ATTLEBORO, Mass. – Five minutes into Wednesday night’s game at the New England Sports Village and it looked like North Attleboro’s senior night was going up in flames. Foxboro had a three-goal lead and the Rocketeers had barely gotten into the attacking zone.
North coach Ben McManama took his timeout with 10:22 left in the first to settle his team down, remind them that there was still 40 minutes of hockey to play, and try to stem the momentum that the Warriors had at the start.
Whatever was said in that huddle worked. From that point on, North was dominant.
The Rocketeers rallied, scoring once in the first and three times in the second period, then adding two in the third to pull out a 6-5 victory and clinch second place in the Davenport division. After struggling to get started in the game, North ended up with a 34-17 edge in shots on goal.
“We tried to slow them down but they came out flying,” McManama explained. “From that timeout on, I thought we played outstanding.”
He added, “The message was there’s a lot of hockey to be played and we had to go one goal at a time, one shift at a time, and if we have that mindset once that first one goes in then it starts to build. We just worked our butts off and I couldn’t be more proud of how they competed.”
Foxboro needed no time at all to grab the lead. Matt Grace went down the left wing, angled towards goal, and picked the far corner to make it 1-0 after just 58 seconds. The lead was double just 24 seconds after that. North turned the puck over in its defensive zone and Grace found himself free in the left circle for a one-timer.
Things went from bad to worse for the host a few minutes later. Foxboro caught North pushing up the ice and a stretch pass freed Grace down the wing again. This time he saucered the puck across the crease where Tom Marcucella knocked it into the empty net.
About 90 seconds after the timeout, North got one back and started to build momentum. It was a perfect breakout, as Jake Gruber fired a pass up the near boards to Tyler Sarro at the opposite blue line. Sarro drove into the zone and his perfect dot-to-dot pass found Nick Longa for a one-timer.
Ben Ricketts, who was credited with assists on each of the first two Foxboro goals, nearly answered right back, but his shot smacked off the crossbar.
Sam Clarke stole the puck just inside the blue line and forced a good save out of Jack Spinney (15 saves). Foxboro managed to scramble clear the rebound. On the other end, Brady Daly teed up Kirk Leach in front but Kyle Gruber (12 saves) stayed tall and made the stop. Clarke was again a handful and set up Brady Sarro in the slot but Spinney took it in the chest.
“Obviously we had good jump right at the beginning,” said Foxboro coach Mark Cedorchuk. “We got the forecheck going and we tried to sustain that after it was 3-0 and I thought we had them back up against the wall, but they just changed their forecheck and came out more aggressive getting the puck in front of the net and putting pressure on our D getting it deep.”
Controversy erupted just 26 seconds into the second period, as Nik Kojoian was sure that he had knocked in a rebound to make it a one-goal game, but the officials had lost sight of the puck and blown the play dead. North kept pushing, with Joe Quinn coming close off a nice feed by Mark Ayvazyan and Austin Comery’s shot from the point forcing a nice glove save out of Connor Callahan (13 saves).
“We were really positive on the bench,” said McManama. “We weren’t yelling at them after we went down 3-0, just saying it happens, it’s part of hockey. We’re a confident group. I don’t know what happened those five minutes but we were ourselves after that.”
When North’s second goal did come, it sparked a crazy sequence that saw the teams combine for four scores in a little over a minute.
Tyler Sarro got it started when he collected Longa’s angled pass from the point, dragged it around Callahan and deposited it inside the post. Forty seconds later, it was Brady Sarro knocking in a rebound to bring North all the way back to 3-3.
The celebrations had barely started when Foxboro jumped back on top. Grace capped off his hat trick by jumping on a loose puck and smashing a one-timer past Gruber. Twelve seconds after it was tied, Foxboro led. Fourteen seconds after that it was tied again. Anthony Westcott stepped into a shot from inside the blue line and slammed it under the bar to make it 4-4.
“It was going back and forth,” said Cedorchuk about that sequence. “We were exchanging punches. It just showed that they weren’t going to lie down and give up. We knew they were going to keep fighting and we tried to keep that effort up.
