Teams of the Decade #1: 2019 Canton Boys Hockey

Canton boys hockey

Team: Canton Boys Hockey
Year: 2018-2019
Record: 25-0-1
2019 Davenport Division Champions
2019 Division 2 State Champions


There has been a lot of talented teams in the Hockomock League over the past decade, and narrowing it down to a select few was a tedious and challenging task. With nearly 40 state championship teams, dozens of state finalists, and numerous sectional champions, there was no shortage of talent to select from.

When it came to selecting the top team for the list, there was one squad that stood out above the rest: the 2018-2019 Canton boys hockey team.

Like all of the teams at the top of the list, Canton was loaded with talent on the roster from the first player through the last, and the Bulldogs also checked every box when it came to championships, winning at the league, sectional and state level.

But what really separated this group from the rest was the manner in which they dominated the competition from day one up until the Division 2 State Championship at the TD Garden. Outscoring opponents 133-23, the Bulldogs picked up marquee wins throughout the regular season; they were great from the first game (7-2 over Plymouth South) all the way to their crowning achievement against Tewksbury (6-2).

Some of the great teams on this list have had slow starts while others came up just short late in the tournament or in the state championship. And of course, there were some teams that had a hiccup here or there in the middle of the season against top competition.

This Canton team rolled from the opening puck drop down in Bourne, a season-opening win over Plymouth South to avenge a heartbreaking loss that abruptly ended their season a year prior. In fact, you could circle that game — the 2018 D2 South Semifinal 5-3 loss to Plymouth South — as one of the biggest motivators for the 2018-2019 squad.

“I’m going to use a word that HockomockSports came up with for this team and that’s relentless,” said Canton head coach Brian Shuman. “I think that was the perfect word that sums up this team, they just did not stop. I think we scored the more goals in the opening couple of minutes of a game than I’ve ever been apart of as a coach.

“From the opening puck drop to the very end, just not stopping. Coming shift after shift, three or four lines, and six or seven defensemen playing consistently. Just non-stop and you don’t have to be a hockey aficionado to know that this team was a relentless group of driven and talented hockey players who were on a mission. Not even from day one, it was from the end of the season before from that heartbreaking loss to Plymouth South.”

And when the postseason rolled around, the Bulldogs were at their very best. Against the best competition in the area, Canton made it look easy by outscoring teams 29 goals in just five games, scoring six or more goals in four of those contests.

“We were just so close with each other,” said Ryan Nolte, a senior captain and forward that registered an impressive 71 points (32 goals, 39 assists) that season. “Most of us played together our whole lives growing up. We all had the common goal of playing for the varsity team, we were all together for one last ride my senior year so we wanted to make the most of it.

“We were just so competitive in practice, no one wanted to lose. I think that translated onto the ice in games. And off the ice, I think it was probably the closest group out of all four years I was there. We were always together, even after film and after practice, we’d hang out together. I think being such a close-knit group played a huge role in our season.”

Canton notched two impressive wins before the new year, knocking off a good Franklin team (that went on to the D1 South Finals that season) and dominating Westwood, 4-0. The Wolverines entered unbeaten and didn’t lose a game the rest of the regular season, eventually meeting with the Bulldogs in the South final.

When league play began in January, Canton continued to have its way with opponents. The Bulldogs won their first six league games by outscoring foes 36-5. A good non-league win over Newburyport preceded a two-game span that ended up being a big defining point in the season.

A Wednesday night trip to Franklin nearly derailed the perfect season as Zac Falvey and Scott Elliott each scored to put the Panthers up 2-0 through two periods. But in true fashion of a great team, the Bulldogs battled back. Nolte set up Jack Connolly less than a minute into the first period and Tommy Ghostlaw tied it 2-2 less than two minutes later. Despite playing with a 101-degree temperature, junior Johnny Hagan (21 goals, 31 assists) scored the game-winner with under two minutes to play.

“I’d say the moment when we kind of realized we were really good was that second Franklin game,” Nolte said. “Johnny Hagan was playing with the flu, we were down 2-0 and probably played two of our worst periods of the year, and we went out, in Franklin, and scored three in the third to come back and win 3-2. In the locker room after that game, it was like ‘Okay, we have a real shot at this.’”

Just days later, Canton was put to the test against a hungry North Attleboro squad. After letting a 2-0 lead slip away, Nolte notched his 100th career point by setting up Owen Lehane for the game-winner with just over two minutes to go.

“The two games back-to-back that really showed the grit and mettle was the game at Franklin which we were down 2-0 at their place and came back with three goals in the third period to win 3-2,” Shuman said. “And then to gut out a tough win against a really good North Attleboro team, who had us on the ropes, and we scored a late goal to get the win. That showed they had the mental toughness to do something special.”

