stewart. He took bits and pieces from each of those coaches and molded it into his own style, but one that has been flexible and adaptable to meet the challenges and demands of coaching for 20-plus seasons. As he noted, the “X’s and O’s” haven’t changed much down the years but he has changed way he interacts with players, even if he still makes them do plenty of skating and hard work to get on the ice.

“Twenty years ago you could be a screamer and a yeller and it worked,” he explained. “Now it’s evolved into being a friend, a coach, and a mentor, and obviously with video being introduced they need visual learning not just white boards. It’s different generations and coaches who can change with it sort of stick it out and those that don’t change with it get weeded out.”

Spillane continued, “You’re just trying to make it the best experience they can have and if they win that’s just icing on the cake. You want them walking away saying I love hockey.”

One of the biggest challenges that Franklin faced during Spillane’s tenure was making the jump from D2 to D1, but the Panthers met it head on and needed little time to get acclimated. In just its second season in D1, Franklin was chosen to play in the Super 8. A team loaded with 22 seniors upset Xaverian in overtime in the play-in game and gave eventual champion Malden Catholic a battle over two legs. It was his son Ryan that scored the game-winning goal to lift the Panthers, which obviously meant a lot to his father, but it was the fact that he had coached that large and close-knit senior class since their days in Mites that made the accomplishment extra special for Spillane.

To remain in the Super 8 mix, Spillane has pushed to add tougher teams to Franklin’s schedule. Malden Catholic was the first to jump on (and the Panthers earned their first win against the Lancers this winter), but it was hard to find other D1 teams willing to schedule the Panthers. In 2016, Franklin added a state title and solidified itself as a public school program to be reckoned with and a positive addition for any Super 8 contender’s schedule. Now the likes of St. Mary’s, Marshfield, Hingham, St. John’s Shrewsbury, Barnstable, and Pope Francis are all regularly on the season slate.

“Now we’re turning games away and finding the right match for us that we could compete in but would still challenge us,” Spillane said. “It’s just about challenging kids, playing the best teams you can play and win or lose it’s going to make you better.”

While the Panthers have added D1 teams from around the state to bolster its strength of schedule, Spillane still looks forward to games with historic rivals. He joked about the “green teams” that Franklin gets fired up for (Canton, Mansfield, and King Philip) and raved about the depth in the league this season and the challenges that teams presented.

Canton has been the most consistent rival to Franklin’s supremacy in the league, with the teams trading seasons at the top. Shuman said, “I tell our kids all the time that we are incredibly lucky to have a true rival like Franklin. Rivals push you to be better and bring the best out of you. And Chris’ Franklin teams have clearly done that over the years.”

He added, “Franklin has always been a great hockey program, but Chris has made the program one of the best in the state.”

Spillane grew up in Franklin and dreamed of playing for the Panthers. He got his chance and was part of some of the program’s best teams. He won a state title in 1983 and scored 79 points the following season as a senior. He came back to Franklin after college to raise his family and got the chance to coach at his alma mater. Now, after 20 years of success on the bench, he gets to go back to being a fan, at least for a little while.

“I may still get out on the ice and help out, maybe do a captain’s practice, but at the end of the day it needs to move on,” he said, adding that he hopes that his assistant coaches will be considered to replace him. Even though he is moving on from the Franklin job to watch Ryan’s final year in college, he fully expects that this won’t be the end of his hockey career.

“For one year I am sitting back and being a parent and then the following year I’ll probably be coaching somewhere,” he said. “It’s in my blood.”

Nolte, Hagan Make Most Of Top Line Reunion

Ryan Nolte, Johnny Hagan
Canton senior Ryan Nolte (left) and junior Johnny Hagan celebrate with the D2 State Championship. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
BOSTON, Mass. – For the first 13 games of the season, Canton senior Ryan Nolte and junior Johnny Hagan took turns punishing teams as members of different lines.

For the last 13 games, the duo reunited on the Bulldogs’ top line, ramping up Canton’s already potent offense.

And in the biggest game of the season, the Division 2 State Championship against North sectional champion Tewksbury, Nolte and Hagan — along with linemate Timmy Kelleher — delivered when it mattered most.

