#13 Stoughton, 67 @ #4 Scituate, 80 – Final – Stoughton whittled a 21-point deficit down to a two-possession game in the third quarter but the fourth-seeded Sailors were able to pull away for the win. Scituate raced out to a 50-29 point lead at halftime, hitting eight three-point field goals over the first 16 minutes. The Black Knights opened the third quarter with a 20-5 burst, getting within six at 55-49 with 1:38 left in the third. Scituate went on a short 6-0 burst to finish the third and kept that lead the rest of the way. Senior Myles Grigalunas-Powell hit a pair of threes and scored eight of his team-high 19 points in the third while classmate Obinna Ugwuakazi had nine of his 16 points in the fame. Tahkwan Gates Brown added 14 points for the Black Knights. Stoughton’s John Gallivan coached in his final game as he will retire at the end of the school year. He spent 16 years as the head coach of the Black Knights, recording 176 wins and six league titles including a share of the 2020 Davenport division crown.
#18 Oliver Ames, 64 @ #2 Westwood, 78 – Final
#6 Franklin, 66 @ #3 Natick, 63 – Final – After seeing its 12-point halftime lead disappear, and facing a 59-50 deficit on the road in the fourth quarter, Franklin pulled out an impressive win over the third-seeded RedHawks. A steal and layup from Natick’s Ryan Mela gave the hosts a 59-50 lead with 4:08 left, capping a wild 24-5 surge from Natick, which trailed 41-29 at half. But Franklin responded as senior Chris Edgehill (20 points) drained a pair of three-pointers and senior Brayden Sullivan (10 points) had a key steal and score that cut the deficit to just five. Edgehill hit one of his threes to make it 61-61 before Natick went back ahead. Junior Declan Walmsey hit a three with under a minute to play to give Franklin a 64-63 edge, and then sank two free throws with 3.7 seconds left to push it to 66-63. Natick’s last second shot was off the rim as the Panthers clinched the win. Steven Karayan added 10 points for Franklin, who advances to the D1 Central Semifinals on Sunday against #2 Worcester South, who prevailed 62-57 in overtime over #10 Wachusett. Franklin and South will tipoff from WPI at 5:00.
#13 Mansfield, 2 @ #4 Duxbury, 3 – Final – The Hornets put the pressure on defending D1 South champion Duxbury, but the Dragons used a pair of second period goals to earn the win and advance. After Duxbury opened the scoring, Mansfield answered back with just two minutes left in the first. Chris Jenkins got the first for Mansfield, assisted by Cam Page and Jake Quirk. Duxbury scored twice in the final three minutes of the second period to take control, but the Hornets cut the lead in half thanks to a Liam Anastasia goal (assisted by Quirk) with six minutes to play.
FOXBORO, Mass. – In the last few weeks, Mansfield has allowed several third period leads to slip away and went home with a point rather than two. On Saturday night at the Foxboro Sports Center, in a game that the Hornets couldn’t afford to lose, they showed the capability to come back from a late deficit too.
Jack Watts twice put Foxboro in front, but both times the lead was wiped out by a goal from Jake Lund, including one with just 3:31 to play, as the teams skated away with a 2-2 tie. The point was enough to secure the Hornets a second-place tie in the Kelley-Rex division and a postseason berth, while the Warriors finished at .500 in league play for the first time.
“We got it done,” said Mansfield coach Mike Balzarini. “The way we’re playing, it was inevitable that we were going to get a tie. One thing that I’m extremely proud of is the way we battled back. We’ve been on the other end of that, so for us to come back twice was huge, especially in the third period.”
The game was end-to-end right from the opening face-off, with both teams stretching the opposition defense and testing the goaltenders. Mansfield had a 10-5 lead in shots after one, but both teams had their share of good scoring chances.
Foxboro had success with its diagonal outlet passes through the neutral zone, springing its forwards behind the Mansfield defense. Ronnie McLellan got it started just three minutes in with a pass to Kirk Leach, who got a look on the right wing that was saved by Sean McCafferty.
“We got a lot more pucks to the net against a team like this than we have in the past,” explained Foxboro coach Mark Cedorchuk. “We were happy with our offensive effort tonight. Our defense was moving the puck really quickly tonight and creating chances off that.”
Lund and Chris Jenkins had a nice give-and-go sequence on the other end but the final touch sent the puck wide of the net. Just seconds later, Lund got the puck in the slot, spun quickly and forced a good pad save from Foxboro goalie Espen Reager.
