Nolte Hits Milestone and Canton Edges North to Title

Canton boys hockey
Canton senior forward Ryan Nolte (22) scored one goal and set up two others, reaching 100 career points and helping the Bulldogs to a dramatic win that clinched a ninth straight league title. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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ATTLEBORO, Mass. – The puck was dug out on the near boards and angled towards Canton defenseman Owen Lehane, who was hanging at the blue line. The junior lined up a slap shot that deflected almost immediately off a North Attleboro stick and knuckled, weaving its way through traffic, past North goalie Ryan Warren and somehow under the bar.

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For the second straight game, the Bulldogs had pulled out a win in the closing minutes. Lehane’s goal with just 2:08 remaining in Sunday afternoon’s matinee at the New England Sports Village handed Canton a 3-2 victory and clinched the program’s ninth league title in a row.

“It’s a long season and especially this time of year when you get into the middle of January and guys are sick, guys are hurt, so if you can pull out a win when it’s not your best day it says a lot about a team and it says a lot about our guys,” said Canton coach Brian Shuman, who gave a lot of credit to the Rocketeers for making it tough all game.

He added, “I think they dominated most of the game. They had more puck possession than we did, they had certainly more zone time than us, they had more shot attempts, and they really did outplay us. Even the first period didn’t feel right. We had two goals but they were making it very difficult for us and I didn’t think the score reflected the game.”

North Attleboro coach Ben McManama could only shrug at the way the game ended, as the Rocketeers had gone toe-to-toe with (and at times outplayed) not only one of the Hockomock League’s perennial powers but a team that was just added to the initial watch list for the Super 8.

“We realized something about ourselves today, which is great,” McManama explained. “We wanted the win or even the tie, but we realize that when we move our feet and work hard, then we can hang with anybody. I think it’s a good lesson that we learned today but we just have to keep on going.”

Digging the puck out on the boards to set up the Lehane winner was senior forward Ryan Nolte. It was his second assist of the day, to go along with the one goal he scored, and with his three-point haul on Sunday he reached the 100-point milestone for his career.

“He’s someone that always seems to show up and make big plays in a game like this,” Shuman said of Nolte. “He made little plays that he normally wouldn’t do like throw a big hit in the neutral zone in the middle of the game when we needed that. He was important in all areas of the ice tonight.”

The Rocketeers came out of the gates trying to set a physical tone and looked faster and sharper, but it was the Bulldogs that got the goals. Nolte set up the opener five minutes into the game when he fired a pass from behind the goal line out to Matt Pigeon at the point. The defenseman’s shot was tipped in front by Chris Lavoie, giving Warren (22 saves) no chance.

North almost leveled the score just a minute later when Justin Moccia found himself alone on the edge of the crease. Canton goalie Mike Staffiere (20 saves) managed to scramble and get a piece of the shot and then got a piece of luck when the rebound looped up and landed on the bar before bouncing behind the goal.

Only a minute later and Canton had doubled its lead. Nolte cut across the slot and initially lost control and whiffed on his first attempt, but he stayed with the puck and whipped a backhand on goal. The puck caught Warren trying to slide across and it slipped through the five-hole to make it 2–0.

“Our group’s very good in that they’re very resilient,” said McManama. “Some teams would’ve gone in the tank after the two goals, I mean it’s Canton, but we just kept battling back. Since day one when I got here that’s the team I was trying to bring out. I’m happy with what we did today.”

The game changed in a span of 23 seconds. First a slip on the blue line allowed Dennis Morehouse to steal the puck and find space to rifle a shot from the right circle inside the far post to cut the lead in half. Nine seconds after the goal, North went on the game’s first power play. Fourteen seconds after that, the game was tied.

Brendan McHugh started the offensive set by making a grab at the blue line to keep the puck in the zone. North got a shot on goal and Staffiere made the first stop. The rebound was initially played into the side of the net but Anthony Zammiello kept following the puck and knocked it in.

