BUZZARDS BAY, Mass. – In the last game of the league campaign, Franklin had a chance to clinch the Kelley-Rex division title with a win against North Attleboro, but the Rocketeers pulled out the victory leaving the Panthers worried that not only would the league title be lost, but also its playoff hopes.
A few hours later, thanks to results at other rinks, Franklin had its title in hand and a place in the state tournament.
Fast forward a little more than a month and the Panthers, who entered the playoffs as the lowest seed in Div. 1 South and with a below .500 record, took on top seed Duxbury in Sunday evening’s sectional final with a chance to return to the TD Garden.
Unfortunately for Franklin (12-10-4), its improbable tournament run ended at Gallo Arena with a 3-0 loss to the Dragons.
“We left the rink saying we’re not going and then an hour later alright we have second place and then an hour and 15 minutes later we have first place,” said Franklin coach Chris Spillane about the turnaround that the Panthers experienced that night against North. “It was crazy. We made the most of it.”
The top seed got off to a great start, scoring within the opening two minutes and setting the tone with its speed and physicality. Todd Jones put the Panthers on the back foot right away when he split a pair of defensemen and then flicked a shot over the shoulder of Franklin goalie Ray Ivers.
Spillane said, “They were good. They came out fast, they were physical, we just couldn’t match their energy. We had six kids who couldn’t practice the last five days with the bug. It’s part of hockey and you have to fight through it, but it was obvious tonight that we didn’t have our legs to keep up with a team like that.”
Ivers was forced to make a couple of stops from close-range just a couple minutes after the opening goal, while the Panthers tried to get a foothold in the game. Franklin’s first good scoring chance came with seven minutes left in the first after Joey Lizotte stole an outlet pass and set up Shane McCaffrey in the slot but his shot was saved by Steve Pisani.
Brendan Sicchio followed up a rebound off a shot from outside the blue line and nearly stuffed it past Pisani. Sicchio then set up C.J. Spillane for a backhand chance in front that was stopped. Colin Hedvig nearly got the Panthers on the board at the end of the first when he dangled past a defender and forced a save.
Franklin carried that momentum into the second period and had a good start with three quick shots, but then Duxbury struck again. Ben Cheney fired an inch-perfect stretch pass to Tanner Smith and he sniped the top corner to make it 2-0.
“That’s a credit to that team because every time they had an opportunity to score, they scored,” Spillane remarked. “We were outshooting them…but they’ve got some snipers.”
Hedvig gloved an attempted clearance and forced a blocker save and Cam Cassella forced a kick save from the left-wing circle after he stole a pass at the blue line. Tom Tasker had a shot from the point redirected in front by Dan Magazu, but it went off Pisani’s mask and stayed out.
In the final minute of the period, Kyle Hedvig got a good look right in front but Pisani was able to smother. The Panthers turned over the puck off the rebound and almost instantly Duxbury was back on the attack. James Lawlor got loose on the quick break out and he beat Ivers (21 saves) to make it 3-0. It was a deflating goal for the Panthers to give up.
“When you playing at not-100 percent, the safe play is to chip it out and that’s what we were doing,” said Spillane. “We didn’t carry the puck, we didn’t make plays or passes, it was all chip, chip, chip, chip and we just didn’t have it.”
Franklin came out of the locker room for the third period with the intent of putting together a comeback, but the lack of healthy bodies took its toll and the Panthers never got going. Kyle Hedvig had a decent chance with a tip in front but Pisani got his blocker to it. Ivers made a good stop after Zack Stewart weaved through the defense.
The Dragons neutralized the Panthers in the third, limiting them to only six shots, and closed out the game to book its place in next weekend’s state championship.
“I thought we were going to get one early in the third and it might change the energy on the bench, give them something to fight for, but it just didn’t happen,” said Spillane.
He added, “It was a good ride. They showed a lot of heart and character. We knew what we had in the locker room. Our record may not have been indicative of that, but we knew we played some good hockey teams and we competed and we knew that we could run with anyone.”
BOURNE, Mass. – Just when it looked like everything was going right for the Panthers, it nearly went all wrong.
The 11th-seeded Panthers built a two-goal lead after a period and appeared to add another over halfway through the second period.
Just before Shane McCaffrey released his shot, a referee blew his whistle on a delayed penalty against seventh-seeded Catholic Memorial. While Franklin was heading onto the power play, it had a clear goal taken away.
And then the Knights used an aggressive penalty kill to score a shorthanded goal. And just minutes later, Catholic Memorial scored another shorthanded goal, and suddenly the game was 2-2 late in the second period.
But these Panthers have seen just about everything this season, and found ways to fight back. That’s just what they did, going back in front with less than a minute to go in the second period.
Franklin tacked on an insurance goal early in the third and scored an empty netter in the final minutes to secure an upset 5-2 win over Catholic Memorial in the D1 South Semifinals.
“It’s a credit to the boys in the locker room, how hard they fight, they never gave up,” said Franklin head coach Chris Spillane. “The seed doesn’t matter, it’s what you do on the ice that matters.”
