FRANKLIN, Mass. – After Canton stormed back from two goals down in the opening two minutes of the third period and with both teams create chance after chance in a fast-paced, end-to-end finish, both teams could have been forgiven for feeling content with going home from Wednesday night’s game at the Pirelli Veterans Arena with a hard-fought point apiece.
But there was one more twist in this rivalry tale, as a Franklin defensive clearance ricocheted off the skate of the ref and fell right to Canton junior Johnny Hagan. The forward stepped in and ripped a one-timer over the blocker side of Franklin goalie Ryan Cameron to seal a dramatic 3-2 win for the unbeaten Bulldogs.
“The kid’s got a 101-degree temperature but he wasn’t missing this one,” Canton coach Brian Shuman said of Hagan. “He just grinded it out, he didn’t want to come off the ice, and that’s just typical Johnny Hagan. He’s the fiercest competitor I’ve ever coached.”
Franklin coach Chris Spillane was understandably frustrated to watch his team let a two-goal lead slip only two minutes after the second intermission.
“We had some jump in our legs but in the third period we just made poor defensive zone decisions,” he explained. “Turning pucks over, guys unattended in front of the net, and their offensive zone face-off where they drop the puck off to the winger killed us all night. We knew they were going to do it…and we had a play to defend it, but our kids just couldn’t execute.”
The Panthers tried to set a physical tone from the opening face-off and were flying around, chasing pucks into the corners, and creating scoring chances. It took seven minutes for the hosts to grab an advantage. Zac Falvey raced into the zone and when he got to the edge of the right face-off circle fired a shot through the legs of the retreating defenseman that beat Canton goalie Mike Staffiere (26 saves).
Falvey nearly added a second goal in the final minute of the first when he got a shorthanded breakaway, but he put his shot just wide of the post.
Canton had several great chances to even the score in the second period. Colby Ciffolillo had time and space in the slot, but his shot was smothered by Cameron (30 saves). Ciffolillo then set up Declan Pfeffer right in front but his deflection was knocked down by Cameron and covered. The Bulldogs got a power play chance and Ryan Nolte had a good look off the first face-off but his backhand shot was saved.
After nearly scoring on a shorthanded break in the first period, Franklin doubled its lead by finishing one in the second. Scott Elliott collected a loose puck at the blue line and raced past the Canton defense before firing an unstoppable shot past Staffiere to make it 2-0.
The chances kept coming for the Bulldogs with Owen Lehane flicking a shot through traffic that beat Cameron but not the crossbar and then the Franklin goalie again came up with a big save to deny a wide open Matt Martin, who was set up by a cross-ice pass from Chris Lavoie.
Coming out of the break, Canton jumped all over the Panthers. Timmy Kelleher struck the bar just seconds after the period started and then Tommy Ghostlaw had his rebound effort saved by a sprawling Cameron.
Nolte skated the ensuing face-off down to the red line before picking out Jack Connolly all alone at the point. The defenseman lined up a shot that went through a mass of bodies in front and found the back of the net just 36 seconds into the third.
Less than two minutes later, the game was tied. Ghostlaw didn’t miss this chance on the rebound, lifting his close-range shot over the shoulder of Cameron to make it 2-2.
“We just had to keep going,” Shuman said about the conversation after the second period. “We talked about we had chances and we just need to bury one. As it turned out we buried two…In the second period I felt they were trying to score two goals with one shot and I just said lets get one and see what happens.”
After the Bulldogs had the first seven shots of the period, Franklin got back into the game and had chances of its own. Dan Magazu had a one-timer kicked aside by Staffiere, who was also forced into good stops on Kyle Hedvig from the left dot and Declan Lovett from the point. The Panthers had another breakaway midway through the period but Staffiere read Shane McCaffery’s move and got his right pad to the post.
“We had plenty of chances,” Spillane said. “We had a breakaway, we had some rebounds that were sitting there with open nets but we just couldn’t fight through their stick checks. It’s a tough loss but we played hard for a good portion.”
Canton nearly got a winner when Kelleher got behind the Franklin defense, but the combination of Cam Cassella and a diving poke from Cameron kept the puck out. The Bulldogs did get a power play from the chance and on the ensuing face-off Hagan got free in the slot and struck the post.
Hagan didn’t miss on his next chance, putting the Bulldogs ahead for the first time with a rocket into the corner. The Panthers managed one last chance in the final seconds, but Tom Tasker’s shot went over the bar and Canton skated away with two more points and a grip on a potential ninth straight league title.
Despite the perfect start through a dozen games, Shuman is taking nothing for granted. He said, “It hasn’t been easy. It’s not like we’ve been blowing anybody out. We just have to keep grinding, taking them one game at a time because there’s plenty of games left and I’ve been around long enough to know you never win anything in January.”