Lavoie nearly nabbed his second of the game but Warren flashed a quick glove to deny his shot from the left circle. Shane Marshall had a good chance for the Bulldogs as well when he flicked a quick shot from the slot but Warren was just as quick with his pad. Zammiello had a pair of chances, one set up in front by Jack Connolly and the second on a breakaway, but both times Staffiere had the answer.

“We were dumping the puck in and that’s what happens when you play a team physical, stay up in the neutral zone, and close your gaps,” said Shuman about Canton’s struggles to develop consistent attacks. “We had so many opportunities to make that one pass for an odd-man rush and we would just dump the puck in and that’s all credit to their play that got us a little antsy with the puck.”

The first half of the third period was all Rocketeers. North came flying out of the locker room and had the first six shots of the period. Canton didn’t get a puck on net until the 7:40 mark of the third. The best chance fell to Matt McSweeney, who was picked out in front by freshman Nik Kojoian, but Staffiere made a big pad stop to keep the scores level.

Despite all the North pressure, Canton held onto the tie and then got the one moment it needed to keep its perfect start to the season alive.

“I’ve been around hockey for a long time,” McManama said. “It’s no secret that good teams get those good breaks. We also did very well defensively, we worked really hard, they made some big saves, and I thought it was all-around a great hockey game.”

It is the ninth straight league title, and 11th in 12 seasons. No other team has won a Davenport crown in the nine years since the league split into different divisions. It speaks to the level of consistency as a program that the Bulldogs have displayed down the years.

Shuman said, “We talked about how fortunate we are to be competing every year for league championships. It’s a testament to the guys before and to our guys now that they are able to rise to that level every year. We don’t take it for granted.”

Canton (13-0, 9-0) will try to complete a perfect league campaign when it hosts Taunton on Wednesday. North Attleboro (7-6-1, 5-2-1) will try to make history on Wednesday when it travels to Pirelli Veterans Arena to face Kelley-Rex division leader Franklin, which the Rocketeers have never beaten.

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Monday’s Schedule & Scoreboard – 01/21/19

Today’s games are listed below.

Girls Basketball
Franklin, 35 @ Holy Name, 33 – FinalAli Brigham secured the win and a season sweep of Holy Name, scoring the game-winning basket with just one second remaining on the clock. Brigham scored 23 points on the night.

Boys Hockey
Franklin, 2 @ Mansfield, 2 – FinalClick here for a recap and photo gallery of this game.

Canton, 3 vs. Newburyport, 1 – FinalCanton faced a one-goal deficit after one period but scored three unanswered goals to beat Newburyport. Junior Colby Ciffolillo knotted the game early in the second period and senior Ryan Nolte scored on the power play to put the Bulldogs up 2-1. Junior Chris Lavoie scored in the third period to make it 3-1.

North Attleboro, 2 @ Foxboro, 0 – FinalNorth Attleboro scored once in the first period and again in the second period to pick up a win over Foxboro. Jake Ebert put the Rocketeers ahead 1-0 and Dennis Morehouse doubled the lead with a goal in the second.

Oliver Ames, 6 vs. Coyle & Cassidy, 1 – FinalOliver Ames exploded with four goals in the third period to pull away from visiting Coyle & Cassidy. Hunter Costello paced the Tigers with a pair of goals and an assist, Brett Williams scored once and had one helper, and Julian Krowski (first career goal), Duncan Pereira, and Max Ward each scored once. Owen Connor earned the win in net with 19 saves.

Swimming
Sharon @ North Attleboro, 4:00

Gymnastics
Canton @ Attleboro, 1:30
Sharon @ Taunton, 1:00

Oliver Ames Battles Back To Earn Tie With Rocketeers

Oliver Ames boys hockey
Oliver Ames players celebrate with Brett Williams (second from right) after he scored the tying goal against North Attleboro. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
BROCKTON, Mass. – Win, lose, or tie, there is one thing that Oliver Ames boys hockey coach Sean Bertoni knows about his team: they aren’t going to give up.