Leach had another go from the right circle that McCafferty blockered aside and then Ben Ierardo set up Jake Quirk for a one-timer that was mishit but nearly looped into the net and trickled just wide of the post with Reager wrong-footed.
The second period was even more action-packed, as the teams combined for 25 shots. Watts would put the Warriors in front with 11:35 left in the period. McLellan flipped a pass to Watts, who saw the puck bounce off his stick and flick into the top corner.
Mansfield kept coming back. Patrick Gormley had his shot from the point saved and then Reager dove to poke the rebound away from Cam Page. Watts nearly connected with Leach on the far post and then Jenkins had a backhander pushed aside.
McCafferty stood tall to deny Watts and Lund thought he tied the game only to have a goal waived off because the net was unmoored. McLellan was set up by Watts for a shot right in front that McCafferty had to be quick to stick out a pad and keep it 1-0.
Down by a goal entering the third period, Mansfield needed a response. The Hornets came out of the second intermission and had the first six shots of the period, peppering Reager in search of an equalizer. It finally came after four minutes when Lund got himself on the edge of the crease and knocked in a rebound that fell to him.
“I think we were playing a little nervous in the first period, guys holding their sticks too tight,” said Balzarini, “but we settled down and not once did we lose focus, even being down twice.”
Cedorchuk noted, “In front of our net, we just didn’t get underneath sticks and lift up sticks, particularly on that first goal.” He did praise his team’s overall defensive effort, adding, “We had a modified trap going, so we’d send one guy in and have our F1 and F2 stay with their wings and they had a hard time breaking it out and find outlets. We were just trying to slow them down.”
The goal seemed to spur the Warriors into action. Leach got free on a breakaway and had to be dragged down at the last second, with Watts getting stoned by McCafferty on a one-timer from the slot. Eoin Reager twice forced saves out of the Mansfield goalie and McLellan had a tip in front go just wide. McCafferty (25 saves) was called on again for a big stop when Leach got another breakaway with seven minutes to play.
“Sean’s been unbelievable,” said Balzarini. “If it wasn’t for him these past few games, I don’t know, I’d be nervous without him. He’s been great.”
With 4:21 to play, Eoin Reager fired a shot from the point that Watts managed to redirect past the goalie to regain the lead. This time, it only took 50 seconds for the Hornets to get back even. After Espen Reager (34 saves) stopped the first two chances, the puck fell to Lund in space and he fired a shot into the back of the net.
Balzarini joked, “He played great, but he’s been struggling in front of net, so I called him out at practice the other day. He actually got the hard hat and he dedicated it to me because I told him he was terrible in front of net. He did a great job.”
Mansfield (5-6-6, 3-1-4) has a week off before facing two games in two days, when they host Shrewsbury and Franklin at the New England Sports Village. Foxboro (7-4-5, 2-2-4) will look to build on its playoff positioning when it hosts Wayland on Wednesday.
FOXBORO, Mass. – Through two periods of play at the Foxboro Sports Center, the Mansfield and King Philip boys hockey teams were split right down the middle.
The Hornets controlled the opening 15 minutes, seizing a 2-0 lead only for the Warriors to respond with an equally as dominant second period that netted a pair of goals and had the teams deadlocked entering the final period.
The play on the ice certainly favored King Philip in the third period but nothing changed on the scoreboard as Mansfield senior goalie Sean McCafferty shined between the pipes to deny the Warriors a third goal, stealing a point in a 2-2 non-league contest between division rivals.
“In the third period he was unbelievable,” said Mansfield head coach Mike Balzarini as McCafferty recorded 15 of his 27 saves in the last period to prevent KP from grabbing its 10th win of the season.
The point helps Mansfield move within five points of qualifying for the state tournament, although the Hornets could qualify with a point against Foxboro on Friday, securing a second place finish in the Kelley-Rex.
“He’s been the backbone of this team all year long,” Balzarini continued about McCafferty. “Games we’ve won, games that we’ve tied, even games that we’ve lost, he’s played great. He played phenomenal against Winthrop even though they scored what they did, it could have been a lot more. And he was great again tonight in the third.”
What looked like a good start for King Philip ended up being a big moment for Mansfield. The Warriors went on the power play just over a minute into the contest but were caught a bit flat-footed. Hornet senior Kevin Belanger won a battle at the blue line and skated in on a breakaway. He cut across the front of the net and deposited the puck five-hole to give Mansfield a 1-0 lead just 1:46 into the game.
