FOXBORO, Mass. – It wasn’t the wide open, free flowing game that some expected, but it was still a hard fought game between rivals Franklin and Mansfield that resulted in a tie that left both sides satisfied with a point.
The Panthers and Hornets were the top two teams in the Kelley-Rex division entering the contest, with Franklin holding a one point lead at the midway point of league play. After skating a 2-2 at Foxboro Sports Center, Franklin remains a point ahead in the division with three games left.
Franklin had a pair of one-goal leads in the game but Mansfield was able to respond each time, the game-tying goal coming early in the final period after the Hornets entered the frame facing a one-goal deficit.
“That’s a great point,” said Mansfield head coach Mike Balzarini. “We won the third period which is something that’s been a focus of ours all year. We want to win the third period so that’s definitely a great point, we’ll take it because a point is a point. The boys worked hard.”
Long time Franklin head coach Chris Spillane was fine with the point as well, considering the Panthers’ overall record and need of points.
“At this point in this season, points are points and we need points to qualify for the tournament,” Spillane said. “We have to focus on winning the league or getting second place. We circled this one because it’s the start of a tough stretch for us. We really wanted to come out and get two points, didn’t go our way. I thought we played pretty well but bad turnovers in our zone end up in the back of the net. It’s kind of been the story of our season so far. We had some chances, but we struggle scoring goals too. The effort is there but we have to pull it together.”
Both teams created chances in the opening period but only about half were shots on goal, a stat that the Panthers led 9-7 after 15 minutes.
An early Panther power play resulted in just one shot on goal, a wrist shot from junior Shane McCaffrey that was turned aside by Mansfield junior Sean McCafferty (34 saves). Mansfield senior Coleman O’Brien helped kill off the penalty with a head first dive to block a shot.
After the power play, Franklin’s CJ Spillane redirected a shot from Declan Lovett but McCafferty stood tall in net, and repeated that against Joe Lizotte and McCaffrey again in a minute span.
Mansfield nearly cashed in on a home run pass in the final minute when Brad Grant found Jack Garland as he entered the attacking zone but his backhand attempt was gobbled up by Franklin goalie Ryan Cameron (30 saves). Mansfield sophomore Matty Copponi had a partial break in the final seconds but saw his wrist shot go over the bar.
While there were fewer chances in the second period, there were more goals. The teams combined to score three goals inside of a three minute span during the second period.
Before the opening goal, Mansfield had the best chance of the game just minutes into the middle stanza. Grant hooked up with Garland again, this time on a pass off the sideboards, and Garland ripped a wrist shot that clanked off the cross bar and went out of play.
“It’s a big game, there were some nerves,” Balzarini said. “There were some guys probably holding the stick a little too tight, making passes they don’t usually make. But as the game progressed, I thought we got better.
“We knew that they were quick so I think our defense was a little hesitant to give up the neutral zone. I think in the third period, we made the adjustment…we had the forwards coming back hard and I think that was a difference.”
Just over six minutes into the middle period is when the visitors were able to break the scoreless tie. Franklin forced a turnover near the blue line and senior Scott Elliott took possession of the puck and darted toward goal. With the defenseman committed to him, Elliott dished the puck across the crease to classmate Dan Magazu for the one-timer and a 1-0 lead.
The lead lasted less than two minutes as the Hornets took advantage of their second power play of the game. Senior Jake Lund stepped into a hard slap shot just over the blue line and the puck found its way through traffic, with the help of O’Brien screening in front, and into the back of the net.
But before the Hornets could enjoy being level in the game, Franklin senior Joey Lizotte deposited the go-ahead goal just one minute later, with assists going to Zac Falvey and Cam Cassella.
“I don’t think it was as free flowing or as an open game as you’d expect sometimes,” Spillane said. “We don’t want to get into a shootout with anyone so we’re going to rely on our system. I think Mike was doing the same thing with his guys. I think it was both teams didn’t want to let the offensive guys control the game.”
Mansfield scored the tying goal with its first real chance of the third period. Garland forced a Franklin turnover right in front of goal and quickly unleashed a wrist shot under the bar from the slot to make it 2-2.
Both teams had chances over the final 10 minutes but couldn’t convert. Matt D’Errico ripped a shot for Franklin that was redirected by Magazu but McCafferty was in position for the stop. A minute later, Cassella whistled a shot that was tipped but again McCafferty tracked the puck and knocked it down.
The best chance fell to the stick of Lizotte, who used his speed to split a pair of Mansfield defenseman. He was able to get past both Hornets, faked forehand and went to his backhand but McCafferty tracked it the whole way and made a terrific sliding pad to preserve a point for the Hornets.
“Franklin is Franklin, they have their style of play,” Balzarini said. “But they have some fast forwards which I’m not used to seeing them with that much speed. Lizotte was the fastest kid on the ice by far.”
Franklin boys hockey (4-0-2 Hockomock, 5-4-4 overall) returns home for a big showdown with Davenport division leading and undefeated Canton for an 8:00 puck drop. Mansfield boys hockey (4-1-1, 10-2-1) will host King Philip the same night at Foxboro Sports Center at 6:00.
CANTON, Mass. – Every team talks about the importance of cashing in on power play opportunities, but teams don’t typically expect to have as many chances as Canton did on Saturday night. The Bulldogs were given a man advantage 11 times against Mansfield and scored three times, including twice in the first period to take control.
Special teams were the story of the night for Canton, which added a crucial shorthanded goal late in the third period that sealed the win, and the Bulldogs skated away with a 4-0 victory over the Hornets on Hockey Fights Cancer night at the Canton Ice House.
Mansfield started the game with a flurry of chances, using an early power play of its own to spark its offense. Matt Copponi, Jack Garland, and Jake Lund were some of the Hornets who created early scoring opportunities but were denied by Canton senior goalie Mike Staffiere (22 saves).
“We had good looks,” said Mansfield coach Mike Balzarini. “We didn’t give up, even the second period with all those penalties I thought the momentum was going our way. We had our chances but their goalie played well.”
With nine minutes left in the first, Brian Grant stepped up and had a chance driving to the net. Staffiere got a piece and the rebound trickled just wide of the post and seconds later Braedon Copparini had a shot that went narrowly wide as well.
“They’ve got a boatload of talent over there,” Canton coach Brian Shuman said. “They’ve got defensemen who are basically like forwards and we expected some flurries and it was good that we had a good goalie to back us up.”
Three minutes later, Canton took the lead. On the power play, Johnny Hagan weaved his way past several Mansfield defensemen and slipped a backhand shot under Mansfield goalie Sean McCafferty, who managed to keep it out but then the rebound was pounced on by Ryan Nolte.
Just three minutes later and the lead was doubled. After a penalty was called, the Bulldogs had a face-off to McCafferty’s left. Hagan was kicked out of the face-off and Nolte stepped in. He won the draw back to Hagan, who was cutting across the circle onto his forehand. The junior forward took the puck in stride and rifled a wrister inside the far post to make it 2-0.
Shuman said, “We had to mix it up a little bit. They knew we were going to run certain plays over and over and finally we just had to keep it simple and get some pucks to the net and get some guys out in front.”
McCafferty (35 saves) stopped a shorthanded breakaway chance by Tommy Ghostlaw before the end of the period and he kept that momentum going in the second, making 19 saves in that period alone. The Hornets were called for six penalties in the second and spent all but about three minutes on special teams in the period.
Hagan nearly got his second assist of the game when he set up Jack Connolly pinching in at the back post only to have McCafferty get across and get a shoulder to it. Hagan also hit the post and had another big chance saved when Connolly found him in space inside the circle.