He noted, “Our guys hung in there. We needed to get more pucks to the net obviously. After we went up 3-0, we just didn’t get enough pucks to the net and the shot total showed that but overall I’m happy with my guys’ effort.”
Playing two, high-energy games in two days seemed to take its toll on the Warriors and North took advantage in the third period, outshooting the visitors 9-4.
Midway through the third, North grabbed its first lead of the night. Longa got his second of the game, sniping the far top corner to make it 5-4.
Kojoian would hit Tyler Sarro with a cross-ice pass for an empty net goal in the final minute that turned out to be the game-winner because Leach popped up with another pinpoint shot into the corner but with only three seconds remaining.
“I think we had momentum, but more so we had the confidence that it was our game to win and if we just continued that effort shift-by-shift then we’d be fine,” said McManama about his team’s attitude heading into the third. “We were winning battles, puck races, and that’s how you win hockey games.”
North Attleboro (7-5) will play Bishop Feehan in a charity game and there is the possibility of a third meeting with Foxboro (4-6) at the NESV to close out the season on Sunday.
Sophomore Jeffrey Chaput got that one chance in the second period and buried it in the top corner and it turned out to be all that the Bulldogs would need. Canton added an empty net goal in the final minute and skated to a 2-0 victory over North Attleboro that puts the teams in a tie for first in the Davenport division.
“North Attleboro does a great job blocking shots, they always have,” said Canton coach Brian Shuman. “They sell out, they take away the shooting lanes. Also a failure on our part, too many shots above the knees, which are the easiest shots to block. We have to keep it low, along the ice, and find shooting lanes. Stop trying to go top shelf on their goalie and try to create more rebound opportunities.”
It was an even game, despite Canton’s edge in shots on goal. Both teams came out flying and the Bulldogs showed no rust from having a week off between games.
Shuman explained, “We’ve been fortunate enough to be skating normally, so I think that in itself is keeping us in a good flow and a good rhythm. We’re just lucky to be playing right now because there are a lot of teams that unfortunately aren’t.”
Jack Digirolamo sprung Brendan Tourgee down the left wing for an early chance that was saved by North goalie Kyle Gruber (23 saves). Andrew Valkanas stayed with the puck after his initial shot was blocked and had a good look coming off the right wing boards, but again Gruber stood tall.
The chances kept coming for Canton in the first. Digirolamo had a shot blocked in front and the rebound fell to Tourgee at the post, but the freshman forward was denied by the freshman goalie’s pad. AJ Thomas had another chance between the circles with a quick spin and shot but Gruber, who was making his first varsity start, was again equal to it.
“Why not?” chuckled North coach Ben McManama when asked about having his goalie make his debut against the Bulldogs. “I was a little worried about doing that but you can tell he’s a tough kid mentally and you know what? You’re going to have to learn sometime and we thought it would be good experience for him.”
North started to get more looks in the offensive zone as the first period wore on. Charlie Connolly angled a shot from the right point that was tipped in front by Joe Quinn, but went just wide of the post. In the final seconds of the first, Nik Kojoian pushed towards goal from the left circle but was denied at the post by Canton goalie Liam Polles (15 saves).
Despite starting on the kill, Canton dominated zone time in the second, keeping North pinned back in its defensive zone. Even with all that pressure, it was North that had the edge in shots on goal (6-5) in the period. The Rocketeers defensemen continually got in the way of shots and kept Canton out of the middle.
“It can be a little deceiving sometimes,” said McManama. “There may be a lot of zone time, but are we giving up quality shots? I think we didn’t give up too many except for the goal they scored. They did a good job of keeping everything to the outside and our goalie did a great job and we also helped him out.”
Jake Gruber had a good chance for North when he forced a turnover near his own blue line and then forced a blocker save from Polles on the other end of the ice. Mark Ayvazyan almost had a breakaway for the Rocketeers, but pulled up short of the crease to avoid a defenseman and then fired just wide.
