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.
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.
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.”
2017 Record: 9-10 2017 Finish: Reached D1 South Preliminary Round Coach: Mark Homer
Attleboro made a return to the state tournament last spring thanks to a no-hitter from McKenzie Bergdoll in the final game of the regular season and now the Bombardiers, who lost only three players from last year’s roster, are looking to build on that success to make another run at the postseason this year. Bergdoll, a junior, will be back in the circle again this season as well as one of the big bats that Attleboro will rely on to make it back-to-back playoff appearances.
Senior rightfielder Casey Whelan will add experience to a relatively young outfield unit and fellow seniors Vanessa Dancer and Adrianna Elel will provide leadership. Juniors Jordyn Lako and Kayla Battisti are back to contribute to the Bombardiers playoff challenge and there are high expectations for a talented group of sophomores that includes Makenzie Killough, Ashley Macia, and twin sisters Emma and Jenna Gittle.
“With the loss of only three seniors last year, our season has several impact returning veterans along with some new freshman that will fill the holes quite nicely,” said Attleboro coach Mark Homer. “This season’s early player roster looks very promising but it will be the leadership of the team that will determine our direction and state the facts at the end of the season.”
2017 Record: 1-19 2017 Finish: Missed Playoffs Coach: Jennifer Robillard
Canton is coming off a difficult 2017, after winning one game under first-year head coach Jennifer Robillard, but both the coaches and players have a year of experience to build on and an infusion of young talent, with five freshmen being added to the varsity roster, has the Bulldogs looking at 2018 as a year to get the program heading in the right direction.
Sophomore Caroline Hughes will be the starting pitcher and will bat third this season and the coaches are confident that she can provide a lift to the team. Senior Hannah Jerrier will also be back in the middle of the order, after missing almost all of last season after breaking her hand during basketball, and should give the Bulldogs some added pop in the lineup. Senior Katie Halloran will be back in the middle of the infield and senior Evelyn Carrington returns in center. Unfortunately, injuries have struck again with sophomore Jackie Howard lost for the season, but Robillard believes that several of the new faces can come in and contribute right away.
“As a first-year varsity coach, last year was a learning experience for both myself and the girls,” Robillard said. “I am confident that we will make great strides towards success this season.”
2017 Record: 5-16 2017 Finish: Reached Div. 2 South Preliminary Round Coach: Mark Maguire
Foxboro earned a playoff berth through the Sullivan Rule a season ago, despite 15 losses in the regular season, but the Warriors were much better than their overall record and No. 20 seed may have suggested. Out of the 16 games that Foxboro lost in 2017, six were by two runs or less, including a 2-0 loss to Ursuline Academy in the tournament, and those close games are what head coach Mark Maguire is hoping his team can turn into wins this year to make a run at the playoffs.
The Warriors will be looking to senior catcher Hannah Davis to provide the offensive punch, as the perennial league all-star has been among the Hockomock’s best hitters for the past three seasons. Classmate Lexi Buckner will also add some offense in the middle of the order and the lefty will be moving from second base to first this year. Senior Kelly McCarthy will be back in center and at the top of the order, while Chelsea Gibbons will be at third and Camryn Willis will be back at shortstop. Foxboro also has experience in the circle as third-year starter Emma Rohan will get the ball again for the Warriors.
“We have good senior leadership,” said Maguire about the team’s strengths. “Right down the center of the field we have vocal leaders to help the defense. We’re a good hitting team and I think fielding and pitching should be even better this year.”
2017 Record: 10-12 2017 Finish: Missed Playoffs Coach: Kate Fallon
Franklin missed the playoffs a season ago and have a relatively young roster this season, with just one senior in the squad, so the Panthers are flying under the radar as the season gets underway, but they don’t mind if teams overlook them at the start of the season as they try to get back into the postseason.
While there are a number of new faces for Franklin this season, the battery of junior pitcher Jackie Cherry and junior catcher Ally Shea are back, which gives the Panthers a strong foundation on which to build. Junior shortstop Tara Hartnett is also back to give Franklin strong middle of the infield defense and sophomore Anna Balkus will be in center. Senior Meg Caron, the lone upperclassman on the team, will add versatility playing at third and some outfield this season.
“We’re looking to make it back to the tournament this season,” said Franklin coach Kate Fallon. “Ally Shea and Meg Caron will provide excellent leadership for our up and coming athletes and no doubt in my mind they will be an integral part of our successes this season!”
Despite a lot of turnover in the lineup last spring, King Philip followed up its 2016 state championship by winning the Kelley-Rex division title and reaching the quarterfinal of the Div. 1 South sectional. With 10 returning players this season, KP has typically high expectations and one of the state’s perennial powers seems poised to make another run at a league title, which would be its 11th in the past 12 seasons, and to go deep in the state tournament.
The biggest change for the Warriors this season will be in the circle where senior Elise Pereira takes over as the primary starter after the graduation of Jenn Hutnyan. Pereira saw plenty of action last year too, but will have to shoulder the majority of the innings this season, backed up by Faith Turnese. Brianna Lacy will be behind the dish, returning as one of the league’s top defensive catchers. Senior Hailey McCasland returns at second base and junior Meghan Gorman is back at shortstop after a breakout sophomore season. Jess Bonner returns at third and senior Sydney Phillips will once again be in centerfield.
It is a loaded lineup with a ton of speed and a strong defensive unit, according to KP head coach Norm Beauchemin. He added, “This is a very hungry team that should compete for the Kelly-Rex and make a strong run in the playoffs.”
2017 Record: 13-9 2017 Finish: Reached D1 South First Round Coach: Lori Letendre
After booking a return to the state tournament last spring, Mansfield returns 10 players, including five starters, to try and make it four playoff appearances in a row. The Hornets are relatively young with only three seniors on the roster and have some holes to fill, including two-thirds of the outfield, but there is a lot of confidence that the program will be able to compete with the best in the league.
Sarah Cahill took over as the starter during the season last year and she will be back in the circle again this spring trying to build on an impressive debut. Cahill will be throwing to her battery mate, as Caty DeMassi is back behind the plate. While the corner infield spots are open this year, Megan Letendre and Kara Bendanillo are back to fill the other infield spots and give the Hornets strength up the middle. Junior Mady Bendanillo is also back to patrol centerfield and fill one of the middle of the order spots, as one of the league’s most dangerous hitters. Freshman Elle Veheggen joins the team this spring as a newcomer to keep an eye on.
“We are a young team,” said Mansfield coach Lori Letendre. “The girls have been working hard in the off-season and came into tryouts well-prepared.”
2017 Record: 25-1 2017 Finish: Won D1 State Championship Coach: Steve DiVitto
The defending Div. 1 state champions look loaded for another run at the title with nine returning players, including six starters, back from last season’s tournament run. Kelley Reichert will take over for Ali Atherton in the circle after seeing time as a reliever and starter in each of the past three seasons. The lineup looks just as potent as last year with senior shortstop Emily Piergustavo back after being named HockomockSports.com Player of the Year and league MVP.