Canton (12-0, 7-0) can wrap up another Davenport title on Sunday afternoon when it travels to second place North Attleboro. A point will be enough to clinch the title outright. Franklin (5-5-4, 4-1-2) has slipped a point behind Mansfield in the league standings heading into a trip to King Philip on Saturday.
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.”
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.
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.
ATTLEBORO, Mass. – North Attleboro came into Saturday afternoon’s game with King Philip a game below .500 and already thinking about how many points it will need to ensure a playoff spot. When games are tough and points are at a premium, then it take goals of all kinds to build momentum.
With one minute left to play, Jake Ebert fought his way to the crease and was the first to react when a shot slipped past KP goalie James Lewis. Ebert tapped the rebound into the open net and secured the Rocketeers a much-needed, come from behind 3-2 victory that pulls North back to .500 on the season.
“That’s what we’ve been focusing on,” said North coach Ben McManama. “I asked him after the game, how did you score that and he said, ‘dirty goals,’ and that’s what we’re trying to do. Hopefully they understand now that it doesn’t have to be pretty.”
Through two periods it didn’t look like the Rocketeers would need late heroics to pull out the win.
North grabbed an early lead on a two-man advantage inside the opening five minutes of the game. Will Yeomans had the initial shot from the slot that Lewis (28 saves) was able to get a piece of but not fully collect. The puck fell behind the goalie and Justin Moccia was in the right place at the right time to tap it in.
It took the Warriors more than nine minutes before they recorded their first shot on goal. Jack Coulter picked off a cross-ice pass and forced Ryan Warren (20 saves) into his first stop of the night.
The Rocketeers kept pushing for a second goal. A scrum in front forced a last-ditch, goal line clearance by KP defenseman Kyle Gray. With a minute left in the first, Lewis was forced into two reaction stops to deny both Jack Connolly and Ebert from point-blank range.
In the second period, the Warriors struggled to stay out of the box. KP picked up four penalties in that period alone, including a five-minute major that carried over to the third.
“We’ve got to stay out of the box,” KP coach Paul Carlow said. “You have to play even strength hockey to win. I would’ve like to have played them even strength more. We were shorthanded most of the night.”
Joe Boselli had a good look dragging the puck into the slot but he shot over the net and then Luke D’Amico forced Warren into a good glove save from a tight angle. Jake McNeany tested Lewis with a shot from the point that was kicked aside and Todd Robinson set up Connolly for a tip on the edge of the crease but it was sent just past the post.
North led 19-10 in shots heading into the third period and with 4:51 remaining on a major penalty, the Rocketeers looked like they were in control. But, KP stormed out of the locker room looking like a completely different team and, despite being down a skater, started to take the game to the hosts.
“You have to give credit to KP on that,” said McManama about North only scoring once while up a skater. “Our power play has been working at 33 percent coming into today and that’s the hardest our power play has had to work. They did a great job. They have a very good system and they work their butts off.”
Ryan Fitpatrick missed the net on a backhand seconds into the third and Warren was forced to make a sprawling save to deny Brendan Shandley when the rebound caromed to him at the far post. North nearly doubled its lead seconds later when Robinson’s shot forced a save out of Lewis and Connolly flicked the rebound wide of an open net.
That miss looked costly as KP skated down the other end and tied the game. Coulter had the initial shot from the right circle and Boselli was right there to follow up the rebound to make it 1-1.
“I think it was good that we had locker room time to talk about the kill and get the guys ready to go out for the kill,” said Carlow. “When you’re getting penalties all night, not only does it take away your chance to score but it kills your guys’ legs, so now when you come back from the kill then you don’t have any legs.”
Both teams continued to get chances in an end-to-end period. Robinson had a shot tipped inches wide by Ebert in front and Anthony Zammiello set up McNeany but his shot was blocked in front. Rocco Bianculli tested Warren with a blast from the edge of the right circle but the goalie got his blocker to it and Shandley forced another save that left the North defense scrambling.
With 5:47 to play, KP stunned the home crowd by grabbing the lead. Coulter played the puck into Conor Cooke, who was parked in the slot with a defenseman on his back. The forward collected the pass, spun, and ripped a shot over the shoulder of Warren and into the roof of the net to make it 2-1.
“Once we killed that penalty,” Carlow said, “it gave everyone a boost of confidence and then we were able to play some 5-on-5. When we played 5-on-5, we scored.”
Rather than get down, North turned the game around again. After KP cleared off yet another penalty (its eighth of the game), North got space in transition with Connolly finding a lot of room on the left circle. He opened his body up and went top shelf, far corner to beat Lewis and tie the game seemingly out of nowhere.
McManama explained, “Not much needed to be said. Everyone just started to step up and really it was one shift that got the other guys going. Winning a battle here or there and that built momentum for the last couple minutes.”
Zammiello hit the post from a very tight angle a minute later and then Ebert popped up 30 seconds after that with the dramatic finish that North needed to pull out a crucial two points at the midway point of its season.