From there, the Hornets piled it on in the opening period, holding an 11-4 advantage on shot on goals. Just past the midway point of the period, an interference call in the neutral zone presented the Hornets with a power play opportunity and Mansfield cashed in just over a minute in.
After Chris Jenkins had a shot blocked, Belanger quickly batted the loose buck on goal. King Philip goalie Jesper Makudera (17 saves) made a pad stop but Jake Lund was the first to the rebound and buried it into the back of the net for a 2-0 lead with 5:31 to play in the first.
Mansfield nearly made it 3-0 in the first in the final minutes when Belanger flew into the offensive zone and fired a wrist shot that clanked off the far post and stayed out.
The second period couldn’t have gone much different than the first as it was all King Philip from the first face off. Junior Justin Yatsuhashi had an early chance after a turnover but his backhand from in close was over the bar.
Mansfield’s Sam Clayman came up with a big stop on a two-on-one chance for the Warriors at the 12 minute mark but the Warriors kept applying pressure and came up with a power play chance with 8:32 to go in the second.
McCafferty came up with early saves on the man-down situation stopping a give-and-go between Joe Boselli and Nolan Feyler, the former depositing a shot right into the goalie’s chest. Senior defenseman Kyle Gray also had a blast denied in the open portion of the power play.
Finally the pressure paid off as Gray fired a low show that was saved but senior Chris Daniels was in perfect position in front to clean up the rebound with a nice backhand finish to make it 2-1.
“It was very similar to the first game,” said KP coach Paul Carlow, the Warriors having erased a two-goal deficit in the first meeting as well. “I try to use analogies with the kids…you never want to get punched in the face first, right? But we almost have to. First shot on net goes in both games. I love their resolve, I love their battle…they don’t quit. I’d love to see us come out [to start] like we did in the second. Hopefully we get that.”
King Philip capitalized on the momentum and needed just 17 seconds to find the equalizing goal. The puck popped up near the blue line and was brought down by a Hornet but King Philip’s Jack Coulter was alert to the play, applying pressure and came away with the puck.
It resulted in a two-on-one chance for KP and Coulter slid a pass across for a finish from Aidan Boulger to make it 2-2 with 6:55 to play in the second. The Warriors had another power play chance late in the period but the Hornets killed it off.
“I think there’s always a natural letdown after qualifying for the tournament, especially for a team that isn’t used to being there,” Carlow said. “We’re in and maybe we took our foot off the gas, I think that was what happened in the first. But I love the way they responded, they came out and tied it in the second. And I felt like we outplayed them down the stretch, we certainly had more quality chances in the third.
“Mansfield always plays us tough. [McCafferty] certainly played well for them tonight. They are a good team, I think they’ll get into the tournament.”
Mansfield had an early chance in the third when a KP defenseman slipped as Cam Page fed Liam Anastasia but Makudera made a glove save on the latter’s wrist shot.
The result of the period featured stop after stop from McCafferty. Coulter fired a shot that was redirected by Conor Cooke only to be denied by the McCafferty’s mask. Yatsuhashi had a found chance swallowed up.
The best chance came at the midway point when Boselli came away with a breakaway chance, making a move to get past McCafferty but the goalie did enough for force Boselli wide enough that his bid on goal hit the post and stayed out. KP had two rebound chances after with Feyler and Rocco Bianculli burying shots on net but were stoned by McCafferty.
Mansfield nearly came up with a chance to steal the win on a two-on-one break but Gray made a terrific read to stop the bid.
King Philip’s final chances were from Feyler, who took a pass from Bianculli, but didn’t get all of it when he spun around to fire a shot on goal. And Noah Ray got a piece of a shot from Bianculli but again McCafferty was up to the task.
“[Two-goal leads] have not been our friend at all,” Balzarini said, noting the first meeting against KP plus a pair of two-goal leads against Franklin that both disappeared. “We were struggling starting, and now that’s getting better, but we just have to put together a 45-minute game. There are times we get complacent and we stray away from what we’re trying to focus on within our system. I thought our forecheck was great in the first period and then we just were kind of on our heels.”