Trailing by a goal entering the third period, and without two of their top point producers due to injury and illness, the Tigers battled back to score the tying goal midway through the period and killed off a penalty in the final two minutes to grab a 2-2 tie with visiting North Attleboro.

“It was an awesome effort, I’m really proud of them,” Bertoni said. “We didn’t win the game but it was one of my proudest moments, being down guys and most teams in that situation against a quality team like North Attleboro are in trouble. Our theme is being resilient. No matter what, we just keep fighting, the effort is always there. We showed it against Canton, we showed it tonight. It’s rewarding to see as a coach.”

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Despite being without leading scorers Cullen Gallagher and Brian Kearns, who each have 17 points, the Tigers twice overcame a one-goal deficit in the game.

North Attleboro took a 1-0 lead just over five minutes into the game and took that advantage into the locker room during the first intermission. OA knotted the score with 9:50 to go in the second period but the Rocketeers took the lead back with a late goal in the second.

“That’s a bad tie for us,” said North Attleboro head coach Ben McManama. “That’s taking nothing away from OA, they work their butts off. They have some guys who are sick, some guys who are injured and my hats off to them, they showed something today. We didn’t respond today, we have a full four line, healthy group that just didn’t get it done.”

Rocketeer senior defenseman Brendan McHugh put the visitors up 2-1 with just 1:03 left in the second period. After skating to a relatively even period, McHugh tossed a high shot on net from the blue line that OA goalie Owen Connor (14 saves) never seemed to get eyes on and it fluttered into the back of the net.

The Tigers opened the third by earning a power play but couldn’t muster any chances on goal. Instead, the best chance came for North Attleboro when the penalty expired. Rocketeer junior Jack Connolly came out of the box, took a pass and went flying into the offensive zone alone. But Connolly couldn’t quite get off a final shot with Connor covering the post with the pad.

Three minutes later, Oliver Ames had its equalizer. Senior Brett Williams prevented a clearance along the boards with a strong check that put the puck in the center of the ice. Junior Ryan Gottwald was able to bat the puck back to Williams, who was all by himself, and he deposited his shot five-hole to knot the score 2-2 with 6:47 to go.

North Attleboro had a final chance to go back on top when it went on the power play with 2:13 to go in the game. Oliver Ames’ top penalty killer Matt McCormick was whistled for a boarding penalty but the Rocketeers were only able to get one shot on net during the final two minutes.

Max Ward came up with a big early clear, and then teamed up with Williams to provide an aggressive forecheck that didn’t allow the Rocketeers to leave its own zone. McHugh had the lone shot of the man advantage but Connor easily gloved it.

“Even just getting the penalty with two minutes left in a tie game can deflate a team, especially with our top penalty kill guy in the box,” Bertoni said. “But it felt like we were attacking on it, we didn’t let them set up. I think they only had one shot on net, we had a good chance too. Brett and Max were relentless in the offensive zone. The kids are giving us everything, it’s awesome to see. We haven’t got much puck luck this year but hard work will pay off.

The Tigers even had a chance to score the game winner while shorthanded. Junior Hunter Costello cleared the puck off the boards and senior Colin Bourne used his speed to get around a North defender and get to the puck first. He was able to get a close bid on goal but North senior goalie Ryan Warren (19 saves) made a big pad save to prevent the shorthanded bid.

“They had a lot more energy in the third, they work really hard,” McManama said. “It didn’t feel like one team was better than the other in the third, it felt pretty even but I thought we could have been better. It breaks down into just some simple plays. We weren’t getting pucks in deep, we were turning it over at the blue line. Those little things, they add up. Those little things snowball and can really hurt you.”

North Attleboro struck on a rebound chance 5:31 into the contest. Andrew Zammiello put a shot on goal that Connor turned aside but junior Dennis Morehouse had plenty of space in front to bury it into the back of the net for a 1-0 lead.