The Panthers, who qualified for the state tournament by winning the Hockomock League’s Kelley-Rex division, will take on top-seeded Duxbury in the D1 South Final. Franklin previously knocked off #6 Falmouth and #3 Mansfield while the Dragons defeated #5 Barnstable, 3-2, in double overtime.
It was evident from the start that the Panthers were ready to play. Just over a minute in, Scott Elliott connected with a streaking Zac Falvey but his shot was turned aside.
At the midway point of the first, the Panthers went on their first power play but only managed one shot before getting whistled for an interference call to make it four-on-four. Franklin didn’t let its penalty kill the momentum.
Falvey found sophomore Joe LeBlanc at the blue line, and he shuffled the puck over to junior Tom Tasker. Tasker ripped a hard shot through traffic and past CM goalie Henry O’Brien, with Elliott providing a screen in front. Franklin led 1-0 with 6:27 left in the first.
Just two minutes later, the Panthers doubled their lead behind a terrific hustle play by senior CJ Spillane. Spillane blocked a shot at the blue line from one CM defensemen, beat the other CM defenseman in a foot race to the loose puck, and went in alone on a breakaway before depositing his wrist shot past O’Brien’s blocker for a 2-0 advantage with 4:11 to play in the first.
The Panthers nearly had a third in the final seconds of the period but O’Brien was able to get just enough of his pad onto a low shot from the blue line off the stick of Matt D’Errico. And on the rebound. Kyle Hedvig tossed a shot towards goal from the corner, and the puck bounced off the inside of O’Brien’s leg and out the other side.
Franklin goalie Ray Ivers (30 saves) had a strong game throughout, including a big save just a minute into the second. Franklin’s defensemen slipped allowing CM junior Owen Brady a chance in close but Ivers stood tall.
A minute later, the Knights had a two-on-one break, and Jack Curran elected to shoot but Ivers made the glove stop without giving up a rebound.
CM went on the power play with 8:54 left in the second but the Panthers got the kill. Falvey killed some time with a trip into the offensive zone, and Colin Hedvig had a clearance to kill off more time. The Panthers nearly grabbed a shorthanded goal when Spillane forced a turnover in the offensive zone, but O’Brien made a terrific glove save in close.
Kyle Hedvig and Joey Lizotte combined in the offensive zone, finding McCaffrey in front and he buried his chance but it was waved off in favor of a delayed penalty against CM. The Panthers couldn’t get a clean clear from the defensive zone, and Chris Rooney linked up with Will MacNeil to get the Knights on the board with 4:15 left in the second.
Franklin went on the power play with 3:42 left and cross check on CM was going to set up a 5-on-3 but the Panthers were whistled for a matching penalty to cancel the cross check out. The Knights got the offensive zone faceoff and Rooney made them pay, winning the faceoff then roofing his shot to make it 2-2 with 2:18 left in the second.
Back-to-back slashing calls within10 seconds gave Franklin a 5-on-3 opportunity for the final minute of the second. The Panthers took advantage as Tasker’s rebound fell in front of goal and Kyle Hedvig poked the loose back through the five-hole to put Franklin back up, 3-2, with 46 seconds left in the second.
“I think we found a team identity [down the stretch],” Spillane said. “For the past month, this is pretty much the team we’ve had. Where it was for the first month and a half, I couldn’t tell you but I’m glad we found it. It wasn’t pretty all the time tonight but it was effective. We don’t have a lot of pure goal scorers so we have to grind every inch of the ice and I thought we did that well minus the two shorthanded goals. Five on five, I thought we pretty much eliminated their quality opportunities, I thought we did a nice job.”
Franklin got an insurance goal just over three minutes into the third period. LeBlanc fired a shot from the blue line and Lizotte got just enough of his stick on the high shot to redirect it in as he skated past the front of the net.
“I just put my stick up, I saw it at the last second,” Lizotte said. “Luckily I’m so short it wasn’t a high stick.”
“Even that fourth goal, smallest kid on the team, he’s got that stick up by his shoulders, it’s a good goal,” Spillane said. “Anyone else on the team, it’s probably a high stick, so we’ll take it.”
Catholic Memorial had a chance to pull within one when it went on the power play a minute later but the Panthers didn’t surrender any big scoring chances and forced the Knights to take a penalty with 10 seconds left.
Franklin didn’t muster much up on the man advantage as O’Brien handled Franklin’s one good shot off the stick of Cam Cassella.
Ivers came up big again with 4:16 left, making a nice stop on Curran and then handling the rebound bid from Brady.
With the goalie pulled at 2:38, Colin Hedvig got a clearance for the Panthers, Falvey had a shot go just wide of the net and Ivers made a stop on Tommy Rooney.
After a battle in the neutral zone, McCaffrey came away with the puck and deposited a shot from distance to make it 5-2.
“One of the last games of the season we played LaSalle, we were down two goals and we came back and won it,” Lizotte explained. “That was a big confidence boost and every since then we’ve gone with it. I love this team. We’ve been through it all year, we’ve had a tough schedule from the start of the year. We got each other’s backs, and that’s what we did tonight. It felt really good.”
Franklin boys hockey (12-9-4) will square off with #1 Duxbury (20-4-0) on Sunday, back at Gallo Ice Arena, at 6:15.