Chris Lavoie had several chances driving towards the net from the right circle but couldn’t find the angle to beat the goalie. Tommy Vaughn had one of Canton’s best chances when he stole the puck from a Mansfield defenseman right in front of goal but sent his shot over the bar.
“You’re basically using six forwards and four ‘D’ and those guys get tired and credit to their goalie, he made some saves and they made some blocks,” Shuman explained. “It’s kind of ironic that when you’re on all those power plays it can wear you down a little bit, especially when you don’t score.”
Despite playing down a player for much of the period, Mansfield did have a couple of chances. Nick Levine had a shot from the point that was saved and the rebound nearly caromed back in off a Canton defenseman. The best chance of the period fell to Austin Ricker, who got a clean breakaway shorthanded only to be stoned by a great blocker save from Staffiere.
“Mike was probably tested the most he’s seen this year and he played the best he has this year,” said Shuman about his goalie. “He’s an exceptional goalie and he would’ve been a starter on any other team for the past two years if he wasn’t playing behind Quinn [Gibbs].”
Mansfield cleared off 1:16 of a penalty that extended into the third period and the Hornets were still in the game, down just two goals. Canton had the first good chance of the third when Ryan Colby rode a pair of challenges and still managed to slide the puck just wide of the post. Hagan and Nolte combined again on another power play chance but again McCafferty made the stop.
With six minutes to play, the teams traded great chances. Copponi flicked a pass into the slot for Coleman O’Brien but the senior missed the net with his shot and then seconds later Joe Robinson had a breakaway but the puck slid off the toe of his stick when he went to shoot.
““The second period, I think we had two minutes of 5-on-5 hockey,” said Balzarini. “They scored three power play goals and a shorthanded, but I thought when we played 5-on-5 we played well.”
Staffiere came through again to protect the lead when he made the save on a chance for Garland in the slot. That proved to be critical inside a minute when Hagan blocked a shot at the blue line, turned it into a breakaway and then calmly picked his spot to beat the goalie for a three-goal lead.
“That was huge,” said Shuman. “Last year we struggled to get out to the point and block shots and the past two games in particular, Joe Robinson last game and Johnny this game making huge blocks. You have to pay the price in this game.”
John Gormley had a chance for Mansfield that hit the bar and stayed out and with just a minute later, with three minutes left, Canton secured the victory on its 10th power play of the night. Connolly fired a shot from the point and Timmy Kelleher had the deft tip to find the back of the net.
Hockey Fights Cancer night at the Ice House was held in honor of Reo Todesca and Kristin Rocha, who were both connected to the Canton hockey program and both passed away a year ago. Proceeds from the night were donated to the Reo Todesca Memorial Foundation and the Kristin Rocha Memorial Scholarship.
“It was an intense hockey game but it was for a good cause,” said Shuman. “That’s really what the night is all about. We play a silly game and tonight the money raised is going to two good causes, so we’re happy about that.”
Canton (6-0) will travel to face King Philip on Wednesday night, while Mansfield (7-2) will travel to the New England Sports Village to face North Attleboro.
CANTON, Mass. – The final score was in no way indicative of the type of game it had been, but the end result was the same as last year for Mansfield against Xaverian in the opening round of the Div. 1 South tournament at the Canton Ice House.
The Hawks tacked on three goals in the final 1:02 of the game, including an empty net goal and one with six seconds on the clock, to add gloss to a 6-2 scoreline and knock the Hornets out of the playoffs for the second straight season.
“They played very disciplined hockey and they capitalized on our mistakes,” explained Mansfield coach Mike Balzarini. “It’s been a tough struggle with that all year, but I thought we battled back. I thought we played really well all three periods. We played with the same intensity with the lead and without the lead.”
Mansfield (9-7-5) came into this year’s game as the nine seed and Xaverian as the eight, a reversal of last season, and the game played out as these match-ups typically do. The game was end-to-end, hard-hitting, and tight.
Ryan Pomposelli had the game’s first chance straight off a draw but his point-blank effort was saved by Mansfield goalie Sean McCafferty at the near post. Two minutes later, the Hornets nearly took the lead with a shot from beyond the blue line by Jake Lund that took a slight deflection in front and turned into an awkward blocker save for A.J. Scott, who played at Stoughton last year.
McCafferty came up with a kick save to deny Ross Vona midway through the first and Scott was called upon to stop a backhanded effort by Cullin Anastasia. With four minutes left in the first, the Hornets took advantage of a power play opportunity to take the lead. Tyler Oakley’s shot from the point was tipped in front by Patrick McCafferty, giving Scott no chance.
“One of the things we talked about was getting off to a good start and playing with the lead and we did,” said Balzarini. “They outshot us in the first period but we were able to capitalize.”
The lead was doubled early in the second. Freshman Matty Copponi skated past his marker on the left side of the goal and attempted to saucer a pass in front to Coleman O’Brien but instead, the puck took a deflection and slid under the pads of the Xaverian goalie.
There was a delay before the officials signaled for a goal and then Scott argued that the net had been dislodged prior to the puck crossing the line. After a conversation between the officials, the goal stood and Mansfield had the 2-0 advantage.
“The ref was right there and he called it a good goal,” said Balzarini, “and that seemed to pick us up even more. We played with the same intensity all three periods, but they’re a good team.”
The Hornets could have added a third on two occasions. Dylan Tivnan forced Scott into a shoulder save with a wrister from the left circle after a quick transition and then Anastasia put the puck into the crease where a scrum of bodies was located but no one was able to find the necessary touch to knock it in.
Xaverian had speed to bother the Hornets, but generally, the defensemen, led by Tim Arnold and Oakley, were able to keep the Hawks to the outside and limit their chances. With 1:16 left in the second, Xaverian finally managed to get on the board. Pomposelli got a third bite of the apple from the edge of the crease and managed to lift it over the leg of the sprawling McCafferty, who had already made two saves in the sequence.
The goal gave the Hawks a little energy, but they took a penalty that appeared to give the impetus back to Mansfield. Unfortunately for the Hornets, a mix-up on an offensive zone face-off led to a tying goal. The puck could not be held in at the blue line and Josh Barton was on it in a flash, creating a shorthanded breakaway that made it 2-2 with just 15.2 on the clock.
Balzarini remarked, “It was just a miscommunication. We didn’t get the puck in deep on the first one and they were able to come down through transition in the neutral zone and on the second one we had a lefty on the right point and it got by him but, it happens and they capitalized.”
The momentum carried over into the third period. Xaverian quickly took control again and Austin Ricker was forced to give up a power play in order to stop a breakaway opportunity. On the power play, the Hawks crashed the net and, again after a couple of McCafferty saves, Matt Ryan was able to punch across the go-ahead goal.
Mansfield was struggling to create scoring chances against the organized Xaverian defense, which was clogging the shooting lanes. The Hornets only put five shots on goal in the third, although Patrick McCafferty did have a breakaway chance with six minutes to play that was saved by Scott.
With 1:02 remaining, as people were waiting to see when Mansfield would pull its goalie, Xaverian got a quick breakout of the zone and Matt Talarico scored to seal the win. An empty netter and a goal with barely any time on the clock would make the score far more lopsided than was the action on the ice.
Balzarini said, “They just kept coming and coming, but I thought player for player we hung right with them. It wasn’t a 6-2 game. I’m very proud of them.”
FOXBORO, Mass. – One team is already qualified for the D1 South tournament, the other is battling to keep its postseason aspirations alive.
So it was no surprise that Wednesday night’s tilt between Mansfield and King Philip felt like a playoff game.