Canton completed its unbeaten league schedule with a win over Taunton and then really beefed up its resume by knocking off top non-league foes: Bishop Feehan (6-0), Smithfield (8-1), Shrewsbury (5-0), Hanover (4-3), and Natick (3-0), garnering them attention for the Super 8 (Division 1A) Tournament.

“This team was unique and one way was because some of our best players had a confidence — not a cockiness — but a confidence that when they played well, we would win,” Shuman said. “Ryan Nolte, Johnny Hagan, Mike Staffiere…those guys in particular, the guys we were leaning on to score big goals and make big saves. They were definitely the most confident group I’ve coached. That mentality was contagious and infectious throughout our team. When they have that attitude, it really filters throughout the team.

The lone “blemish” of the season came in the opening round of the Quinn Tournament. Hagan scored a late equalizer for the Bulldogs against Boston Latin, with the game going down as a 2-2 in the MIAA record books. Since it was a tournament, it went into overtime and Hagan added another goal to give Canton the win. In the tournament finale, the Bulldogs put an exclamation mark on their resume with a 6-1 beating of Coyle & Cassidy.

The Super 8 committee met two days later and there Bulldogs got four votes in the first round of nominations to advance to the second stage, but didn’t get nominated again and were not selected despite boasting a 20-0-1 record.

“Honestly, I thought we had a shot at it,” Shuman said of the Super 8. “To go undefeated is incredibly difficult. If you’re involved in sports, you know how hard it is, day in and day out, game in and game out, get everybody’s best and respond like we did, it was pretty remarkable. We didn’t talk about (the Super 8), but I think it was on everyone’s mind, including myself.

“I felt the MIAA and the coaches association had opportunities to shake it up over the years and get teams into the Super 8 tournament that never had the chance before. Teams have those windows where they have a great group and they can hang with the best teams in the state. Like Wilmington had a good run, and Franklin had a good run in Division 2 that those teams should get a chance. I thought we made a great case…if they didn’t give it to us, they’ll never give it to a Division 2 team as far as I’m concerned. I think it would have been fun, it would have been special but everything works out for a reason.”

Longtime Franklin coach Chris Spillane, who guided the first Hockomock team to the Super 8 tournament in 2015, saw the Bulldogs a handful of times throughout the season and suffered a pair of setbacks to Canton as mentioned above.

“It’s heartbreaking that Canton didn’t get a look [in 2019] and didn’t get a sniff this year,” Spillane said. “The process is flawed tremendously because people get so caught up on Div. 1 and Div. 2 and there’s no doubt in my mind watching Canton play last year and this year there was no doubt in my mind that not only would they have held their own they probably would’ve had success.”

If the Bulldogs were disappointed by the snub, they certainly didn’t let it translate to their play on the ice. When the Division 2 South tournament started the following week, it was all business for Canton. And for the rest of the bracket, it was trouble.

“You always want to be playing your best hockey going into the playoffs and that’s what this team was doing,” Shuman said. “You look at that Boston Latin overtime win, it was like a playoff game so it showed we were ready for the postseason. As bummed out as a lot of kids were that we tied the game, it showed me we were ready for the playoffs that we went on to win in overtime.

“When you get to the playoffs, everyone is good. We looked at our side of the bracket, you could not have structured a more difficult road to the Garden from D2 South.”

It was like a revenge tour for the previous decade during the playoffs. After drubbing Norwood (6-0) to start the tournament, the Bulldogs welcomed league rival Oliver Ames to the Ice House. Despite holding a 5-2 win over the Tigers from earlier in the season, OA was a team with a successful track record against Canton in the tournament. Back in 2011, the Tigers stunned Canton in overtime, and two years later OA posted a 2-0 shutout in the semifinals.

True to form, the Tigers gave Canton their stiffest test of the tournament. Going stride for stride, up and down the ice, trading hits, it was one of the most competitive games of the year. A one-minute span in the second period changed the game as Nolte tipped in a shot from Connolly, and just 52 seconds later, Chris Lavoie redirected a shot from Matt Martin. Staffiere (17 saves) stood tall in net as the Tigers continued to pressure but Hagan recorded his 100th career point with an empty net goal to secure the win.

Up next was a trip to Gallo Arena, which had recently turned into a house of horrors for the Bulldogs in the month of March. Dating back to 2013, Canton reached at least the semifinals each season, which meant a trip down over the bridge to Gallo. And unfortunately, it also meant heartbreak. A 2-0 loss to OA in 2013, a 3-2 loss to Medfield in 2014, a 4-1 setback to Westwood in 2015, being upset 4-2 by Scituate in 2016, and back-to-back heartbreakers: a 3-2 loss to Medway in 2017 and the 5-3 defeat to Plymouth South a year prior.

“The word was that we couldn’t win at Bourne,” Nolte said. “We wanted to keep the haters in the rearview and prove them wrong.”