Senior first baseman Jess Tomaso is back to add power in the heart of the order and senior Kate Irwin, fresh off reaching 1,000 points in her Milford basketball career, will return to set the table as the lead-off hitter and emotional spark plug. Senior second baseman Maddy Bonvino, senior rightfielder Shannon Cormier and junior catcher Emily Hartman will add depth to a fearsome lineup that features lots of power and speed.
“This year’s team is focused on the here and now and not the past,” said Milford coach Steve DiVitto. “Each year a new page is turned over, and the focus this year is: what’s your legacy going to be? Keeping our awesome team chemistry will be an important part of this season.”
2017 Record: 14-7 2017 Finish: Reached D1 South Semifinal Coach: Bill Wallace
The Rocketeers had a young squad last season but managed to surprise a few people by reaching the Div. 1 South semifinal, including an upset of league rival Taunton, and after that year of experience North Attleboro is expecting to be competitive again this spring. Sophomore pitcher Bella Erti is back in the circle after a strong freshman campaign and will be throwing to classmate Ashley Cangiano with the hope of improving on her breakout season.
Olivia Capobianco is back in centerfield after turning in a strong season and she will also be one of the table-setters for the lineup. Abby Gallagher and Katherine Munley will join Capobianco in an experienced outfield for the Rocketeers. Annabelle Hebard, Katy Daby and Abby Warren will play the corner infield positions, while Andrea Miceli is back at second base after a strong year at the plate and in the field. Stephanie Inglese and freshman Emily Nardelli will compete for the shortstop position.
North Attleboro coach Bill Wallace said, “If we want to repeat the success of last year we will need to find some power in the middle of the lineup lost to graduation last year.”
Oliver Ames will have plenty of experience this spring as it makes a run at a return to the state tournament. The Tigers have 10 players back from last year’s roster, including six seniors, highlighted by junior pitcher Kayla Georgeu, who will take the ball as the primary starter again this spring and who head coach Lindsey Allison thinks is ready to “come into her own” both in the circle and at the plate.
The strong senior class includes infielder Alexis Campbell, who will also chip in as a pitcher this year, outfielders Sarah Tetrault and Marissa Guarino, infielders Caroline Mahoney and Rachel Han, and catcher Antonia Peretti. Sophomore Katie Abreu had a strong rookie campaign and is expected to have an even better second season with the Tigers.
“The best thing about this team is their heart and determination – they show up to practice excited to work together and work hard every day,” Allison said. “They are coachable and strive to get better at every opportunity.”
There is a change at the top for Sharon this spring and Heather Poliferno takes over for the Eagles, replacing Deb Parker after her move to league rival Stoughton, and the new staff is confident that the experienced players on the roster will set the tone for the team and give the Eagles a chance at booking a place in the state tournament.
Seniors Jamie Kessler and Jenika Patel and junior Rebecca Clayman are the captains this season and will provide leadership that Poliferno called “key to our success this season.” Junior Alli Small and freshman Julia Earley are players to keep an eye on this season for the Eagles as they could be big contributors in the field and at the plate. Junior outfielder Courtney Sollis brings an accurate arm and consistent contact at the plate.
“Our passion for the game and drive to compete is why we will be a strong contender in the Hock this year,” Poliferno said.
2017 Record: 10-11 2017 Finish: Reached D1 South Preliminary Round Coach: Deb Parker
After back-to-back playoff appearances, Stoughton welcomes a new coach this spring to take over a roster filled with experience and talent. Deb Parker has made the move across the Davenport from Sharon to take over the Black Knights with an eye at another run at the postseason and with senior pitcher Gina Carafa back in the circle and the middle of the order there is plenty of optimism for a strong spring.
Joining Carafa in the Stoughton lineup is junior Jordan Lyons, who Parker called a “standout” third baseman. Lyons is one of a group of talented juniors that Stoughton will be counting on this season, including second baseman Nikki Coppola, shortstop Karly Estremera, and catcher Brianna Ferrandiz. Sophomore Lexi Baptista will add versatility to the lineup and Parker is excited about the freshmen class and expects that they will be able to contribute as well.
“The energy of this team is infectious!” said Parker. “ I am looking forward to this season and have very high expectations about what this team will be able to accomplish.”
2017 Record: 17-5 2017 Finish: Reached D1 South First Round Coach: Dave Lewry
Even with a host of underclassmen in the lineup, this is an experienced Taunton roster that will be trying to put together a run not only at a league title but also at a deep tournament run, after seeing the last couple of seasons end earlier than expected. With 10 returning varsity players, including seven starters, the Tigers will have high expectations and the key to reaching those goals will be replacing pitcher Courtney Fisher, as freshman Kelsey White and sophomore Jaylin Couto will step into the circle as regular starters this season. Junior Alexa White will also see time at pitcher.
The lineup is loaded again this spring, starting with senior catcher Kya Enos, who added power to her game last year. Junior Jaime Brown is in her fourth year on varsity and is coming off a season in which she was named HockomockSports.com Underclassman of the Year. Freshmen Hanna Aldrich and McKenzie McAloon stepped right in at the middle infield positions last year and will be building on that experience this year. Senior Lianna Duarte is back in center and senior left-fielder MacKenzie Handrahan will bring power to the middle of the lineup as well.
“I think we should have a solid infield defense,” said Taunton coach Dave Lewry. “Offensively we have the capability of putting runs on the board with a deep and experienced lineup.”
ATTLEBORO, Mass. – Both Oliver Ames and Attleboro skated to wins on Wednesday night, so both were facing the tough task of such a quick turnaround with a matinee matchup on Thursday at the New England Sports Village.
But by the way the Tigers came out, you’d never know they had just been on the ice the night before.
Oliver Ames scored less than a minute into the game, added a second goal in the final minute of the opening period, and then scored three more in the final period, picking up a 5-1 win over the Bombardiers.
“We wanted to get the points sooner than later,” said OA head coach Sean Bertoni. “We came out strong in the first. I wasn’t happy with how we came out in the second, it wasn’t our best period. I think the penalties kind of threw us off a little bit. But we came out strong again in the third, especially right away.
“We have Brockton on Saturday, then a good tournament down the Cape after that. It’s a quick turnaround after today, and we have a tough Westwood team to end the season. So we need the one point, and if we do get in, we’ll be battle-tested. We need our rest now, we need to get healthy and then Saturday is a big one for us.”
The Tigers move within one point of qualifying for the state tournament with four games left. Attleboro is already in the state tournament via the Sullivan Rule after their big win over Weston on Wednesday.
The visitor’s offense came from its defense in the first period. Senior defenseman Michael Nikiciuk stepped into a shot atop the right circle and the puck found its way through traffic and into the back fo the net with 14:11 left in the period.
