RAYNHAM, Mass. – While the game may have only been a regular season matchup and both teams will have their sights set on bringing home other trophies this winter, when Medfield and Canton met on Thursday night in the Joseph Quinn Tournament final at the Raynham IcePlex the game had the feel of a sectional final.
The game featured all the hallmarks of a Div. 2 playoff game with big hits, fast skating, great saves, and plenty of drama.
Following a 2-2 tie through regulation, the teams skated through two scoreless periods of overtime (the first was five on five and the second was four on four), before the game had to be decided in a shootout, which the Warriors won 2-1 to claim the tournament title.
Canton coach Brian Shuman was effusive in his praise for Medfield. He said, “That was a hell of a game. Start to finish that was a great game…They have boatloads of talent over there.”
The feeling was mutual outside the Medfield locker room. Warriors coach Toby Carlow said of the Bulldogs, “They’re a great team, well-coached, and they skate hard with a good goalie. If that’s the type of hockey we’re going to see the rest of the way, that’s alright.”
The Bulldogs started the game on top by limiting Medfield’s ability to transition quickly out of the defensive zone. From the bench, Shuman could be heard yelling, “cross-ice pass, cross-ice pass,” obviously picking up on Medfield’s strategy of bypassing the neutral zone with long passes from its own blue line.
The forecheck put pressure on the Warriors defensemen and created chances. The best one of the first period came from junior forward Shaun Kirby, who set up Jim Jenkins on the edge of the crease but Medfield goalie Matt Malvese got across in time to block the shot.
With 48.4 remaining in the first, the same combo hooked up again with Kirby centering the puck to Jenkins, who settled it and sent a shot towards the post that Malvese had just left to make it 1-0.
Justin Slocum (30 saves) was forced to stop a late flurry from Medfield in the period’s closing seconds. He got his stick to a shot by Matt Treiber that looked destined for the top corner and then also blocked a chance at the post by John MacLean.
Canton doubled its lead in the second period. Junior defenseman Jackson Maffeo pinched in from the blue line and Kirby picked him out in space. Maffeo rifled a shot off the post and in to extend the lead to 2-0.
The two-goal cushion would last less than a minute. MacLean backhanded a loose puck past Slocum after a scrum in front of goal and the Warriors were back in the game. Two minutes later and Medfield tied it on the power play with Treiber assisting on freshman Brian Abely’s goal.
“It was one of those things where we were playing well, but there was scrum in front and the puck found one of their sticks,” said Shuman. “The power play goal that they scored, one of our guys got knocked down in the corner and the puck squirted to one of their guys, so it was just bad luck.”
He added, “I still felt like we battled and played hard after that…They hit two posts and we had some great chances. It was anyone’s game after that.”
Canton nearly regained the lead with 1:12 left in the second. Jenkins split two Medfield defensemen with a tape-to-tape pass to Kirby just as he hit the blue line, but Malvese (22 saves) was able to stick out a left pad and kick away the shot.
The game went back and forth through the remainder of regulation. Medfield got the edge in shots, 10-4, in the third period, but Canton also had good chances in the slot for Bobby Mullaney and Matt Lazaro but both sent their efforts wide.
“That goes down to him figuring out what we want to do and when we adjusted he readjusted,” said Carlow about the battle of wits on the benches. “That’s how you get down to these kind of hockey games that go to two overtimes and a shootout.”
Medfield had several face-off chances in the offensive zone in the final minute of regulation, but Mullaney was excellent on face-offs all night and he was able to win the late ones to help preserve the tie.
In overtime, Medfield twice hit the post through MacLean, but neither team could find the winner and the game went to a shootout. MacLean scored for Medfield but was canceled out by Mullaney who created an opening and squeezed a backhand shot through Malvese’s five-hole.
Ryan Johnson got a second for Medfield, while Kirby, Jenkins, and Lazaro were all saved by Malvese allowing the Warriors to celebrate with the tournament trophy at center ice.
“They weren’t happy with a tie and they definitely weren’t happy with a shootout loss,” said Shuman about his squad’s mood in the locker room after the game. “So I think more than anything else they want to sit and let it burn for a little while and hopefully we’ll get another shot at them.”
He added, “Considering they’re the D2 South favorites and who many people think is the top team going into the tournament, for us to stick with them for that whole game…I was really proud of our guys.”
Canton (14-2-3) will close out the regular season with another tough test when it travels to face Newburyport a week from Friday.
Josh Perry can be contacted at JoshPerry@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @Josh_Perry10.