OA Keeps Playoff Hopes Alive With Win at Attleboro

Oliver Ames boys hockey
For the second time this season Oliver Ames came from behind to beat Attleboro and the non-league win keeps OA’s playoff hopes alive heading into the final five games. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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ATTLEBORO, Mass. – Heading into the final six games of the regular season, Oliver Ames needed at least five wins and a tie in order to qualify for the postseason, but for the second time in 11 days the Tigers found themselves trailing Attleboro as the second period was winding down.

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Last time out, in the league meeting between the two teams, the Tigers scored three times in the third period to pull out the win. On Wednesday evening at the New England Sports Village, OA didn’t wait quite as long to rally. Cam Perron tied the game with two minutes left in the second and then broke the tie four minutes into the third to power the Tigers to a 2-1 victory and a season sweep of the Bombardiers.

“We’ve had to grind out wins all season long, so being down a goal or two goals, these kids don’t give up,” said OA coach Mike Zucarelli. “It’s something I’m really proud of them.”

OA dominated the first period, outshooting the Bombardiers 11-4 and pinning the hosts back in the defensive zone for long stretches. Ross Carroll had one of the early looks with a wrister that Attleboro goalie Nick Piazza saved but dropped in front of the crease causing a scrum. Perron nearly broke the deadlock when he slipped in between two defenders but Piazza smothered the partial break.

Attleboro created a couple of scoring opportunities late in the period. Aidan Dryjowicz skated in from the left side but shot wide at the near post and then Ryan Morry struck the post with a wrist shot from the right circle. After Brad Powers had his close-range shot stuffed by Piazza, Jaydin Rossi snuck out and got behind the OA defense for a last-second breakaway that Owen Connor was able to stretch and save.

The late flurry at the end of the first period was foreshadowing for a much better start to the second for the Bombardiers. Attleboro needed only 28 seconds after the intermission to grab the lead. Nate Parker saucered a perfect pass to Owen Dryjowicz on a two-on-one break and the junior finished at the far post to make it 1-0.

“It was horrible,” Attleboro coach Mark Homer said of the first period. “We talked about it in the locker room and they realized that we can compete with OA. This was a game that we could’ve won, so it’s a matter of settling down, control your emotions, and go out there and do the simple things.”

The game got more physical as the period wore on and a procession to the penalty box ensued. Both teams found themselves guilty of giving away power play opportunities and scoring chances. Aidan Dryjowicz skated through a pair of defenders and forced Connor into a stop and then Ryan Gottwald sprung Costello with a perfect two-line pass, but Piazza made the blocker save.

With 2:03 left in the second, Perron caught the Attleboro blue line pinching in on the power play and Costello hit him with a perfect pass to spring a breakaway. This time, Perron gave Piazza no chance by going bar-down to make it 1-1.

OA started the third period with 2:43 of power play time, including a full two minutes with a two-man advantage. The Tigers thought that they made it count when Perron fired a shot from the point that smashed the bar on its way into the back of the net, only to be ruled out because there was a man in the crease.

Piazza also denied the Tigers on a pair of golden scoring chances. Gottwald got the first look from the left side of the net only to have Piazza kick out the right pad to stop what looked like a sure goal. Costello followed up on the rebound but again the sophomore netminder was able to respond quickly to block it and help the Bombardiers get back to even strength.

Homer said, “I thought he had a rough start, he wasn’t seeing the puck well, wasn’t controlling his rebounds, but this is the thing about Nick, he doesn’t let that bother him. You saw in the second and third periods, he’s a stalwart. He regains his focus and he plays for the next shot.”

The Attleboro goalie stood no chance on the go-ahead score. While falling down in the high slot, Perron was able to squeeze a shot through traffic in front of goal, past the unsighted goalie, off the bar (again) and into the back of the net.

Zucarelli joked, “He went bar-down in the second and a kid on the bench said, ‘You won’t do that again,’ and he went and did it two more times just too bad the second one didn’t count.”

Morry forced a blocker save out of Connor with a chance from the left side, Duncan Pereira was denied by Piazza on a shorthanded breakaway chance, and Power saw a chance go off the post, as both teams continued to fashion scoring opportunities in the closing minutes.

“It was a 2-1 game, you’ve got to put the puck on net,” said Homer. “We should’ve been in a better rhythm. We didn’t get into a rhythm until the late stages of the game.”

Zucarelli credited the Tigers for not getting down when they fell behind or when they failed to make the long power play count at the beginning of the third and finding a way to pull out a win.

“Our record shows that we got off to a real slow start,” he said, “and they had the option to put their heads down and sulk and see if it continues or to grind it out and work hard and get better and that’s what they’ve done. That third period showed the work that the team has put in all season.”

Oliver Ames (5-9-2) will try to keep things heading in the right direction on Saturday in a trip to King Philip. Attleboro (4-10-1) still has its own playoff hopes through the Sullivan rule and will travel to Stoughton this weekend.