Not only did Canton go on to win at Bourne, they decimated the competition. Going against one of the best goalies in the region in Norwood senior Austin Reardon, the Bulldogs put together a terrific performance, scoring six goals against one of the stingiest defenses around.

To top that performance, Canton went on to light the lamp eight times in the South sectional final. Westwood, which hadn’t lost a game since its setback to the Bulldogs in December, entered with a 16-1-6 record but it took Canton less than a minute to score and the rout was on from there.

“You talk about being relentless? We scored early in that game and that set the tone for the entire game,” Shuman said. “We just didn’t stop at that point, we continued to put the pressure on. There aren’t many times you can look back and see an 8-0 win in the sectional final. It’s tough to beat a team twice and tough to beat a team with that much talent but it was truly a team effort. Our depth really carried us that game, that was the most complete game of the season.”

While nothing is given, and the Canton boys hockey program had certainly seen its share up ups and downs during the postseason over the past decade, it certainly felt like the state championship was just a formality; that’s how good this team was playing at the time.

If there was any doubt or nerves while playing under the bright lights at the TD Garden against Tewksbury for the D2 State Championship, it certainly didn’t show. In typical fashion, Canton needed just five minutes to find the back of the net. Lehane blasted a shot from the point and Timmy Kelleher buried the rebound. Just 90 seconds later, Ronan O’Mahony set up Connolly for a blast for a 2-0. And just 16 seconds later, Nolte joined in on the scoring party and suddenly Canton had a 3-0 lead just 7:49 into the game.

Tewksbury battled back in the second, cutting the deficit to 4-2, but Staffiere came up with some big saves to preserve the lead and Hagan added two more goals to complete the hat trick, earning a 6-2 win and the state championship.

“You dream of getting off to a good start like we did but it’s a 45-minute hockey game and you don’t win a game in 15 minutes,” Shuman said. “We knew Tewksbury didn’t play their best, they played much better in the second and scored a couple of goals but credit to our guys, we responded and fought back like we had all year long. We came out swinging early on, took a few blows in the second but then closed it out in the third.”






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Canton boys hockey
Canton boys hockey

Opponent
Result
Plymouth SouthW, 7-2
Plymouth NorthW, 5-0
FranklinW, 3-1 (Recap)
WestwoodW, 4-0
AttleboroW, 9-0
MansfieldW, 4-0 (Recap)
King PhilipW, 2-1
Oliver AmesW, 5-2 (Recap)
FoxboroW, 4-0
StoughtonW, 12-2
NewburyportW, 3-1
FranklinW, 3-2 (Recap)
North AttleboroW, 3-2 (Recap)
TauntonW, 5-0
Bishop FeehanW, 6-0
SmithfieldW, 8-1
ShrewsburyW, 5-0
HanoverW, 4-3
NatickW, 3-0
Boston LatinT, 2-2 (W, 3-2 in OT)
Coyle & CassidyW, 6-1 (Recap)
MedwayW, 6-0
Oliver AmesW, 3-0 (Recap)
NorwoodW, 6-1 (Recap)
WestwoodW, 8-0 (Recap)
TewksburyW, 6-2 (Recap)






Canton boys hockey

Canton boys hockey

Canton boys hockey

Canton boys hockey

Canton boys hockey

Canton boys hockey

Canton boys hockey

Canton boys hockey

Canton boys hockey

Canton boys hockey

Canton boys hockey

Canton boys hockey

Canton boys hockey

Canton boys hockey

Canton boys hockey

Canton boys hockey

Canton boys hockey


Longtime Assistants Get First Head Coaching Jobs

Canton hired offensive coordinator Anthony Fallon and Milford hired former offensive coordinator Dale Olsen to be their respective head coaches next fall. (HockomockSports.com)

Josh PerryFollowJoshPerry


A pair of longtime assistant football coaches will get their first chance at head jobs this fall, as Canton promoted offensive coordinator Anthony Fallon and Milford hired former offensive coordinator Dale Olsen to fill their respective head coaching vacancies.

Fallon called the offense for the Div. 5 South finalist Bulldogs last season under head coach Dave Bohane, who stepped down in January after his 14th season in charge (over two stints, from 1994-98 and 2011-19). Fallon is a Canton grad and a member of the 1987 Super Bowl-winning team. His first coaching job was as an assistant at Canton and he has also spent time with the Bellingham and Millis programs.

“I was with Dave through the whole process of him stepping down,” Fallon explained, adding that he spoke with other members of the staff, many of whom have been with the Bulldogs for years, before applying for the position. That continuity within the program is important to Fallon.

He said, “Dave and I kind of cut our teeth together when we first started, so there’s not going to be a whole lot difference in me putting my own stamp on this. I just want to carry on the traditions that have been established with maybe some new twists.”

