North Shrugs Off Slow Start, Rallies to Beat Foxboro

North Attleboro Boys Hockey
Sam Clarke (19) skates over to celebrate with Nik Kojoian after the Rocketeers battled back from three goals down against Foxboro to tie the game late in the second period. (Josh Pery/HockomockSports.com)

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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.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

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.”

North Attleboro (7-5) will play Bishop Feehan in a charity game and there is the possibility of a third meeting with Foxboro (4-6) at the NESV to close out the season on Sunday.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Friday’s Schedule & Scoreboard – 02/12/21

Today’s games are listed below.

Boys Basketball
Canton, 50 @ North Attleboro, 52 – Final (OT)Click here for a recap and photo gallery of this game.

Oliver Ames, 66 @ Sharon, 47 – FinalAfter a close first quarter, Oliver Ames broke the game wide open with 22 points in the second frame and never looked back for a win on the road. The Tigers held a slim 11-10 lead after eight minutes of action before winning the second, 22-6. Kevin Duggan scored six of his eight points in the frame, Amari Brown (17 points) and Trey Buggs (career-high 15 points) each had four while Drew Baxter (15 points) and CJ Santos each connected from downtown. OA had a total of nine players reach the scoring column, owning a 33-16 halftime lead and a 49-24 advantage through three quarters. Sophomore Matt Baur led the hosts in scoring with 16 points while junior Sam Cohen added 10 points.

Attleboro, 55 @ Foxboro, 33 – FinalAttleboro used its pressure man-to-man defense to force turnovers and cashed in in transition on its way to a win on the road over Foxboro. The Bombardiers jumped out to a 16-7 lead after a quarter and then had its best offensive period in the second with 21 points. Evan Houle scored 10 of his 13 points in the opening half, Justin Daniels had eight of his nine by the break, and Alec Eaton scored all seven of his points in the first half for Attleboro, who had 10 players get into the scoring column. Junior Dylan Gordon led Foxboro with 13 points while senior Myles Horsley and sophomore Alex Penders each had nine points.

Girls Basketball
North Attleboro, 51 @ Canton, 67 – FinalCanton led by four after one quarter but then went on an 18-8 run to close out the half with a double-digit lead. North tried to rally in the fourth, scoring 23 points in the quarter, but it wasn’t enough to mount a comeback. Amanda Kaiser was the top scorer for the Rocketeers with 16 points, 10 of them in the fourth. Taylor McMath scored 11 and Siobhan Weir added eight in the loss.

Mansfield, 63 @ Notre Dame Academy (Hingham), 60 – Final (OT)

Boys Hockey
Canton, 6 @ Oliver Ames, 0 – FinalClick here for a Photo Gallery from this game.

North Attleboro, 4 @ Stoughton, 0 – FinalClick here for a Photo Gallery from this game. North scored twice in the first and twice more in the third to pick up the road win. Nik Kojoian scored a pair of goals and assisted on another and Brady Sarro found the back of the net twice to lead the Rocketeers. Kyle Gruber had the shutout, including a big stop on a second period breakaway by Joe McNulty. Stoughton/Brockton goalie Ryan Spano (51 saves) had a strong game to keep the Black Knights in the game.

Gymnastics
Canton, 120.55 @ Franklin, 142.25 – Final

Taunton @ Oliver Ames, 8:30

Chaput Snipe Lifts Canton to Win Against North

Canton boys hockey
Sophomore Jeffrey Chaput celebrates his second period goal that turned out to be the game-winner for Canton against North Attleboro. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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CANTON, Mass. – North Attleboro got bodies in the way all game long, not letting pucks get through on goal, but sometimes it only takes a sliver of space to find the back of the net.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Sophomore Jeffrey Chaput got that one chance in the second period and buried it in the top corner and it turned out to be all that the Bulldogs would need. Canton added an empty net goal in the final minute and skated to a 2-0 victory over North Attleboro that puts the teams in a tie for first in the Davenport division.

“North Attleboro does a great job blocking shots, they always have,” said Canton coach Brian Shuman. “They sell out, they take away the shooting lanes. Also a failure on our part, too many shots above the knees, which are the easiest shots to block. We have to keep it low, along the ice, and find shooting lanes. Stop trying to go top shelf on their goalie and try to create more rebound opportunities.”

It was an even game, despite Canton’s edge in shots on goal. Both teams came out flying and the Bulldogs showed no rust from having a week off between games.

Shuman explained, “We’ve been fortunate enough to be skating normally, so I think that in itself is keeping us in a good flow and a good rhythm. We’re just lucky to be playing right now because there are a lot of teams that unfortunately aren’t.”

Jack Digirolamo sprung Brendan Tourgee down the left wing for an early chance that was saved by North goalie Kyle Gruber (23 saves). Andrew Valkanas stayed with the puck after his initial shot was blocked and had a good look coming off the right wing boards, but again Gruber stood tall.

The chances kept coming for Canton in the first. Digirolamo had a shot blocked in front and the rebound fell to Tourgee at the post, but the freshman forward was denied by the freshman goalie’s pad. AJ Thomas had another chance between the circles with a quick spin and shot but Gruber, who was making his first varsity start, was again equal to it.

