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.”