“I thought they were playing very hard in the third period and they were winning all the battles,” McManama said. “It was very difficult to play them, even when we were on the power play…we didn’t match it in the third and that’s why the wheels started to come off a little bit, but I’m proud of the boys for battling back. It’s not an easy thing especially at this point in the season.”
North Attleboro (5-5, 3-1), which is just a game back of Canton in the Davenport title race, will travel to Oliver Ames on Wednesday, while King Philip (6-5, 2-2) will get a week off and be right back at the NESV to face Attleboro.
CANTON, Mass. – Every team talks about the importance of cashing in on power play opportunities, but teams don’t typically expect to have as many chances as Canton did on Saturday night. The Bulldogs were given a man advantage 11 times against Mansfield and scored three times, including twice in the first period to take control.
Special teams were the story of the night for Canton, which added a crucial shorthanded goal late in the third period that sealed the win, and the Bulldogs skated away with a 4-0 victory over the Hornets on Hockey Fights Cancer night at the Canton Ice House.
Mansfield started the game with a flurry of chances, using an early power play of its own to spark its offense. Matt Copponi, Jack Garland, and Jake Lund were some of the Hornets who created early scoring opportunities but were denied by Canton senior goalie Mike Staffiere (22 saves).
“We had good looks,” said Mansfield coach Mike Balzarini. “We didn’t give up, even the second period with all those penalties I thought the momentum was going our way. We had our chances but their goalie played well.”
With nine minutes left in the first, Brian Grant stepped up and had a chance driving to the net. Staffiere got a piece and the rebound trickled just wide of the post and seconds later Braedon Copparini had a shot that went narrowly wide as well.
“They’ve got a boatload of talent over there,” Canton coach Brian Shuman said. “They’ve got defensemen who are basically like forwards and we expected some flurries and it was good that we had a good goalie to back us up.”
Three minutes later, Canton took the lead. On the power play, Johnny Hagan weaved his way past several Mansfield defensemen and slipped a backhand shot under Mansfield goalie Sean McCafferty, who managed to keep it out but then the rebound was pounced on by Ryan Nolte.
Just three minutes later and the lead was doubled. After a penalty was called, the Bulldogs had a face-off to McCafferty’s left. Hagan was kicked out of the face-off and Nolte stepped in. He won the draw back to Hagan, who was cutting across the circle onto his forehand. The junior forward took the puck in stride and rifled a wrister inside the far post to make it 2-0.
Shuman said, “We had to mix it up a little bit. They knew we were going to run certain plays over and over and finally we just had to keep it simple and get some pucks to the net and get some guys out in front.”
McCafferty (35 saves) stopped a shorthanded breakaway chance by Tommy Ghostlaw before the end of the period and he kept that momentum going in the second, making 19 saves in that period alone. The Hornets were called for six penalties in the second and spent all but about three minutes on special teams in the period.
Hagan nearly got his second assist of the game when he set up Jack Connolly pinching in at the back post only to have McCafferty get across and get a shoulder to it. Hagan also hit the post and had another big chance saved when Connolly found him in space inside the circle.
Chris Lavoie had several chances driving towards the net from the right circle but couldn’t find the angle to beat the goalie. Tommy Vaughn had one of Canton’s best chances when he stole the puck from a Mansfield defenseman right in front of goal but sent his shot over the bar.
“You’re basically using six forwards and four ‘D’ and those guys get tired and credit to their goalie, he made some saves and they made some blocks,” Shuman explained. “It’s kind of ironic that when you’re on all those power plays it can wear you down a little bit, especially when you don’t score.”
Despite playing down a player for much of the period, Mansfield did have a couple of chances. Nick Levine had a shot from the point that was saved and the rebound nearly caromed back in off a Canton defenseman. The best chance of the period fell to Austin Ricker, who got a clean breakaway shorthanded only to be stoned by a great blocker save from Staffiere.
“Mike was probably tested the most he’s seen this year and he played the best he has this year,” said Shuman about his goalie. “He’s an exceptional goalie and he would’ve been a starter on any other team for the past two years if he wasn’t playing behind Quinn [Gibbs].”
Mansfield cleared off 1:16 of a penalty that extended into the third period and the Hornets were still in the game, down just two goals. Canton had the first good chance of the third when Ryan Colby rode a pair of challenges and still managed to slide the puck just wide of the post. Hagan and Nolte combined again on another power play chance but again McCafferty made the stop.
With six minutes to play, the teams traded great chances. Copponi flicked a pass into the slot for Coleman O’Brien but the senior missed the net with his shot and then seconds later Joe Robinson had a breakaway but the puck slid off the toe of his stick when he went to shoot.
““The second period, I think we had two minutes of 5-on-5 hockey,” said Balzarini. “They scored three power play goals and a shorthanded, but I thought when we played 5-on-5 we played well.”