While this will be his first stint as head coach, Fallon is counting on his experience to make the transition easier for himself and for the players. Fallon said, “I’ve coached with six or seven different head coaches and four of them were first-year guys, so I’ve seen what can go wrong in the first year. I know some of the pitfalls that can happen.”

“Knowing the kids, knowing the culture, and knowing the coaching staff,” he added, “that will give the kids some comfort, knowing what the expectations are already with just a few changes.”

Canton is coming off back-to-back Davenport division titles and back-to-back trips to the D5 South final, but will graduate a large, talented senior class and will have numerous spots to fill this fall.

“You can never replace a talented class like that,” said Fallon, “but we’ll have talented kids come through. If we keep building off the tradition of hard-nosed football and working hard, we’ll be fine and we’ll do well.”

Olsen has also spent two decades on the sidelines as an assistant coach, including four years with Fallon at Millis, where the Mohawks brought home a state championship. He spent the 2018 season at Milford as the offensive coordinator but stepped aside last season to spend time with his young son and to help former Millis and Milford standout Kevin Pyne prepare for playing offensive line at Boston College.

He is taking over for Anthony Vizakis, who stepped down after three years in charge. Olsen was on Vizakis’ staff two seasons ago. When he saw that the Milford job was open, Olsen spoke with his family, including his twin brother Dana, who he coached under at Millis.

“I knew I was going to get back into the game but I didn’t think it was going to be that quick,” he admitted. ”The opportunity arose and I sat down to talk with my wife and she said I should go for it, talked to my brother and from there it just happened.”

Like Fallon at Canton, Olsen is counting on his familiarity with the program and the players to hit the ground running. “I’d say 70 percent of the team knows my brother and I,” Olsen said. “So I think it will be a pretty smooth transition that way. They’ve been kind of running the offense that I ran there two years ago, so I don’t think we’ll skip a beat offensively.”

Milford has made the playoffs in four of the last six seasons, but has only advanced out of the first round of the postseason once and has never finished better than 3-2 in league play. It is a program with a history of success though and Olsen is looking forward to the challenge of “waking a sleeping giant.” One of the reasons for his confidence is the talented senior class that he has coming back in the fall.

“I’m super excited,” Olsen said. “Milford has had great football for a long, long time. There’s a big senior class there. They were junior-heavy last year and I think we lose three kids on offense, three kids on defense.”

The Hawks will face the difficult task of moving into the Kelley-Rex division next season and squaring off with teams in higher divisions.

We’re looking forward to it,” he said. “It’s definitely going to be a challenge. Milford is a Div. 3 school and six out of our seven opponents are D1 or D2. I look forward to it. There’s a special group of seniors next year, so I think we can more than hold our own.”

Fallon and Olsen are not only longtime assistants getting their first shot at running a program, but also longtime friends and both are proud to share the experience of being a first-time head coach in the same season.

“It’s kind of unique,” said Fallon about Olsen also getting a head coaching postion. “He’s been doing it a very long time and he’s a great friend and a great coach. He’ll do good things in Milford.”

Olsen added, “It’s well-deserved on his part. He’s done a lot for kids and he’s a great coach. He’s been a friend of mine for a long time and the only sad thing is that we won’t be able to play each other next year because we’re moving up.”

Canton Boys, Girls Hockey Teams Named Co-Champs

Canton hockeyByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
 
With both the boys and girls hockey teams set to play for state championships on Sunday night, Canton was ready to host its own version of a “Garden Party.”

But unfortunately, neither team will hit the ice at the TD Garden. In fact, none of the six hockey games scheduled for Sunday will happen after the MIAA decided to cancel them due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The MIAA also canceled all of the basketball state championship games scheduled for Saturday.

With the cancellations, all of the teams that were scheduled to play in the final are considered co-champions. The Canton girl’s hockey team shares the title with Wellesley while the boys share the crown with Lincoln-Sudbury.

There will be a lot of anger, frustration, and disappointment among other emotions. Time will tell if this incredibly tough — and rather unprecedented — decision the MIAA made was the best choice. While it’s hard to swallow, keeping student-athletes safe is and should always be a top priority.

“We understand this is disappointing news however, this decision was made in the best interests of all our student-athletes, schools and communities,” read a statement on the MIAA website. “Schools who would have been participating in the State Finals will be considered Co-Champions.”

It’s tough to put in words how unfair it is to take away this opportunity from those who have earned it. One thing is for sure, it’s heartbreaking for all of the players, coaches, and team personnel involved that started this journey together back in December with hopes of reaching this point, only to have that opportunity taken away.

“I’ve been in the locker room in the past trying to console players after a heartbreaking loss but when we found out about the decision after practice, it was like nothing I’ve had to do before,” said Canton boys head coach Brian Shuman. “Sadness, frustration, disappointment…the full gamut of emotions.

“I wish I had the right words to make them feel better.”

Over the past week, we’ve seen the professional sports leagues like the NBA and NHL postpone their current seasons due to the outbreak. The MIAA also announced that the start of the spring season will be pushed back at least two weeks.