Franklin senior Scott Elliott emerged as the hero, scoring the game-winning goal with just 1:24 to go in the four-on-four overtime period, giving the 11th-seeded Panthers a 3-2 win over third-seeded Mansfield.
“There was a battle behind the net and I was able to get their guy off of me,” Elliott said. “I saw the goalie go the other so I just tried to spin around the other way and go five-hole it worked.
While Mansfield got the first shot in the six-minute overtime period, a bid from Jack Garland that was denied by Ray Ivers (24 saves), the rest of the extra frame belonged to the Panthers.
The Panthers finally solved McCafferty in the overtime period when Elliott took a feed from CJ Spillane and was able to shake off a defenseman behind the net. Elliott faked to wrap around to the left but instead went back to his right, stuffing a backhand attempt in for the winner.
“Our guys had an extra gear in that overtime,” said Franklin head coach Chris Spillane. “Shane McCaffrey played a great game, Scotty Elliott was outstanding as well. It was a great hockey move to win a game, he’s played like that all year long for us so it was good for him to get that.
“We had a really slow start [to the season], we didn’t have any confidence and we were inconsistent. About midway through the season, they started believing in themselves. I think playing our strength of schedule from start to finish really helps us when we get here for sure.”
After a back-and-forth start to the game, the anthers were able to grab the lead just over the midway point of the first. Tasker whipped a clearance up the right side of the ice, and the puck eluded the Hornet defenseman at the blue line, leading to a two-on-one chance for the Panthers.
McCaffrey jumped on the puck and carried it into the offensive zone, tossing a pass to senior Joey Lizotte. The past was a little behind Lizotte, forcing him to pivot to gain possession, but it didn’t stop him from returning the pass back to McCaffrey, using a nifty backward pass. McCaffrey hit a one-timer from in close to put Franklin up 1-0.
Mansfield responded less than four minutes into the second period to tie the game. Freshman Brian Grant made a nice play at the blue line to prevent a Panther clearance and batted it down the walls to Garland. Garland turned a whipped a low shot towards that that found its way in to make it 1-1 with 11:15 left in the second.
After a clean first period, the Panthers were plagued by penalties in the second period and the ice tilted in favor of the Hornets.
Mansfield didn’t convert on their first power play chance when the Hornets were whistled for a hook with 10:10 to go in the middle period, but the Hornets did cash on when given a second opportunity five minutes later.
Jake Lund had a chance right on front that was denied but the Hornets continued to apply pressure. Grant fired two straight shots from the blue line that were over the net, but his third chance about a foot off the ice and sophomore Matt Copponi redirected the puck as he skated across the middle, giving Mansfield a 2-1 lead with 4:10 to go in the second.
The Hornets went on the power play for the third time in the period with 2:40 left but couldn’t increase their lead.
Franklin knotted the score at 2-2 with its first real chance of the final period. Kyle Hedvig carried the puck behind the goal before dropping the puck in front for a one-timer from Lizotte to tie the game with 9:41 to play in the third.
“It was a hell of a game, it really was,” said Mansfield head coach Mike Balzarini. “We were tired there in overtime, maybe too long of a shift. We tried a couple of different looks but with that long change, it was tough. But I thought we played well, we killed off that late penalty, we had a couple of chances shorthanded, and we seemed to have the momentum, but in the end we just didn’t have enough.
“I thought we responded well after they tied it. We’ve been in those situations before, both ahead and behind. It was a back and forth game and when it came down to it, whoever capitalized first was going to win.”
McCaffrey nearly put the Panthers ahead at the midway point of the third. On two occasions, the junior took the puck the length of the ice, beating a pair of Hornet defensemen on the first trip but his wrist shot was turned away.
Mansfield took its first penalty of the game with 3:03 left on an interference call, but the Hornets were able to prevent Franklin from going ahead in regulation.
Brad Grant blocked a shot early, leading to a clearance from Lund. McCafferty came up with three straight saves, including one on a blast from Tasker. After a shot from Cassella, Kevin Belanger came up with back-to-back clearances to kill time.
The Hornets earned an offensive zone faceoff with four seconds left in the game but Spillane won it straight back, and regulation came to a close.
In overtime, the Panthers had the edge on experience after playing in similar situations twice during its holiday tournament at Mount St. Charles. Along with the experience from in-season, Franklin has practiced for overtime since the beginning of the tournament, including getting the defense involved in the offense.
“That was part of practice, we’ve worked on it the last couple of practices, engaging our defensemen,” Spillane said. “Forget about the five-on-five hockey, it’s an open ice mentality…there are no defensemen, there are no forwards. As long as you have coverage and space, take it. We don’t practice it a lot but we know when you get to the tournament there’s a chance of 4-on-4 or 3-on-3, so it paid off.”
Mansfield finishes the season at 14-6-3. Franklin boys hockey (11-9-4) will take on #7 Catholic Memorial in the D1 South Semifinal on Wednesday, at 5:30 back at Gallo Ice Arena.
BOURNE, Mass. – The 2018-2019 Franklin boys hockey team has seen it all.
Despite their record, which earned them the lowest seed in the D1 South tournament, there aren’t many teams that are as battled tested as the Panthers.