Attleboro’s best chance of the period came with 3:30 to go when senior Jake Parker had a chance at a partial breakaway but good back pressure from OA’s Matthew McCormack didn’t allow Parker to get a shot off on target.
While it looked like the Tigers would take a 1-0 lead into the break, the offense came back to life. LeBlanc, who was credited with an assist on the opener, had a pair of shots saved and Ross Carroll saw his rebound bid go just wide of Attleboro goalie Evan Andrews (29 saves).
In the same offensive cycle, Rory Madden deflected the puck to the center of the ice, between the circles, and Nikiciuk stepped up once again from the blue line, batting a high shot through traffic and into the net for a 2-0 lead.
Attleboro had its best chances in the second period thanks to a pair of power play opportunities. OA was whistled for a cross check at 11:12 and the Bombardiers had a couple of chances over the next two minutes.
Big Blue’s best chance came at the tail end of the man advantage when Sam Flynn had his low shot redirected in front hit the post. Before that, Attleboro had three good chances denied by blocks.
“I think those PKs were huge, especially with our guys battling through some sickness, playing last night, only having four PK guys…going back-to-back was a challenge for us and they did a really good job,” Bertoni said. “I think we gained some momentum from killing those. We talked before the game about how big the o-zone would be. I wanted the defense to play up more, and as you saw with Nikiciuk’s goals he was up in the zone. It was good to see him come down to the circles to get shots off.”
The Bombardiers went on the man advantage a minute later. Junior Cam Littig came flying down the ice and shuffled a pass to sophomore Ryan Morry on a two-on-one bid but OA sophomore goalie Owen Connor made a nice push from right to left and make the save with the blocker.
“When you only get 15 shots in the game, you have to capitalize on the good chances,” said Attleboro coach Mark Homer. “We hit the post, had the other chance…the game could have changed in the second. OA needs their points right now and they played like it, they played with urgency tonight. Their three lines deep.”
Oliver Ames cashed on the momentum it gained with the penalty kill in the third period. Attleboro took a penalty just 11 seconds into the third, and though it was able to kill off the man-advantage, OA kept the pressure up and converted shortly after.
With the puck still in the offensive end Madden dropped a pass back to Hunter Costello. Costello got a piece of it, causing a scrum in front. The puck popped free back to Madden, who whipped a low shot while turning to goal to make it 3-0.
After killing another cross check penalty, Oliver Ames junior Colin Bourne took a pass from Madden, raced down the right side fo the ice and found the back of the net with a wrist shot.
OA added a fifth goal in the final minutes when Madden got his second goal of the game, and fourth point, stuffing one in from behind the net.
Attleboro’s lone goal came in the final seconds when Littig batted in a one-timer on nice pass from Flynn.
“That’s a good team over there,” Homer said of OA. “They have three lines and they are deeper than we are. They’re quicker, they are on the puck. Sean is a good coach, he has the kids playing the game they are supposed to be playing, and they are structured. They came out flying in the first period, the second period was a better period for us, we worked harder and took the body a bit more. Then we went into the third period, we made one error and boom, they capitalized on it. You can’t do that, you can’t beat good teams doing that.”
Oliver Ames boys hockey (5-4 Hockomock, 10-7-0 overall) will try to earn the point it needs for the state tournament when it takes on Brockton on Saturday at 6:00. Attleboro (1-7-1, 7-9-1) returns to action on Saturday with a trip to Martha’s Vineyard to take on Old Rochester at 5:00.
ATTLEBORO, Mass. – After missing out on Wednesday’s trip to King Philip, Trevor Pietrzyk made an instant impact on his return to the lineup against Attleboro on Sunday afternoon at the New England Sports Village.
The senior forward scored a natural hat trick in the first period, including a penalty shot, on his way to four goals and an assist, as Taunton picked up an important 6-3 win that moves the Tigers closer to sealing a return to the postseason.
“We always tell the players, you want your absence to be felt not known and we definitely feel his absence,” said Taunton coach Kris Metea. “It was good to have him back. Four goals, four different ways, is pretty cool.”
Pietrzyk, who missed all of last season with an injury, got things started just three minutes into the game when he latched onto a rebound, following a right pad stop by Attleboro goalie Derrik Rivet, and knocked it into the empty net.
Attleboro bounced back on the power play three minutes later. Jake Parker took the face-off and danced through three Tigers in the attacking zone before teeing up Ryan Morry for a one-timer inside the left circle to make it 1-1.
The momentum would not stay with the home side for long. Two minutes after it was tied, Taunton regained the lead with Pietrzyk weaving his way through a pair of defensemen before flipping a pass to Cam Sneyd in front.
In the span of seven seconds, Pietrzyk broke the game wide open. Attleboro went on another power play but the Tigers won the face-off in the defensive zone and broke out quickly. Pietrzyk was brought down on a shorthanded breakaway and given a penalty shot, which he dispatched with a lifted backhand. Off the ensuing face-off, Pietrzyk gained the zone and flicked a wrister from outside the left circle that snuck just under the bar.
“Trevor has got an ‘X’ factor,” said Metea. “He knows how to score goals; he’s got a nose for the net. He works hard and leaves it all on the line.”
Taunton was buzzing with a 4-1 lead, but Attleboro would not go quietly. In the final minute of the first, Parker gained the zone and fired a wrist shot from the left face-off dot that Taunton sophomore goalie Sean Bunker got a piece of but not enough to keep it out of the net.
“I thought we came out pretty good in the first period, the forecheck was going, but they had an opportunity to put a couple in,” said Attleboro coach Mark Homer. “Once we changed it up and got a goal, it gave us a little spark.”
Parker nearly cut the lead to single goal early in the second, but his shot from a bad angle skipped away off the crossbar. Morry also created a series of scoring chances as the Bombardiers racked up a 12-5 edge in shots in the second (after being outshot 14-6 in the first).
Taunton almost added a fifth at several points in the period, but were denied by goalie Evan Andrews, who was injured and could not start but was brought off the bench after the fourth goal. He made a point-blank stop on Will Walsh, who had been set up by Jaden Weyant, and then closed the period with a huge back post stop on Jack Patneaude, after Walsh picked him out with a perfect saucer pass.
“After the fourth goal, I just felt like we had to change something up and Evan was able to go in,” said Homer. “He made some big time stops at big parts of the game and gave us a chance to get back into the game.”
Attleboro did cut the lead to one heading to the third. On the power play, Morry did a good job to block a clearance at the blue line and keep the possession alive. The puck swung to defenseman Kyle McCabe and his shot from the point was deflected right to Cam Littig who made no mistake with a one-timer.
“There seemed to be a little bit of the letdown,” said Metea about the reaction to going 4-1 up. “We kept preaching do the little things right, play our system, get the puck deep, make plays and you’ll be fine. It’s a long game. You’re not going to win the game with one play or one shift.”
