TAUNTON, Mass. – In between all of the penalties, the two disqualifications, the numerous stoppages, Attleboro showed flashes of why it was still in contention for a Div. 3 playoff spot and why the Bombardiers were capable of making a deep run in last year’s tournament.
Head coach Mike Cripps has spoken all season about how Attleboro can skate with most teams when it is five-on-five, but unfortunately the Bombardiers hurt themselves with penalties.
On Saturday afternoon at Aleixo Arena, penalties were again Attleboro’s downfall along with the play of Old Rochester/Fairhaven goalie Chase Cunningham, who made 29 saves. This time it proved decisive, as the 4-1 loss knocked the Bombardiers (6-11-2) out of tournament contention.
Both teams recorded 10 penalties apiece, although Attleboro also had freshman Sam Larkin sent to the locker room in the first period and his brother Keagin, a senior, sent off early in the third.
“Against a team like this, you can’t play shorthanded,” said Attleboro coach Mike Cripps. “Just with the numbers we have, we can’t afford those penalties.”
“They couldn’t control it. We told them to keep their mouths shut but unfortunately the emotions got the better of them.”
Attleboro nearly grabbed the lead just a minute in, when a chipped pass to the neutral zone found P.J. Elliott streaking forward but Cunningham stayed on the puck and managed to get his pad across to the post for the save. Later in the first, Sam Larkin smacked his shot off the bar with the goalie beaten.
ORR started to press and use its speed in the attack and midway through the period had two good chances in the slot, but both were stopped by Attleboro freshman goalie Evan Andrew (21 saves). It was a big turnaround for the netminder, whose first career start was against ORR and he allowed eight goals in an 8-5 defeat.
On Saturday, Andrew showed that his game has markedly improved over the course of the season. “He’s come a long way this year as a freshman,” said Cripps.
The visitors took the lead with 6:39 left in the first as Connor Kelley knocked in a pass from Evan Stanley. Elliott had another breakaway opportunity with three minutes left in the first but again Cunningham was up to the test.
In the second period, Attleboro kept creating chances. Freshman Kyle McCabe received a pass right in front from Cam Littig but Cunningham managed to get a toe to it and keep it out. Later in the second, Jake Parker had a great opportunity in the slot but he smacked the post with his shot.
“We just didn’t seem to get the bounces,” admitted Cripps.
ORR took advantage of Attleboro’s missed chances to add to its lead. With the Bombardiers pushing forward, Sam Henrie caught the Attleboro defense flatfooted for a breakaway goal that made it 2-0. Two minutes later, the Bulldogs added a third.
Attleboro gave itself a shot at a comeback with 1:07 left in the second. Parker split a pair of ORR defensemen and then beat Cunningham with a backhand over the glove side to make it 3-1. Thanks to an ORR penalty after the buzzer, Attleboro also began the third on the power play.
It was a big lift for the hosts and gave Attleboro hope of staying alive for the postseason.
“It just brought back to Thursday against Taunton when we started the third period two down (and won 6-4),” said Cripps. “Plus we started the period on the power play…although the power play was not working too smoothly.”
The third period featured 10 combined penalties and had almost no flow. Still Attleboro continued to push forward and the Bombardiers had flurries of shots, as the Bulldogs struggled at times to get the puck out of their zone and took unnecessary risks with passes through the middle.
“P.J. all year, he’ll skate the whole last period if we ask him to and some of the freshmen too like Cam Littig and Kyle McCabe skating their butts off to create chances,” said Cripps about his team battling right to the end.
Kelley wrapped up the win for ORR/Fairhaven with 1:26 left when he tacked on a shorthanded, empty net goal that made it 4-1.
Attleboro will close out its season on Monday when it hosts Dighton-Rehoboth/Seekonk.
Josh Perry can be contacted at JoshPerry@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @Josh_Perry10.