Canton Blanks Newburyport For Spot In D2 Final Four

Canton boys hockey
Canton junior Brian Middleton takes a shot in the first period against Newburyport. (Ryan Lanigan/
 BUZZARDS BAY, Mass. — Ever since Canton and Newburyport faced off in back-to-back state championship games in 2009 and 2010, the two storied programs have played one another during the regular season.

For the first time since then, the two squads squared off again in the postseason. And similar to how this year’s regular season meeting went, Canton emerged with a shutout win.

Junior Colin Blake and senior Jeff Chaput scored second period goals and the third-seeded Bulldogs notched a 2-0 win over the sixth-seeded Clippers to book a spot in the Division 2 Final Four for the second straight season.

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“It felt almost workmanlike,” said Canton head coach Brian Shuman about his team’s performance. “We have so much respect for [Newburyport], me and Paul Yameen go way back, we’ve played each other since meeting in the finals. There’s a tremendous amount of respect that these two programs have for each other. I can’t say enough about their program, they play a tough hard-nosed, blue-collar type of hockey and you can’t help but appreciate it as a coach. It was a good hockey game.”

The Bulldogs earned a 2-0 win on the road in mid-January over the Clippers and have had Newburyport’s number lately, going 6-0-2 since the start of the 2015 season.

The familiarity was apparent from the opening faceoff as the Clippers made things difficult for the Bulldogs. Newburyport was clogging both passing and shooting lanes and their forecheck was doing just enough to disrupt Canton’s rhythm working out of their own zone.

Scoring chances were at a premium early with a mix of blocked shots, deflected passes, and a lot of neutral zone battles. As the period went on, the teams worked to find opportunities and the best chance for both sides came inside the final five minutes.

For Canton, it was junior Brian Middleton that unleashed a low shot through some traffic that was turned aside by Newburyport goalie Jameson Brooks with a pad save and the big rebound ended up just outside the reach of the stick of Jack Digirolamo. Seconds later, the Clippers had their best chance when Kane Brennan got an open shot off but Canton goalie Colin Davis gobbled it up.

The Clippers went on the power play for the final 48 seconds of the opening period but a clearance from Chaput followed by good offensive zone pressure from James Young and Blake kept the game scoreless at the horn.

After killing 72 seconds of power play to start the second period, Canton really tilted the ice in its favor with heavy pressure. Newburyport was unable to sustain any offensive zone time and managed just one shot on goal in the frame.

Canton went on its first power play just over three minutes into the period and needed just over a minute to take advantage. Junior Brendan Tourgee gained the zone with a creative self pass off the boards, skated behind the net, and dished a pass out to the blue line to junior Matt Anderson. Anderson stepped into a big shot and Blake, positioned right in front of the goal, got his stick on it with a great redirect to beat Brooks for a 1-0 lead with 10:46 to go in the second period.

Another Canton power play was canceled out with a slash but Newburyport couldn’t muster anything up with their 68 seconds on the man advantage.

The Bulldogs grabbed a second goal before the end of the period as Tourgee teed up senior Leo Owens for a blast from the blue line. Brooks made the initial stop but Chaput was in the right spot and lifted a backhand past the goalie to make it 2-0 with 1:50 left in the second period.

“Strangely enough, I think you try and forget the first meeting,” Shuman said. “That first game was not a 3-0 game, it could have gone either way. In both games, we got a couple of bounces and they didn’t. That’s what always happens when we play them, I don’t think there’s been a game we’ve played them with the winning team more than three goals. It’s always tight checking, a tight defensive game. You can see it on the kid’s faces, they are just working, working, working and when you’re working that hard, it can be hard to have room left for that euphoria, that emotion.”

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Canton continued to quell any and every Newburyport foray into the offensive zone. Davis came up with one of the biggest stops of the game with 6:35 left, denying Brennan on a point-blank chance. Beyond that, Canton’s defense did a great job limiting further opportunities.

“The defense was outstanding,” Shuman said. “It’s similar to how we played last game against Wilmington, really limiting shots and getting the puck out of our zone quickly. Sometimes the best defense is to bring the puck up well and we really did that well in the second. We tensed up a little bit in the third and had some turnovers, but Colin was there to back us and bail us out.”

Canton’s three-game shutout streak so far in the playoffs will face a major test in the Division 2 Final Four against #2 Duxbury. The Dragons have outscored opponents 22-0 so far in three playoff games. The time, date, and location for that matchup are still to be announced.

Foxboro Picks Off Newburyport In Playoff Opener

Foxboro football
Foxboro senior Tre Stith hauls in an interception in the second quarter. Stith returned it for Foxboro’s third pick six of the game. (Ryan Lanigan/
 FOXBORO, Mass. – Foxboro’s defense needed just one play to put its stamp on the playoff opener against Newburyport.