The Bombardiers came out for the third period intent on finding the tying goal and had a series of half-chances, including an Aidan Diggin effort at the near post on a loose puck that hit the side of the net and two chances with a man advantage, but after an early flurry Taunton settled down and limited Attleboro to few clear-cut scoring chances.
“We had our chances on the power play, but got outside of our structure a little bit,” said Homer. “Maybe it was the guys getting a little anxious and everyone wanting to individually be the hero and that happens sometimes. I think the kids pressed a little bit too much trying to get that big goal.”
The best chance of the period fell to Taunton’s Jake Roberts off a feed from Sneyd, but Andrews again went post-to-post to deny the forward. There was nothing Andrews could do a minute later, as Pietrzyk capped his night with an empty net goal. Sneyd added a second empty netter with 9.6 on the clock to make it a three-goal margin.
“If you win now, we have three more to make states,” said Metea about his message to the players. “We have a pretty favorable schedule in February once league is done and you put yourself in a much better situation.”
Taunton (6-6-2, 1-4-2) will try to get two points closer to tournament qualification on Wednesday against Davenport leader Canton. Attleboro (5-5-1, 1-3-1) will host Mansfield on Wednesday night.
ATTLEBORO, Mass. – Heading into the third period of an early season game trailing by three goals, Attleboro could easily have gone through the motions for the final 15 minutes of Thursday night’s non-league Div. 3 game against Weston at the New England Sports Village.
Instead, the Bombardiers came out flying and dominated the third period to create a remarkable ending.
Attleboro came all the way back to tie it thanks to a pair of goals from senior Jake Parker and a shorthanded breakaway goal by junior Cam Littig with just 1:15 remaining, but Weston tacked on a power play goal 30 seconds later to pull out a thrilling 4-3 victory and hand the Bombardiers their second dramatic one-goal loss of the season.
“It was just a matter of winning the third period,” said Attleboro coach Mark Homer about the team talk in the second intermission. “I just told the guys, ‘You could’ve lost the game 10-0 but you didn’t. It hurts right now because, for the second time this year, you were a minute away.’ ”
He added, “It was an exciting game and there was no give-up and if they hold that attitude we’re going to be sitting in that locker room on the other side of things.”
The first period was mostly uneventful with both teams held to just five shots on goal apiece. The Bombardiers’ depleted defensive unit, senior Ed Noel, junior Kyle McCabe, and sophomore Sam Flynn, were pushed by the Wildcats, who had plenty of zone time in the period, but clogged shooting lanes and limited the looks on goalie Evan Andrews.
In the second period, Attleboro found its groove on offense, but it was Weston that found the back of the net. The Bombardiers held an 11-4 edge in shots in the second, but the Wildcats scored three times on their four shots.
Thomas Burke had the opening goal with 11:15 left in the period on a one-timer from the slot after a perfect pass by Cooper Griffin, who scored a pair of goals and assisted on Weston’s two other scores. With 5:30 left in the second Griffin got on the board with a power play goal off a Burke assist and then added another with 26.2 on the clock after a defensive mistake allowed him to skate free into the zone down the right wing.
Attleboro had more than its fair share of scoring opportunities in the period. Freshman Aidan Diggin had the first chance with a backhand after beating his marker on the left circle but sophomore Zack Korbin (32 saves) made the stop. Diggin had another chance a few minutes later off a Ryan Morry pass but the one-timer was knocked aside.
Littig also saw a one-timer from the slot, set up by good work around the crease by Liam McDonough, miss just wide of the post.
“They were good shots,” said Homer. “They were good opportunities. Any one of those pop in at a certain time then it’s a different game but they’re creating those opportunities.”
The third period was a continuation of the second, as Attleboro was on the offensive from the start. The Bombardiers would hold a 19-6 advantage in shots in the period and 35-15 for the game.
McDonough hit a one-timer into the chest of Korbin early in the period, but then went to the box for a holding call. Down a skater, Attleboro had a clean breakaway when Diggin jumped the play at the blue line and stole the puck, but Korbin stood tall to deny the chance. Another penalty extended the Weston power play but again Attleboro’s shorthanded unit created offense.
Parker this time stepped up to make the defensive play and get free behind the Weston defensemen. He was hauled down just as he was lining up his shot and was given a penalty shot. The team’s leading scorer faked forehand and roofed his backhand to get Attleboro on the board with 9:04 to play.
The Bombardiers went on the power play a minute later and 20 seconds into the man advantage nearly cut the lead to one. Parker’s shot from the point through traffic was kicked aside at the last second by Korbin, who then managed to get a blocker to Littig’s rebound effort. Two minutes later, Parker struck the post trying to pick the top corner off a face-off win.
As time was winding down and it seemed like the Bombardiers’ effort would get them no closer, Parker went one-on-three against the Weston defense. He dropped his shoulder and managed to split a pair of players and again went top shelf with a backhand to cut the lead to 3-2 with 2:09 left.
“He’s our best player,” Homer said of Parker. “He’s got to do those things; it’s his job really. We’ve got to look to the veterans to do those kind of things, especially early in the season. Jake has to be our goal scorer, he has to be. We’re looking to him for that.”
Parker was called for a controversial penalty with 1:24 left that left the Attleboro bench furious and the Bombardiers without their best player on the ice for the remainder of the game. Again Attleboro did not give up. Weston won the face-off in the attacking zone, but Littig beat the defense to the puck on the blue line and he scored his breakaway chance to tie the game.
Homer explained, “I’ve got some quick guys out there and we work on anticipating, not just on the PK, having that jump ahead of the play and knowing what’s coming next.”
Thirty seconds later and the excitement in the rink was subdued by a Weston winner. Griffin fired a shot from the left circle that Andrews could only parry and Michael Sacco was stationed on the back post to tap the rebound into an empty net. Littig nearly answered back just a few seconds later, but the Wildcats managed to clear the puck and claim the two points.
“We’re so excited,” said Homer of the final goal, “the emotions overtake them and each one of them is out there trying to do their best and you get out of position and leave two guys open. It’s just those little things that make a difference in that situation.”
The coach was proud of the fact that the team found a way back into the game in the third period. He said, “It just shows that the team is willing to face the adversity and battle. These guys will battle.”
Attleboro (3-2) will not play again until Jan. 6 when the Bombardiers are on the road to open Hockomock League play against Foxboro.
2016 Record: 2-18 2016 Finish: Missed Postseason Coach: Mark Homer
Attleboro struggled through a difficult 2016, the first season under new head coach Mark Homer, winning only two games while giving up a league high 177 runs and scoring a league-low 46. Heading into this spring, the Bombardiers will be counting on a group of young players to try and turn things around and it seems to be working so far, as Attleboro has played two games and already matched last year’s win total.