The teams skated to a 1-1 tie, exchanging goals in the final four minutes of the second period. With the point, King Philip is still alive for a playoff berth. The Warriors need to win their final two games of the season to join the Hornets in the tournament.
“We can’t lose,” said King Philip head coach Paul Carlow of the remaining games. “We were up 1-0 but our Achille’s Heel, penalties. If we can play even strength, I like our chances. But we had to kill a couple more extra penalties than I would have liked to. But the kids responded, they played a strong third, they killed that penalty off to start. We had our chances.”
After a relatively even first period, Mansfield began to gain control of the game, having long stretches of possession in the attacking zone. The Hornets had a 16-5 edge in shots on goal in the frame, peppering King Philip senior goalie Shane Frommer (29 saves).
“Shane played maybe his best game of the year tonight,” Carlow said. “[Mansfield] is a good team, they are very well coached. They are already going to the Division 1 tournament so it was a tall task for our guys to stay alive. They put it on us pretty good earlier in the year.”
When Mansfield went on the power play at the midway point of the game, senior defenseman Tyler Oakley had his wrist shot redirected by sophomore Jake Lund but Frommer was able to get his glove on top of the dribbling puck.
Two minutes later, the Hornets had another chance when Tim Arnold kept the puck in the offensive zone and the puck landed at the feet of Chris Copponi, but Frommer made a point-blank save.
But despite the Hornets having the edge in play in the period, it was the Warriors that struck first. Mansfield goalie Sean McCafferty (23 saves) turned away a bid from Gavin Maxwell, but the puck found its way back in front and sophomore Joe Boselli lifted his shot into the back of the net. Luke D’Amico was credited with the assist while Maxwell provided the screen in front.
“Their goal was at the end of a long shift, our guys were out there for over two minutes so it cost us,” Balzarini said. “They tried their damnedest to get back but they just couldn’t. I don’t think Sean got a good look at it. But I thought we responded well. I thought the second period was much better for us.”
Less than 90 seconds after the Warriors took the lead, they took a penalty to put the Hornets on the man advantage again. This time, Mansfield cashed in.
Matt Copponi tossed a puck towards net from the blue line, where Oakley ripped a shot in close. The puck squirted free onto the other side and Chris Copponi batted in the rebound to tie the game with 1:09 left in the period.
“It was [like a playoff game],” Balzarini said. “I thought we started off slow, which is one thing we struggle with….They did a good job of putting sticks in the passing lanes and the shooting lanes. They had a handful of blocked shots, we just had trouble getting pucks to the net.”
KP had an 11-3 advantage in shots in the first period, but the teams split attacking zone possession. The best chance for King Philip came with just under three minutes to go when Maxwell saw his shot go wide and D’Amico had his rebound bid denied by McCafferty’s paddle on a diving save.
“Their goalie played well,” Carlow said. “We definitely had our chances, we had an odd-man rush late, we had a breakaway early on a shorthanded bid…both goalies played well. It was a good game, it was pretty evenly matched all night.”
Both teams had chances at the winner in the third period but couldn’t find the back of the net. D’Amico took a feed from Jack Coulter but McCafferty made the save right in front. D’Amico set up Boselli with just under six minutes to go, but again McCafferty was there for the save.
Right after the save, Mansfield went down the other end only for Matt Copponi’s shot to ring off the crossbar.
King Philip boys hockey (4-4 Hockomock, 8-10-1 overall) will try to keep its postseason hopes alive when it hosts Norwood on Monday at 5:20. Mansfield (5-2-2, 8-5-5) is on the road on Saturday, traveling to Larsen Arena to take on Winthrop.
CANTON, Mass. – Even on a night with plenty to celebrate for himself, Canton head coach Brian Shuman made sure the focus was on something much bigger.
The Bulldogs scored once in the second and two straight in the third to earn a 3-1 decision over Mansfield, marking Shuman’s 200th career win.
While the timing of Shuman’s 200th win and Saturday night’s “Hockey Fights Cancer” doubleheader was coincidental, it was only fitting that the big milestone came on a night that Shuman helped organized to benefit others.
Canton and Mansfield followed a clash between Xaverian and Malden Catholic, a doubleheader that raised money for the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in memory of Reo Todesca, mother of Xaverian assistant Paul Todesca and a beloved friend to many in the Canton hockey community.
Canton’s list of accolades on the ice, including numerous Hockomock titles, dozens of playoff wins and a state championship in 2010, is just about as long as the amount of charity work Shuman and his Bulldogs are apart of off the ice.
There’s the annual Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk every September that Shuman and his Bulldogs walk in to benefit The Jimmy Fund. And there’s the annual Evening of Hope Gala that Shuman helps organize with his wife Tara.
And Shuman and the Bulldogs spend plenty of time on the ice with the Bear Cubs Hockey program, which team chairman Matty Marcone is apart of. And who could forget two years ago when Shuman, along with Stoughton coach Dan Mark, worked to get Marcone on the ice of a varsity game.
The list goes on and on, which is why it’s so fitting that Shuman reached the milestone while helping raise money to fight cancer.
“I’m a bit embarrassed it happened on a night like this because it’s not about me, it’s a night to remember all of the people that have fought this battle [against cancer],” Shuman said. Canton wore special pink uniforms for the game. “But it really is special because some of the best nights I’ve been a coach in this program have been nights like this where we really together as a community in support of someone or a family, and that’s what makes it all worth it to me as a coach.”
And of course, Shuman was quick to deflect credit away from himself and to the program for getting to 200 wins in just 13 years.
“It says everything about the program. I’m incredibly fortunate to coach in a real hockey town. I think it’s one of the best hockey towns in Massachusetts. It says everything about our players, parents, families, community…just every single time I start or finish a season, I think how lucky I am. This is just one of those special moments that you reflect on how lucky you are.”
The visitors came out strong in the first period, having an edge in time of possession and attacking zone time. The Hornets also had a pair of power play opportunities, the first after a Canton cross-check with 11:17 left in the opening period, and again after a roughing call with 6:17 to go.
But out of those two man-advantage situations, the only real threat came late in the second one when freshman Matt Copponi went to circle the net but dropped a pass right in front of goal instead to his brother Chris Copponi, but the elder brother was unable to get the puck past Canton goalie Quinn Gibbs.
The Bulldogs came out flying in the second period and dominated the second period. Mansfield was able to kill off a cross-checking penalty but Canton was able to cash in a minute later. Junior Ryan Nolte connected a pass to sophomore Johnny Hagan, who lifted his backhand attempt top shelf to give the Dogs a 1-0 lead.
“I thought that first period, that was probably the most we have been outplayed in a period all year long,” Shuman said. “Mansfield has a good team, they play hard, they work hard, they have a great system and they are very, very well coached. I think the breakout for us was everything in the first period. I think the breakout sets the tone for so much of our offense and the flow of the game, and we could not break the puck out of the zone, we struggled in all facets of the breakout. Give credit to Mansfield, they made it hard for us.
“The second period was much better, I think a lot came from our breakout. I thought our line of Ryan Colby, Charlie O’Connor and Kevin Smith really gave us some life in that second period. They went out and had a really good shift and created some chances. Those guys are kind of a hybrid third/fourth line and I thought they played great.”
Canton had two more power play chances, including a brief 5-on-3 chance with just over three minutes to go, but the Dogs couldn’t add to their lead.
Mansfield’s best chance came when the Hornets killed off their third penalty. Senior Adam Anastos came out of the box, took a feed from Cullin Anastaia as he entered the zone, and then center a pass back to Anastasia but his tip effort sailed just wide of the post.