As the week went on, school systems across Massachusetts starting to announce closures ranging from days to up to a month in some locations.

“It’s just really horrible for us and for our opponents,” Shuman said. “We both had remarkable seasons and we were both looking forward to closing it out on Sunday. It’s just really unfortunate, I’m really bummed out for the kids.”

The Bulldogs would have entered Sunday’s championship game with a record of 21-1-3, the lone loss coming to their opponent Lincoln-Sudbury back on February 12th. At the time, it snapped Canton’s 43-game unbeaten streak that dated back to the 2018-2019 season, a year in which the Bulldogs went undefeated and won the D2 State Championship.

While Shuman noted the goal was to always return to the Garden to try and defend the title, there has to be an extra layer of frustration that the Bulldogs won’t get a shot at avenging their lone blemish in a remarkable two-year stretch.

“The kids worked incredibly hard every single game, not just skating, passing, and shooting, but emotionally and mentally every single day was such a grind. Not just this season, but for two years. It requires such mental toughness and commitment. To go through that, and then to not have that final test or final opportunity to hopefully put the cherry in top of a remarkable run is overwhelming.”

Without the state championship game, it means the high school hockey careers have come to a close for over a dozen Bulldog seniors: Chris Lavoie, Tommy Vaughan, Jack Connolly, Dom Cammarata, Tommy Ghostlaw, Shane Marshall, Colby Ciffolillo, Timmy Kelleher, Owen Lehane, Johnny Hagan, Declan Pfeffer, Ronan O’Mahony, and Joe Cammarata.

The same goes for the six seniors on the girls’ team: Kaitlyn McLaughlin, Caroline Tourgee, Alexa Maffeo, Meg Aldrich, Rose Malloy, and Vicky Revanche.

It would have been the third trip in the past four years to the TD Garden for the Canton girls team. It would have been a chance for those seniors to skate together one last time, a chance to deliver the first state championship in program history.

Canton (19-1-4) would have entered Sunday’s D2 Final as the underdog against the top-seeded Raiders (22-1-0) but that hasn’t stopped the Bulldogs from winning before. Back in 2017 as the 14-seed, Canton gave a scare to top-seed Notre Dame Academy, and a year later, the Bulldogs nearly knocked off the Raiders in a one-goal game.

In the run up to the final, Canton outscored its three opponents 11-2 and knocked off #2 Norwell in the state semifinal.

Unfortunately, we won’t get to see if the third time would have been the charm for the Bulldogs.

Canton Beats Norwell and Heads Back to Title Game

Canton girls hockey
Canton players celebrate after a 3-1 win against Norwell that sends the Bulldogs to the D2 state title game at the TD Garden. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

Josh PerryFollowJoshPerry


BRIGHTON, Mass. – For the third time in four seasons, Canton will have the chance to play for the Div. 2 state championship at the TD Garden.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Three different Bulldogs scored in Sunday night’s state semifinal against Norwell at the Warrior Ice Arena and Canton’s defense put in a strong display of how to block shots and clear the middle of the zone. The Bulldogs skated away with a 3-1 victory and they will now face top seed Wellesley in next week’s title game.

“It’s awesome,” said junior forward Lizzie Tassinari, whose second period goal turned out to be the game-winner. “You kind of feel like a celebrity when you’re out there and you see your whole entire school and everyone you know out there cheering you on. It’s the best feeling ever.”

Norwell proved to be a tough out, with its speed through the neutral zone causing problems for Canton early in the game. Allie McCabe had to be quick to backtrack and prevent Margaret Leivi from getting off a shot on a break just a minute into the game and Carolyn Durand stayed tall to stop the loose puck at the near post.

Canton started to get some luck in the offensive zone through its aggressive forecheck. Ellie Rae Roberts nearly teed up Maria Femia for a chance in the slot, but they couldn’t connect. Olivia Maffeo got the first shot on target for the Bulldogs with a trademark rush through three zones and a wrister that was blocked aside by Norwell goalie Nicole Prescott.

It was a freshman defenseman that put Canton in front, but surprisingly it wasn’t Maffeo (who was coming off a four-goal game in the quarterfinal). Her Junior Eagles teammate Maya Battista, who moved up from Texas this year, sent in a shot from the point that fooled Prescott and snuck under the bar.

“Maya has been playing so well,” said Canton coach Dennis Aldrich. “She’s just a steady, stay-at-home defenseman. She scored in our very first scrimmage and I thought, we’ve got someone who’s going to score a lot for us, but she hasn’t scored again until now. What a big goal, so I’m so happy for her.”

The lead lasted six minutes before the Clippers found an equalizer. Casey Messina had her first shot saved by Durand (20 saves) but she stuck with the play and managed to squeeze the rebound across the line to make it 1-1.