“They are so dynamic together, they play so well together,” said Canton head coach Brian Shuman. “They know where each other are at all times. They have this unique relationship on the ice that I’ve never seen before.”

Nolte and Hagan played on the same line for nearly the entire 2017-2018 season, helping the Bulldogs win another Davenport division title and reach the D2 South Semifinal. This season, Shuman decided to split the dynamic duo to begin the year, putting them on separate lines.

Click here for a photo gallery from the D2 State Final.

After tying for a team-high 36 points a year prior, splitting Nolte and Hagan gave Shuman an elite player on each of his first two lines, and also allowed Hagan to play his natural position of center.

“The best part about them, when I talked to them about splitting them they might have been unhappy but they didn’t show it,” Shuman said. “They just went out and had an outstanding first half of the season. That just shows the kind of leaders that they are. I know a lot of high school kids that would pout and sulk and let it affect their game, but not those two. They are just two special players, as good as they are individually, they are two great team players.

While Nolte and Hagan admitted they weren’t thrilled to part ways, neither let it show in their performance and helped the Bulldogs raced out to a perfect 13-0, outscoring opponents 64-13 in that span. Plus, it wasn’t an entire split as the pair played together on the power play and penalty kill.

“Coach told us a few weeks before the season, so it definitely hurt the next few days knowing we weren’t going to be playing on the same line,” Nolte said. “But we had to stay focused no matter who we were playing with. We knew we’d be together for the power play and PK, so it wasn’t a full split. But we knew that we had to work just as hard with our new linemates and we adapted well.”

So after three straight close games — a win over Newburyport, a third-period rally to stun Franklin, and a close win over North that included a late game-winner — along with the emergence of junior center Tommy Ghostlaw, Shuman elected to reunite Hagan and Nolte with Kelleher on the first line.

The result was four straight comfortable wins, outscoring opponents 24-1 in that stretch. And in one of the most challenging games of the year, Nolte and Hagan each scored in a 4-3 decision over D3 powerhouse Hanover.

“We already had the hot start so we knew playing together we could really pounce on teams even more,” Nolte said. “It was just a great feeling to be back on the same line and playing together.”

A week later, Hagan provided the heroics by scoring a goal regulation to salvage a tie with Boston late and keep the Bulldogs unbeaten. The junior then scored in overtime to help Canton advance to the final of the Quinn Memorial tournament.

“It’s always good to kind of shake things up,” Shuman said. “Since I’ve been coaching here, I don’t think we’ve ever gone from start to finish with the same line combinations, and it’s kind of by design. You play some teams twice, like Franklin, or could see another team twice like OA. It’s good to have different looks. It was always in the plans to do this at some point.”

Ghostlaw’s strong play allowed Shuman to keep Nolte and Hagan together on the top line. Ghostlaw (13 points) clicked with linemates Chris Lavoie (27 points) and Shane Marshall (15 points), giving the Bulldogs a strong second unit.

“Tommy is kind of the other part of the equation,” Shuman said. “He had such an outstanding season that allowed us to keep those two on the first line together. Chris Lavoie was fantastic, and Shane Marshall, someone who doesn’t enough credit a lot of the time, he was outstanding too.”

When the playoffs rolled around, Canton’s top line took its game to another level. In an opening-round rout of Medway, Nolte scored twice while Hagan and Kelleher each scored once in a 6-0 victory.

Again Oliver Ames, Nolte scored the game-winning goal midway through the second period by tipping in a shot from Jack Connolly. Kelleher buried an empty net goal to seal a win over the Tigers, arguably the toughest opponent the Bulldogs played this postseason.

In the semifinals, Nolte recorded a hat trick, two of which were assisted by Hagan. And Hagan also scored once, set up by Nolte, as the Bulldogs ran away with a 6-1 decision over Norwood.

The offensive onslaught continued in the South Final as the Bulldogs’ top line was responsible for half of Canton’s eight goals. Kelleher scored twice while Hagan and Nolte both found the back of the net once while registering two assists apiece.