The gauntlet of a regular season, which featured wins over inaugural Super 8 selections Marshfield and St. Mary’s, paid off for Franklin in its first postseason game of the year, earning a 1-0 win over #6 Falmouth in a game that wasn’t as close as the score might indicate.
The Panthers pounded the Clippers with chance after chance, registering 38 shots on goals while limiting the hosts few quality chances. But despite the dominance, missed chances left the door open for the Clippers and Franklin had to hold in the final seconds to preserve the win.
“We talked about our schedule, our last four or five games were against quality opponents and not only did we hold our own, we beat most of them,” said Franklin head coach Chris Spillane. “Falmouth wasn’t that physical tonight, we had a good scout on them based on the film we saw and I thought our kids responded well to what we wanted to do.”
Franklin came out flying in the opening period, applying a lot of pressure in the offensive zone that resulted in early scoring chances. Five minutes in, senior Brendan Sicchio found classmate CJ Spillane but his backhand chance was turned away.
Just seconds later, senior Zac Falvey sent a pass across the crease to classmate Dan Magazu, but Falmouth goalie Kevin Duarte made a terrific save to rob Magazu of the opening goal.
While Magazu had his chance taken away, the Panthers were able to capitalize on the faceoff that it earned. First it was senior Scott Elliott that blasted a shot that was turned aside. The rebound found its way out to junior Tom Tasker, who blasted a shot through traffic. Duarte again made the save, but the rebound popped out to senior Joey Lizotte.
Lizotte had the chance to try and put a shot on goal from in close but instead made a terrific unselfish play, sliding the puck across to junior Kyle Hedvig for an easy tap in to make it 1-0.
While that was Franklin’s lone goal of the game, it was far from the last chance for the Panthers.
Four minutes after the goal, Elliot came flying in but his wrist shot hit off the crossbar and stayed out. Franklin earned a power play opportunity with under a minute in the first, and took 1:38 of the man-up chance into the second, but couldn’t convert.
The Panthers were whistled for a slash three minutes into the second period but the defense prevented the Clippers from any dangerous chances. First it was Elliot coming up with an early clear, and then Falvey made a nice play near the blue line that forced a turnover and led to a clear.
Franklin junior goalie Ray Ivers (21 saves) made two stops on the power play to preserve the lead.
A crosscheck call put Franklin back on the power play with 7:40 left in the second, and the Panthers went on a 5-on-3 opportunity for 28 seconds after an interference cal, but the Panthers were unable to get a good look on goal.
The best chance of the period came at the end of the second penalty when junior Colin Hedvig passed up on a shot to deliver a pass through traffic but Duarte was able to get his pad to the puck just before Elliot could connect.
In the final couple of minutes of the second, Colin Hedvig found Shane McCaffrey but his bid hit off the post, and Kyle Hedvig’s follow up chance was somehow stopped by Duarte. In the final minute, Cam Cassella blasted a slap shot that handcuffed Duarte but the senior goalie was able to keep the puck out.
“A whole lot of missed opportunities by the Panthers, had a couple of open nets we missed on,” Spillane said. “I thought we did very well with our forecheck, but the story of our season is lack of finishing. We had some beautiful tick-tack passing just didn’t find. But the effort was there, they were grinding hard so that’s something we can definitely build on. Overall a good team win for the kids.”
Chances were sparse in the final period, with Casella getting a shot through traffic with Kyle Hedvig and McCaffrey in front trying to bat in the rebound. With just under three minutes to go, Spillane used a self pass to beat the defense but Duarte came flying out of goal and made a diving poke check to thwart the chance.
Franklin came within inches of scoring an empty net goal when the Clippers pulled Duarte in favor of an extra attacker in the final two minutes, but shots from their own defensive zone ended up as icing. After matching minors, the Falmouth bench was called for a misconduct and Franklin finished the final 40 seconds on the power play.
The Panthers will now renew acquaintances with league rival Mansfield, the third seed in the D1 South tournament, Franklin boys hockey will play the Hornets on Saturday at 3:30 at Gallo Arena. The teams skated to a 2-2 tie on January 21st.
“We’re capable, but we haven’t put together a big run,” Spillane said. “The last four or five games, it’s been consistently there for us and we’re building on that. Anytime you get the first win the tournament, that builds a whole lot of confidence. All of a sudden, everyone is a believer and the game is election. Now playing Mansfield, it’s a devil we know. It’s going to be a lot more physical compared to this one, there won’t be much time and space. We’re going to have to match their grit and grind. It will be a fun game.”
FRANKLIN, Mass. – The North Attleboro boys hockey team didn’t take any points from its game against Canton this past weekend, but it might have skated away with something more valuable: confidence.
The Rocketeers skated with, and arguably outplayed, the top team in the Hockomock on Saturday before the Bulldogs grabbed a late winner. While North Attleboro didn’t win, it learned that they can play with top teams in the area when playing at the top of their game.
That confidence was on full display on Wednesday night in Franklin as the Rocketeers raced out to a 3-0 lead and never looked back, skating to a 5-2 decision over the Panthers.