“I’m not sure what exactly happened in the second period, we had such a great first period, we came out with energy,” said Mansfield head coach Mike Balzarini. “Their first few shifts kind of set the tone, then we settled down and stuck to the gameplan. I can’t remember a time since I started here that we only had one shot on net in the period. But we had to kill three penalties in that second period, we played shorthanded for six minutes. That sort of gave us some life toward the end of the period and we had that late chance.
“I thought we had a better third period but Canton is a good team, they play every single shift and they play 200 feet.”
Canton senior Jack Goyetch nearly doubled the Bulldogs’ lead two minutes into the final period when he redirected a shot from Jack Connelly but Mansfield sophomore Sean McCafferty made a terrific glove save.
But the Bulldogs continued to put pressure as Goyetch and Mike Dadasis linked up before finding Bubba McNeice in front for a one-timer to make it 2-0. Canton cashed in on its fourth power play attempt with 9:20 left in the game.
Mansfield won the faceoff clean straight back, but McNeice was first to the loose puck and fired a centering pass to Goyetch for a tap-in.
The Hornets struck back just 17 seconds after Canton’s third goal. Fresh out of a timeout, Mansfield had a strong attacking zone possession before sophomore Joseph Troiano stepped into a loose puck and fired one into the back of the net.
“I have nothing but respect for Brian and what he’s done with Canton,” Balzarini said. Both Balzarini (’93) and Shuman (’98) graduated from Catholic Memorial. “It’s bittersweet for him to get the 200th win against us, but him being a CM guy, I like Brian a lot, he’s a really good coach and he deserves it.”
Canton boys hockey (7-0-0 Hockomock, 10-1-4 overall) is back in action on Wednesday when it hosts Franklin in a clash of Davenport and Kelley-Rex division champions. Mansfield (5-2-2, 7-5-4) will try to bounce back in a week when it travels to Brockton.
FRANKLIN, Mass. – Mansfield scored the first goal of the game with less than seven minutes to play in the game, but Franklin had an answer four minutes later to help the Panther steal a point in a 1-1 draw.
The Hornets had a 29-25 advantage in shots, outshooting the Panthers in both the first and third periods. Despite multiple chances throughout the first and second periods, goalies Dan Sheehan (Franklin) and Sean McCafferty (Mansfield) kept the puck out of the net.
But just over the midway point of the third period, Mansfield was finally able to break the stalemate. A turnover in the offensive zone allowed Mansfield to race out to a 3-on-2 chance. Coming down the right side of the ice, freshman Coleman Jenkins dropped a pass to the middle of the ice for junior Austin Ricker.
Ricker fired a wrist shot up high that Sheehan (28 saves) denied at first, but the puck had enough mustard to trickle over his shoulder, bounce off his back and fall into the net to give the Hornets a 1-0 lead.
“I thought we played a great game, I really did,” said Mansfield head coach Michael Balzarini. “We had two really good days of practice and the momentum just kind of carried over. We knew after the first 15 minutes that it would be a very close game. We knew whoever scored first might be the eventual winner so it was good to get that, just overall I’m really pleased with the way we played.”
The goal seemed to wake the Panthers up and they were finally able to solve McCafferty with just 2:42 left in the game. Senior Luke Downie had his pass partially blocked and the puck ended up on the stick of senior TJ Durkin.
With his back to goal in the center of the ice, Durkin turned, pulled the puck back on his stick and roofed a wrist shot to tie the game.
“The result reflects our performance, we did not play well,” said Franklin head coach Chris Spillane. “We didn’t skate, we didn’t win 50-50 battles, they were more physical than us…they wanted the game more than us, simple as that. We were very fortunate to get the point.
“We had a lot of breakdowns in our end but on the flip side, Mansfield played well. They played physical, they came out and wanted it more. They probably deserved the win but we’ll steal a point from them.”
After Franklin’s Jeremy Miller hit the post on a low, turn around shot just over a minute into the game, the Hornets seemed to take control of the game.
Franklin had an early power play opportunity but an interference 20 seconds into the man advantage made it 4-on-4. That resulted in a quick 2-on-1 chance for the Hornets with Tim Arnold feeding Adam Anastos, but Sheehan made the save.
The Hornets had another odd-man rush with Chris Copponi and Anastos got into the zone but Copponi’s shot and rebound chance were gobbled up before Anastos could pounce.
On the ensuing play, Franklin came flying up ice with Miller finding Brendan O’Rielly and O’Rielly returning the pass right on front of net but just out of the reach of Miller.
Mansfield went on the power play with five minutes left in the period but couldn’t covert. The Hornets had another man-advantage chance at the end of the first and 70 seconds into the second period, but couldn’t cash in.
The best chance on the power play came just a minute into the second when Mansfield freshman Matt Copponi deked around a defenseman to get an open chance on goal but he couldn’t finish with little space in front.
Franklin’s best stretch of the game came at the midway point of the second period when the Panthers went on the power play. Miller set up defenseman Tom Tasker for a point-blank shot that McCafferty turned away. McCafferty came up with two more huge saves on the kill to keep the game scoreless.
Just after Mansfield killed the penalty, the Hornets had a golden chance. Jenkins jumped on a Franklin turnover in the offensive zone and went at goal, trying to sneak a backhand in at the near post but Sheehan kept his position and made a big pad save.
With less than a minute left in the period, Copponi intercepted a Franklin pass across the blue line and raced into the offensive zone but his shot at the near post flew high.
Franklin had one final chance in the period when Matt Holmes made a nifty pass with his skate to set up CJ Spillane but his shot from in close was smothered by McCafferty.
The Panthers had two early chances in the third when Downie found Joe Lizotte in front but his shot went high. A minute later, Dan Magazu connected with Spillane but again McCafferty was up to the task.
Each team had a chance in the final two minutes but Mansfield’s Chris Kelleher had his backhand attempt turned away and Franklin’s Lizotte had his low shot denied.
Mansfield boys hockey (3-0-2 Hockomock, 5-3-3) remains in first place in the division with a one point advantage over Franklin. The Hornets host Oliver Ames on Wednesday at 7:50. Franklin (3-0-1, 8-1-3) is back in action on Wednesday with Foxboro scheduled to come to town.
FOXBORO, Mass. – Chris Copponi’s shot was scuffed. The forward barely making contact with the puck just outside the right circle, but enough contact was made to redirect it past several sliding North Attleboro players trying desperately to block the Mansfield junior’s attempt at a power play goal.
The puck squirmed through the crowd of bodies right to senior defenseman Tim Arnold, who took advantage of the space and a wrong-footed North goalie Ryan Warren to one-time it into the empty net.
Arnold’s goal with five minutes remaining in the third period turned out to be the game-winner for the Hornets, who held on to beat North 3-2 in Saturday night’s league encounter at the Foxboro Sports Center.
“He whiffs and it still gets through, but we’ll take it,” said Mansfield coach Mike Balzarini outside the locker room after the game. “We’ve been working on our power play because we knew they’d be a tough opponent from the first time we played them (a 4-1 North win in the season opener) and we were just patient. Yeah, it was a misfire, but we’ll take it.”
The Hornets converted on two-of-five power play opportunities in the game, including the game-tying goal in the second period and the eventual winner in the third. Arnold’s goal came on the third power play chance for the Hornets in the final period.
“Penalties are part of the game,” said first-year North coach Ben McManama, “but we’re getting too many lazy penalties where we’re playing defense with our sticks and not our feet. It was a game where we were in it but we shot ourselves in the foot.”
He added, “We also have to have more energy all game. We’re not having a consistent effort and that’s hurt us.”