North had a couple of chances to add to its lead in the first but couldn’t find the back of the net. The best opportunity came when Todd Robinson fed Connolly in the slot but Connor came up with a big pad stop.

OA’s best chances came off the stick of McCormick, who fired a slap shot that Warren gobbled up and a backhand chance from Jake Gottwald that Warren turned away.

OA senior James Beatty set the tying goal up with an absolute perfect pass. With possession in his own defensive end, Beatty fired a perfectly weighted pass through the neutral zone right onto the stick of Williams as he entered the offensive zone for a breakaway, and Williams used a nice move and lifted the puck into the net to make it 1-1.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Beyond North Attleboro’s first goal, the Tigers’ defense did a nice job of limiting chances for the Rocketeers.

“Defensive positioning has been great all year,” Bertoni said. “We only rolled four defensemen tonight, [McCormick], James [Beatty], Julian [Krowski], and Ryan [Gottwald]. They gave us a ton of minutes, and we had to kill a couple of penalties too. Other than that first goal, where we didn’t get our sticks in there, we didn’t give up a lot of quality chances. And we had some chances in the third too so I’ll get that point for sure.”

Oliver Ames boys hockey (2-2-1 Hockomock, 7-4-1 overall) hits the road on Saturday with a visit to Taunton at 2:00. North Attleboro (3-1-1, 5-5-1) is off until Monday when it takes on Foxboro at 6:00 at the Foxboro Sports Center.

Mansfield Skates Past North For Balzarini’s 100th Win

Mansfield boys hockey
North Attleboro goalie Ryan Warren (left) makes a pad stop on a backhand shot from Mansfield sophomore Matty Copponi in the first period. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
ATTLEBORO, Mass. – For two periods, the Mansfield Hornets boys hockey team controlled the game, finally solving North Attleboro senior goalie Ryan Warren in the final seconds of the second period.

And after that, Mansfield turned to their own netminder, junior Sean McCafferty, to thwart a furious comeback attempt from the Rocketeers in the third period, resulting in a 2-0 decision for the visiting Hornets.

“That was a great game. North Attleboro is relentless, they really are, in all aspects of the game,” said Mansfield coach Michael Balzarini, who earned his 100th career win with the result. “[North Attleboro] got better period by period, they just kept coming and coming. But this was a team win, we played as a team tonight. And Sean McCafferty played out of his mind. His rebound control was great, he was phenomenal.”

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Balzarini previous had successful stints at Dover-Sherborn and Milford before coming to Mansfield two seasons ago.

A dominant first period saw the Hornets skate to an 8-1 advantage on shots on goal, but no advantage on the scoreboard. While North Attleboro asserted itself more in the second frame, the Hornets still had the edge in play and shots (19-8).

Warren denied Mansfield sophomore Matty Copponi in the first period on a nice backhand attempt with a sprawling pad save. The senior goalie kept senior Jack Garland off the board six minutes into the second on a nice chance at the back post, made a terrific stop on a one-timer from senior Chris Copponi with 7:30 to go in the second, and then gobbled up a hard slap shot off the stick of junior Joseph Troiano.

It wasn’t until the 20th shot, with less than 10 seconds to go in the second period, that the Hornets struck.

North Attleboro had its first power play of the game with 2:43 left in the second period but couldn’t generate any serious scoring chances. Mansfield capitalized on the momentum gained from the kill and took the lead with 8.4 seconds left to go in the frame.

Chris Copponi got the play going, forcing a turnover in the attacking zone with a hit along the boards. The puck popped to senior Brad Grant and his blast was knocked over the net by Warren (26 saves). Garland was first to the puck, he connected with Matty Copponi, who quickly fed older brother Chris right in front for the goal.

“I thought we controlled the play for the most part but getting that goal was huge, with only nine seconds or so left, it was huge,” Balzarini said. “It helped put the momentum our way. We knew they would come out hard in the third period.”