“He definitely makes it easier for everyone on the ice,” Hagan said of Nolte. “We’ve played together since we were very young. We’ve always clicked, we know where each other are going to be. We knew what we had in front of us in terms of winning the state championship. We wanted it really bad, so we just came to work every day. We worked out butts off in practice and in games to get here, and here we are.”

Under the lights at the TD Garden, Canton’s first line shined the brightest. That line was on the ice for all six of the Bulldogs’ goals, scoring five of them.

Kelleher opened the scoring, tucking in the rebound off a shot from Owen Lehane with Nolte getting an assist with 9:04 left in the opening period. Minutes later, Connolly blasted a low shot from the right point to make it 2-0 with 7:27 to go in the first.

It took just 16 seconds for Canton to add to its lead as Nolte muscled his way into the slot and buried a wrist shot to make it 3-0.

“Without question, they are the best team we’ve played for sure.” said Tewksbury coach Derek Doherty. “You don’t get this far without three lines. Those guys play three lines but that first line of theirs, that’s definitely the best line we’ve played.”

The cohesion between Nolte and Hagan was on full display for the next two goals. The first, Hagan interrupted a pass near the blue while Tewksbury was on the power play. He went into the offensive zone and had his shot saved, but Nolte won the battle behind the net and found Hagan in front for a one-timer and a 4-0 lead.

Click here for a photo gallery from the D2 State Final.

Of Canton’s 29 playoff goals, the top line of Nolte-Hagan-Kelleher scored 19 of them.

“They carried us today, we asked them to play a lot of minutes,” Shuman said. “When you have penalties and power plays, that throws a wrench in the plans. We joked with Johnny, ‘Where’s your hat trick’ and there it was today. That line of Ryan, Johnny, and Timmy, what can you say about them? They played great.”

The Redmen cut it to 4-2 with two straight tallies over the second and third periods, but Nolte and Hagan responded with a power-play goal. Nolte won a battle along the side boards, skated towards goal and slid a pass to Hagan right in front for a score.

Hagan completed the hat trick with an empty net goal, assisted, of course, by Nolte.

“No matter where we are on the ice, we seem to just know where each other are,” Nolte said. “We just find the open spots, and we both can finish in the tight areas. It makes life easier when you have someone who can finish like [Hagan] can.”

While Nolte and Hagan didn’t start the season playing on the same line, they finished it together as state champions.

Canton Caps Historic Unbeaten Season with D2 Title

Canton boys hockey
Canton’s Ronan O’Mahony (23) jumps on the pile to celebrate the D2 State Championship. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
Josh PerryFollowJoshPerry


BOSTON, Mass. – Canton went into Sunday afternoon’s Div. 2 state championship game against Tewksbury looking to put a fitting exclamation point on a historic season. The Bulldogs were trying to be the first team since Hanover won the D3 title in 2001 to finish a season unbeaten, be just the fourth team to win 25 games in a single year, and to earn the program’s first title since 2010.

Despite all that pressure, the Bulldogs did what they have done all season long – they found a way to win.

Behind a hat trick from junior Johnny Hagan and a goal and four assists by senior Ryan Nolte, Canton dispatched Tewksbury 6-2, closing out its season at 25-0-1.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

“It’s one of those things that it was hard not to know that we’d be good with the guys that we had back,” said Canton coach Brian Shuman, “but you still think you’re going to have a couple of tough games. It just goes to show how driven these guys are. That was their goal, to win every single game, and they did it.”

Nolte said, “It’s unbelievable. We knew in the summer that this was a goal, but, yeah, I don’t think the undefeated part came with it. We worked hard all off-season, so I think we deserved it and we went out and showed the work that we put in.”

Entering the playoffs unbeaten put a giant target on Canton’s back, but it seemed only to motivate the Bulldogs, who outscored opponents 29-3 during their tournament run. Canton scored six against Norwood in the D2 South semifinal, eight against Westwood in the final, and then another six against the Redmen on Sunday.

“They were just relentless, they did not stop,” Shuman explained. “We always say that it’s a 0-0 hockey game no matter the score, but they always played like that.”

Skating on the big ice and bright lights of the Garden can take some getting used to and it seemed like the Bulldogs needed a couple shifts to find their legs. Once they found their footing in the first period, the Bulldogs took control of the game.