One of the true bright spots from last season was freshman pitcher McKenzie Bergdoll, who showed flashes of the potential to be an ace for Attleboro, and this season she will be counted on to keep the Bombardiers in games and to provide big hits from the three-spot. Julia Woyton will be behind the plate this year while senior Ilea Caverley and junior Casey Whelan (outfield) and Jordyn Lako (second base) are the few returning players on the roster.
The Bombardiers are going to turn to youth this spring with freshman MacKenzie Killough taking over at shortstop. Freshmen twins Emma and Jenna Gittle will add depth to the Attleboro pitching staff and classmate Ashley Macia will take over in centerfield. Homer also said that there were underclassmen who would provide speed off the bench.
“The expectations are to play hard, be committed and get excited with every game and practice that they take part in,” said Homer. “With the added depth in each position this year, the girls hope to gain advantages from the previous year and reach their set goals for the season.”
2016 Record: 3-17 2016 Finish: Missed Postseason Coach: Jennifer Robillard
Former King Philip and Sacred Heart University shortstop Jennifer Robillard takes over the Canton program this spring with the hope of bringing some of the success that she enjoyed playing for two state champions and a Division I college to the Bulldogs, who are coming off a three-win season.
The Bulldogs will be looking to their experienced players to help turn things around in 2017, including seniors Molly Loughran, Taylor Carrington, and Julia Ezepik and junior Hannah Jerrier, who are all captains this spring. Jerrier and Ezepik will start the season injured, but Robillard is hoping that other players can step up until they return. Canton will have depth in the circle, as both junior Caitlyn Cahill and freshman Caroline Hughes will see action at pitcher.
Lillian Carrington and Samantha Keefe are two other players that will be counted on to contribute and both provided home runs in a loss to Mansfield in the second game of the season. Robillard is excited about the opportunity to get back into the Hockomock League and she sees a team that “wants to learn.”
“This team has a lot of potential. If we can tap into this potential, I truly believe that we are going to take teams by surprise,” Robillard said. “I am here to share my passion for and knowledge of the game I love with these girls. It is important to me that these girls learn how to be strong, independent and respectful young women.”
2016 Record: 9-13 2016 Finish: Reached Div. 2 South First Round Coach: Mark Maguire
In 2016, Foxboro finished 6-10 in the Hockomock League but got its chance to play in the postseason and took advantage with a preliminary round win over Westwood and a near-upset of Abington in a nine-inning classic. The Warriors will hope to build on that experience this spring with a number of key players returning.
League all-star Hannah Davis is back behind the plate for the Warriors and will be one of the top hitters in the Hockomock. Davis will likely be in the three-spot in the lineup and right behind her will be senior Kelly Fisher, who head coach Mark Maguire called one of the best first basemen in the league. Kelly McCarthy will try to set the table for the power hitters in the lead-off spot.
Sophomore pitcher Emma Rohan is back in the circle and Maguire expects that she will compete every game and build on her rookie campaign. Behind Rohan, Cam Willis will moved from second base to short and Chelsea Gibbons will provide good ‘D’ and a solid bat at third. Lefty Lexi Buckner could grab the second base spot and senior Jamie Gorham could provide an unexpected boost as a first-year player in the outfield. Mandy Ryan and Kayla Wheatley are two of the players coming up from JV that Maguire is hoping will step in to provide depth.
“They’re all working hard and they’re ready to build together as a team,” said Maguire. “The expectations are really to compete every game.”
2016 Record: 12-11 2016 Finish: Reached Div. 1 South Preliminary Round Coach: Kate Fallon
Once the rains go away for a few days, Franklin will be able to open its new field and make official its move back to the high school after a couple seasons playing at Dean College. The Panthers are excited about the new facility and about the team’s potential for success this spring with seven returning starters from last year.
Leading the way is third baseman, and four-year starter, Olivia DiGiacomo, who has been a mainstay at the hot corner and provides leadership for the infield. To her left is shortstop Alyssa DaSilva, a three-year starter with two years of experience at short. Sophomore Allie Shea is back at first base and senior Clara DeCarvalho is back behind the plate and poised for a “breakout season,” according to head coach Kate Fallon. The outfield is also filled with veterans, including seniors Rachel Cousineau in left and Olivia Haba in center.
The seventh starter is senior Alex Niss, who started as a pinch hitter last season before taking over the DP role and turning into one of the top power hitters in the Hockomock League. The Panthers should be solid defensively and at the plate and Fallon is hoping that sophomore pitchers Jackie Cherry (who carried a shutout into the seventh in the season opening loss to North Attleboro) and Emily Valentino can make an instant impact in the circle.
“Win 11 games and make the tournament again,” said Fallon when asked about the expectations for the team this season. “I expect the seniors to provide leadership and be role models for the underclassmen. It’s always a dogfight in this league…but I think we are a good team.”
2016 Record: 24-4 2016 Finish: Won Div. 1 State Championship Coach: Norm Beauchemin
King Philip comes into 2017 on the back of its third state title in the past six years and, while expectations remain high for one of the region’s top programs, there are key pieces from last year’s team that need to be replaced in order for the Warriors to get back on top in the Kelley-Rex division and in the state.
The biggest absence this season is, of course, pitcher Kali Magane, who is now in the circle for Boston University and who was dominant during KP’s playoff run a year ago. Senior Jenn Hutnyan will step in to be the team’s starting pitcher after several starts and relief appearances in the past two seasons. Hutnyan will also be an important bat in the lineup. Junior Brie Lacy will be back behind the plate to help Hutnyan and head coach Norm Beauchemin noted that junior Jessica Bonner will be a solid defensive third baseman.
KP rarely rebuilds and almost always reloads for another title push. This year should be no different with a lineup that features several familiar names from last season’s title run, including sophomore Meghan Gorman and juniors Brooke Taute, Elise Pereira, and Hailey McCasland. Each of those players had important roles last season and will be ready to step up for the Warriors this spring as KP tries to regain the league title after Taunton ended its nine year run in 2016.
“Though it’s hard to replace last year’s seniors,” said Beauchemin, “we have a solid core of returning players ready to represent King Philip and its proud softball legacy.”
2016 Record: 13-9 2016 Finish: Reached Div. 1 South First Round Coach: Lori Letendre
Mansfield is coming off a 13-win season that included a tournament win against Notre Dame Academy, but after four years of being able to count on Maddie Letendre in the circle the Hornets will be handing the ball over to a new pitcher this spring, although as it turns out only the first name will be changing.
Megan Letendre, who played shortstop as a freshman, will take over in the circle for the Hornets and her development as the No. 1 pitcher will go a long way to determining if Mansfield can repeat last year’s success. Pitcher is not the only position that needs to be replaces, as the Hornets will have a new catcher and three new infielders. Still, with nine returning players, there is plenty of experience on the roster.