Norwell carried the momentum into the second period and started with a flurry of chances that Durand and the Canton defense repelled. McCabe, Maffeo, Battista, and seniors Meg Aldrich and Alexa Maffeo were putting their bodies in front of as many shots as possible to kill off a pair of Norwell power plays.

“The amount of blocked shots tonight was incredible,” said Aldrich. “Every time I looked up, we were in a shooting lane. That’s kids who are putting the team and the game ahead of themselves because that hurts.”

Just four seconds into their own power play, and on their first shot of the period, the Bulldogs regained the lead. McCabe showed off her skating ability to gain the zone down the left wing. She threw a puck towards goal and it was picked up by Tassinari, who flung a backhand at Prescott. It was only partially saved and the puck trickled over the line.

“She kind of fumbled it a little, so I kind of saw the opportunity to take the puck and I shot it kind of blindly just to get shots on net,” Tassinari said. “We both saw it turning, her kind of leaning backwards and couldn’t grab it, and it was just trickling in and across the line.”

The goal seemed to energize the Bulldogs, who finished the second period with several chances. Ellie Bohane did well behind the net and put a shot on goal and the loose rebound was snapped on goal by Caroline Tourgee, forcing a pad stop from the goalie.

Leading by one heading into the third period, Canton upped the pressure on its forecheck and remained aggressive in the offensive zone.

“Everything we do, get the puck deep and establish the forecheck and just kind of remember everything we do every single day and tire them out,” Tassinari said about the discussion ahead of the third period. “Just never give up really.”

Aldrich explained, “We knew how we wanted to attack them and got away from that a little bit, so we went in the third period to more of a 2-3 because we were getting caught deep and giving up too many odd-man rushes. It wasn’t like they didn’t have chances, but I like the flow of the third period much better than the first two.”

Audrey Koen forced a pad save after dragging the puck away from the boards and then Tassinari hit Tess Khoury with a nice cross-ice pass but Khoury’s one-timer was skewed wide.

Norwell had a great chance to try and tie the game. Casey Ward raced into the zone and cut across the slot from right-to-left. As a Canton defender slipped, Ward suddenly had acres of space to wind up, but Durand was in the right position to make a smart pad save.

The missed opportunity proved to be costly for the Clippers. With six minutes remaining, Olivia Maffeo put the game away. She weaved her way through the neutral zone and into the right face-off circle. She showed great patience to pick her spot, lifting a shot up over Prescott’s glove hand and just under the bar.

“She’s pretty good huh?” Aldrich asked with a smile. “It’s fun to have a kid like that because it just brings everybody up. She’s the first one in line for drills. She has to win, has to be first, and it’s just contagious in that locker room. The whole attitude in there is different having her around.”

Canton (19-1-4) will face the two-time defending state champions Wellesley at the TD Garden. It is a rematch of the 2018 final that the Raiders won and last year’s first round game, also won by the Raiders.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Hagan Carries Canton To Second Straight South Title

Canton boys hockey Johnny Hagan
Canton senior Johnny Hagan battles for the puck against Bishop Feehan’s Tyler Ahmed in the first period. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
BOURNE, Mass. – For the first time in two years, the Canton boys hockey team found itself in unfamiliar territory.

With just 15 minutes left in the D2 South Sectional Final, the Bulldogs were knotted at 1-1 with the 15th-seeded Shamrocks of Bishop Feehan.

Dating back to the start of last year’s state tournament, it was the first time in eight playoff games that Canton did not lead entering the final period. And on top of that, it was the first time in that same stretch that the Bulldogs didn’t have a two-goal cushion with one period left.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

But in a matter of 19 seconds, Canton’s #19 — senior forward and captain Johnny Hagan — broke the game wide open. Hagan scored twice in that time span, tacking on an empty netter late to finish with four goals to lead the Bulldogs to a 4-1 decision over the upset-minded Shamrocks.

With the win, Canton claims its second straight D2 South Sectional title and returns to the TD Garden to defend its D2 State Championship.

“For all the experience we have in that locker room, we haven’t had the experience of really have to grind out a third period and the end of a game in the playoffs the last two years,” said Canton head coach Brian Shuman. “And that’s what they had to do tonight, they stepped up. All the credit in the world to Bishop Feehan, what a season they had. They are a heck of a team, well-coached, a lot of skill and they had a great run in the tournament.

“The playoffs so far, we’ve had our way against teams. We talked in-between periods how this is how it’s supposed to be, it’s supposed to be 1-1 going into the third in a championship game. We had to embrace that, we had to embrace the hard part of the game. I think the mentality went from being afraid to lose, to winning the final period. I think the switch in that mentality plus our second line and red line played great in the third, they set the tone for the third period.”

In last year’s playoffs, Canton led by an average of nearly four goals going into the final period of play. This year, the Bulldogs led by scores of 4-0 (against Taunton), 6-1 (against Medway) and 3-0 (against Whitman-Hanson) going into the final stanza.