King Philip boys hockey (4-2-2 Hockomock, 9-4-3 overall) will host Oliver Ames on Saturday while Mansfield (3-1-3, 5-6-5) will play its final league game of the year against Foxboro. If Mansfield wins, they will finish alone in second place, while a tie would mean the Hornets share second with KP, both situations securing Mansfield a playoff berth. A Foxboro win would mean Mansfield finished third in the division and need five points in its final three games.
FRANKLIN, Mass. – Last season, the Kelley-Rex division title wasn’t decided until the final game of the league campaign and this season is shaping up to be just as close. Coming into Thursday night’s showdown with Mansfield, Franklin was in a first place tie with King Philip, both sitting on seven points in the league, with the Hornets just two points back.
After a thrilling 5-5 shootout at Pirelli Veterans Arena, in which it twice battled back from two goals down, Franklin moved back into first place by itself, but by only the slimmest of margins. The tie sets up another exciting finish to decide the league champ, as all three teams have three games remaining.
“I’m proud of the fact that they came back and battled through adversity,” said Franklin coach Anthony Sarno. “They didn’t quit. To lead up to that point, we didn’t really help ourselves, but it takes a hell of a team to fight through adversity two or three times in a game and pull even.”
Mansfield missed an opportunity on Thursday to create a three-way tie atop the division, after twice leading by two goals, including a 5-3 lead with 8:02 remaining in the game.
The Panthers celebrated senior night before the game and came out flying once the puck dropped. Franklin held a 14-4 advantage in shots on goal at the end of the first and had a series of scoring opportunities denied by Mansfield goalie Sean McCafferty (33 saves).
Liam Anastasia had the game’s first good chance when he intercepted a pass in the Franklin zone, but the defense recovered on the back-check and Ray Ivers (17 saves) was able to make the pad stop. Just seconds later, Dylan Marchand forced a glove save out of McCafferty on the other end.
Defenseman Joe LeBlanc put another shot on target, sneaking his effort through a crowd and forcing a pad stop. On the power play, Declan Lovett had two great chances to put the hosts in front. He cut across the crease and had a chance at the post, but McCafferty went post-to-post to make the kick save and then scrambled to get big and stop Lovett’s rebound effort.
The game remained scoreless until the final three minutes of the period. Tom Tasker showed patience on the puck at the blue line, hesitating to find a shooting lane and firing a wrister inside the post.
Franklin went into the locker room with confidence, but it was the Hornets that were buzzing when they came back onto the ice. In just 1:24, Mansfield turned a one-goal deficit into a 3-1 lead.
“Starting is something we continue to battle, but we kept our composure in between periods,” said Mansfield coach Mike Balzarini. “We knew they were a quick team and we knew that we had to jump on them early. We knew that we had to get pucks to the net and just crash the net and that’s what we did.”
Chris Jenkins set up the first goal when he forced a pad save from the right circle. Jake Lund crashed the far post and smashed the rebound in to tie it after 28 seconds. Just 22 seconds later and the Hornets grabbed the lead when Jenkins had a shot from the near boards go off Ivers’ stick and glove and into the back of the net.
The momentum was with the visitors and they took advantage on the power play to extend the lead to two. A mishit shot from the right face-off dot slid wide of the net and Cam Page was in the right place to knock it home.
“We didn’t help ourselves at all,” Sarno admitted. “We didn’t take care of the puck, especially in our own zone, and we turned it over in our zone at crucial times and it cost us goals. We were fighting it and instead of playing disciplined we were chasing it.”
It only took two minutes and a power play opportunity to get Franklin back into the game. Seniors Colin and Kyle Hedvig nearly combined on a great passing play only to have McCafferty make the stop. The duo stuck with the play and Kyle Hedvig got free in the left circle, going top shelf to make it 3-2.
Franklin nearly tied it right after the goal when a shot rang off the bar and Marchand and Kevin O’Rielly both had good looks that were saved. Mansfield went close after a great passing move from Jenkins to Page to Kevin Belanger, but Ivers was in the way. Kyle Hedvig had a shorthanded effort go over the bar and then Lovett got behind the defense only for Ryan Doherty’s back-check and McCafferty’s save to keep the Hornets in front heading into the second intermission.
As wild, fast-paced, and end-to-end the first two periods were, things went to another level in the third.
The Panthers wasted no time getting level, as Shea Hurley got on the end of Marchand’s pass at the back post just 18 seconds into the period. Twenty-two seconds later, the Hornets regained the lead. Lund was left alone in the slot and fired in a one-timer.