Shane Marshall had the first chance on a feed from behind the net by Tommy Ghostlaw, but Tewksbury goalie Patrick Letourneau kept his pads down to block a pair of shots. Canton grabbed the lead five minutes into the game. Seconds after Nolte was denied on a shot from the left wing circle, Owen Lehane’s shot from the point rebounded to Timmy Kelleher for a tap-in.

Just about 90 seconds later and the lead was doubled. Ronan O’Mahony swung the puck across the blue line to Jack Connolly, who patiently crept towards the face-off circle before firing a low wrister just inside the post. Nolte added a third goal with a shot from the slot just 16 seconds later.

Three goals in less than two minutes had the Bulldogs thinking the title was as good as won.

Shuman said, “It seems like the story of the playoffs. We’ve played with a lot of pressure on us this entire postseason, but it’s amazing when you have a crew like these guys how quickly they can strike. It just goes to show the quality of players we have on that team.”

“It’s huge,” said Nolte about the early goals. “No matter what, Mike [Staffiere] will play his best every game, so if we get a few goals early that just makes us more confident. The earlier we score the better we feel because with Mike back there we know there won’t be too many pucks going in.”

The Redmen tried to cut into the lead early in the second period when Kyle Morris got free on a shorthanded breakaway but Mike Staffiere came through with a clutch glove save. Two minutes later, Canton got its own shorthanded odd-man rush that Tewksbury struggled to clear, the puck falling right to Hagan in the slot and he calmly put it away.

Tewksbury was down four goals but was playing much better in the second period. Staffiere again had to come up big to stop a pair of chances from the edge of the crease. The Redmen finally found a breakthrough after Morris stole the puck behind the Canton goal and played it out in front to Aaron Scott.

Chris Lavoie and Marshall nearly had instant responses for the Bulldogs but it remained 4-1 after two periods. The lead got smaller early in the third. Kyle Lombardo got a piece of a Campbell Pierce shot from the point, redirecting it past Staffiere to make it 4-2.

With 7:19 remaining, Canton added a big insurance goal on a power play. Nolte skated off the half-boards and picked out Hagan cutting to the goal. The junior took a touch to control and then buried his shot over the shoulder of Letourneau for a 5-2 lead.

“They carried us today,” said Shuman about his top line. “We kind of joked with Johnny, ‘where is your hat trick?’ and he had it today. He really stepped up. That line of Ryan, Johnny, and Timmy, what can you say about them? They played great.”

Tewksbury had a goal disallowed for an offsides call and with three minutes left decided to pull its goalie. Hagan sealed the title for the Bulldogs when he beat a defender to a loose puck and scored on the empty net.

“It definitely feels good and I’ll definitely remember this forever,” said Hagan about his hat trick. “I think we really tried to play within ourselves and not really get into the hype around us. We just played our game.”

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

One of the storylines throughout the playoff run was Canton bouncing back after being snubbed by the Super 8. Shuman, who played on the unbeaten 1998 Catholic Memorial team that won the Super 8, dismissed the idea that the Bulldogs were motivated by not being selected.

“That’s so far in the rearview mirror,” he said. “These guys, when we shared with them about the Super 8, they were just like, ‘okay, on to D2.’ This was their goal from day one and I can’t believe the maturity they showed when that happened. It didn’t motivate us, we just focused on taking care of business in D2.”

The Bulldogs took care of business and made history in the process. “I really don’t even think it’s set in yet,” said Hagan. “It will probably set in with the police escort, riding through the center of town. It’s unreal.”

Bulldogs Seal South Title With Dominant Performance

Canton boys hockey
Canton boys hockey celebrates with its D2 South championship trophy. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
Josh PerryFollowJoshPerry


BUZZARDS BAY, Mass. – Canton is no stranger to playing important games at Gallo Arena. Coming into this year’s playoffs, the Bulldogs had played nine times in Bourne since winning the state title in 2010, reaching at least the sectional semifinal every year but one, but had only won twice at Gallo in that span.

After a convincing win against Norwood in the semifinal, Canton had the opportunity to end nearly a decade’s wait for a return to the TD Garden and set aside recent history in this venue. The Bulldogs did that in style, dominating second-seed Westwood from start to finish in the Div. 2 South final and putting an 8-0 exclamation point on their run to the final.