“We’ve kind of compared ourselves to the 2001 Patriots,” said North Attleboro head coach Ben McManama. “They played the Rams in the regular season and they realized they could play, that they could hold their own. And it was about getting that next big victory and I think we got that today. Guys are realizing we’re good enough but we still have a lot to work on because we can’t rely on Ryan Warren giving us performances like that every game, it’s too much to ask for him.”
Despite the loss, Franklin clinched its eighth straight Kelley-Rex division title with other results around the league. The Panthers (6-6-4 overall) finish 5-2-2 in league play for 12 points, one ahead of both Mansfield and Oliver Ames. A division title also gives the Panthers a berth in the state tournament.
Senior Anthony Zammiello scored a hat trick to pace the offense, and senior Ryan Warren (29 saves) was terrific in net, helping North Attleboro record its first-ever win over perennial power Franklin.
“That one feels good,” McManama said. “Franklin was coming with everything, they were really working hard and Ryan Warren stood on his head. He absolutely kept us in that thing. But for the school, for the town, that’s the first time we’ve ever beat Franklin so we’ll definitely take it.”
Before gaining the lead, the Rocketeers had to withstand a strong push from the Panthers to begin the game, including a power play opportunity less than two minutes in. Warren set the tone for the night with a terrific save late in the man-advantage opportunity, denying a one-timer from Scott Elliott after a nice feed from junior Colin Hedvig.
North Attleboro took the lead a minute into its first power play opportunity. Just when it looked like the Panthers had killed it off, junior Jake McNeany snuck a shot from a tough angle into the net, giving the Rocketeers a 1-0 lead with one second left on the power play.
From there, the Rocketeers finished the period off strong. North Attleboro continued to apply pressure and found the back of the net less than a minute later. Senior Brendan McHugh pounced on a loose puck at the top of the circles and blasted a shot through traffic. The rebound fell to the stick of Zammiello and he tucked it in for a 2-0 lead heading into the first intermission.
The Panthers once again came out with a lot of energy to begin the period and had another solid opportunity less than two minutes into the game. After a scrum in front, a North Attleboro defenseman covered the puck in the crease resulting in a penalty shot.
Warren was up to the task again, getting the pad to the post to stop a low shot to his left.
Minutes later, Franklin’s Joe LeBlanc blasted a frame that was kicked aside, with the rebound falling to Zac Falvey but his bid somehow went straight through the crease and stayed out.
After a strong first five minutes, a turnover in the defensive zone hurt the Panthers. Zammiello was able to latch onto the turnover, deked past a defenseman and then slotted his shot into the back of the net for a 3-0 lead.
Warren turned aside two good Franklin chances a minute apart after the Big Red took a three-goal lead. First, it was against a rebound chance from CJ Spillane after a shot from Hedvig, and then it was a diving stop on Shane McCaffrey after Matt D’Errico put one on frame.
Franklin got on the board when it converted on its third power play of the game. The Panthers needed just 13 seconds as Joey Lizotte maneuvered his way past the North defense and slid a pass over to freshman Declean Lovett for an easy tap in to make it 3-1.
“I don’t think we handled taking the lead very well, especially in the second period, it was all Franklin that period,” McManama said. ”We were battling with some penalties, trying to get away from some of that old North Attleboro mentality. But we battled back, it was an up and down kind of game, and we got a couple of breaks but I’m really proud of the kids.”
North Attleboro started the third on the power play but couldn’t convert. The Rocketeers did get a break five minutes into the final frame and took advantage of their opportunity. On a breakout, a Franklin defenseman slipped, and Zammiello went in on a partial break, firing a wrist shot into the back of the net to make it 4-1.
“He finished his chances too,” said McManama about Zammiello. “He worked his butt off tonight, he worked from the drop of the puck for the entire game. He’s been an unbelievable captain for us this year. He’s the guy that I thought would be the guy to step up he did. Him and Ryan Warren really stepped up tonight.
Franklin went on a power play with 8:10 to go but it was the Rocketeers the found the back of the goal. After a pass trying to cycle in the offensive zone was missed, the puck came out of the zone, and Zammiello quickly grabbed onto it, skated in, and passed across to Todd Robinson who redirected the puck into the net for a 5-1 advantage,
Franklin added a power play goal when Spillane found Falvey, and the latter picked out a spot to make it 5-2.
North Attleboro boys hockey (6-2-1 Hockomock, 8-6-1 overall) finishes second in the Davenport division with 13 points and second overall in the Hockomock League. It marks the first time in league history that the top two teams in the league are from the Davenport. North continues its push for a playoff spot when it hosts Beverly on Saturday. Franklin hosts a talented St. Mary’s (Lynn) team on Saturday.
FOXBORO, Mass. – It wasn’t the wide open, free flowing game that some expected, but it was still a hard fought game between rivals Franklin and Mansfield that resulted in a tie that left both sides satisfied with a point.
The Panthers and Hornets were the top two teams in the Kelley-Rex division entering the contest, with Franklin holding a one point lead at the midway point of league play. After skating a 2-2 at Foxboro Sports Center, Franklin remains a point ahead in the division with three games left.