By that point, Canton had gotten its one good chance. After a spell of pressure in the zone that saw a couple of shots blocked in front, the puck kicked out to Chaput just inside the left circle. He barely settled the puck before whipping a shot into the top corner that gave the goalie no chance.
“Jeff had a great shot and a quick shot, quick release that kind of surprised the goalie,” said Shuman. “He worked hard. He had the best game I’ve seen him play in his two years for us and he deserved that.”
The pattern continued in the third period, with Canton using its speed to gain the zone and put pressure on the North defense, but with the visitors holding firm and creating the occasional scoring opportunity on the other end.
“Coach Spillane said it best on the bench, let’s get some breathing room and get that goal early in the period,” Shuman said of Canton’s approach to the third period. (With his assistant coaches unavailable this week, Shuman asked former Franklin coach Chris Spillane to help out on the bench.) “We had a couple good chances, just couldn’t bury it.”
Sam Clarke nearly tied the game inside the first minute of the third. He blocked Jay Kelleher’s shot from the point and raced past the Canton defense before forcing a blocker stop from Polles.
It was a warning for the Bulldogs that the game wasn’t over. The best chance to double the lead came when Dylan Coyne’s shot from the slot was blocked and the rebound fell to Eddie Gillis, but his tip slid just wide of the post.
North came closest to tying the game with 2:30 remaining. Tyler Sarro stretched to tip a clearance in the neutral zone to avoid an icing and, after a battle behind the Canton net, the puck came out to Nick Longa on the edge of the crease. Polles kept his pads on the ice and was able to cover up.
Just a few seconds after North pulled its goalie, Canton wrapped up the win. Sam Carlino blocked a pass on one end, chased the puck down, and flicked into the empty net to make it 2-0 with 40.2 on the clock.
“We’re going to have to look at the film and see how we can generate more offense,” said McManama. “Sometimes they do such good job with our ‘D’ zone coverage that we get stuck down there. We’re going to have to work on ways to get ourselves better entries through the neutral zone.”
2019-2020 Record: 5-14-1 2019-2020 Finish: Missed postseason Coach: Greg Chamberlain
Attleboro struggled down the stretch last season, losing nine of its final 11 games (five of those losses by two goals or fewer) and narrowly missing out on a postseason berth. Former Canton assistant Greg Chamberlain has taken over this season with the goal of making the Bombardiers competitive in the Kelley-Rex division.
Goalie will be a position of strength this year, as Attleboro has three players that can step in between the pipes. Junior Nick Piazza will be the starter after a breakout sophomore year where he made nearly 500 saves. Junior Michael DuTremble and freshman Julien Horton are the other goalies on the roster. In front of Piazza, Attleboro has three solid pairings. Senior Owen Dryjowicz moved from forward to defense late last season and looked comfortable on the blue line. Junior Sean Marshall and senior Zack Pierce are also returning defenders that the Bombardiers are counting on.
Offensively, the Bombardiers will miss the scoring of Ryan Morry, who led the team with 21 points, but with several returning players Attleboro has the potential to put together solid forward lines. Senior Aidan Dryjowicz is the team’s top returning scorer with nine goals and classmate Jake Ward, junior Nate Parker, and freshman winger Dane Holskie have the potential to contribute to the attack this season.
“I think the key to this season,” said Chamberlain, “is that everyone needs to pull their weight. If you look around the league teams that win have three or four lines that they can roll out every night. That is going to be the name of the game for us. Keeping it simple and do your job.”
2019-2020 Record: 21-1-3 2019-2020 Finish: Div. 2 State Co-Champion Coach: Brian Shuman
Although Canton didn’t get the chance to go to the TD Garden to face Lincoln-Sudbury and try to avenge its only loss of the past two seasons, the Bulldogs brought home a second straight Div. 2 state championship. Even for a program with the sustained success of Canton, last year’s senior class had a uniquely impressive record and that class’ graduation leaves a lot of holes that new faces will need to step into.
Last year’s top scorers, Johnny Hagan and Chris Lavoie, combined for 37 goals and 68 points, so it will be tough to reproduce that output. Senior Dylan Coyne will be hoping to make up some of that scoring punch and the Bulldogs will hope junior Eamon Kelly can return from an injury and get back to the form he showed last year.