Canton was close to taking a one-goal lead into the third when Hagan opened the scoring in the game with 2:25 left in the middle period. The senior converted a partial breakaway with a great low shot that beat the goalie five-hole to put the top-seeded Bulldogs ahead.

But Feehan needed just five seconds on the power play to knot the score. Jason Sullivan’s low show through traffic from the right circle found its way into the back of the net with just 30.4 seconds left in the middle frame.

With just 15 minutes to play, the Shamrocks were level with the Bulldogs.

“I think they outplayed us in the second,” Hagan said. “We came back into the locker room and decided as a team that we had 15 minutes left, it was in our own hands and that we control our own destiny. Feehan is a good team, if they did the seedings the right way [strength of schedule], they’d probably be a top-five seed. It’s a playoff game, it’s the South final so we knew it was going to be close.”

Similar to the first period, the Canton offense applied a lot of pressure over the course of the first couple of minutes of the third. The Bulldogs’ second line of Tommy Ghostlaw, Shane Marshall, and Timmy Kelleher set the tone with a couple of good chances early.

Senior defenseman Owen Lehane found Marshall for a shot in the slot with Kelleher screened, but Feehan goalie Ryan D’Amato (saves) was in position for the stop. Seconds later, Ghostlaw connected with Marshall, who dished it along to Kelleher for a shot but again D’Amato made the stop and then stuffed Marshall on the doorstep on the rebound.

Senior Chris Lavoie carried the puck into the zone down the left side and tossed it in front. With a handful of bodies in front, the puck popped free to Hagan and he buried his shot to make it 2-1 with 10:19 left in the game.

Hagan needed just 19 seconds to complete his hat trick, pinching down to the right corner and winning a battle. He carried the puck toward goal and picked the top corner on the near side to make it 3-1 with 10:00 to play.

“What a career he’d had…he’s arguably the greatest player that I’ve coached, one of the greatest athletes we’ve seen at Canton High,” Shuman said. “He’s a fierce competitor and he was going to go out there and do what he could in that third period.”










Bishop Feehan was limited to just three shots on goal in the third period but had a couple of serious chances. The Shamrocks stormed into the offensive zone just past the midway point with an odd-man rush but Bulldog defenseman Declan Pfeffer made a decisive sweeping motion to knock the puck free and break up the chance.

And the Shamrocks’ best chance, again on the stick of Sullivan, came with just over two minutes to go after a Bulldog turnover gave him an open look right in front but Joe Cammarata stood tall to deny the chance.

With just over a minute to go, Canton caught the Shamrocks in a line change and tacked on an empty net goal to seal the win.

While it was all Canton in the first period (15-5 advantage in shots on goal), the Bulldogs couldn’t break through. Lavoie, Hagan, and Donny McNeice all registered serious scoring chances in the opening minute, and sophomore Eamon Kelly had a nice shot saved with 10 minutes to go.

Senior Jack Connolly had a pair of shots from the blue line knocked down in front, and fellow defensemen Ronan O’Mahony and Sean Connolly also had bids turned aside.

Ghostlaw and Kelleher did their best but couldn’t solve D’Amato, the goalie making a toe save on Kelleher at the midway point. Hagan blasted a shot off the mask with five minutes to go, Kelly’s tip on a rip from Sam Carlino was denied with four minutes to go, and Lavoie dangled past a pair of defenseman only for his shot to be stopped.

After scoring seven goals on the Shamrocks in the regular season matchup, Canton was held to just one through two periods.

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“I think these guys have done a good job of forgetting past games against teams. [Thomas Reilly] is a great player for them, a game-changer, and we didn’t see him the first time. Their goalie [Ryan D’Amato] was on a heck of a run and we didn’t see him the first time, so we knew it was going to be a different game. Plus they are just a really good team.

“We caught them on a bad night the first time around. We knew this would be a tough game. They are not a 15 seed…strength of schedule rankings they would be up higher…clearly one of the best teams in the south that deserved to be there at the end.”

Canton boys hockey (21-3-1) returns to the D2 State Championship game on Sunday at the TD Garden, with the time yet to be announced. The Bulldogs will take on either Triton or Lincoln-Sudbury, who battle for the North sectional title on Monday. Lincoln-Sudbury handed Canton its lone loss of the season in February (6-4 on February 12th).

Maffeo Nets Four and Secures Canton a Spot in Semis

Canton Girls Hockey
Canton freshman Olivia Maffeo scored four goals in the D2 quarterfinal to lift the Bulldogs past Ursuline Academy. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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BRIGHTON, Mass. – Up in the rafters at the Warrior Ice Arena hang the numbers of some of the top players in Boston Bruins history, including Bobby Orr’s famous No. 4. Down on the ice, Canton’s wunderkind was showing that it never gets old to see a defenseman who can skate circles around an opponent and be as effective in the attacking zone as any forward.