Franklin had a pair of one-goal leads in the game but Mansfield was able to respond each time, the game-tying goal coming early in the final period after the Hornets entered the frame facing a one-goal deficit.
“That’s a great point,” said Mansfield head coach Mike Balzarini. “We won the third period which is something that’s been a focus of ours all year. We want to win the third period so that’s definitely a great point, we’ll take it because a point is a point. The boys worked hard.”
Long time Franklin head coach Chris Spillane was fine with the point as well, considering the Panthers’ overall record and need of points.
“At this point in this season, points are points and we need points to qualify for the tournament,” Spillane said. “We have to focus on winning the league or getting second place. We circled this one because it’s the start of a tough stretch for us. We really wanted to come out and get two points, didn’t go our way. I thought we played pretty well but bad turnovers in our zone end up in the back of the net. It’s kind of been the story of our season so far. We had some chances, but we struggle scoring goals too. The effort is there but we have to pull it together.”
Both teams created chances in the opening period but only about half were shots on goal, a stat that the Panthers led 9-7 after 15 minutes.
An early Panther power play resulted in just one shot on goal, a wrist shot from junior Shane McCaffrey that was turned aside by Mansfield junior Sean McCafferty (34 saves). Mansfield senior Coleman O’Brien helped kill off the penalty with a head first dive to block a shot.
After the power play, Franklin’s CJ Spillane redirected a shot from Declan Lovett but McCafferty stood tall in net, and repeated that against Joe Lizotte and McCaffrey again in a minute span.
Mansfield nearly cashed in on a home run pass in the final minute when Brad Grant found Jack Garland as he entered the attacking zone but his backhand attempt was gobbled up by Franklin goalie Ryan Cameron (30 saves). Mansfield sophomore Matty Copponi had a partial break in the final seconds but saw his wrist shot go over the bar.
While there were fewer chances in the second period, there were more goals. The teams combined to score three goals inside of a three minute span during the second period.
Before the opening goal, Mansfield had the best chance of the game just minutes into the middle stanza. Grant hooked up with Garland again, this time on a pass off the sideboards, and Garland ripped a wrist shot that clanked off the cross bar and went out of play.
“It’s a big game, there were some nerves,” Balzarini said. “There were some guys probably holding the stick a little too tight, making passes they don’t usually make. But as the game progressed, I thought we got better.
“We knew that they were quick so I think our defense was a little hesitant to give up the neutral zone. I think in the third period, we made the adjustment…we had the forwards coming back hard and I think that was a difference.”
Just over six minutes into the middle period is when the visitors were able to break the scoreless tie. Franklin forced a turnover near the blue line and senior Scott Elliott took possession of the puck and darted toward goal. With the defenseman committed to him, Elliott dished the puck across the crease to classmate Dan Magazu for the one-timer and a 1-0 lead.
The lead lasted less than two minutes as the Hornets took advantage of their second power play of the game. Senior Jake Lund stepped into a hard slap shot just over the blue line and the puck found its way through traffic, with the help of O’Brien screening in front, and into the back of the net.
But before the Hornets could enjoy being level in the game, Franklin senior Joey Lizotte deposited the go-ahead goal just one minute later, with assists going to Zac Falvey and Cam Cassella.
“I don’t think it was as free flowing or as an open game as you’d expect sometimes,” Spillane said. “We don’t want to get into a shootout with anyone so we’re going to rely on our system. I think Mike was doing the same thing with his guys. I think it was both teams didn’t want to let the offensive guys control the game.”
Mansfield scored the tying goal with its first real chance of the third period. Garland forced a Franklin turnover right in front of goal and quickly unleashed a wrist shot under the bar from the slot to make it 2-2.
Both teams had chances over the final 10 minutes but couldn’t convert. Matt D’Errico ripped a shot for Franklin that was redirected by Magazu but McCafferty was in position for the stop. A minute later, Cassella whistled a shot that was tipped but again McCafferty tracked the puck and knocked it down.
The best chance fell to the stick of Lizotte, who used his speed to split a pair of Mansfield defenseman. He was able to get past both Hornets, faked forehand and went to his backhand but McCafferty tracked it the whole way and made a terrific sliding pad to preserve a point for the Hornets.
“Franklin is Franklin, they have their style of play,” Balzarini said. “But they have some fast forwards which I’m not used to seeing them with that much speed. Lizotte was the fastest kid on the ice by far.”
Franklin boys hockey (4-0-2 Hockomock, 5-4-4 overall) returns home for a big showdown with Davenport division leading and undefeated Canton for an 8:00 puck drop. Mansfield boys hockey (4-1-1, 10-2-1) will host King Philip the same night at Foxboro Sports Center at 6:00.
FRANKLIN, Mass. – When you are struggling to get into a rhythm offensively and everyone is grabbing the stick a little tighter, it takes players grinding in the corners and making the effort to get to the front of the net to turn things around.
After watching Oliver Ames tie the game early in the third period of Wednesday night’s league opener at Pirelli Veterans Arena, Franklin needed a little inspiration to avoid extending its winless streak to six games (0-3-2 after opening the season with an exclusion win against Malden Catholic). Up stepped senior forward Joe Lizotte.