Staffiere came through again to protect the lead when he made the save on a chance for Garland in the slot. That proved to be critical inside a minute when Hagan blocked a shot at the blue line, turned it into a breakaway and then calmly picked his spot to beat the goalie for a three-goal lead.
“That was huge,” said Shuman. “Last year we struggled to get out to the point and block shots and the past two games in particular, Joe Robinson last game and Johnny this game making huge blocks. You have to pay the price in this game.”
John Gormley had a chance for Mansfield that hit the bar and stayed out and with just a minute later, with three minutes left, Canton secured the victory on its 10th power play of the night. Connolly fired a shot from the point and Timmy Kelleher had the deft tip to find the back of the net.
Hockey Fights Cancer night at the Ice House was held in honor of Reo Todesca and Kristin Rocha, who were both connected to the Canton hockey program and both passed away a year ago. Proceeds from the night were donated to the Reo Todesca Memorial Foundation and the Kristin Rocha Memorial Scholarship.
“It was an intense hockey game but it was for a good cause,” said Shuman. “That’s really what the night is all about. We play a silly game and tonight the money raised is going to two good causes, so we’re happy about that.”
Canton (6-0) will travel to face King Philip on Wednesday night, while Mansfield (7-2) will travel to the New England Sports Village to face North Attleboro.
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.
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.”
CANTON, Mass. – At the final whistle, there wasn’t the type of celebration you would expect from a team that just played its first playoff game in decades, not to mention its first ever playoff game in front of its home fans. There was a quiet, subdued feeling as the Canton players surrounded their coaches to talk about a 27-13 win against no. 5 seed Hanover on Friday night at WWII Veterans Memorial Field.
“I think it was a learning experience,” said Canton coach Dave Bohane. “They are very excited about next week and believe me they are very happy but what you’re seeing there is more relief that the penalties and turnovers didn’t cost them.”
Junior running back Kyle Fitzgerald remarked, “Obviously, it was awesome. We came out here looking to win and we were confident. We had to overcome adversity, we had a whole lot of penalties and stuff, but we got it done. It feels good.”
While penalties slowed the game down, and cut short a couple of potential scoring drives for the hosts, Canton showed its resiliency in the second half. Hanover, which had struggled to sustain anything on offense, twice scored on big plays to cut the lead down to just a touchdown, but both times the Bulldogs answered with long possessions to extend the lead.
“It’s been the same thing all year, since the first game against D-R (Dighton-Rehoboth) when we were down at halftime, we came back,” Fitzgerald explained. “I know my team will come back after any adversity.”
Canton doesn’t have a lot of experience with the football playoffs, but the Bulldogs came out flying in the first quarter to jump in front by a couple scores.
After stuffing the Indians on the opening kickoff, the Canton defense forced a three-and-out and took over at its own 48. The offense went right to work with junior quarterback Johnny Hagan showing off his ability to make plays with his feet (15 carries, 87 yards) and his arm (7-of-17, 80 yards). He hit Gersom Rivera for a 23-yard completion on third down to get inside the five and then two plays later Brendan Albert punched it in from two yards out.
The Bulldogs were trying to send a message and they forced another three-and-out from the Hanover offense. On fourth down, punter Jack Delahunt rolled out to the far sideline and tried to make it to the sticks only to be cut down a yard short. Canton got the ball at the Indians 24.
Bohane said, “They wanted a finesse game and we wanted a power game and I thought we needed at the very beginning of the game we needed play on our terms. I thought for the most part we did, maybe to the point that we were a little over-aggressive and dealt with a lot of penalties.”
Hagan got 16 yards on second and 17 and then Rivera gained nine over a pair of carries. Fitzgerald (19 carries, 143 yards) took it from there, finding a seam from five yards out for a 14-0 lead at the end of the first 11 minutes.
“It kind of got the jitters out of our stomachs and gave us some breathing room,” said Fitzgerald about the quick start. “Obviously, they came back so if we didn’t have that lead early on then it could’ve been a different game.”
The game really could have been over by halftime. The defense continued to put pressure on Hanover quarterback Andrew Carroll, including a big pass rush from junior Jack Connolly and then a sack from Albert to get the ball back.
Canton marched right back into Hanover territory, with Hagan converting a fourth down play with a four-yard keeper. Fitzgerald then had the highlight of the night on a sweep to the left for 32 yards in which he hurdled a Hanover defensive back before being brought down at the Indians six. On the next play, the Bulldogs fumbled a handoff and lost possession.
After another defensive stand, the Bulldogs offense went on the move again. Fitzgerald had another big gain, this time for 35 yards, and Canton got as far as the Hanover 15 but then a holding call and a sack forced them back. A last-second pass to Rivera was tipped away and it was 14-0 at the break.
“I was very concerned that we didn’t put it away in the first half,” Bohane admitted. “We don’t commit a lot of turnovers but that was a turnover at the wrong time and it gave them a chance and we were fighting for the game into the fourth quarter.”