“Why not?” chuckled North coach Ben McManama when asked about having his goalie make his debut against the Bulldogs. “I was a little worried about doing that but you can tell he’s a tough kid mentally and you know what? You’re going to have to learn sometime and we thought it would be good experience for him.”

North started to get more looks in the offensive zone as the first period wore on. Charlie Connolly angled a shot from the right point that was tipped in front by Joe Quinn, but went just wide of the post. In the final seconds of the first, Nik Kojoian pushed towards goal from the left circle but was denied at the post by Canton goalie Liam Polles (15 saves).

Despite starting on the kill, Canton dominated zone time in the second, keeping North pinned back in its defensive zone. Even with all that pressure, it was North that had the edge in shots on goal (6-5) in the period. The Rocketeers defensemen continually got in the way of shots and kept Canton out of the middle.

“It can be a little deceiving sometimes,” said McManama. “There may be a lot of zone time, but are we giving up quality shots? I think we didn’t give up too many except for the goal they scored. They did a good job of keeping everything to the outside and our goalie did a great job and we also helped him out.”

Jake Gruber had a good chance for North when he forced a turnover near his own blue line and then forced a blocker save from Polles on the other end of the ice. Mark Ayvazyan almost had a breakaway for the Rocketeers, but pulled up short of the crease to avoid a defenseman and then fired just wide.

By that point, Canton had gotten its one good chance. After a spell of pressure in the zone that saw a couple of shots blocked in front, the puck kicked out to Chaput just inside the left circle. He barely settled the puck before whipping a shot into the top corner that gave the goalie no chance.

“Jeff had a great shot and a quick shot, quick release that kind of surprised the goalie,” said Shuman. “He worked hard. He had the best game I’ve seen him play in his two years for us and he deserved that.”

The pattern continued in the third period, with Canton using its speed to gain the zone and put pressure on the North defense, but with the visitors holding firm and creating the occasional scoring opportunity on the other end.

“Coach Spillane said it best on the bench, let’s get some breathing room and get that goal early in the period,” Shuman said of Canton’s approach to the third period. (With his assistant coaches unavailable this week, Shuman asked former Franklin coach Chris Spillane to help out on the bench.) “We had a couple good chances, just couldn’t bury it.”

Sam Clarke nearly tied the game inside the first minute of the third. He blocked Jay Kelleher’s shot from the point and raced past the Canton defense before forcing a blocker stop from Polles.

It was a warning for the Bulldogs that the game wasn’t over. The best chance to double the lead came when Dylan Coyne’s shot from the slot was blocked and the rebound fell to Eddie Gillis, but his tip slid just wide of the post.

North came closest to tying the game with 2:30 remaining. Tyler Sarro stretched to tip a clearance in the neutral zone to avoid an icing and, after a battle behind the Canton net, the puck came out to Nick Longa on the edge of the crease. Polles kept his pads on the ice and was able to cover up.

Just a few seconds after North pulled its goalie, Canton wrapped up the win. Sam Carlino blocked a pass on one end, chased the puck down, and flicked into the empty net to make it 2-0 with 40.2 on the clock.

“We’re going to have to look at the film and see how we can generate more offense,” said McManama. “Sometimes they do such good job with our ‘D’ zone coverage that we get stuck down there. We’re going to have to work on ways to get ourselves better entries through the neutral zone.”

Canton (3-0) and North Attleboro (1-2) will meet again on Wednesday at the New England Sports Village.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Franklin Bounces Back With Shutout of North Attleboro

Franklin Boys Hockey
Franklin senior defenseman Justin Abely looks for an opening to shoot during a 4-0 road win against North Attleboro. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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ATTLEBORO, Mass. – Two days after suffering its first loss to King Philip in more than 20 years, and giving up five goals in the process, Franklin coach Anthony Sarno asked for a reaction from his team when they traveled to the New England Sports Village for a non-league matchup with North Attleboro.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Sarno got his wish, as the Panthers scored inside a minute, doubled the lead in the final minute of the second period, and tacked on two more in the third, while also keeping the Rocketeers off the board, skating away with a 4-0 victory.

“We told them on the bus ride home from that KP loss, you guys got outworked and it’s never going to happen again,” Sarno said. “I give them credit, they stepped up. They played the body, they moved the puck pretty well…all-in-all I thought we bounced back in a positive way.”

The Rocketeers were happy to be back on the ice for something other than a practice. North had a nine-day break between its season-opening win against Oliver Ames and Friday night’s game.

“Our start, you could see that we really haven’t played many games and there was a lot of rust in that first 10 minutes,” said North coach Ben McManama. “Unfortunately, we were in the right position but we kept fumbling pucks and not being sure on our sticks.”

Franklin needed only 55 seconds before breaking the deadlock with what turned out to be the game-winner. Pat Dolan took a shot from the left point that slipped under the pad of North goalie Jimmy Burtchh. As the puck trickled behind Burtch, Ben Jarosz was in the right place to slam the puck across the line.