“My guys knew it,” said Balzarini about Franklin coming out hard to start the third. “A two-goal lead is probably the hardest thing to keep in hockey and we knew that they might try to stretch us early and we had to be prepared for it.”
Franklin kept pushing and had several good looks. JT Dwyer had an effort from the high slot snagged by McCafferty, LeBlanc smacked the post with a shot from the point, and then LeBlanc forced a pad stop that was followed up by Hedvig only for the rebound to slide wide of the post.
As the hosts pushed forward, Mansfield hit them on the break. Jenkins snuck behind the defense and made no mistake on the breakaway, rifling a shot in off the post and seemingly sealing a victory for the Hornets.
It only seemed like the game was over. Franklin came storming right back with O’Rielly knocking in a rebound from the edge of the crease to give the Panthers a lifeline with 6:33 to play. Less than two minutes later, it was 5-5. Pat Dolan’s pass out of defense found Shane McCaffrey streaking down the middle and he lifted his backhand to beat the goalie.
“I think we were a little more complacent when we had a 5-3 lead,” said Balzarini. “It was late and I think we did take a couple of shifts off. We didn’t win a couple of puck battles, but I thought we continued to play well in the neutral zone and in the offensive zone.”
There was even time for one more chance for the Panthers, as Sean Connelly teed up Conor O’Neil, but McCafferty made the stop to preserve a point apiece.
“We need them,” Sarno said about getting a point. “We need them all. We’ve got a tough stretch. There are no easy nights. Everyone is going to bring their best game against us, so we need to have our best game and even if we do we have to limit our mistakes.”
Franklin (5-3-3, 3-0-2) leads the Kelley-Rex by a point heading into a difficult closing stretch of games that begins with a trip to Canton on Saturday. Mansfield (4-4-3, 2-2-1) will travel to second place King Philip on Saturday for another critical divisional game.
Sharon, 33 @ Cardinal Spellman, 38 – Final – Ally Brown scored 10 points, Trinity Payne scored nine, and Kaitlyn Wallace scored eight, but the Eagles couldn’t pull out the win on the road.
Attleboro, 2 @ Franklin, 9 – Final
Oliver Ames, 0 @ Canton, 6 – Final
Foxboro, 9 @ Stoughton, 0 – Final
North Attleboro, 3 @ King Philip, 3 – Final – Click here for a Photo Gallery from this game. North jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first with a pair of goals in the final four minutes. Jake Gruber followed up after Sam Clarke’s shot was saved to net the first goal of the game and then, with 50.7 seconds left in the period, Jeff Baker found the back of the net with a wrister from a few feet inside the blue line. KP took no time to erase the deficit after the intermission, scoring three power play goals in the first four minutes of the second. Nolan Feyler had a great tip in front to get the first, Joe Boselli picked the corner from the slot for the second, and then Chris Daniels crashed the net to slam home a loose puck and put KP in front. Dennis Morehouse answered back with a goal three minutes before the end of the second and that proved to be the final tally, as the teams finished with a point apiece. KP goalie Jesper Makudera made 25 saves, while North goalie Nick Digiacomo stopped 29 shots.
Taunton, 2 @ Mansfield, 5 – Final – Click here for a Photo Gallery from this game. Taunton took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission but Mansfield scored four straight goals in the second period, including three in the final three minutes, to turn the game around for the win. Taunton freshman Nathan Fernandes scored with 4:13 left in the first with junior Cam Faria and sophomore Loran Corcoran assisting. Mansfield junior Cam Page tied the game with 8:07 left in the second period on assists from Joseph Troiano and Chris Jenkins. Jake Lund (from Jenkins and Troiano) and Jenkins scored eight seconds apart to put the Hornets ahead 3-1, and senior Kevin Belanger added another goal with less than a minute to go in the second (from Jenkins and Patrick Gormley). Jenkins earned his fourth point with his second goal of the game with 7:23 left in the third, Gormley and Lund earning assists. Taunton senior Xavier Abel scored with 4:44 to go with freshman Colton Scheralis and senior Noah Gravel earning assists.
Canton, 1 vs. Dedham, 0 – Final – Canton freshman Olivia Maffeo scored her 11th goal of the season in the first period and the Bulldogs held on for the win over Dedham. Freshman Carolyn Durand earned her sixth shutout of the season in net.