For North Attleboro, it was a tough goal to swallow after just having a power play and an improved period over the first.

“The minute, minute and a half after a power play is so important and we have to tighten that up,” said North Attleboro head coach Ben McManama. “It’s a crucial part of the game. After a power play and the end of a period, one of the most important times in a game. We just have to get better there.”

Despite giving up a late goal int he second, North Attleboro came out flying in the third period, putting 15 shots on frame. Just seconds into the period, the Rocketeers were testing McCafferty, who was clearly up for the challenge.

North senior Anthony Zamiello found senior Justin Moccia in the slot for an open wrist shot but McCafferty turned it away. The Rocketeers earned another power play and had a big chance off the stick of junior Jeff Baker but McCafferty knocked it down and stood tall on a pair of rebound chances.

Just after the power play expired, the Rocketeers had one of their best chances when Zammiello and senior Todd Robinson found themselves alone in front of the net, and a pass from the former to the latter led to a one-timer in close but McCafferty made an amazing stop to keep the puck out.

“He stepped up tonight — he was calm, he wasn’t frantic, he was in the zone the entire game,” Balzarini said of McCafferty. “Coming off of the loss against Canton, I thought he really elevated his game tonight.”

Mansfield couldn’t capitalize on a power play attempt with 9:16 to go, and was whistled for a trip with 5:46 to go to put the hosts back on the man-advantage. The Hornets were whistled for another penalty 44 seconds into the advantage, giving North a 5-on-3 for 1:17.

But one save for McCafferty and a terrific individual defensive play from senior Coleman O’Brien canceled the power play chance for the Rocketeers. With just under three minutes to go, North Attleboro sophomore Tyler Sarro made a nice read on a clearance attempt, intercepting the pass to go in alone on net but whistled his shot wide of frame.

Junior Dennis Morehouse had another big chance with a minute to go on a loose puck at the back post but he couldn’t get the puck past McCafferty (25 saves).

With just under a minute to go, North Attleboro had an attacking zone faceoff but Matty Copponi won it back to Troiano, who alertly flipped the puck out into the neutral zone and Chris Copponi won the foot race and tapped it into the empty net to go up 2-0 with 50.9 to go.

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“We’re trying to get better starts,” McManama said. “When our guys are going and we’re forechecking hard, we’re a very good team. But we’re not seeing it for 45 minutes, we’re seeing it spurts. It’s something we know about but we’re working about.

“We have to be tougher in front of the net, we have to bear down. We’re still not going at 100 percent in front of the net, that’s how goals are scored. It doesn’t have to be pretty.”

Mansfield boys hockey (2-1 Hockomock, 8-2 overall) concludes its three-game road trip on Saturday when it travels to Aleixo Arena to take on Taunton at 2:00. North Attleboro (2-1 Hockomock, 4-5 overall) returns to action at the New England Sports Village on Saturday against King Philip at 4:30.

Shamrocks Stun North Attleboro With Late Winner

North Attleboro hockey
North Attleboro senior goalie Ryan Warren made 26 saves to keep Bishop Feehan off the board until the final two minutes of the game. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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ATTLEBORO, Mass. – The parking lot was packed on Saturday afternoon, fans forced to make the trek up to the New England Sports Village from the street, and the stands were filled to the brim for a battle of neighbors. Bishop Feehan’s reaction after pulling out a 1-0 win over North Attleboro matched the atmosphere pulsating down from the crowd.

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Feehan’s players swarmed each other at the final horn, while North players dropped to the ice in anger and frustration. This felt like a Div. 2 playoff game, not one being contested before Christmas with the teams having played only a handful of games between them.

“We did enough to win, but we’re fighting through back breaks,” said North Attleboro coach Ben McManama. “It’s tough. The kids are working hard, they’re good kids, so it’s harder for me to watch them have to go through that. We’re turning the page; it’s not where we start, but where we finish.”