There was no lack of energy from the Hornets at the start of the game. Mansfield came out flying in front of a large and enthusiastic crowd, part of what has made this one of the league’s top rivalries in the last few seasons.
Freshman Justin McIvor created an early scoring chance with a big hit on Will Yeomans on the half-board. The puck popped loose to Copponi for a one-timer from the slot, but Warren (21 saves) stood tall to stop it. Warren then came up with a big pad save to rob Jake Lund in the slot and then blocked the follow-up effort too.
“The first period has been a struggle all year because we’ve come out flat,” Balzarini explained. “We played Stoughton on Wednesday and we scored three goals in the first period and that was the stresser during practice on Friday to come out with intensity.”
The Hornets made the good start count. Senior defenseman Tyler Oakley jumped up to join the attack, skating right down the middle of the North defense. His first shot was saved but he collected the rebound and finished. It was the first of two goals and three points out of the senior defensemen in the game.
“That’s why they where the ‘C’ on their jerseys,” said Balzarini of Oakley and Arnold. “They’re both really good captains, really good leaders and for those guys to step up not only on the ice but off the ice has been huge for us.”
With 7:11 left in the first, a fire alarm went off, momentarily forcing the stands to empty and the teams to head back to the locker rooms. It also stole the momentum from the hosts and allowed North the chance to regroup.
Drew Wissler had North’s first good scoring opportunity when he caught Mansfield up ice and found space in the left circle, but his shot was saved by Hornets goalie Sean McCafferty. The Rocketeers tied the game two minutes later, with only 25.1 on the clock, when Wissler fed the puck to Anthony Zammiello for a shorthanded breakaway and the junior went five-hole for the score.
“Before I could even have a chance to talk to them, they knew that they didn’t come out ready,” said McManama of the fire alarm break. “We’ve had a lot of bad starts this year and it really needs to change. The team is aware of it, but we just need to suck it up and come out ready to play.”
North took its first lead early in the second period. Wissler flew down the left side again, opened his body and unleashed an unstoppable shot over the shoulder of McCafferty and just inside the top corner.
The lead lasted six minutes before Mansfield responded with a power play goal of its own. Oakley lined up a blast from the point that Warren could only parry. The puck fell to Cullin Anastasia and he deposited it into the open net.
The Hornets had the chance to get back in front early in the third but Patrick McCafferty saw his shot carom off Warren’s mask and off the boards behind the net. After Arnold scored, defenseman Nick Levine nearly got into the act for the Hornets but Warren again made an important close-range save.
With time running down and North scrambling for an equalizer, Jason McNeanyhad a tap in at the back post that went wide of an open net and Nick Raneri had a shot in the final minute that was kicked aside at the post.
“The penalties in these games disrupt the flow, so things may be going our way but a penalty for or against if we don’t capitalize changes the whole momentum of the game,” said McManama. “A good hockey team doesn’t get affected by these things, but we’re not there yet. We’re going to get there, but we’re just not there yet.”
Mansfield has now won two in a row and Balzarini is hoping the Hornets can build off a strong week. He said, “The momentum was ours from Wednesday to today and I’m hoping it continues [at practice] on Monday and Tuesday.”
Mansfield (3-3-1, 2-0-0) will host Brockton in a non-league game on Wednesday. North Attleboro (5-3-0, 1-1-0) will host Franklin at the New England Sports Village.
2016-2017 Record: 6-12-2 2016-2017 Finish: Missed Postseason. Coach: Mark Homer
Attleboro struggled in its closing games of 2016-17 and narrowly missed out on a place in the state tournament via the Sullivan rule. This year’s Bombardiers are hoping that a mix of youth and experience will be enough to get the team over the hump and back in the playoff mix.
The main scoring threat for Attleboro this season is senior forward Jake Parker, a HockomockSports.com Second Team selection last winter who led the team with 20 goals despite facing regular double teams and playing loads of minutes. Parker will be joined up front by sophomore Ryan Morry, who is coming off a solid rookie campaign and will try to take advantage of the opportunities Parker creates near the net.
Attleboro’s experience is on the defensive side of the ice. Seniors Eddie Noel and Sam MacKenzie and junior Kyle McCabe provide size, physicality, and reading of the game to protect the Bombardiers goal. Attleboro coach Mark Homer, in his second season with the team, is expecting the defensemen to be aggressive in the zone and be more prepared to clear the puck. The Bombardiers are also experienced in goal with junior Evan Andrews and sophomore Derrik Rivet offering a solid one-two between the pipes.
“As a team, we are working on becoming more competitive in our games at all phases of the game, said Homer. “We will strive to be better today than we were yesterday but not as good as we will be tomorrow. Our success will be measured by how hard we work and not by our wins and losses.”
2016-2017 Record: 16-5-3 2016-2017 Finish: Reached Div. 2 South Semifinal. Coach: Brian Shuman
After another league title in 2016-17 and a run to the Div. 2 South semifinal, Canton has started this season with a win and a draw (that turned into an overtime win in the final of the Gormley Cup) and the expectations remain as high as ever for one of the teams to beat in D2.
Last season, Canton was by far the league’s best defensive team, allowing only 32 goals in 24 games. The next best defense allowed 48 goals. But, the Bulldogs will need to rebuild the blue line this season after the graduation of HockomockSports.com Player of the Year Jackson Maffeo and Third Team selection C.J. Martin. Defensemen Brad Murphy and Nick Allen have experience and will be counted on to step up to bigger roles this year.
The key for the Canton defense, which has allowed only one goal in two games so far this season, will be junior goalie Quinn Gibbs. He was a HockomockSports.com First Team choice last year with a league-best 0.924 save percentage and there is hope he can get even better with a year of experience. Offensively, the Bulldogs bring back most of the goals from last year with Ryan Nolte, Johnny Hagan, Bubba McNeice, and Jack Goyetch all returning this season and all having scored big goals in big moments for Canton during last season’s tournament run.
“I think the most important determinant of our success will be whether we can find some depth at forward and defense,” said Canton coach Brian Shuman. “Teams need more than two lines and four ‘D’ to make a deep run, so we need some guys to compete for those remaining spots.”
2016-2017 Record: 6-12-2 2016-2017 Finish: Reached Div. 3 First Round. Coach: Mark Cedorchuk
Foxboro saw improvement last year, increasing its win total, goals for, and allowed fewer goals than the season before. Head coach Mark Cedarchuk is hoping that trend continues this season as the Warriors look to try and compete for the spot in the postseason.
The Warriors will be relying on a mix of experience as well as youth to try and compete in the Hockomock League this year. Senior captain Aidan Sullivan (two goals, six assists) has been an anchor of the team’s blue line unit over the past couple of seasons and will be relied upon to lead the way again this year. Senior captain Taylor Sharfman is another defenseman that gives the Warriors two capable and reliable options in the back. Junior Tanner Kennedy is also back after a solid sophomore year and Warriors added junior Brendan Tully to the defensive unit.
On offense, Foxboro graduated its top three goal scorers but sophomore Ronnie MacLellan (four goals, seven assists) is back after a strong sophomore year. He will be joined up front by senior Sam Garrabrant and sophomore Sebastian Ricketts, who had four goals and two assists last year.
Foxboro will have to find a replacement for goalie John Cronin, a multi-year starter in between the pipes for the Warriors. Foxboro has three goalies – freshman Jack Spinney, sophomore Espen Reager, and freshman Connor Callahan – listed on the roster.
“With a combination of experienced upperclassman and talented underclassman, we’re looking forward to an exciting and competitive season,” Cedarchuk said.