Mansfield/Oliver Ames, 2 @ Norwood, 3 – Final – Norwood scored twice in a two-minute span in the first period and the MOA Warriors were unable to overcome the early deficit. Kylie O’Keefe halved the deficit with a goal in the second period but the Mustangs scored first in the third to push the lead to 3-1. Ella Waryas finished off a rebound on a shot from Melissa Shanteler to bring the Warriors within one but couldn’t find the tying goal despite a strong push late.
King Philip, 2 vs. Medfield, 3 – Final – Click here for a Photo Gallery from this game. King Philip’s Makenzie Shandley and Avari Maxwell scored early in the third period to erase a two-goal deficit but the Warriors converted a two-man advantage in the final five minutes to earn the win. Cristina Coleman had a strong showing in-between the pipes for KP.
Foxboro, 48 @ Canton, 26 – Final – Foxboro earned seven pins and nine wins overall to earn a win on the road over Canton. Sean Bubencik (120), Jonathan Carey (132), Jeremy Neale (145), John Rounds (152), Sean Gallagher (182), Aiden Dow (195) and Aidan Hughes (285) all secured important points with pinfall victories for the Warriors while James Fraser (106) and Ryan Addeche (170) each won by decision. Canton’s Joseph Doria (126), Dominic Sica (138), Eddie Marinilli (160) and Derrell Brown (220) picked up wins via pinfall. Zachary Peters earned a 7-3 win at 113 for the Bulldogs.
Taunton, 15 @ Franklin, 56 – Final – Franklin picked up a half dozen wins via pinfall, two through major decision, and another pair through decision to knock off visiting Taunton. Devon Bramson (126), Jake Carlucci (132), Alex Fracassa (145), Dom Sackley (160), Dylan Nawn (182), and Matt Walker (220) pinned down wins for the Panthers. Ken Sauer won 9-0 at 152 and Luke Cashin picked up a 15-3 win at 170, both major decisions. Drew Difilipio earned an 8-1 decision at 120 and Ahmed Jawando picked up a 10-7 victory at 138. Taunton’s James Collins pinned down a victory at 106 and Jackson Wellman earned a 3-1 decision at 195 for the Tigers.
Oliver Ames, 28 @ Mansfield, 44 – Final – Mansfield freshmen Owen Weber (106) and Colton Johnson (182) earned key wins to help the Hornets fend off visiting Oliver Ames.
Sharon, 57 @ Milford, 11 – Final – Sharon continued its impressive season with a big win over Milford. Adam Landstein, Ben Shocket, David Gelman, Cam Birnbaum, Amit Levin, Aaron Cashton, Max Pozner, Kirit Gossetty, Tyler Freedman, Jared Karen, and Rhamsez Thevenin all had wins for the Eagles.
FOXBORO, Mass. – It is a rivalry known for its big hits, close games, and typically a lot of trips to the penalty box. On Saturday night at the Foxboro Sports Center, Mansfield and North Attleboro met again in a physical encounter, as both teams were willing to throw their bodies into checks, but one that stayed almost exclusively 5-on-5.
There was only one power play between the two teams, but it turned out to be a crucial one. After Nick Longa had given North the lead midway through the third period, Kevin Belanger scored on the power play goal with 4:51 to go, earning Mansfield a 2-2 tie and sending both teams home with a point apiece.
Mansfield coach Mike Balzarini said, “We try to win every third period, but once they got that goal there was no let up. The guys on the bench were rooting for each other, so to get that power play and to capitalize right away was huge.”
“It’s never over until it’s over,” said North Attleboro coach Ben McManama. “Unfortunately we got a penalty late and the strength of our team is usually our penalty kill but that’s a very powerful power play. They’ve got some guys who can put it away.”
North came out flying at the start of the game. The Rocketeers had the first six shots of the night and turned their pressure into the opening goal. Jack Connolly got the puck on net and Mansfield goalie Sean McCafferty managed to keep it out, but the rebound fell kindly for Dennis Morehouse and he pounced to make it 1-0.
The Rocketeers were getting in behind the Mansfield defense at the blue line and were having a lot of success in creating scoring chances with quick breakouts. Matt McSweeney tried to double the lead when he got free on the right wing, but his shot was fired just wide.
“We’ve been struggling with starting quick,” said Balzarini. “I changed things up against Canton (on Wednesday) and I thought we did a good job, but we kind of reverted to last Saturday. After the first five minutes, I think we were fine. We started to control the play a little more near the end and that carried over to the second period.”