Despite being the only Panther in the offensive zone, Lizotte managed to hold possession in the corner against three OA defensemen. He squeezed the puck out to the right boards where it kicked to Tom Tasker, who sent a puck across the crease. The puck was deflected by C.J. Spillane, and several bodies in front of goal, to the far post and Zac Falvey popped up to knock the loose puck into the back of the net.
It was the spark that the Panthers needed. Franklin scored again three minutes later to seal a 4-2 victory and kick off its league title defense with a much-needed two points.
“He’s by himself and we get help off the bench and next thing you know it’s in the back of the net,” said Franklin coach Chris Spillane about the game-winner. “A dead play, with a little effort, turned into a positive play. It’s just hard work. He’s a good player and we love having him on our team.”
Franklin came out strong in the first period, holding a 9-3 edge in shots after the first, despite giving up a power play only 50 seconds into the game.
Sophomore Declan Lovett had a good look from the dot that he sent just wide and the puck bounced out to Cam Cassella at the point, who forced a save from OA goalie Owen Connor (26 saves). Lizotte forced a save from the left circle and then Spillane and Tasker put shots on goal only to be denied.
“He kept us in it,” OA coach Sean Bertoni said of his goaltender. “It was his best game of the year. We just didn’t take sticks out on those last two goals. He played excellent.”
OA’s best chance of the opening period came with just under six minutes left. Jake Gottwald slipped a pass into the slot where Ross Carroll put a shot on net only to have Panthers goalie Ryan Cameron (10 saves) kicked it aside. The hosts nearly took the lead with just seconds left in the first but Tasker’s shot came back off the post.
“Our forecheck non-existent to be honest,” Bertoni admitted. “The first period was one of our weakest of the year, which was kind of disappointing. They know if we don’t establish our forecheck, then we’re not going to win anything. We rely on our speed.”
The Tigers started the second on the power play and needed only 19 seconds to make it count. Following a Connor save, Brett Williams broke down the right side and was able to play the puck across the crease into defenseman Matt McCormack, who forced a save from Cameron, and Cullen Gallagher was on hand to tap in the rebound.
Unfortunately for the Tigers, Gallagher was injured not long after the goal and forced to leave the game, one of two OA forwards to get injured on Wednesday.
Lizotte had a decent chance at an instant response only for Connor to make the save and then the OA goalie kept out Kyle Hedvig on a tip of a Cassella slap shot. Brendan Sicchio came close too with a shot off the post.
Finally, with 7:33 left in the second, Franklin’s pressure paid off. Lizotte got behind the OA defense in the left circle and cut across goal onto his backhand before sliding it under Connor.
Just seconds after Williams and Carroll had chances on the other end, the Panthers took their first lead of the night. Again it was Lizotte that created the opportunity by riding a challenge and keeping hold of the puck. It skipped behind the net to Matt Holmes, who flung a pass out to the point where Cassella fired a wrister through traffic and into the top corner.
“We worked on chipping the puck into space and every time you have No. 11 (Lizotte) on the ice you’re going to win those races and we had a couple of other kids pick up pucks too,” said Spillane. “It’s not the prettiest brand of hockey but it’s effective.”
Franklin almost doubled the lead in the third when Falvey made it three posts for the Panthers, but OA answered back to tie it. Off a face-off in the attacking zone, Gottwald had a chance from the slot that Cameron saved, but the rebound was knocked out of mid-air by Colin Bourne and slammed into the back of the net.
Bertoni said, “Their energy was there to start the period, their effort was there, and they didn’t get down on themselves when two guys went down and that’s all you can ask for.”
Williams almost gave the Tigers the lead but Cameron made a sprawling save. It was one of the few times that OA managed to get in behind the Franklin defensemen.
Spillane explained, “I thought we did very well defensively with our gap control, slowing them down as they came in the zone and not giving them space to move around.”
With 8:49 left, after Lizotte’s effort in the corner, Falvey put Franklin in the lead. Three minutes later, the Panthers sealed the win. Dan Magazu threw a puck in front from the right boards and Shane McCaffery managed to squeeze the tip under Connor’s pads for a 4-2 lead.
“We have nine forwards and when you lose two of them it’s hard,” said Bertoni. “I threw a guy out there on the ice cold and they scored the goal to make it 3-2. That’s on me but it’s hard when you’re short-benched against a team with so much depth.”
Freshman Bryan Kearns had one more good chance for the Tigers but his shot was kicked out by Cameron and the Panthers got their first two points (for MIAA purposes) of the season.
Spillane said, “We just need to find an offensive flow. We had plenty of shots, we missed the net way too much, so we need to clean things up offensively.”
Franklin (2-3-2) will travel to Taunton on Saturday, while Oliver Ames (5-3) will look to bounce back when it hosts Foxboro.
CANTON, Mass. – There’s 15 minutes in each period, and the Canton boys hockey team made sure to use every second of each one.
The Bulldogs scored with less than five seconds left in each the first and second periods, both on the power play, to pick up a 3-1 win over Franklin in a non-league clash between Hockomock hockey powers.