On its first possession of the second half, Hanover stunned the Canton crowd (and sideline) by finally finding a big play on offense. Despite Albert getting into the backfield and hitting Carroll as he threw, the Indians signal caller was able to get the ball downfield to Drew Berard, who beat his coverage for a 60-yard score.
The Bulldogs answered with a 17-play, 70-yard drive to regain the two-score advantage and eat up the final 8:44 of the third quarter. Hagan found Ryan Lentol on an eight-yard completion to convert a big third down and then Fitzgerald on a comeback route for nine yards on a fourth and eight. On third down, Hagan then connected with Jace Emma for a 13-yard score and a 20-7 lead.
“There were times that we didn’t move the chains when we needed it, like North Attleboro in the third quarter when we needed a big drive,” Bohane said, “So here we are a week later and we needed it and we got it. We had to make some adjustments but it was enough to win.”
Hanover came right back with a even more shocking play. On fourth and one, the Bulldogs had Evan Ritchie caught in the backfield, but he slipped out of the grasp of a would-be tackler and bolted up the Hanover sideline for a 66-yard score.
Rather than getting down, Canton just went back to work on offense, grinding out a 12-play, 72-yard, six-minute drive that sealed the win. Hagan gained 29 yards on a pair of keepers and had an 18-yard pass to Fitzgerald to get to the Hanover 20. After Fitzgerald got the Bulldogs got the ball to the two, Hagan was denied on a pair of sneaks, so the Bulldogs went back to Fitzgerald for the one-yard score to seal the win with three minutes to play.
Next Friday, Canton (7-1) will travel to Falmouth to face the top seeded Clippers. Fitzgerald was already looking forward to the trip. He said, “Foxboro almost did it tonight. (The Warriors lost 22-14 to Falmouth.) We know we can play with these guys. We were four points away from a potential one-seed, so we’re confident.”
Outlook: After playing plenty of sophomores last season, the Bulldogs will be looking to boast a balanced, experienced team aiming to compete for the Davenport division title in 2018.
Canton brings back six starters on offense and seven starters back on the defensive side of the ball. The Dogs are one of the few teams with their starting quarterback returning as junior Johnny Hagan continues under center after a solid sophomore season. He showed the ability to pass and run with the ball, and he has almost all of his running back options back to work with. Gersom Rivera had a terrific sophomore year and will be counted on to be a big piece of the offense during 2018. Rivera’s athleticism and speed will be complemented by the hard nose running and blocking of junior Kyle Fitzgerald and senior Brendan Albert.
Junior Jack Connolly will anchor the offensive line and will be joined by senior Brian Campagna and junior Lucas Bryant at the center position. Ryan Lentol, who came on strong at the end of last year, picked up right where he left off and will be a top option at split end.
The strength of Canton’s defense is its linebacker group, which is full of experience and talent. Albert is back at one of the outside spots after earning Hock All Star last year while senior Ben Seaman is back on the other side. Junior James Murphy will fill in the middle after impressing last season and junior Robbie Gallery has impressed early on as the other inside option. Canton will also rely on a seasoned secondary with Fitzgerald and David Allen returning as starters. Ryan Colby should see time in the secondary and Owen Lehane is in the mix for the defensive line.
“We’re very excited for the season,” said Canton head coach Dave Bohane. “The kids have put the work in, we think we can play with anyone in the league but its a very good league so you have to be on your ‘A’ game every night. Every team is well coached and competitive so any time you can win in the Hock, its a success. We have to take it game by game, do the best we can, and keep plugging.
Outlook: The Warriors are aiming to make it two straight years in the postseason and will use a mix of returning players and new faces to try and get it done.
Foxboro graduated 35 seniors last year so there are some spots that need to be filled, but the Warriors are off to a good start with Liam Foley back in the fold at quarterback. The senior saw time under center last season along with Devin Hassett. And Foley will be in good shape as the Warriors have a lot of experience on the offensive line. Senior Tom Cullen is back in the middle of the line as the center, senior Andrew Longa and sophomore Sean Ferguson take on the tackle positions, and senior Hunter Williams and junior Aidan Dow will fill out the interior of the line.
Mike Luong got touches as a junior out of the backfield last season and will be a main part of the offense this season. Pat Stapleton is a returning split end, classmate Rob Fay will step into the same role, and junior Shayne Kerrigan will a top target for Foley.
The Warriors have experience and good size up front on defense, led by returning starting tackles Shawn Teixeira (6’4, 260) and Bill McNeil (6’0, 265). Senior William Ogbebor and Anton George will be called upon to fill out the defensive line on the ends while Williams and Martin McElroy will be joined by Mike Sheehan at linebacker. Russell Neale is back as the place kicker after a strong junior season.
Outlook: After reaching the quarterfinals last season, the 2018 version of the Scarlet Hawks are aiming for a deeper run into the postseason. And not just that, the Hawks are looking to be serious contenders for the Davenport crown.