While the defense was also hit hard by graduation, Canton returns a pair of defensemen that saw considerable time on the blue line last season. Junior Sean Connolly and sophomore Vincent Sica both jumped right into the lineup and looked comfortable competing at the top level, but this year they will also be experienced veterans and leaders in that group. Senior Liam Polles will get the chance to jump in goal this year.
Canton coach Brian Shuman said, “I can say that after the first two weeks, things are certainly different in many ways, but I am confident that we will adapt and adjust like most teams our league to give our players a much-needed physical outlet and important connection to a team.”
2019-2020 Record: 12-5-5 2019-2020 Finish: Reached Div. 3 South Semifinal Coach: Mark Cedorchuk
Foxboro has grown by leaps and bounds in recent seasons. Each of the past three years have seen the Warriors set a new standard for the best season in program history, culminating in last winter’s 12 wins and run to the Div. 3 South semifinal.
Depth at the forward line will be a strength this season and Foxboro should be capable of scoring plenty of goals. Senior forward Kirk Leach was second in the Hock last year with 20 goals and he leads an experienced group. Junior Jack Watts had 13 goals and 14 assists last year and is another big, physical forward. Senior Brady Daly will look to add to his nine points from last season and junior Eoin Reager can play multiple positions, including forward, and added 14 points as a sophomore.
The Warriors will obviously miss former Hock MVP Espen Raeger, who was one of the league’s top goalies. Senior Jack Spinney was the backup goalie last year and could step in between the pipes after seeing a few minutes of action as a junior. Junior Dylan Pothier and sophomore Alex Coviello are two of the returning defensemen from last year’s team and both played big roles in the team’s strong performance in the postseason. Eoin Reager can also play in the back line.
“We have a lot of forwards returning, so the depth is there,” said Foxboro coach Mark Cedorchuk. “We also have a lot of skilled defenseman holding the blue line. Looking forward to the season, even though it will look and feel a lot different, I’m just happy for our guys get to play.”
2019-2020 Record: 11-8-4 2019-2020 Finish: Reached Div. 1 South Semifinal Coach: Anthony Sarno
Head coach Anthony Sarno can’t help but wonder what could have been for this season. Franklin had a strong group of returners back from last year’s squad and Sarno had a schedule filled with top teams from around the state ready to see how his Panthers stacked up to the elite talent. But now Franklin will focus on its 10-game Hockomock schedule with a chance to prove it’s the top team in the league.
Franklin will rely on its senior class to lead the way. The Panthers will be very solid in the back, starting with senior goalie Jack Paterson. After serving in a backup capacity previously, Paterson steps into the starting role but is getting pushed in practice by classmate Gary Mandia. Along the blue line, Franklin has plenty of familiar names with the likes of Joe LeBlanc (nine points), Will Sheehan, Justin Abely, and Pat Dolan — all four are seniors with a good amount of varsity experience.
Offensively, the Panthers have a good variety of attacking options led by last year’s HockomockSports.com Underclassman of the Year Dylan Marchand (13 points). Sarno is carrying 20 players and plans to use them all, rolling four lines offensively. JT Dwyer and Declan Lovett are both senior centers and have been strong in the face off circle so far. Sophomore Ben Jarosz should see an expanded role after getting some time last year. Franklin will look to expand on its puck possession after making the switch from a dump-and-chase team.
“We were looking forward to playing against some of the best teams in the state but we’re going to make the most of this opportunity,” Sarno said. “We’re going to give it our all each game. We’ve going to practice as hard as we play in games, the energy the kids have brought has been contagious. We’re treating every game like a playoff game, that’s the type of energy we want to bring to each game.”
2019-2020 Record: 10-6-5 2019-2020 Finish: Reached Div. 1 South First Round Coach: Paul Carlow
King Philip pushed Franklin to the final week of the regular season in its quest to win a first league title since 2013 (and end the nine-year reign for the Panthers in the Kelley-Rex). The Warriors did get back into the postseason, although again Franklin stood in the way in the preliminary round, and will return 13 players to make another run at that elusive league championship.