Chris Jenkins had the first shot of the game for the Hornets after four minutes. He had a neutral zone steal and forced a pad save out of North goalie Nick Digiacomo. Just seconds later, North was inches away from a 2-0 lead. Jake Gruber rifled a shot off the crossbar from the right circle.
Mansfield almost tied the game three minutes later. Jenkins, from the same spot as his earlier chance, smashed the inside of the far post and the puck caromed to the far boards. Defenseman Jack Gormley forced Digiacomo into another save when he gloved the puck down and got a shot off from the high slot.
The Hornets improved as the period went on, eventually grabbing a 9-8 lead in shots, but North came closest to another goal in the final minutes when Morehouse tipped a shot from the point by Jeff Baker that trickled wide of the post with McCafferty (21 saves) sliding the wrong direction.
After picking up the pace in the first, Mansfield dominated the second period. The Hornets outshot North 13-7 in the second and Digiacomo stood tall to keep the Rocketeers in the game.
A good passing move from Sam Clarke to Connolly to Morehouse forced McCafferty into a save and then Jake Lund raced down the other end to put one on target. Thirty seconds later, Mansfield had a flurry of chances in front. Lund, Jenkins, and Belanger all had shots from close range that Digiacomo (28 saves) turned aside.
Cam Page nearly tied the game, but Digiacomo made another great point-blank save. The puck was loose on the edge of the crease and the North goalie dove to poke it away. Unfortunately for him, the puck went straight to Sam Clayman and the defenseman made no mistake with a wrister into the open net.
Jenkins forced a blocker save with a quick-release shot off a face-off and then Lund slipped a pass between two defensemen to Belanger, but his shot at the near post was smothered.
“He made some big time saves,” McManama said about Digiacomo. “Even on the goal they scored, he might have made three unbelievable saves right before they scored. The kid just works so hard at it. He waited for so long, it means a lot to him, he cares about it, and it’s great to see him having success.”
North almost got its lead back with three minutes left in the period. Clarke forced McCafferty into a save and the Mansfield defense recovered just in time to clear the rebound away from Connolly, who was crashing the net.
The third period was back-and-forth, as neither team wanted to make a mistake that could lead to a winning goal. With 8:56 to play, North thought it may just have won the game. Longa, a sophomore forward, gained the zone and skated across the slot going from right to left. He got his hands free and fired a shot back across his body and into the top corner.
Mansfield started pressing to find an equalizer. Gormley hit a backhand through traffic that forced a stick save and Lund had a shot from the right circle blocked by a sliding Will Yeomans. When the puck came back to Lund, he forced Digiacomo into another stop.
Balzarini spoke after a recent game about the Hornets needing to get the defense into the attack and Mansfield got a lot of offense from the blue line on Saturday. He said, “It’s huge for us because it’s more offense and we have the guys who are skilled and quick enough to allow our ‘D’ to jump into the play more and then get back. Knock on wood, it hasn’t cost us too many times, but we’re cognizant of that.”
With 5:09 to go, Mansfield jumped onto the power play for the first time. Eighteen seconds later, the game was tied. Belanger controlled the puck behind the net and he drifted out to the left wing, turned into the open space, and sniped the far top corner to snag a point for his team.
Although it wasn’t a win, McManama saw a lot of progress from his team’s first meeting with Mansfield (a 5-2 loss). He said, “They’re a very good team and we knew what they had, but I just think our attitude just changed. We had a little adversity here or there and we’re coming together as a team, which is the exciting part. We want the win, but I’m seeing this team transform into what we can be and it’s good to see.”
Mansfield (3-3-2, 1-1-1) will be back at home on Wednesday when the Hornets host Taunton. North Attleboro (6-2-3, 2-0-1) dropped a point behind Canton in the league standings and will be back at the Foxboro Sports Center on Wednesday to face King Philip.
ATTLEBORO, Mass. – Mansfield and Attleboro met for a New Year’s Day matinee at the New England Sports Village to not only kick off a new year but also the start of league play. In a game filled with chances at both ends of the ice, one goal proved decisive and made for a happy start to 2020 for the Hornets.
Cam Page scored with 10:52 remaining in the game and Jake Lund added an empty net goal in the final minute to secure Mansfield a 2-0 victory. Senior goalie Sean McCafferty made 23 saves to record his second straight shutout and he was matched save-for-save by Attleboro sophomore Nick Piazza, who made 30 stops to keep the Bombardiers in the game to the end.