Kara Bendanillo will move from third base to second, according to head coach Lori Letendre, and Megan Letendre will sometimes see time at second when not pitching. Liz Mackin will take over at first base, while Marissa Staffier and Amanda Giambanco will take the corner outfield positions. Mady Bendanillo will be back in center after an impressive first season for the Hornets.
“This is one of the hardest working teams I have had at Mansfield and they have been putting in a lot of effort to get ready for the season,” said Coach Letendre.
2016 Record: 17-5 2016 Finish: Reached Div. 1 South Quarterfinal Coach: Steve DiVitto
Milford has been the class of the Davenport division for the past four seasons and the Hawks come into 2017 with the expectations of being heavy favorites for another league title, but, with three seniors and nine juniors on the roster and eight starters returning, head coach Steve DiVitto is hopeful that the talent will translate to a deep run in the state tournament.
The Hawks are one of the few contenders to return not just one but two starting pitchers from last season. Senior Ali Atherton is back to be the primary option in the circle and the Southern New Hampshire-commit has been dominant at times in her career. If Atherton gets into trouble or needs a rest, junior Kelley Reichert has demonstrated that she is more than just a fill-in but can also shut down opponents. They will be pitching to sophomore Emily Hartman, who will step into the starting lineup this season.
There are very few question marks in this year’s lineup with junior Emily Piergustavo moving from second to short to replace Jill Powers, which is Piergustavo’s natural position and one she has played several times in the past year. Junior Jess Tomaso is back at first base and in the heart of the lineup where she will be joined by senior outfielder Maggie Farrell and senior third baseman Kaitlyn DeCapua. Junior Kate Irwin will try to be the table-setter at the top of the order and juniors Maddy Bonvino (second base) and Shannon Cormier (outfield) will also be contributors.
“This has been a focused and driven group ever since the end of last season,” said DiVitto. “They have worked hard in the off-season and that was very apparent in the early stages of the season. We are excited to compete in the best league in the state, which will hopefully prepare us for a long run into June.”
2016 Record: 11-10 2016 Finish: Reached Div. 1 South Preliminary Round Coach: Bill Wallace
North Attleboro returned to the postseason in 2016 and for the Rocketeers to get back to the tournament this spring it will be the younger players that will lead the way. Head coach Bill Wallace knows that his team will be “green” (with only four seniors on the roster), but he is excited about North’s athleticism and versatility.
Pitching may be North’s biggest strength this season with five players in the rotation, led by freshman Bella Erti, who won her first career start, and last year’s starter Amelia Murphy. Juniors Olivia DesRoches, Jaclyn Buckley and Abby Warren could also step into the circle to help out. Senior Sam Courtemanche will be behind the plate to help the pitchers.
Senior Liz Morehouse returns at first base and Andrea Miceli will be at second. Megan Barlow moves in from the outfield to take over at short (and provided the walk-off hit in North’s season opening win), while Murphy will see time at third when she’s not pitching. Olivia Capobianco will play center with Katherine Munley and Kristina Murphy in left and right with freshmen Ashley Cangiano and Abby Gallagher getting playing time.
“With only four seniors on the roster, I am hoping the learning curve will be brief!” said Wallace. “This may be the year we see a lot of pinch hitting and pinch running! For a young team, they are very focused between the lines!”
Oliver Ames finished in second in the league in 2016 and qualified for the postseason, but that will be an even tougher task now that the Tigers have made the move to the Kelley-Rex division. Even with facing the likes of defending state champion King Philip twice this spring, head coach Lindsey Allison is optimistic that the 10 returning players have the experience to get back into the playoffs.
Senior Victoria Ziner will be the spark on offense for the Tigers this season, but OA also has a number of juniors that Allison said can “do some damage at the plate.” Among those players is Caroline Mahoney, whose bat “is still as dangerous as ever,” according to Allison. Freshman Katie Abreu will be a newcomer to watch for the Tigers as her versatility will make her a valuable member of the lineup.
The Tigers will bring back sophomore Kayla Georgeu in the circle and will be hoping that she continues to develop and keep OA competitive against the league’s top teams. Junior Alexis Campbell will be a second pitcher and also help out at second base.
“We have a solid 10 players returning from last year’s roster,” said Allison, “and we are looking to fill holes behind the plate, in the outfield and at first base this year. Definitely hoping to use some of the speed we have on our team to our advantage this year.”
2016 Record: 4-16 2016 Finish: Missed Postseason Coach: Deb Parker
Sharon is coming off a four-win season in 2016 but head coach Deb Parker believes that the Eagles have the potential to be a contender in the Davenport division this spring as long as the players continue to develop over the course of the season.
Although the Eagles are a relatively young team, Parker is counting on senior captains Clara Cook and Sam Marglous to provide the leadership needed to keep the team on the right track. Cook will be back in the circle for Sharon, while Marglous will be back behind the plate. Parker said, “Both have been solid contributors for their entire high school careers.”
Sophomore centerfielder Rebecca Clayman and shortstop Ally Small, who Parker referred to as “standouts,” will be the anchors of the defense. Freshman Shoshanna Lowe will step in to play third base and should have a positive impact in the lineup as well.
“I believe we have the right combination of experience, talent and drive to be a contender in the Hock,” said Parker. “This is a team that works hard every day to be better than they were the day before. They have great chemistry and our captains have done an excellent job leading them into the season.”
2016 Record: 10-11 2016 Finish: Reached Div. 1 South First Round Coach: Tim Norton
The Black Knights made a return to the state tournament in head coach Tim Norton’s first season in charge, and nearly pulled out a win against Braintree, and Stoughton will be counting on last year’s freshmen to continue developing and keep the program heading in the right direction.
One of the sophomores that the team will be leaning on is third baseman Jordan Lyons, who brings a strong bat to the hot corner and her leadership skills had her named a captain for this spring. Brianna Ferrandiz will take over behind the plate for Sam Tullis and Karly Estremera will move into the infield and continue to be the table-setter as the leadoff hitter.
Norton is excited to have depth in the circle with Shannon Flaherty and Gina Carafa both capable of racking up innings and “setting great examples on and off the field.” Stoughton will also have depth in the outfield with first-year starters Krista Michienzi, Val Whalen and Alessandra Loffredo.
“We were extremely fortunate in Stoughton last year to have such a strong freshman class with great senior leadership,” Norton explained. “This year that sophomore class is going to have to come into their own. While this team is young they got a taste of the post season last year and are hungry for more.”
2016 Record: 22-2 2016 Finish: Reached Div. 1 South Quarterfinal Coach: Dave Lewry
Last season, Taunton won its first outright league title, ending King Philip’s nine-year reign atop the Hockomock. It was a fitting coda to the impressive careers of Taunton’s senior class, but this spring the Tigers will now have to move forward with six new faces in the starting lineup, including at pitcher and the middle infield positions. Taunton typically reloads quickly and head coach Dave Lewry believes this year’s team has a plenty of potential.