Milford has a strong core of returning players back, a group of eager new faces looking to make an impression, and big new piece on the line. Kevin Pyne (6’8, 280) transferred to his hometown high school and will anchor what looks to be a big, physical line. Pyne is rated as the top recruit for his class and holds D1 offers from over a dozen schools including Notre Dame and Michigan. Senior Josh Ligor returns as a starter on the line while sophomore Nick Yohn will also be a two-way lineman.
The Hawks bring back both their quarterbacks: senior Ryan Pearl handled the team’s ‘WAR’ package while junior Colby Pires stepped in when Milford spread it out. Junior Luke Rosa will step in as an option at halfback along with sophomore Dominic Schofield. Brendan White (WR/S) brings toughness to both sides of the ball for the Hawks.
Shapel Feaster is one of the most experienced defensive backs in the Hockomock League and should be an important piece of the 2018 Hawks’ defense. Junior CJ Cerella will step in to anchor the linebacking group. On special teams, Sean Lehane is one of the strongest kickers in the area and will try to give Milford a spark at wide receiver this season.
“The goal of the 2018 football season for the Milford Scarlet Hawks is simple: start fast, play physical, and be the toughest team on the field on Friday nights,” said Milford head coach Anthony Vizakis.
Outlook: The target on North Attleboro’s back continues to grow. Coming off their third straight league title, including two straight Davenport titles, the Rocketeers made it all the way to the D3 State Final before falling, 35-33, to St. John’s Shrewsbury.
Big Red is hopeful it can continue its string of success but knows it will be tested with a difficult schedule, including a non-league game with two-time defending state champion King Philip. The biggest challenge will be finding a replacement for three-year starter Chad Peterson, who graduated with a handful of program records and three Hock titles as the starter. Seniors Nick Raneri and Luke LaBonte are both in the mix, and both saw time last year throughout the season. Raneri started all 13 games at tailback but also filled in at QB at times.
Whoever ends up getting the nod at quarterback will have one of the best offensive linemen in the entire state with senior Ryan Clemente anchoring the protection unit. Clemente is joined by senior Jack Puccio as returning starters on the line while seniors Joe Larkin and John Nally, and juniors John Kummer, Ethan Friberg, Trevor Hewitt, Montrel Jackson, and Ethan Mottinger are all competing for time. The Rocketeers also have solid skill options back with senior Brendan McHugh (14 total touchdowns) back at the starting slot back. Omar Jasseh offers size and speed at split end while Ryan Gaumond’s quickness gives the Rocketeers another option down field.
North Attleboro returns six starters on the defensive end, including McHugh, Gaumond, and Jasseh in the secondary. Clemente will be a big piece of the defensive line while Raneri and captain Jonathan James, who will also see time at tight end, will lead the linebacker unit. Russell Dunlap, Puccio, Mike Carty, Friberg and Jackson are all in the mix for defensive end spots while Ryan Boyle, Tom O’Neill, Duane Bryant, and Owen Harding are competing for time at linebacker.
“We expect a very challenging schedule, opening with KP on our new turf field and then an improved Bishop Feehan team in Week 2,” said North Attleboro head coach Don Johnson. “The Davenport division will be extremely competitive this year, with several teams able to beat anyone on any given night. We have a nice core, but if we are going to compete at a championship level, then we are going to need several new faces to mature very quickly. There’s a lot of work still to be done, and not a lot of time to do it.”
Outlook: For the first time in Sharon, there will be football on Friday nights.
With the installation of lights at the high school field, the Eagles will be hosting teams on Friday nights instead of Saturday afternoons. And the 2018 Eagles are hoping to put a show under those lights. Sharon brings back a handful of key returning starters on both sides of the ball, and with one more year experience under their belts, will be looking to compete in what is shaping up to be one of the most competitive seasons top to bottom in the Davenport.
Sharon averaged nearly 20 points per game in its six non-league games last year and is hoping to carry that over into Davenport play this season. Senior quarterback Jeremy Ruskin (six total touchdowns) is back under center to lead the offense and last year’s starting running back Aaron Strong (three touchdowns) also returns to give the Eagles a solid 1-2 punch on offense right away. Coleman Loftus’ size and strength will be a vital part of the line on both sides of the ball while Chris Gong and Alec Filipkowski return as Ruskin’s main two targets.
Not only goes Gong give Sharon options on offense because of his speed, he is one of the most dangerous kick returners in the state. He had an 80-yard punt return touchdown and a 99-yard kickoff return last season so opposing special team units will have to pay a lot of attention.
Despite the numbers, the Eagles had a strong defense last season. This season, Sharon boasts a lot of speed (on both sides of the ball) and is looking to use that to be more aggressive. Juniors Kiran Chandrasekaran will step in to be a big part of the secondary while classmate Nic Marrero will be relied on to anchor the linebackers.
