BUZZARDS BAY, Mass. – It was at that stage of a tied hockey game when every shot towards goal was met with triumphant cheers from one end of the stands and a collective intake of breath from the other. Time was winding down and it felt like one goal would either end a team’s season or give it the chance to play for a state title.
With 2:38 left to play in Saturday night’s Div. 2 state semifinal at the Gallo Ice Arena, Canton seniors Audrey Koen and Ellie Bohane went flying into the Archbishop Williams zone. The Bulldogs pride themselves on their aggressive forecheck and the two senior forwards set the tone.
After forcing the puck to the end boards, Koen won the battle for possession and skated behind the Archies goal. She popped out on the other side and slid a backhand shot into the skates of the goalie, squeezing her shot through the five-hole and across the line.
That would be enough to lift Canton to a 1-0 win over the top seed and send the Bulldogs to the final at the TD Garden for the fifth time in six seasons.
Canton coach Nikki Petrich said, “Before the game, I saw [Audrey] briefly in between watching our boys team, she was literally over there in the corner, had her headphones on, and was just in her zone. I said, I guarantee she scores today. It just shows the work that she puts in and her senior leadership as a captain really taking on that responsibility of relentless effort and commitment to make her team better.”
Senior goalie Carolyn Durand said, “It’s amazing. It’s a different experience every single time because we have a new group of girls and it’s just so awesome because we get to go with the boys (who beat Duxbury in the game before). The whole town goes to the Garden. It’s just everybody’s dream come true. I’m so excited.”
Canton won the regular season meeting with the Bishops by a single goal, so it was expected to be another tight, hard-fought encounter. A physical first period played out as expected, with neither team able to create much in the attacking zone.
Bohane had one chance coming down the slot that was saved by Archies freshman goalie Evelyn Lacey (22 saves). Tori Carr had a shot from the point that Bohane tipped in front but Lacey kicked aside. The best chance for the Bishops in the first came in the final minute of the period, as Abigail Dunn fed Caroline Batchelder for a shot from the right wing circle, but Durand (18 saves) was equal to it.
After a period with very few notable scoring chances, both goalies were called into action early in the second.
Anna Lehan made a nice play at the blue line to get free on a shorthanded breakaway and tested Lacey with a slap shot from the right wing circle. A minute later, Grace Mottau teed up Dunn in the slot, but Durand held her ground and made the stop and then quickly recovered to block Mottau’s rebound effort as well.
Lacey needed to be on her toes again just seconds later when Koen found Bohane on the edge of the crease. Kate O’Toole would get two chances to try and beat Durand from about five feet away, but both of her shots were smothered by the Hockomock League MVP. Late in the second, Georgia Campbell threw the puck to the front of the net and Lehan whacked it just wide of the post.
Canton came out of the locker room intent on finding the breakthrough. Just 30 seconds into the third, Koen forced a pad stop with a backhand shot and Carr fired one from the point that Lacey was able to spot through a crowd of bodies.
A minute into the period, Bohane, who seemed to be everywhere on Saturday, was an inch away from the opener. She got free in the slot and ripped a shot off the inside of the top corner and back out. A couple of Canton players, and the Canton bench, raised their arms thinking that the puck had gone in.
Petrich said, “Ellie is almost underrated, sneaky fast. When she really goes after it, she flies and throughout the season you could really see some of her field hockey stick-handling skills come into play on the ice. There were a couple of great moves where she slid it through the D’s stick and cut to the middle.”
The chances kept coming for the Bulldogs. Freshman Izzy Cusack gained the zone and dropped a pass off to Bohane, who forced a blocker save. Soon after it was Koen that flew down the right wing and dropped a pass back to Cusack for another shot on target. Freshman Christina Curran dragged the puck out of the corner on her backhand and nearly found the corner.
With three minutes to go, Archies had its best chance of the third. Maggie Lynch played a nice give-and-go with Mottau and got free to fire a shot from the circle that Durand was able to glove and hold.
Just 30 seconds later, Koen found a way to get the puck through and put the Bulldogs in front. Archies started pressing, but a major penalty meant that the Bishops finished the game down a player. Durand was called into action once in the final minute, but calmly pushed the shot aside.
When the final horn sounded, the bench exploded onto the ice. The Bulldogs were back in the final.
“I don’t think I’ve ever yelled so loud in my life,” Durand said about the moment she saw Koen’s shot went in. “Normally I don’t really celebrate, but I was just like, ‘Oh my gosh, we only have two minutes left, we’ve got this, it’s over.’ It’s awesome.”
Although this is her first year on the Canton bench, Petrich is no stranger to state title games at the Garden. She was part of the coaching staff last winter at Austin Prep, which won the D1 championship.
“I was joking with them, we both went there last year, I know how it feels to win and I want you to experience that too,” Petrich said. “That feeling we just had today, now imagine that on the Garden ice. You’re going to remember that for the rest of your life. It’s really something special that we have here.”
Canton (19-2-4) will face No. 2 seed Duxbury in the championship game at the TD Garden next Sunday, at a time to be determined.