Senior Courtney Fisher will step into the circle hoping to make a seamless transition from 2016 Player of the Year Aimee Kistner. Fisher tossed three shutout innings and had three hits in the season opener and got several opportunities to pitch in the past two seasons. She will be pitching to junior captain Kya Enos, who is making the move back to catcher after two seasons in the outfield. Other starters coming back include first baseman Katie VanZandt, junior outfielder Liana Duarte, and sophomore Jaime Brown, who is in her third year at third base.
The Tigers have always found young players who can step right in an make an impact at the varsity level and this year could be a breakout season for eighth grader Hannah Aldrich, who will take over from Jordan Wade at short. Sophomore Alexa White looks ready to step in at second, while senior Rebekah Lajoie and junior Hailey Medeiros are in line to start in the corner outfield places. Taunton could also get contributions at pitcher from eighth grader Kelsey White and freshman Jaylin Couto.
“While we lost six starters from last season, I am excited about the potential of this year’s team,” said Lewry. “I expect there will be some growing pains with six new starters in the lineup, but with some seasoned veterans and good young talent we are optimistic that we’ll be competitive this season.”
BROCKTON, Mass. – Stoughton senior Jon Lessa and sophomore Sean Doherty each recorded a pair of points and sophomore goalie AJ Scott had an impressive performance in net as the Black Knights beat Attleboro, 2-1.
Less than a month after the Bombardiers beat the Black Knights in a league game by the same score, Stoughton flipped the script this time around to get two points in a non-league clash.
Scott made 34 saves, including 16 in the first period, while Lessa and Doherty took turns setting each other up for go-ahead goals for the Black Knights.
“And Attleboro has a great offense, the first time we played them we couldn’t stop their chances,” said Stoughton head coach Dan Mark on Scott’s play. “They have some good forwards. I thought overall we did a pretty good job. We gave up 35 shots but it went progressively down each period.”
The Bombardiers struck first in the team’s meeting back in January, building a 2-0 lead in the second period.
This time around, Stoughton took the lead, not wasting much time on the game’s first power play. An interference call put the Black Knights on a man advantage opportunity and just over a minute in, Stoughton took the lead.
Lessa, a captain, raced past a defenseman and dropped a shot on target as he wrapped behind the net. The puck popped free right in the middle and Doherty pounced, firing one in from close range to put Stoughton up 1-0.
But less than a minute after taking the lead, the Black Knights took a penalty. Attleboro needed just 10 seconds to tie the contest.
Attleboro won the face off, senior PJ Elliott ripped a shot from the slot that Scott was able to stop but sophomore Cam Littig came flying around the back of the net and tucked the rebound chance in from a tight angle to make it 1-1.
The Bombardiers nearly carried that momentum into the second period with a big chance early on but Scott stood tall for Stoughton. Just over a minute into the middle frame, the Bombardiers won an offensive face off and the puck ended on the stick of Littig for a close range bid but Scott got just enough to turn it aside.
The save turned out to be a big one as the Knights regained the lead just a minute later.
This time Doherty played the role of helper and Lessa took on the role of finisher. The sophomore staked past a defenseman towards the boards behind he net, but slammed on the breaks, turned back and fired a centering pass for a one timer that Lessa roofed to put Stoughton up 2-1.
“They played well today,” Mark said of his first line of Lessa, Doherty and junior Brendan Campbell. “They created a lot of good opportunities. I thought their goalie [Evan Andrews] played really well too. That breakaway save was huge.”
The breakaway Mark was referring to came at the midway point of the second period. After the Bombardiers hit the crossbar on a shot from Jake Parker, the two teams traded penalties.
That gave Attleboro a man advantage opportunity but it was Stoughton that came away with the best scoring chance.
Campbell broke free and was able to go in alone on goal but Andrews stood his ground and denied the bid with a leg save.
Scott had one his best sequences near the end of the middle period. Both Parker (20 goals on the season) and Littig had shots through traffic that somehow Scott was able to get with a piece of his glove (on Littig’s shot) and then blocked the second with his chest.
Neither side found the back of the net in the third period, both Scott and Andrews making big saves in the frame.
First it was Scott, as Parker raced around a defenseman and fired a tight angle shot but the sophomore made the stop with his paddle.
While on a power play, Lessa found Doherty on the doorstep but Andrews was quick to react to deny the sophomore. A minute later, Doherty and Lessa used a quick give and go in the attacking area with the latter releasing a close range shot but it sailed wide.
Attleboro had its best chance to level the game with 30 seconds to play, skating six players with the goalie pulled. Elliott ended up with the puck in the slot for an open shot but Scott made the point blank save to preserve the win.
“We’re not used to being in that position so sometimes the kids get nervous but I thought they kept their composure pretty good there at the end,” Mark said.
Attleboro finished with a 35-20 advantage in shots on goal.
“I thought we played well to the point where we had a lot of offense zone times,” said Attleboro head coach Mark Homer said. “It’s one of those frustrating games where you feel like you outplayed the other team but the other team’s goalie makes all the stops. Kudos to [Scott]. Similar to the OA game, when it was 1-0, OA didn’t get to the hard parts of the ice in front of the net and we did the same thing tonight. We had chances but we didn’t take advantage of them.”
Stoughton hockey (4-11-2 overall, 1-7 Hockomock) hosts Bellingham on Tuesday while Attleboro (6-11-1, 2-7) will host Shawsheen on Wednesday. The Bombardiers need two points against either Shawsheen or Dighton-Rehoboth to qualify for the state tournament.
TAUNTON, Mass. – Prior to the game, Taunton honored its 10 seniors for helping to turn the program around and for being, as head coach Kris Metea announced, the winningest senior class in the 20-year history of the program.
On Saturday afternoon against Attleboro, those seniors provided another victory for the Tigers, contributing a combined two goals and three assists while senior goalie Justin Chappell made 26 saves in a 3-2 victory that moves Taunton to .500 in Hockomock play.
“This class means a lot,” said Metea outside the locker room after the game. “They’ve really had the ideals of commitment and it translated to success. The direction the program has gone is in large part due to them and the success we’ve had over the last six years is a big testament to them.”
The Bombardiers looked determined to ruin the day for the Taunton seniors, storming out of the blocks and dominating play in the first period. But, despite leading 11-6 in shots and creating a host of chances, Attleboro went into the first intermission trailing by two goals.
Chappell came up big right from the opening face-off. Just three minutes in he spread himself to stop Liam McDonough’s rebound effort after making the initial save on P.J. Elliott. Three minutes later, Cam Carnes teed up junior Jakob Roberts for Taunton’s first shot on goal from inside the blue line and he wristed it into the corner.