“With a lot of returning starters and a sprinkle of new talent, I am expecting this team to take a huge step forward from last year’s inexperienced team,” said Sharon head coach Dave Morse.
Outlook: It feels like a fresh start for the Black Knights after graduating a bunch of players that had multiple seasons of experience under their belts.
But the focus remains the same for the Black Knights, who are aiming to be in contention for the Davenport title and make another appearance in the state tournament. Similar to previous seasons, Stoughton will have talent in the backfield and that will be the focal point of the offense. Jeff Grier is one of the fastest players in the league and will make defenses pay when there is space. Alex Iverson is a shifty option out of the backfield, Malachi Green-Hightower brings power to the run game, and sophomore Chris Ais could emerge as a playmaker for the Black Knights.
Junior George Currier and sophomore John Burke will battle it out for the starting quarterback position while Matt Piana, Ali Awad, and Evan Jackman have solidified spots on the offensive line. Frank Derbes will factor into the offense as a tight end and junior Ajahn Rue is back as a receiver.
Defensively, Iverson and Green-Hightower will be right in the heart of the lineup as linebackers while Grier will help as a member of the secondary. Cian Swierzewski has impressed throughout the offseason and the preseason and will be a key piece of the defense from the safety spot. Stoughton is looking for other names to step up and help anchor its hard nose defense.
NORTH ATTLEBORO, Mass — The North Attleboro boys lacrosse team won its first playoff game since 2014 on Wednesday, and did so in impressive fashion from start to finish.
Dominating the faceoff, causing 28 turnovers, completing 14 of 16 clear attempts, and drawing eight and a half minutes of penalties, the Rocketeers had complete control the entire game.
Big Red’s sophomores shined, as attackmen Andy DeMattio and Jack Connolly tallied four goals and one assist each. Goalie Jake McNeany recorded 12 saves, and Big Red’s defense held Belmont to three goals and dominated in transition.
“Brett Labonte was just faster than any of their players on the ride today. I think he had nine clears himself and he got assists on two of them,” said North Attleboro head coach Kevin Young. “We work really hard on strength and conditioning at practice and as a result, I think our whole team was just faster today. We had more energy throughout the game and that served us well.”
A unique challenge was presented to faceoff man Jason McNeany (one goal, two assists), as Belmont prefers to have defensemen take the faceoff to try and cause an immediate turnover after a loss. The senior captain not only accepted but dominated this task, winning 11 out of 14 draws he took against three different opponents.
“I was worried about their #22 [Thomas Ballard]. Every film I’d watched he torches the opposing faceoff guy,” Young said. “DeMattio getting hot in the first quarter forced Ballard to go down and stay on him and then we were able to dictate things from there. When a long pole wins faceoffs and comes down and scores goals, which [Ballard] does a lot, that’s a huge momentum boost for them so it was essential to eliminate that and Jason did a great job doing so.”
Thomas Lindstrom (one goal, three assists) opened up scoring a little more than two minutes into the game beating his man one on one and sneaking it past goalkeeper Michael Delhome. Connolly found DeMattio two minutes later to give North a 2-0 lead.
Both teams went back and forth exchanging blows as four goals were scored over the next minute. Belmont’s Alec Morin cut the lead to one, only for McNeany to hit DeMattio off the ensuing faceoff to extend the lead back to two. Belmont’s Jackson Pullman to answer to make it 3-2 North but less than 30 seconds later Nick Ward (two goals, one assist) found Connolly and the Rocketeer lead was back up to two.
With a minute remaining in the first North would score three goals that changed the entire complexion of the game. Lindstrom found McNeany for a man-up rip then Ward added two strikes the next 14 seconds, the latter being a buzzer beater off McNeany’s faceoff win, and Big Red ended the first quarter up 7-2.
The second quarter saw little offense and the beginning of what became a very chippy contest. Belmont’s Pullman scored his second of the game halfway through the quarter but that would be the only goal on either side, as well as the Marauders’ last of the game, leading to a 7-3 halftime.
“[Belmont] picked up their defense and we started playing hero ball,” Young said. “After scoring seven in the first, guys were trying to [isolation] by themselves thinking it’d be easy. That fed right into their defense and we couldn’t get anything going. When one guy goes isolation and five guys watch him it’s not successful ball.”
On the flip side North’s defense, currently averaging a seventh best in state 4.6 goals allowed per game, came alive and killed two penalties while causing 10 turnovers in the quarter.
“[Belmont] got two early ones on some nice draw and dumps that left one-on-ones with the goalie and we can’t allow that,” Young explained. “Once we corrected that we only allowed one more goal in the game and things mostly went our way. We forced them to make uncomfortable passes and put the ball on the ground and when the ball’s on the ground, we go in with the mentality that we own it, and today we did.”
To start the second half DeMattio scored his third of the game on a helper from Lindstrom and Jake McNeany made two huge saves from point-blank range to give North all the momentum it needed to squander any chance at a comeback.