By halftime, the Warriors’ defense had a season’s worth of highlights.

Foxboro football

Foxboro had its first of three first half pick-sixes on the very first play of the game, added a blocked punt before the break, and the third-seeded Warriors rolled to a 45-13 win over #14 Newburyport in the first round of the Division 4 tournament.

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Senior Dylan Gordon continued his spectacular season by returning the first pass of the game 22-yards to the house, added a rushing touchdown on Foxboro’s first offensive series of the game, and tacked on a 47-yard pick-six with just under three minutes left in the opening quarter.

Senior Tre Stith also had an interception returned for a touchdown from 45 yards out, senior Tom Marcucella tossed a pair of touchdowns — one to classmate Tom Sharkey and one to classmate Nick Medeiros — and sophomore Brandon Mazenkes-O’Grady blocked a punt that led to a field goal from junior Sam Carpenter.

“From what we saw on film, they had some weapons,” said Foxboro head coach Jack Martinelli. “We knew that had a kid coming back that had been out and their quarterback can make things up but we kind of kept him in check. We jumped out with those interceptions for touchdowns and that kind of made the rest of the way easier.”

On the first play, the pass popped off the chest of the intended receiver and Gordon snatched it from the air, sprinting down the right sideline and into the end zone for a 7-0 lead just 10 seconds into the game. It marked Gordon’s second straight game with an interception return for a touchdown.

Foxboro football

Foxboro got the ball back after the Clippers’ drive stalled near midfield but it didn’t take long for the Warriors to march down field. In fact, it took just four plays and each one was a handoff to Gordon. After over 30 yards on the first three carries, Gordon broke free up the left side following some nice blocks from Steve Bridges and Ryan Addeche, breaking away for a 45-yard touchdown as he outran the Newburyport secondary across the field and into the end zone.

As the Clippers tried to orchestrate an answer, their drive came to another sudden halt. On the fifth play, facing a 3rd and 7, the pass over the middle was sniffed out by Gordon and he found space along the left sideline for a 47-yard pick-six, his 29th total touchdown of the season (20 rushing, six receiving, three interception returns).

“I’m amazed every week, the numbers he’s put up this year are inconceivable from my perspective,” Martinelli said of Gordon. “He does it on both sides of the ball too. Defensively, he’s got that something you can’t teach, that knack. You can put kids in position but he takes it the next step and executes. It’s kind of uncanny. I haven’t seen a kid like him in a long time to be honest.”

While Gordon only had 95 yards on the ground, he averaged over 11 yards per carry. He’s gone over 200 yards of offense in five games this season. Foxboro’s offense only ran 12 plays in the first half and scored on a quarter of them.

Rashaad Way had a big punt return to give Foxboro great field possession but the Warriors’ offense stalled some with a pair of incomplete passes and Foxboro settled for a 38-yard boot through the uprights from Carpenter.

The Warriors started their next drive at their own 45-yard line but quickly moved down the field. After a couple of runs from Gordon, Marcucella went with the play fake and had time in the pocket with good protection from Dylan Kerrigan, Aidan Hughes, and Andrew Finn. Medeiros released up the middle and was wide open for a 21-yard touchdown and a 31-0 lead with 6:50 left in the second quarter.

Newburyport was forced into a three-and-out on its next series but the punt was blocked by Mazenkes-O’Grady, who came flying in from the left side and leaped with his hands raised. The ball bounced all the way back to the Clippers’ own 20-yard line.

On the first play, Marcucella fired a quick pass to the left sideline to Sharkey and he used his speed to race past the defense and into the endzone for a 16-yard touchdown.

Foxboro football

The Foxboro defense added a cherry on top of what was already an impressive first half when Stith hauled in an interception and was able to break free from the receiver and go in for a 45-yard touchdown and a 45-0 lead at halftime.

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“I kind of like it because there’s no preconceived notion on prior games, they just go out and do what they can do,” Martinelli said of the new statewide format and playing new teams. “You can see film but you don’t always know the quality of the opponent or get to see them physically. [Newburyport] has some good young kids so they’ll be good again next year.”

With a comfortable lead, the Warriors were able to take out all of its starters on both sides of the ball. Newburyport scored on a 62-yard interception return from Jack Hadden in the third quarter and then quarterback Finn Sullivan kept it for a 19-yard rushing score in the fourth.

Foxboro football

Foxboro (8-1) will return to the Ahern Middle School next week for a D4 Quarterfinal matchup with #11 Wilmington, who knocked off #6 Middleboro on Friday night. The game is set for a 7:00 PM kickoff.