“It feels amazing,” said Canton senior goalie Mike Staffiere. “I pictured this in my mind when I was a little kid. In 2010, when they won it at the Garden, my Mite ‘A’ team was here to watch the state championship team win this game and it was one of the most special moments of my life.”

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

When asked about what made this year’s team different than previous Canton squads, including two South finalists, Canton coach Brian Shuman said, “The word that’s used most often to describe them is relentless. They just don’t stop. They work hard, they love each other, they play for each other, and I couldn’t be prouder of them. I love it that on the ice all of them are saying one more, one more and that’s how they’ve been all year.”

Staffiere added, “I think we’re just more of a family this year. We’re so close on and off the ice and we’re always together, we’re all brothers, and I think that’s the difference.”

If there was any nervousness in the Canton locker room, the players certainly didn’t show it on the ice. The Bulldogs recorded the fist nine shots of the game, held an 18-5 advantage in shots after the first period, and needed only 43 seconds to get ahead. Johnny Hagan had a wraparound shot saved by Westwood goalie Ben Goodrich and the rebound skipped out to Owen Lehane at the blue line. His wrister snuck inside the post for the early lead.

“We just wanted a good start, we wanted to come out flying, and to come out hard,” said Shuman. “To get a goal in the first period is always a good way to start the game.”

Canton never looked back. Chris Lavoie nearly doubled the lead with a shot from the slot, but Goodrich made a big stop with his shoulder. Staffiere (19 saves) didn’t have much to do in the first but he was forced into a blocker save on a snap shot by Colin Fahey. The Bulldogs made their pressure pay with 3:19 left in the first, Ryan Nolte took his time in the left circle and fired a low shot that squeezed inside the near post.

After dominating play and grabbing a 2-0 lead in the first, Canton put the game away in the second.

Just a minute after the break, Timmy Kelleher blocked a puck at the blue line and then raced into the offensive zone to collect it. He dropped a pass off to Hagan in the slot and the junior took a look up and sniped the top corner on the stick side. Only 23 seconds later, Ryan Colby added a fourth.

The top line of Hagan, Nolte, and Kelleher was controlling the game and Westwood had no answer. With 12:10 left in the second, that trio combined for the fifth of the afternoon. Hagan had the initial shot and the rebound was pushed on goal by Nolte with Kelleher on hand to force it over the line.

Shuman said, “Timmy Kelleher I think played his best game of the season. He’s just a bruising right-wing. He made a great block that led to that goal.”

There was no letting up from the Bulldogs. Lavoie was the lone forechecker but he managed to swipe the puck from the Westwood defender on the right side of the net. The junior center brought it back to the other side and threw a puck in front looking for Tommy Ghostlaw in the crease, but it deflected off a Westwood player and looped into the goal.

Three minutes into the third period, Kelleher again showed the benefit of going to the net, as he followed up a chance by Nolte and knocked in the rebound to make it 7-0. Seven minutes later, Tommy Vaughan got in on the action. Eamon Kelly’s shot was going wide of the net, but it glanced off Vaughan’s skate and snuck in.

Westwood created some chances down the stretch, but Staffiere stood tall to preserve his shutout in the final. “I wanted it so bad,” he said about the shutout. “They had a couple of odd-man rushes but my ‘D’ played well and they helped me out to get that shutout.”

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

This is Staffiere’s first season in goal, after three years as a backup to Quinn Gibbs, and that has made the title even sweeter. He explained, “I did my time as a backup. I still worked hard every day and it really paid off. It’s amazing, my dreams are coming true.”

Canton (24-0-1) heads to the TD Garden next Sunday and will face either Boston Latin or Tewksbury in the state championship game. It has been an impressive run through the sectional for the Bulldogs, which didn’t allow the disappointment of not being chosen for the Super 8 deter them.

“That’s so far in our rearview mirror,” said Shuman of the Super 8 snub. “Those guys put that past them right away and all they wanted to do is move on and have a moment like this. The best part is that they’re not satisfied and they’re looking forward to that next game and whoever the North sends out.”