Experience on both ends of the ice will be the strength for KP this season, with eight seniors and eight juniors on the roster, including a pair of four-year players. Senior forward Conor Cooke and senior defenseman Rocco Bianculli have been critical players for each of the past three seasons. Bianculli is not only a leader at the blue line, but also one of the league’s top offensive defenders. KP returns three of its top four scorers from last year. In addition to Bianculli, senior Aidan Boulger and junior Nolan Feyler provide the scoring punch on the forward line and are a good mix with Cooke’s physical presence up front. Seniors Paul McDonald and Justin Yatsuhashi add speed and depth.
Defensively, senior David Lawler will join Bianculli on the blue line. More of a defensive-minded player, Lawler adds solidity in his own zone and is counted on to make the right plays under pressure. Seniors Shea Cunningham and Geoff Bowes are also returning defensemen that couple size and experience around their own net. Sophomore Kyle Abbott will take over between the pipes
“As always we are looking to build on last year and compete for the league title,” said KP coach Paul Carlow. “Our team this season has some good experience. We also have some real skill and speed in the younger group.”
2019-2020 Record: 7-8-6 2019-2020 Finish: Reached Div. 1 South First Round Coach: Mike Balzarini
The Hornets aren’t focusing on how many games are on the schedule but focusing on taking it one game at a game instead. Mansfield brings back a lot of players that picked up varsity experience last season during the team’s postseason run.
Replacing three-year starter Sean McCafferty in goal won’t be easy but head coach Mike Balzarini has praised the work of Chris Hormann, who will be taking over in between the pipes. Balzarini said Hormann learned a lot last season in his backup role, is coming off a stellar fall season and has looked strong so far in practice this year. Captain Jake Quirk will anchor the blue line unit for the Hornets and will be joined by some familiar faces. Senior Joseph Gormley will bring a lot of experience to the defensive group and will be joined by sophomore Patrick Gormley as well as Ben Levine and James Hughes.
Senior captain Cam Page will spearhead the attack for the Hornets this season. Mansfield lost most of its point production to graduation so there will be plenty of opportunities for new faces to take advantage of. Mark DiDiralamo, Kyle Oakley, Dillon Benoit, Ryan Doherty, and Liam Anastasia are all in the mix for the top six for Mansfield.
“It’s a shortened season but we have looked good thus far in practice and in our scrimmage,” Balzarini said. “We’re looking to push the pace this year and play a faster-paced game.”
2019-2020 Record: 7-8-6 2019-2020 Finish: Reached Div. 2 South Preliminary Round Coach: Ben McManama
On the ice, it’s been business as usual for the Red Rocketeers, who have a strong returning core ready to make a run at dethroning Canton atop the Davenport division. The biggest challenges for head coach Ben McManama and his squad so far have been adapting to all of the changes off of the ice.
Expectations are high for the Big Red with some familiar names at each position. The most returners come from the offense where the Rocketeers have a handful of forwards back, giving McManama the flexibility to run at least three lines. Senior captain Tyler Sarro will be a leader on and off the ice and will be joined by his brother Brady as the wings on the top line. Nik Kojoian is back after missing almost all of last season and will center the top line. McManama notes his second and third lines are interchangeable, more “2A” and “2B” rather than second and third lines. Juniors Sam Clarke and Nick Longa and sophomores Mark Ayvazyan and Joe Quinn will all be in the mix.
The Rocketeers will have a lot of spots to fill along the blue line after graduating a strong corps of defensemen from last winter. Senior Charlie Connolly and junior Austin Comery are the veterans in the group, entering this season with the most experience. McManama has tabbed junior Anthony Westcott as another option along the blue line while the final spot is up for grabs. Senior James Burtch will take over in net for the Rocketeers while freshman Kyle Gruber is pushing for time.
“The big thing for us this year is being a system team,” McManama said. “We have to be disciplined with our system. We’re really harping on sticking to our system and what we do, and we have to be really disciplined and do our jobs. That’s how we’re going to generate goals and it’s going to be how we stop shots too, it works on both ends. We’ve had great practices, it’s been fun getting the kids back.”