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Ursuline Academy had no answer for freshman Olivia Maffeo in Wednesday night’s Div. 2 quarterfinal in Brighton. She scored four times to eclipse the 30-goal mark for her rookie campaign and to power Canton to a 5-0 victory that puts the Bulldogs in the state semifinal for the third time in the last four years.

“It’s awesome,” said senior defenseman Alexa Maffeo about her sister’s goal-scoring heroics. “It’s hard to go to the net sometimes because you just want to watch whatever move she does. It definitely helps having a star like that.”

Maffeo’s classmate Carolyn Durand was also impressive in the win, recording 17 saves for her 14th shutout the season. The freshman class, including defenseman Maya Battista and forwards Audrey Koen and Ellie Bohane, has been instrumental in Canton’s success this season even as the team makes another run at a TD Garden trip.

“They don’t play like freshmen,” said Canton coach Dennis Aldrich when asked if he was surprised about the continued success of the younger players. “Maya is one of Liv’s teammates on the Junior Eagles and they’re as composed as you get. I’ve seen Carolyn have 14 shutouts this season. They’re playing well.”

While youth has been at the forefront for Canton this season, there is experience in the lineup, particularly seniors Meg Aldrich and Maffeo in the defensive corps. They have both been in the mix for the Bulldogs in each of their recent playoff runs and are key to shoring up things in the Canton zone.

“We’re definitely a defense-based team, so having two captains back there we can motivate the girls from the back,” Maffeo explained. “We know that offense comes from defense. We can be there to support them, even if they make mistakes we’ll be back there.”

There wasn’t a lot of offense in the opening period, as both teams looked to get the puck in deep and send the forecheck to try and force turnovers. The first chance came after two minutes when Durand gloved aside a shot by Tess Marchi that went off Alexa Maffeo’s glove on its way to goal. Olivia Maffeo had Canton’s first look with a trademark rush from her own zone and a slap shot from the high slot that Ursuline goalie Lucy Reardon saved.

Tess Khoury showed off her stick skills to dance through a pair of Ursuline defenders, gain the zone, and then force a pad save with a wrister from near the blue line. Maffeo almost got her first with a rip from the right circle that just caught Reardon’s shoulder and stayed out.

The game remained scoreless heading into the final minute of the period. Maffeo collected the puck on the left boards, dragged it between a pair of Ursuline players, beat a third into the middle, and then roofed a shot from the slot while falling down to give Canton a spectacular lead.

Canton wasn’t creating a lot of offense with its forecheck, but was causing Ursuline problems with getting the puck out of the zone. Early in the second that led to a pair of chances, the first from Lizzie Tassinari and the second from Alexa Maffeo. A couple of minutes later, Maffeo hit Maria Femia with an outlet pass down the right wing and her centering pass to Tassinari was tipped just wide.

Ursuline nearly evened the score when Marchi led a 3-on-2 breakout, but her shot was right into the chest of Durand. Tassinari connected with Femia, who managed to wriggle free of a pair of Ursuline players for a breakaway but Reardon came up with a big stop.

Olivia Maffeo got back into the act, as she dragged the puck past a pair of players and forced a blocker stop from Reardon.

In the final minute of the second, Canton not only doubled, but tripled its lead. On a power play, Khoury went circle-to-circle to find Maffeo in space and she buried the chance through the save attempt of the goalie. Just 27 seconds later, Maffeo followed up a loose puck and picked a corner to make it 3-0.

Aldrich said, “They played with a lot of energy the first five [minutes] but I think because we were able to roll three lines and five ‘D’ and the first two periods we had three goals and I think it was from wearing them down a little bit.”

It only took 1:05 into the third for the win to be wrapped up. Maffeo again raced up the ice and got space in the right circle before firing a shot through the goaltender. Durand made seven stops in the third to preserve the shutout, including a nice pad stop on a shot through a screen.

Payton McDonough’s pressure forced a turnover that gave Faith Nelson a chance that hit Reardon and the post on its way by. With 2:03 to play, Canton got a fifth. Koen’s snap shot smacked off the end boards and came right to Khoury, who showed great patience before lifting a shot over the sprawling goalie.

“We’d certainly like to see some other people get some pucks behind some goalies but as long as they’re going in I think these guys are okay,” said Aldrich.

Maffeo credits her years of experience for making things easier when it gets to this stage. She said, “My first year, freshman year, definitely I was nervous and I think playing with those nerves helped me, but moving forward having been here two times already I feel comfortable on this ice. I feel set in my position, I know what to do, I know how to win games of this caliber.”

Canton (18-1-4) will play the winner of Norwell and Notre Dame Academy in the state semifinal on Sunday back at the Warrior Ice Arena at a time to be determined.

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