“It took us a while,” said Mansfield coach Mike Balzarini. “Their goalie played phenomenal. His rebound control was great. He was poised, he didn’t get flustered. We had good looks, we had shots, but we didn’t get enough people to the front of the net.”
Despite coming out with a loss, Attleboro coach Mark Homer was proud of the effort that his team put in, particularly in the defensive zone.
“In order to get to the next level, you have to be able to compete with the bigger teams in the league and I thought we did that today,” he explained. “They would have control in the zone and then there’d be a push back. The kids coming out of a game like this gained a lot of confidence, especially our defense. They know that they’re that close.”
Kevin Belanger had the game’s first chance when he got behind the Attleboro defense just 40 seconds into the game, but Piazza stayed with the puck and made a big pad save. Sam Flynn forced McCafferty into a save with a shot from the high slot and McCafferty stopped the rebound as well.
The best chance of the first period came with four minutes left. Joseph Troiano raced down the left wing and centered the puck to Page, but again Piazza stood tall to stop the close-range effort.
“That has been our struggle the past few games, coming out of the gates,” said Balzarini about the lack of clear chances in the opening period. “I thought everyone’s first few shifts were good and then we just kind of stopped for whatever reason. We stopped moving our feet and we started trying to make the more difficult plays rather than the easy play.”
Things picked up in the second, as both teams had flurries of attacking zone play and created numerous scoring chances.
Mansfield started the period on the front foot. On the power play, Troiano had a chance from the slot that was blockered aside and seconds later Ben Ierardo set up Mark DeGirolamo, but Piazza flashed a pad to deny the opening goal.
Freshman Aidan Dryjowicz nearly broke the deadlock when he stole a puck in the neutral zone and skated in alone but his shot was wide of the net. Ryan Morry kept a puck alive on the boards to set up Liam McDonough at the point, but Morry was unable to get a clean tip at the post. Dryjowicz and Morry had breakaway opportunities just seconds apart, but McCafferty stopped both.
With two minutes left in the second, Braedon Copparini and DeGirolamo both had shots from the edge of the crease but in both cases Piazza made sure the puck didn’t get through.
“He’s the type of kid that we don’t have to say too much to him,” said Homer about Piazza. “He’s fundamentally sound. He’s making better and better decisions. Having him back there, we know that most shots we’re going to have a good chance of stopping the puck.”
Three penalties in the final 23 seconds of the second gave Mansfield more than 90 seconds of 4-on-3 to start the third period and the Hornets used it to build momentum. Belanger had a good early chance when he drove off the left wing boards and forced Piazza into a good kick save. Page teed up Chris Jenkins for a backdoor one-timer but he hit the side of the net.
“There were a few chances where we just forced pucks into the middle rather than using our point and regrouping,” said Balzarini about finding ways of turning zone time into more goals. “We’ll start with getting the ‘D’ more active.”
Attleboro almost stunned the Hornets with a shorthanded break. Dryjowicz gained the zone and passed it to Sean Marshall, but his backhand try slid just wide of the post. Owen Dryjowicz nearly put the Bombardiers in front a minute later with a clean breakaway, but McCafferty was able to sprawl and get a toe to the shot and keep it out.
The breakthrough finally came on the power play. Belanger and Page had a nice passing sequence and Page found space right in front of goal for a one-timer into the corner that gave Piazza no chance.
Owen Dryjowicz was an inch from tying the game two minutes later. On the power play, he lined up a shot from the point that McCafferty never saw but that struck the bar and caromed to the corner. Jake Ward sprung Morry up the boards for a rush with three minutes to go, but again the shot was saved and the rebound covered up after a scramble.
After Attleboro pulled the goalie for an attacking zone face-off, Mansfield put the game away. Lund flicked the puck into the empty net from just outside the blue line to seal the 2-0 win.
“They’re creating the opportunities and I think once they pocket one and they figure it out then I think more of those are going to go in,” said Homer. “I like the fact that we’re getting those opportunities. We were penetrating and I saw forwards going to the net. These guys aren’t afraid to go to the dirty parts of the ice.”
Mansfield (3-1-1) will try to make it four wins in a row when the Hornets travel to Shrewsbury on Saturday. Attleboro (2-2-1) will try to carry its performance into Saturday night’s visit from Canton.
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.
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.”