“It was wide open at times with a lot of chances and it was very tight at times, it was a typical Canton-Franklin game,” said Canton head coach Brian Shuman. “The first goal, that puck went off a skate, the shot was going to be wide but went off a skate and in. We lost one of our better players for 10 minutes but our guys responded. Colby Ciffolillo, first-year player, was asked to play on like three lines and three different positions and played great. It was a good response for us after a tough start.”
Franklin took the lead less than a minute into the contest but Canton equalized less than four minutes later. Panther senior defenseman Matt D’Ericco had a puck pop out to him in the attacking zone and fired a low shot that deflected off a skate and into the net just 54 seconds in to the game.
Canton senior Ryan Nolte answered less than four minutes later to bring the hosts level. Nolte made a nice move to get around a defenseman and released a shot right in front that was partially saved by Franklin goalie Ryan Cameron (25 saves), but the puck trickled over the line to make it 1-1.
The teams traded chances over the final 10 minutes, with Franklin junior Colin Hedvig forcing Canton senior goalie Michael Staffiere (18 saves) into a tough save. Two minutes later Canton junior Tommy Ghostlaw came flying down the left wing, drew the defense, and centered a pass for Ciffolillo but his one-timer went off the post and stayed out.
Just when it looked like the teams would head to the locker room level, Nolte drew a tripping call in the attacking zone with 33.9 to play.
After an attacking face off, the puck squirted free to Owen Lehane at the blue line. Lehane quickly passed to his left to junior Jack Connolly, who quickly one-timed a shot in front of goal. Junior Chris Lavoie was positioned all alone in front, made one move and stuffed his bid in with 2.7 left in the period.
“Both power play goals were because of Jack Connolly,” Shuman said. “Both times, knowing the clock, knowing how much time was left, jumped into the play to create a four man attack. The first one, the one-timer to the net and the second one, jumping into the play and getting it down low and we had some guys down there.”
Despite the late goal in the first, Franklin came out reenergized in the second and controlled the majority of the period. Franklin senior Joey Lizotte forced a nice save from Staffiere and the rebound bid from CJ Spillanee hit off the post and stayed out.
Tom Tasker drew a tripping call with eight minutes to go, and the Panthers even had 5-on-3 for 14 seconds after a cross check, but Franklin was unable to solve Staffiere again during the two-man advantage opportunities.
“We filled a lot of boxes [of things we don’t want to do] tonight,” said Franklin head coach Chris Spillane. “We were soft on the puck, not strong with our sticks, they had more speed than we had and that’s going to kill you every time. They wanted to play harder than us. I thought we had a good second period minus 0.2 seconds, that was a killer. We allowed two power play goals, both at the end of a period and that takes a lot of air out. I thought we had a good second but the third was just soft all around. I expected them to show me something and we didn’t have any effort out there.”
The best chance came on the stick of Lizotte, who beat a defenseman with speed and rifled a shot on net but Staffiere turned the bid aside to keep the lead.
Despite controlling the period and having the majority of possession, Franklin wasn’t able to cash in and took a penalty with 1:38 to go.
Canton once again took advantage of a late man-up chance. As the final seconds ticked away, Ghostlaw blocked a clearance attempt, Connolly jumped on the loose puck and dumped it in front of net, and junior Shane Marshall settled the puck and fired a backhand attempt with Lavoie screening in front.
The shot hit the back of the net with under a second to play, just a moment before the buzzer sounded for the end of the second period.
“I thought we carried the play in the second, we outshot them, we had more opportunities,” Spillane said. “We actually forechecked and turned pucks over, we did what we needed to do. But that’s a backbreaker with 0.2 seconds left, it was a legit goal no question about it. We had two guys fan on it, that puck shouldn’t have been anywhere near the net. A lot of little mistakes turned into a very lopsided game, 3-1 doesn’t even indicate what that game was like.
Franklin had a pair of early chances to get back into the game but Canton’s penalty kill wouldn’t allow it. The Panthers had 38 seconds of 5-on-3 but didn’t register any significant chances. Hedvig fired a pair of shots on the man advantage, but both were stopped by Staffiere.
“You can’t get better defensively unless you’re pushed and challenged,” Shuman said. “Franklin was all over us [in the second period], and we have to learn from that. Franklin played well in the third period too. We have a lot of experience but a lot of youth too and these guys need to be challenged to get better and I thought Franklin really controlled the play in the second period. We were able to hold them at bay for the most part, and credit to Mike Staffiere too, he played great.”
Canton had two chances at the midway point as Matt Martin had a shot deflected just wide by Ryan Colby, and just a minute later, Nolte had his chance denied and Lavoie nearly snuck the rebound in by Cameron made the stop.
Canton boys hockey (3-0) doesn’t hit the ice for another game for over a week, hosting Westwood on December 29th. Franklin (1-1) is back in action on Saturday when it goes on the road to take on Newburyport.
Sharon, 50 @ Holliston, 45 – Final
Franklin, 3 @ Malden Catholic, 0 – Final – Senior Matt Holmes scored twice and senior Ryan Cameron recorded a shutout as Franklin opened up its season with a win over Malden Catholic. Cameron made 17 stops in net for the shutout while senior CJ Spillane added an empty netter in the final minutes for the Panthers.
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.”