Attleboro continued to attack and Kyle McCabe thought he had a tying goal with a breakaway effort that Chappell was able to block and control the rebound as it squirted loose. Two minutes later and it was 2-0, as senior Jordan Hoey tossed a puck towards goal that went off the stick of classmate Zack Albert and trickled inside the far post.
Sam McKenzie rang the bar just before the end of the period, but Attleboro went into the dressing room playing well, but staring at a two-goal deficit.
“I know we outshot them in the first period, had better opportunities, but the score is 2-0,” said Attleboro coach Mark Homer. “We’ve been preaching to these guys all year not to play to the scoreboard; we just need to play a good period.”
The Bombardiers finally got one past Chappell four minutes into the second. Cam Littig saw his close-range effort blocked but the puck bounced to Jake Parker and he knocked it home. With four minutes left in the period, Littig set up McCabe in front and he thought he had the game tied but for a sprawling save by Chappell.
“He makes the saves he needs to make,” said Metea. “He’s big and he takes up a lot of space, so as long as he moves he’ll make those saves. He’s come up big for us.”
Attleboro held a 20-12 lead in shots after two periods, but many of those chances were from the outside, as the Taunton defense continued to absorb the pressure. Seniors Mike Volkmann and Svein Ormseth and junior Cam Welby also pushed forward and created shots on Attleboro freshman goalie Derrik Rivet.
“A lot of our kids are quietly confident,” said Metea about the defense, “so they know to play percentages and do your job and they’ll be okay.”
Taunton thought it had wrapped up the points six minutes into the third when Hoey fed the puck in front to Josh Denham but Rivet (15 saves) came through with a stellar stop to keep Attleboro within one. Just two minutes later, the save loomed even larger when Elliott was able to beat Chappell stick side from the right circle to tie the game.
“He’s only a freshman, this is probably only his fifth or sixth game on varsity and he gave up some goals in the first period, but that just shows the resiliency he has to play a better second period and then a better third,” said Homer of Rivet. “If not for those saves he makes, we might not be in position to tie the game.”
With 4:47 left to play, Taunton went on the power play and 30 seconds later the Tigers had the game-winner. Welby threw the puck at net from beyond the right circle, it deflected off a stick in front and fell to Hoey with an open net and he made no mistake for his second and the game’s decisive point (senior Nick Terry also had an assist on the play).
“Games likes this are good…you need the adversity, you need the battles,” said Metea. “If they’re going to play well in the tournament, they’re going to need these. You’re going to face adversity; it’s not easy.”
He took another moment to reflect on his seniors and how far they and the program have come in the past few seasons.
“They’re a bunch of great kids,” said Metea, “their teammates love them, they fight to the end, they’ve had to learn on the fly, and they’ve meant a lot to me, the other coaches, and ultimately to the program.”
Taunton (9-3-2, 3-3-0) will get a very tough test against Davenport leader Canton on Wednesday, attempting to make it two-for-two against the current league leaders. Attleboro (5-7-1, 1-4-0) will have a quick turnaround to play Foxboro on Sunday in a big Div. 3 game for the Bombardiers as they try to guarantee tournament play through the Sullivan Rule.
By Cameron Merritt, HockomockSports.com Contributor
FRANKLIN, Mass.- In a battle between Eastern and Western Mass. hockey on Tuesday at the Pirelli Veterans Arena in Franklin, the West was victorious as Attleboro fell 5-3 to Ludlow in the first night of the 37th annual Bellingham Christmas Tournament.
“The players were a little bit frustrated, but it’s still early in the season,” said first-year Attleboro coach Mark Homer. “No excuses, but going forward we can take a lot from this game to bring to practices, but we can’t do it all at once. It’s a building process.”
Before the game, both teams hung up their own respective No. 10 and No. 19 jerseys to honor Falmouth hockey’s James Levin and Owen Higgins, who passed away in a tragic car accident last Thursday. The players who wear those numbers for their own teams (P.J. Elliott and Dylan Wallace for Attleboro and Michael Medina and Nicholas Dobek for Ludlow) took on different jerseys for the evening in order to take part.
Attleboro came out of the gates swinging in the first period, finding the back of the net first as Cam Littig set up Wallace for a wrist shot from the point with 13:05 remaining.
The Lions were quick to strike back, as less than two minutes later, Cole Moutinho came down the left wing to snipe a shot into the upper right corner of the Attleboro goal, drawing the sides even with 11:28 left before the first intermission.
Both teams brought the physicality, with Attleboro showing it wasn’t afraid to use the body and Ludlow responding. The Lions drew two penalties in the period, the first a high-sticking call on Ryan Martin and the second cross-checking on Matt Leblanc, but the Bombardiers were unable to capitalize on the opportunities.
While Attleboro looked to have momentum on the second power play, Max Cocchi stole the puck at the Bombardiers blue line and skated away, beating one Bombardiers defenseman before the senior captain put it past goalie Evan Andrews to put the Lions back in the lead.
Going into the second period, both teams continued with much of the same; exchanging shots and checks while play remained fairly even. Both teams had opportunities, but were denied in the end by missed shots or the play of the goaltenders.
Attleboro evened the score again with 8:33 left in the period. Jake Parker broke between two defenseman and pushed forward towards goal under tight coverage, just managing to send a backhander past Ludlow goalie Alex Will to draw the Bombardiers level at 2-2.
The Lions retook the lead with 6:05 left as Leblanc connected with Owen Burke, who with a turn and backhanded shot made it 3-2.
The Bombardiers responded just over a minute and a half later as another backhanded shot, this time from Ryan Morry, found the top shelf of the goal to draw them even at 3-3 with 4:29 remaining in the second.
While Attleboro looked hungry to get the lead back, it was the Lions that scored with 1:30 left in the period as Moutinho’s slap shot was tipped in by a Bombardier defenseman to give the sophomore his second goal of the night as once again, the Lions went into an intermission with a one-goal lead.
The Lions carried their momentum into the third period and were able to make it 5-3 within the first minute of action. Cocchi fed Logan Cognac the puck and the sophomore captain finished the job with 14:06 left to play.
For the remainder of the game, the team size advantage played a significant factor as Ludlow was able to call on players from their bench while Attleboro had more limited options and looked tired on the ice. The team substituted freshman Derek Rivet for Andrews following the fifth goal, and he was able to make a few saves, including on two power play attempts for the Lions, but in the end it wasn’t enough.
“I think sometimes what happens is [the players] get overzealous and they let their emotions overtake them and they get out of position, and they don’t stay within the structure that we’ve been trying to get across to them,” said Homer, adding that was to be expected with a core of younger players and that he was proud to see his team continue to fight when down.
“They’re working hard [but] we just have to find a way to meld it together,” said Homer.
Both teams will close out the tournament on Wednesday night. Attleboro (2-3) will face the host team Bellingham in the consolation game at 6:30, while Ludlow will play Littleton-Bromfield for the tournament title.