Over a 90 second span Connolly scored three times, assisted by Labonte, DeMattio, and Lindstrom respectively, to put the game out of reach and head into the final quarter of play up 11-3.
Big Red was able to stall out almost the entire fourth quarter until Labonte picked up his second fast-break assist, this time to DeMattio, to make it 12-3 with a minute to play.
#6 North Attleboro (15-4) moves on to play at #3 Walpole (14-4) in the D2 Central/East quarterfinal round on Saturday at 3:00.
“Walpole’s a big, strong, tough team that moves the ball really well. They’re a tough team to play but we’ll shift all our attention towards them and give them everything we have,” Young said. “I feel good about it. When this group plays their best they can play with anybody.”
WRENTHAM, Mass. – North Attleboro boys lacrosse ended it’s regular season exactly how it wanted to as it prepares for postseason play: beat a quality opponent.
“There are two challenges of playing a team twice in a season,” said North Attleboro head coach Kevin Young. “First off, you have to fix the mistakes you made the first time around. Second, you want to take advantage of any weaknesses they may have. The issue is that they’re doing the same things.”
Big Red showed the type of resilience, toughness, and discipline every coach preaches about, especially heading into the playoffs. After going down 2-0 and not converting on two separate man-up opportunities, North strung together five unanswered goals in four minutes to take control of the game, eventually leading to a 9-4 victory for the visiting Rocketeers.
Turnovers and penalties plagued the Warriors all game long, throwing the ball away 24 times throughout the game and collecting eight flags in total.
There was a lot of positive to build upon on that’ll suit King Philip well heading into postseason play. Goalie Jeremy Elpus made eight saves many of which coming on penalty kills, Chris Longobardi was dominant at the faceoff X, winning 12 out of 14 contests, and the man-down defensive unit also killed six of eight penalties.
KP’s man-down unit turned away four shot attempts just two minutes into the game and then caused a turnover just as they were back to even strength.
One minute later King Philip was hit with a 30 second technical that they were able to kill and clear. This led to the first score of the game, courtesy of Kevin Riggs (one goal, one assist) on a feed from Robert Tartaglia. Less than a minute later, Colin DeVellis (two goals) fired one in to give the Warriors a two-goal lead.
The Rocketeers didn’t flinch though. Instead, they turned to sophomore attackman Andy DeMattio (five goals, one assist), who found the back of the net four times in the final four and a half minutes of the first quarter.
Tommy Lindstrom (one goal, three assists) fed Jack Connolly (one goal, two assists) for a hard-earned goal on a continued penalty, Jason McNeany won two consecutive faceoffs, the defense buckled down to force three turnovers, and suddenly North had all of the momentum riding a 5-2 lead to end the first.
“The offense worked really well together all around today. We settled the ball and were able to find open cutters and the right shots,” said DeMattio. “We were able to keep possession on the offensive side a lot today because [goalie] Jake McNeany stood on his head, and our defense was able to disrupt their offense and clear the ball to get some fast break opportunities.”
The Warriors response came halfway through the second quarter when Riggs found Nate Minkwitz to cut the lead to two.
North’s special teams capitalized on one of those turnovers, leading to an ankle breaking split dodge from Damien Curtis to get around a King Philip defender and snipe one inside the near pipe. DeMattio found Lindstrom of off another turnover to mount a 7-3 lead with ten seconds remaining before the half.
King Philip’s defense killed back-to-back penalties early in the second half. Both times the Warriors were able to clear the ball to an attackman on a fast break with a chance for a huge momentum swing, and both times they were stuffed at point blank by Jake McNeany (10 saves).
Big Red’s vaunted defense, currently averaging a 10th best in the state 4.7 goals per game, flexed its muscles and caused nine turnovers, while holding the Warriors scoreless in the third quarter.
“Our defensive success is a team concept,” said Young. “Our second and third guys are always looking to trap and cause a ball down, while our first guy is affecting the opposing feeder. Once the ball goes down, all our defenders are looking to be active in transition.”
DeMattio opened the fourth quarter by scoring his fifth goal of the afternoon on an assist from Jason McNeany. DeVellis answered with his second of the game, but after North’s defense caused another turnover on the ensuing possession, Big Red was able to run out the majority of the remaining six minutes.
King Philip (9-8) will look to regroup next week as its host Bishop Feehan in its regular season finale, while North Attleboro (14-4) has completed their regular season and will have to sit tight until playoff seeding is announced on June 1st.
“This season has been a lot of fun,” said Young. “We have a lot of young kids, and that’s been challenging, but they’re really handling it well. Today was a great way to finish the season. Our kids took control and got it done against a Division 1 tournament team.
“We have a week off so we really get to focus on our team I.Q. as well as on-field discipline. We’ll be keeping up our strength and conditioning and try and best prepare ourselves for some solid competition down the road.”