2016-2017 Record: 14-9-1 2016-2017 Finish: Reached Div. 1 South Quarterfinal. Coach: Chris Spillane
Although last winter was atypical for the Panthers, losing two games in the league for the first time in several years, Franklin won another league title and with 20 players back for this season the expectation is that a seventh straight league crown is a distinct possibility – not to mention making a run in the state tournament.
Experience will be the key for the Panthers. Most of the forwards were members of the team that won the state championship two years ago and know what it takes to get goals against top competition. Leading scorer Brendan O’Rielly is back after scoring 20 goals and recording 11 assists last season. He should have plenty of help up front with classmates Luke Downie, Jeremy Miller, T.J. Durkin, and Ken Demerchant, who are all three-year varsity players for the Panthers.
Defensively, Franklin has lost several talented young defensemen to other programs in recent seasons, but still boasts a strong defensive corps heading into this winter. Jack McGrath, Matt Crane, Connor Norton, Cam Cassella, and sophomore Tom Tasker will all contribute to the defensive pairings this season and that depth will be important over a long season. The goalie position is a battle between three seniors, including returning netminders Owen Ginley and Dan Sheehan, who both saw time last year.
“I will be looking to our leading goal scorer from last year Brendan O’Rielly to once again lead the offensive charge,” said Franklin coach Chris Spillane. “From a small practice sample (one skate) I was impressed with our team speed.”
2016-2017 Record: 4-16-0 2016-2017 Finish: Missed Postseason. Coach: Paul Carlow
King Philip finished just below .500 in the league last season, and just five points out of second place in the Kelley-Rex division, but struggled in the non-league schedule, losing all 11 games outside of the Hock. The Warriors will look to improve that considerably this year with an experienced roster that wants to challenge for a league title.
KP returns 13 players from last year’s squad and that experience will be vital to allow the Warriors to compete not only in the league but against a schedule that has been bolstered because of the program’s move up to Div. 1 several seasons ago. Offensively, the attention will be on senior forward Collin Cooke, who chipped in with 10 goals and seven assists and has been drawing the focus of opposing defenses for several years. Senior Gavin Maxwell had nine goals and eight assists last season and will again be a solid counterpoint to take some of the pressure off Cooke in the attacking zone.
On the defensive side of the ice, KP continues to be a physical team that likes to be aggressive attacking the puck. Senior defensemen Will Connor will get some help at the back with the return of senior Mike Curtin from juniors, who head coach Paul Carlow said could be an “anchor” on defense. Senior Shane Frommer, fresh off a stellar football season and another Super Bowl title, will quickly transition from the gridiron to be the team’s starting goalie, after posting a 2.66 goals against average in 2016-17.
“Our strength is that we have a total of 13 returning players from last years team,” said Carlow. “We have experience up front and on the back end. We should see some team chemistry with this many returning players.”
2016-2017 Record: 12-8-2 2016-2017 Finish: Reached Div. 1 South First Round. Coach: Mike Balazarini
In last year’s state tournament, Mansfield held its own against perennial power Xaverian before losing 2-1 in the opening round and that defeat is spurring the Hornets on this season, as the team has built a deep roster that believes it can challenge for the Kelley-Rex crown.
Team speed is going to be a strength for the Hornets this season, even without several key pieces from last winter, including breakout freshman Chris Jenkins, lost to graduation or to juniors. Senior forward Dylan Tivnan and Cullin Anastasia will be back to man the top scoring line along with freshman Coleman Jenkins. The second line will feature a lot of youth with sophomore Jake Lund and freshman Matt Copponi alongside junior Chris Copponi.
Seniors Tyler Oakley and Tim Arnold will be the leaders on the defensive side this year, while senior Ryan O’Hara and juniors Nick Levine and Austin Ricker will give the Hornets depth in the defensive unit. That depth should make things easier for sophomore Sean McCafferty, who will be stepping between the pipes for Mansfield this season.
“I think everyone wants to pick up where he left off last year,” said Mansfield coach Mike Balzarini. “We’ve had a good mindset early on this season. We have some new faces and everyone has gelled so far. We can’t take everyone lightly, we have to play every shift as its out last.”
2016-2017 Record: 14-4-4 2016-2017 Finish: Reached Div. 2 South Quarterfinal. Coach: Ben McManama
North Attleboro is coming off its most successful season in program history, and will be starting a new chapter with new head coach Ben McManama.
The Rocketeers will be tasked with finding replacements for some of the top players in the league from a season ago. Someone will need to step up in order to fill the void left by Zach McGowan (19 goals, 13 assists for 32 points – third most in the Hockomock) as well as Hunter Sarro’s 22 points and Erik Clements’ 20 points.
Senior Jason McNeany is a key piece back for the Rocketeers, fresh off a terrific football season. He scored 13 goals last season and added 13 assists, and has been a big piece of the offense for many years now. He will be counted on to be a leader this season, both in the locker room and on the ice.
2016-2017 Record: 14-7-1 2016-2017 Finish: Reached Div. 2 South Quarterfinal. Coach: Sean Bertoni
Under first-year head coach Sean Bertoni, Oliver Ames proved to be a strong skating team that could cause a number of problems with its dangerous attack. That speed up front will be put to the test again this year, as the Tigers look to jump from second in the Kelley-Rex division to the top of the standings.
The Tigers have a number of talented forwards returning from last season’s team, which reached the Div. 2 South tournament and beat Nauset only to run into state finalist Scituate in the second round. That loss will provide motivation for junior forward Brett Williams, who was on the HockomockSports.com Second Team with 12 goals and eight assists last year, and the rest of the OA forwards. Williams will be joined up front by seniors Eric LeBlanc and Rory Madden and junior Max Ward.
On defense, junior Matt McCormick returns to be one of the top four along with senior Mike Nikiciuk. Both players will provide leadership for a defensive unit that promises to be aggressive in both zones, as Bertoni continues to implement his system at OA. Sophomore goalie Owen Connor will be the new goalie for the Tigers.
“We will continue to use our team speed and play an aggressive style offensively and defensively,” said Bertoni. “We hope to compete at a high level in all three zones. If we bring an aggressive forecheck we can create turnovers which should result in production.”
2016-2017 Record: 7-12-2 2016-2017 Finish: Missed Postseason. Coach: Dan Mark
Numbers are a bit down for the Stoughton High hockey team this season, so the Knights will be relying on their most experienced players to lead the way, especially early on.
On offense, the Knights boast senior Brendan Campbell at center and junior Sean Doherty at wing. Campbell had a team-high in points last season, finishing second with 11 goals while recording a team-best 15 assists for 26 points. Doherty was third on the team, tying for the team lead with 12 goals and finishing with 25 points.
Senior Cam Nelson and junior Josh Hough will be the leaders of the Knights’ defensive unit. Hough is a captain along with Campbell and Doherty and has the most experience on the blue line. Nelson also saw plenty of time last season, recording an assist.
“We are an inexperienced team that will improve as the season goes on,” said Stoughton head coach Dan Mark.
2016-2017 Record: 12-9-2 2016-2017 Finish: Reached Div. 2 South First Round. Coach: Kris Metea
Taunton has grown by leaps and bounds over the past couple of seasons, setting new program bests for wins and making the state tournament two seasons in a row. This year’s team features only three seniors, so the Tigers will be hoping recent success will continue with a youthful lineup.
Senior forward Will Walsh has returned from junior hockey and will provide a boost to the front line, which head coach Kris Metea has high hopes for this season. Senior Jake Roberts is also back for the Tigers after scoring 18 points last year and junior Cam Sneyd is back after a 16-point season last winter. Metea is counting on high energy from the offensive unit and believes that the roster is capable of creating loads of scoring opportunities.