Having had a week off between its opening game against Oliver Ames and its meeting with Feehan, North took a while to get its skates under it. Senior goalie Ryan Warren (26 saves) was on top of his game, however, and held the Shamrocks off the board during a dominant opening period.

Warren made nine saves in the first, while the Rocketeers managed only three on the other end. Just two minutes into the game, Warren was forced into a big pad stop to deny Ben Gaucher as North freshman defenseman Austin Comery chased back to hassle the Feehan forward.

With six minutes left in the first, Warren got a big helping hand from his defense. After Warren was knocked out of goal making a save, junior Jeff Baker reacted first to clear a loose puck off the line. Warren was caught wide of the goal in a mass of bodies and the puck went out to the point, Comery stepped in front of a goal bound shot to prevent the opening goal (in the process suffering an injury that forced him out of the game).

Feehan continued to attack and Gaucher had another chance with a tip on the edge of the crease but again Warren managed to get his pad across to make the stop.

“He was great,” McManama said of Warren. “That’s what we need from him for the rest of the season and I’m confident we’re going to get it from him.”

North’s first good scoring chance came early in the second when Dennis Morehouse dragged the puck through a pair of defensemen and was stopped from a tight angle. A minute later, the Rocketeers were positive that they had the lead. John Connolly got free in the slot and his shot clanged off a post and out towards the corner. North was sure that it hit the back of the net and everyone seemed to pause for a second but there was no signal from the officials.

“We did get the puck in the net, but they called it back,” said McManama, who was clear in his disdain for Saturday’s officiating. “It’s not right. It’s hard for our boys to work hard and compete when they really get the short end of the stick.”

Feehan had its fair share of chances to grab the lead as well. A minute into a penalty kill, North was given a major penalty, meaning 50 seconds of a two-man advantage and then more than four more minutes of power play to kill.

C.J. Botelho had a pair of chances, one saved by Warren and the other that he sent wide of an open net, and Jack Murphy’s shot from the point was redirected in front by Kevin Barrera but Warren managed to keep his pad on the ice to keep the shot out.

Surviving the long power play opportunity seemed to spark the Rocketeers into life. Jake Ebert had a good chance right after North got back to even strength and Will Yeomans had a shot from the point kicked aside. With 90 seconds left in the second, Todd Robinson backhanded a pass across ice to Connolly, who rode a check and managed to get a shot on net.

It was a good flurry for North in the attacking zone and foreshadowed a strong third period push. After being outshot 20-11 through the first two periods, North outshot Feehan 14-7 in the third.

McManama explained, “I think we have to do a better job getting pucks to the net. They did a good job blocking shots, but we’re trying to stickhandle it into the net instead of get it on net and go after the rebounds.”

Anthony Zammiello saucered a pass to Robinson on an odd-man rush and the senior forward forced Feehan goalie Rory Geraghty into a shoulder save. Connolly had another chance from inside the left circle but that was stopped too.

“It’s just because we spent the rest of the game in the box,” said McManama about the North attack in the third period. “It was nice to be able to play five-on-five for a little bit. The captains just talked about, we know what to do, we know we’re the better team, let’s just show it. We just ran out of time.”

Warren was forced into two big stops on the other end to keep the game scoreless and North broke up ice quickly with Justin Moccia forcing Geraghty (24 saves) into another stop. The chances kept coming for North, which was in control of the period, including a series of close calls on a power play opportunity with four minutes left.

But, with just 1:43 on the clock, Feehan managed to find one good scoring chance and made it count. Kevin Borah roofed his shot as he cut across the crease to give the Shamrocks the lead.

North had one more great chance when Robinson, despite Feehan going on the power play during a scrappy closing sequence, got behind the Shamrocks defense but Geraghty stood tall again and made a solid pad save to deny the breakaway and the opportunity for a tie.

North Attleboro (0-2) will be back on the ice on Thursday afternoon at Levy Rink when it opens the Burrillville (R.I.) Hockey Winter Classic against Cumberland (R.I.).

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.