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Carter Power Play Goal Lifts Taunton Past Attleboro

Taunton boys hockey
Taunton defenseman Andrew Carter (10) scored a second period power play goal and it turned out to be the game-winner against Attleboro. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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TAUNTON, Mass. – When a power play opportunity arises in a close game, it is imperative to take advantage. So, when Taunton went got the extra skater early in the second period of Wednesday night’s divisional clash with Attleboro at Aleixo Arena, the Tigers were focused on making it count.

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The puck cycled around the boards and then was sent diagonally across the heart of the Attleboro defense to senior defenseman Andrew Carter, who had floated down the boards to just below the left face-off dot. He wasted no time in smashing a one-timer past Bombardiers goalie Evan Andrews to open the scoring.

Carter’s goal turned out to be the only one of the game, as Sean Bunker made 21 saves in the Taunton goal and the Tigers defense held on for a 1-0 shutout.

“You have to take advantage of every opportunity you get,” Taunton coach Kris Metea said. “If you don’t at least build momentum, then it’s a wasted opportunity. We thought we’d get a few more but we needed to take advantage when it came.”

Scoring chances were at a premium in the first period, as both teams took a few minutes to get their footing. Brady Nichols had a couple shots from the point for the Tigers and Austin Blais had a go just after entering the zone for Attleboro but it took 10 minutes for the game’s first clear-cut chance.

Jack Patneaude, who assisted on Carter’s goal in the second period, had an opportunity on a quick breakout. He got space in the right circle and aimed for the bottom corner but Andrews (19 saves) stuck out his right pad to make the stop.

Attleboro had a two-on-one with a minute left in the period but Ryan Morry’s saucer pass to Cam Littig at the back post couldn’t be turned on goal. In the final second of the first, Sean Marshall got behind the Taunton goal and threw the puck into the slot for Kyle McCabe, who forced a pad stop from Bunker as the horn sounded.

“I thought our zone time was pretty good,” said Attleboro coach Mark Homer about the offense. “We had to move some things around because we’ve had a couple injuries. We didn’t do the small things, like protect the puck. You have one guy in the corner and the support wasn’t there. We just needed to create more offensive opportunities and we just didn’t do that.”

That flurry at the end of the first seemed to translate into momentum for the Bombardiers after the intermission. Attleboro came out flying and McCabe flung a puck on net from the point that was kicked over to Littig racing in from the left side. The senior forward connected well with his shot, but Bunker went post to post and smothered it to keep the game scoreless.

Metea said, “Sean’s always great for us when he needs to be. That one in the second period was a huge one, open net and he comes across, sprawls and makes the stop. That kept it scoreless and we scored shortly after. It goes to show that timely goaltending is important.”

Three minutes later, the Tigers got the game’s first power play. Just seconds after Andrews made a big stop when Cam Sneyd, who got the second assist on Carter’s goal, set up Michael Albert in front, Carter pounced to steal the energy from the Bombardiers.

“We can’t be getting stupid penalties,” said Homer, who added that a similar thing happened in the last game against North Attleboro. “I’ve been preaching to these guys that when you have a penalty then you have your top four guys out there and you’re wearing them down. We have a short bench to begin with.”

Jaden Weyant had a good look to double Taunton’s lead, but Andrews stayed big to block his shot from the edge of the crease. With two minutes remaining in the second, Attleboro cleared off a penalty and Morry looked up quickly to catch McCabe coming out of the box behind the Taunton defense. McCabe’s breakaway chance was saved by Bunker with the blocker.

Taunton nearly doubled its lead to start the third period, but Sneyd was denied on the power play by Andrews. With six minute left, Littig got space on his forehand side but Bunker was able to get a glove to the shot and two minutes later Bunker came through again to stop Jaydin Rossi after the freshman stole the puck right in front of goal.

“We were a little slow getting our shots off and they were good at getting sticks in the lanes and clogging the middle in front of the net,” Homer said. “We’ve got to find a way to get through it and we didn’t do it tonight.”

The game was nearly over with three minutes to go, but Nick Vandermeel’s shot caromed off the inside of the far post, behind Andrews, and out. That gave Attleboro a chance in the final minute and the Bombardiers had one good look as Morry fired a pass to Littig who in turn found McCabe in the slot but Bunker was there again with a blocker save.

“That’s hockey,” Metea said. “We had three great chances in the period and their goalie makes two good saves and then gets lucky with one off the post, but you can’t stop fighting when things don’t go your way.”

Metea noted that the Tigers have had a tough schedule to start the season and admitted that this win could be a spark for Taunton as it looks to make a playoff push.

“All of our losses are to playoff teams,” he explained, “so we needed that win just to get the confidence. It wasn’t pretty, but we’ll take it at that point and hopefully they’ll take that momentum to go into Mansfield.”

Taunton (3-4) will host Mansfield on Saturday afternoon, while Attleboro (4-3-1) will host Franklin.

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