Sophomore Sean Bunker will be in net for the Tigers and the defensive unit is fairly inexperienced, although the coach believes that by working together Taunton will be able to put together a solid back line. The hope is that defense will become a strength of the Tigers by the end of the season.
“The players enjoy wearing the orange and black and look forward to coming to the rink every day,” said Metea. “The coaching staff has preached about enjoying the journey of a season and the developmental process. These players strive to work hard and get better every day. They will be fun to watch grow throughout the season.”
2016-2017 Record: 14-5-6 2016-2017 Finish: Reached Div. 2 State Final Coach: Dennis Aldrich
Canton is coming off a remarkable state tournament run that took the No. 14 seed all the way to the TD Garden and the program’s first state title game appearance since 2006. After years of competing in the SEMGHL Coastal division, the Bulldogs are excited for the first Hockomock League girls’ hockey season and enter the new season as favorites to bring home the first Hock title.
A number of key players are back from the team that battled Notre Dame Academy (Hingham) in the state championship game last March and will be counted on to put together another solid defensive effort that made the Bulldogs so tough to play against during the tournament run. Spearheading that defensive unit is senior goalie Colleen Kelleher, who was stellar throughout the state tournament with clutch saves in key situations.
On offense, Canton returns plenty of firepower. Juniors Maggie Malloy and Lauren Fitzpatrick emerged as big time scorers last year and came through with important goals to help the Bulldogs make a run to the Garden. Senior forwards Melissa Devane, Kendra Farrelly, and Andrea McNeil give Canton a loaded attacking unit that always seemed to pop up with goals when the team needed it most.
“The strength of the Bulldogs will continue to be a tenacious, smothering team defense, strong goaltending, and balanced, opportunistic scoring,” said Canton coach Dennis Aldrich. “We are proud to have our roster filled with 11 Canton team captains amongst our 22 rostered players.”
Franklin enters the first Hockomock League girls’ hockey season with a young roster, but one that is expected to compete with the other four teams and have a shot at bringing home the inaugural title.
Junior Regan Paterson and senior Jackie Connelly will be expected to provide leadership and create scoring opportunities for a roster that is loaded with underclassmen. Both players provide speed and playmaking ability in the attacking zone and the Panthers will be counting on their experience to make the difference.
Leadership is going to be critical for this year’s team and head coach Marjorie Burke is looking to her senior class to provide direction for the youthful lineup on both ends of the ice. Among the seniors that Burke is looking to this season are Bella Trask, Caroline Hedvig, Maddie Hinkley, Jillian McGlaughlin, and Connelly.
“We are excited about the upcoming season,” said Burke. “We are young but look to be competitive.”
Three years ago, King Philip was the top seed in Div. 2 and after two more playoff appearance, the Warriors now have the opportunity to bring their recent success into the first ever Hockomock League girls’ hockey season and hope that an experienced lineup could make them the first Hock champs.
Junior Nicole Connor is off to a strong start this season and has the potential, according to KP coach Jack Unger, to be one of the top players in the Hockomock League this year. Connor will play both at forward and along the blue line, crucial versatility that makes her an important piece for KP. The Warriors return five seniors who will be the “backbone” of the squad, said Unger. Kyleigh Remmes, Olivia McCarthy, Jessica Daniels, Katie Crowther, and Talia Quinn give the Warriors depth all over the ice.
Lilly Potts returns for her third year in between the pipes, while sophomore Cristina Coleman will be the backup netminder. Freshmen Avari Maxwell and Jordyn Remmes will be instant contributors on offense, while classmate Marin Cormier will step in on defense. Sophomores Abby Carr and Sammy Robison are also expected to step in at forward this season.
“[The roster is] rounded out by a number of talented juniors who should be able to spread out the scoring amongst the three starting forward lines,” said Unger.
2016-2017 Record: 14-6-1 2016-2017 Finish: Reached Div. 2 First Round. Coach: Mike Dalton
Mansfield, Oliver Ames, and Foxboro have joined forces since the 2014-15 season and have reached the postseason each of the past two winters, suffering an overtime loss to Walpole in the first round of the state tournament last year, and have started this season with an impressive win in the opener.
The Warriors will be led by Foxboro’s Catherine Luciano. The senior was the team’s leading scorer last year and scored a hat trick in the season opener to get off to another strong start. Joining Luciano on the top line will be Mackenzie Fraser and Isabelle Shanteller. Other contributors in the offensive zone include senior Kayla Dalton, Kristina O’Connell, and Lindsey Corning.
While the Warriors are expected to create a number of scoring opportunities, defense will be just as important if Mansfield/OA (MOA) is going to make it a third straight playoff appearance. Denea Reager, Ali Delano, and Emily Bubencick will all be critical components of the Warriors defensive unit. Senior Kerren Holmes will be back in goal this year to stifle the opposition, while freshman Cate Gallegher will be the backup netminder.
“A strong freshman class will assist the team with help on both offense and defense,” said MOA coach Mike Dalton. “The team looks to compete for a top position in the Hockomock League and secure a spot in the tournament.”
2016-2017 Record: 1-19-1 2016-2017 Finish: Missed Postseason. Coach: Richard Grasso
The newest of the programs in the inaugural season of Hockomock League girls’ hockey, Stoughton is in only its third season of varsity play, but the Black Knights are counting on last year’s experience and the growth in the program to make them a team to watch out for this winter.
Two-time all-star Julia Russell will be one of the key defenders for the Black Knights, but also brings an offensive punch with her speed forcing opponents to worry about her carrying the puck through the neutral zone. Senior Sarah Widrow will join Russell at the blue line and provides consistency in the defensive zone. Both will be expected to provide leadership for the less experienced players on the roster and try to make Stoughton a team that is tough to play against.
The offense will be sparked by a pair of freshmen. Hailey Nelson and Morgan Lesso made an instant impact on their debuts, helping Stoughton start the season with a 6-5 win at Framingham in the season opener. Lesso recorded a hat trick against the Flyers to set a high standard in her first varsity action.
“Stoughton will be a much stronger team this year than last,” said Black Knights coach Richard Grasso. “However, this will be a great challenge for our program. We have a lot of respect for the teams in the Hockomock League. There’s a lot of talent out there and each team is well-coached.”
While the Tigers had seven players hit the penalty box over the final 30 minutes, their ability to kill off man-advantage opportunities for Mansfield resulted in momentum gained for OA.
“We work a lot on PK in practice and it’s very aggressive,” said first year OA head coach Sean Bertoni. “We emphasize blocked shots so we get into shooting lanes. Hopefully we don’t have to kill too many penalties – we had way too many tonight – but those PK guys worked extremely hard. Right after that 5-on-3 we go out and score a goal so we took some momentum there which was great.”
The 5-on-3 Bertoni referenced was Mansfield’s first power play opportunity that came early in the second period. After a delayed interference call, the Hornets were able to keep the puck and draw a hooking call to get a two man advantage.
Despite having a full 1:30 with the two-man advantage, Mansfield registered just two shots on goal. Oliver Ames capitalized on the momentum gained from the kill, scoring the opener just 30 seconds into being even strength.
Ward, who had a penalty shot saved in the first period by Mansfield goalie Tony Rullo (21 saves), blocked a clearance in the offensive end and went right to goal and tucked the puck in to make it 1-0.
Mansfield nearly tied it a minute later when Matt Farragher had his shot saved by Walsh and the rebound chance was scoffed. The Hornets had a power play with 6:43 left, and then again with 3:00 to play but couldn’t find the back of the net either time.