2019-2020 Record: 6-13-2 2019-2020 Finish: Missed postseason Coach: Mike Zucarelli
Oliver Ames finished 2019-20 with six wins, but also had four losses by a single goal (all four to teams in the playoffs), so the Tigers were closer to earning a postseason berth under first-year coach Mike Zuccarelli than the final record may indicate. This season, the Tigers return to the Davenport division for the first time since 2016 and with only six returning players there will be opportunities for new faces to step in and contribute right away.
Seniors Ross Carroll and Matt Nigro will provide leadership in the forward line and much-needed experience for a young group. Sophomores Sean McCarthy and Jack Perron both saw action last year and their development will be important for the Tigers to get consistent production from the forward lines.
Defensively, senior Kevin Tremblay and junior Elliot Cohen both grew into bigger roles last year and will be expected to lead the blue line corps this season. Sophomore Brandon Burke will take over in net after backing up Owen Connor last winter. Zuccarelli is also counting on a strong freshman group to come in and provide an instant impact and is excited about the potential for the program going forward.
“Patience and resilience are going to be two major themes this year as we have already experienced,” said Zucarelli. “Our goal is to grow as a team and tackle each challenge we are presented together both on and off the ice. I am confident with our senior leadership, outstanding assistant coaches, and the support we receive from the OA community that we will have a season to remember.”
2019-2020 Record: 4-16-1 2019-2020 Finish: Missed postseason Coach: Dan Mark
After an up-and-down first year in a co-op with Brockton, the Black Knights are aiming for an improved 2021 season. After a year away, Stoughton is back in Hockomock League competition and will be vying for the Davenport title.
With just four players gone to graduation, longtime head coach Dan Mark has a veteran squad at his disposal for the upcoming 10-game schedule plus a small postseason planned. The foundation of the team starts between the pipes as the Black Knights have two goalies back with experience. Sophomore Chris Andrade will compete with senior Ryan Spano for the starting job in net.
In front of goal, Mark is leaning on a trio of juniors plus one senior to get the job done. Senior Kenny Young will be joined along the blue line by Josh Greenspoon, Anthony Hern, and Steven Westerlund — all returners from a season ago. Offensively, the Black Knights will turn three-year starters in junior Colin Alessi and Joe McNulty to anchor the offense. They’ll be joined by seniors Kyle Cruickshank, Cade O’Connell, Mike Andrade, and Ryan Flannery to bolster the attack.
“We have a veteran team blended with some younger players and are looking to improve on last year’s record,” Mark said.
2019-2020 Record: 10-11-3 2019-2020 Finish: Reached Div. 2 South First Round Coach: Kris Metea
Taunton is returning a plethora of players from last year’s varsity squad that had double-digit wins and made a trip to the postseason. Now, the Tigers are just hoping to play a complete — albeit shortened — season.
The Tigers got a couple of days on the ice before the school district paused all athletic activities over the winter break. Head coach Kris Metea and his 18 returning players are hoping to resume practice on Monday and get their season back on track. While the break will certainly be a setback for the Tigers, having such an experienced squad will help when Taunton does get back on the ice. Leading the way will be a pair of defensemen: senior captain and Hockomock League All Star Brady Nichols and junior Jack DeMoura, a HockomockSports.com All-Underclassman Team selection.
Having reliable options on the blue line will be key as the Tigers sort out the situation between the pipes. Senior Jason Frates, who only has a handful of years of experience at the position, is set to start in net. Offensively, the challenge will be replacing the production from Michael Albert, one of the most productive players in program history. Metea will look to juniors Nathan Fernandes and Loren Corcoran as well as sophomores Colton Scheralis and Connor McGrath to replicate that production. Senior Camden Faria will be a leader of the offensive group
“2020 has been a challenging time and we are hoping that athletics can provide respite for players and families as we enter 2021,” Metea said. “We will take whatever games guidelines allows us to play and be thankful for the opportunity to skate in the presence of friends!”