“It wasn’t ideal – we were 1/6 on the power play and that includes the 5-on-3 for 90 seconds,” said Mansfield head coach Mike Balzarini. “That’s not what we want. We moved the puck well on the 5-on-3 but we maybe have two shots. We’ve been focusing more on our penalty kill, which was great tonight, but we just have to get back to basics for offense. The guys know the premise but we were trying to rush it.
“OA did a great job of killing the penalties and keeping us outside. They got in front of the shots or got their sticks in the passing lanes so it was a little frustrating. We lost two face offs clean on the 5 on 3 and two more on 5-on-4 and that just sucks the momentum right away from you.”
The Hornets once again went a man up with 5.3 seconds to play in the second. After a quick save, Mansfield once again won the face off and a quick shot resulted in a rebound right to freshman Ryan Sullivan. He batted the back into the back of the net as the horn sounded and the referee declared it a good goal to tie the game 1-1 through two periods.
Oliver Ames again went down a man just 2:31 into the final period on a high sticking call but the Hornets couldn’t convert. In fact, the Tigers had the best chance on a shorthanded attempt with Bourne streaking in but his back hand attempt sailed high and off the glass.
“I thought defensively we played pretty well,” Bertoni said. “We blocked a lot shots, I don’t think we gave up a lot of shots. They didn’t have a ton of scoring chances and they also missed some opportunities.”
OA was whistled for too many meant with 10:49 to play but Mansfield couldn’t get anything going on the offensive end. With the puck in the defensive zone and the power play over, the Hornets went for a switch but a failed clearance resulted in the puck on the stick of Williams and he took one stride towards goal before unleashing a shot off the iron and in to make it 2-1.
“Our forecheck is pretty effective when our first line is on the puck hard, stick on stick and body on body,” Bertoni said. “Brett Williams, who’s having a good year for us, picked up the puck and buried one which was huge. We’re very effective on the forecheck.
Mansfield killed a late penalty and then pulled Rullo with a minute to go. But OA won a face off in the defensive zone and Bourne raced out with the puck to bury the empty net goal to get to the final score of 3-1.
“I hope the kids get it, that when we’re 5 on 5, we can skate with most teams we play against,” Bertoni said. “We have depth too, we roll three lines. We have to do a better job, there’s no excuses to take that many penalties.”
Oliver Ames (7-3-1 overall, 3-1-1 Hockomock) will try to extend its unbeaten streak to six when it visits Franklin – Bertoni’s alma mater – on Saturday. Mansfield (5-5-1, 2-2) will look to bounce back when they take on King Philip at Foxboro Sports Center the same day.
FOXBORO, Mass. – Sometimes even the top teams need a friendly bounce every once in a while.
With Saturday afternoon’s game at the Foxboro Sports Center tied at 2-2 early in the third period, Franklin senior Noah Nasuti turned at the blue line and flung a puck on net. It landed a few feet from goal and bounced on its edge and slid past Mansfield senior goalie Tony Rullo, who finished with 28 saves and had a strong overall game to keep the Hornets in it.
That bounce allowed the Panthers, who seemed nervous at times in the attacking zone, to breathe a little easier. Two late goals, one on the power play and the other into an empty net, sealed a 5-2 victory for Franklin and put an end to a two-game losing streak.
“I know out third goal won’t be making the ‘Top 10’ on Sportscenter, but it was big for us,” said Franklin coach Chris Spillane. “It gave us a little breathing room and we weren’t gripping the sticks so tight and we got into a flow.”
Everyone came into Saturday’s game thinking that Franklin was going to come out flying, motivated by last weekend’s state final rematch loss to St. Mary’s (Lynn) and the shocking loss to Taunton in midweek, which was the first loss for the Panthers in the league since the 2013-14 season. Franklin had not lost twice in the Hock since 2012-13.
Rather than Franklin asserting itself in the first, it was Mansfield that came out stronger and took the lead inside the first five minutes. James Bezeau fed a pass from the half-boards into the middle to a streaking Cullin Anastasia, who had a step on his defender and then slotted his shot five-hole for the opener.
“Everybody’s first shift, we wanted them to make good plays, get the first shot on net, make the first hit, and have them make the first save,” said first-year Mansfield coach Mike Balzarini. “We put in a good 15 minutes of hockey in the first period.”
Franklin had several chances in the first period to try and get the game on level terms. Nasuti had a good chance knocked down by Rullo, Luke Downie had a wrist shot from the left circle snagged and in the final minute Brendan O’Rielly had a one-timer from the slot saved by Rullo as well.
Despite a 9-8 advantage in shots, Spillane was not happy with the way the Panthers started the game. He said, “I expected us to come out in that first period and just explode and we didn’t do that. We have a lot of work in front of us. We haven’t played a full game…It’s hard to figure these guys out.”
The Panthers picked up the energy in the second period and started to control the play. Downie created a scoring opportunity on the forecheck but shot it into the chest of Rullo. Downie set up James Kilroe for a point-blank chance a couple minutes later but the shot was partially blocked and covered.
Mansfield almost doubled its lead against the run of play when Patrick McCafferty got behind the Franklin defense but his backhand effort was kept out by a combination of Owen Ginley’s shoulder and the post. Rullo then came through with a huge stop, going post-to-post and stretching out a pad to rob Adam Assad after a give-and-go with Jeremy Miller.
The pressure eventually paid off for Franklin with freshman defenseman Colin Oppelt having a shot from the point tipped by Kilroe and the rebound cleaned up by O’Rielly to tie the game. Just 10 seconds later and it was the Panthers in front after Dan Magazu sliding a shot under Rullo’s pads, assisted by Kenny DeMerchant and Jack McGrath.
“[Dan] is a sophomore we don’t play much, but he scores a goal every time we put him out there,” said Spillane. That’s his third goal, so putting players out there like that lets the upperclassmen know their jobs are not secure.”
A minute later, Mansfield tied the score again. After a scramble in front of Ginley, freshman Chris Jenkins got the final touch (Cullen Murphy was credited on the score sheet) to make it 2-2, despite the Hornets being outshot 12-7 in the period.
“The issue in the second period was that we played their game; we didn’t play our game,” said Balazarini. “We were flooding the neutral zone, taking away their D-to-D pass, and then we kind of strayed away from that.”
Franklin got the break it needed 2:24 into the third period, when Nasuti saw his shot find the back of the net.
“It’s tough,” Balzarini said. “They were getting pucks to the net from everywhere. They did a good job at that. It is what it is. That’s hockey. But we didn’t stop and we had some good chances.”
The Panthers were on top on the scoreboard and on the ice, but Mansfield had its chances to get back into the game. Matt Farragher twice in the span of a minute came flying down the right wing and had a shot from the edge of the circle but Ginley (22 saves) was able to glove one and stand tall to stop the other.
Franklin doubled its lead on the power play with 2:09 remaining. Assad pushed the puck to Miller behind the goal and dashed to the net. Miller passed it back out in front and Assad roofed it for a 4-2 lead. O’Rielly made sure of the two points with an empty net goal (his second) in the final minute.
“I like the way we competed in the second and third periods,” said Spillane. “Our forecheck really came to life, our speed jumped out, and the goals came, but that should be consistent every game, every shift.”
After a trying week, Spillane was happy to see the Panthers bounce off their uncustomary position at the bottom of the league standings. He said, “I think we’re going to see this every game in the Hockomock League. Once the message was sent that they’re beatable. we’re going to get everyone’s ‘A’ game. There’s no gimmes, at least not for us.”