It was a quick start for the Panthers and they tried to add to the lead. Conor O’Neil had a shot from between the circles saved and then Burtch (27 saves) recovered to stop Domenic Lampasona’s rebound effort. Dylan Marchand flew down the far boards and cut a pass back to Jarosz in front, but his backhander was stopped.

North had a few chances in the first, mostly from stepping up at the blue line and causing turnovers as Franklin tried to exit its zone. The best chance came with nine minutes left in the first, when Nik Kojoian picked off an outlet pass to give Tyler Sarro a good look at goal, but Franklin goalie Gary Mandia (17 saves) got his blocker to it.

Although Franklin would hold a significant edge in shots on goal (31-17 for the game), the Panthers didn’t feel like they had the game totally in control. Burtch came up with a pad stop on a Declan Lovett one-timer early in the second, but North had a couple chances to try and even things up.

Kojoian forced another turnover and this time set up Brady Sarro for a chance, but Mandia stopped the slap shot. A minute later, Gavin Arabian had a shot from the point that knuckled on its way to goal, but was casually blockered aside by Mandia.

O’Neil had a snap shot on the turn gloved and then Justin Abely broke up a North shorthanded rush and quickly turned it into a break the other way. Justin Magazu picked out Jarosz, but again Burtch showed a quick glove to keep the deficit at one.

“He did a good job,” McManama said of Burtch. “We didn’t do the little things to help him out. I thought our ‘D’ zone was okay, but we were giving too many odd-man rushes and the neutral zone we didn’t do a very good job with.”

With less than a minute remaining in the second, North was unable to clear its zone and Franklin turned it into a second goal. Sean Connelly with a perfect cross-ice pass to Lovett, who took a touch to settle the puck before sniping the far corner.

The momentum appeared to carry over into the third period because the Panthers came out flying and looking to put the game away. Jarosz nearly turned provider, setting up Ryan Sicchio right in front but the goalie was able to cover.

Sarno said, “When we’re at our best, we’re focused, we’re locked in, and our forecheck is working and we’re forcing teams back into their own net. We need to learn how to control our shots and our shot selection and location needs to be better.”

The Panthers dominated the opening four minutes of the period until a major penalty gave North life.

Anthony Westcott had North’s first shot of the third after more than five minutes and it sparked the Rocketeers into a little flurry that nearly produced a goal. Mandia came up with a couple big stops as North tried to cram the puck in at the post and then Charlie Connolly got free in the right circle and smashed a shot off the post and out.

A penalty against North would cut the power play short by two minutes and the hosts missed a golden opportunity to get back into the game.

“It was a good opportunity for us,” explained McManama. “I think they came with a lot of pressure and we weren’t used to it. We do it, but we’re not used to teams pressuring us in-zone as we’re breaking out. We’ve just got to practice that and be sure that we’re ready to go against an aggressive penalty kill.”

Franklin turned on the pressure again and put the game out of reach. Connelly was positioned perfectly to redirect Lovett’s shot from the point to make it 3-0 with 5:14 to play. Three minutes later, the Panthers nearly had a highlight-reel goal after a nice passing sequence between Jarosz, Siccio, and JT Dwyer only for Burtch to somehow get his heel on the backhand shot.

The Panthers only needed to wait 30 seconds longer to tack on a fourth. Magazu drove into the zone and flicked a pass to Marchand, who opened his body up and went high to the blocker side and into the side of the net.

Sarno said, “I think that kill gave us a lot of confidence and more momentum and from there it was just, okay we got this and let’s play good hockey now.”

Franklin (4-1) will host Taunton, in the season opener for the Tigers, on Wednesday. North Attleboro (1-1) will be back in action on Monday with a trip to division rival Canton.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Wednesday’s Schedule & Scoreboard – 01/06/21

Today’s games are listed below.

Boys Basketball
King Philip, 56 @ Mansfield, 75 – FinalMansfield senior Matt Boen poured in 30 points to lead the Hornets to a season-opening win over King Philip. The Hornets raced out to a 22-13 lead after one quarter, extended it to 40-24 by halftime, and put the game away with 26 points in the third quarter. Boen added six assists, five rebounds, five steals, and two blocks in a stellar all-around performance. Freshman Trevor Foley added 10 points and five rebounds in his debut and senior TJ Guy finished with 10 points and nine rebounds. King Philip sophomore Will Laplante impressed in his debut, hitting five three-pointers for 18 points.

Girls Basketball
Canton, 48 @ North Attleboro, 32 – FinalFay Gallery and Kiara Cerruti combined for 40 of Canton’s 48 points, as the Bulldogs rolled to a big road win in the season opener for both teams. Gallery got things going for Canton with 10 points in the first and the Bulldogs built a 14-6 lead. The visitors broke the game open in the second and took a 19-point edge into halftime. Gallery scored nine more before the break and had 19 of her game-high 22 in the first half. Cerruti scored seven in the second, added four in a low-scoring third quarter, and closed out the game with seven more in the fourth, finishing with 18 total. Summer Doherty led North with nine points, including seven in the third, Amanda Kaiser added six, and Taylor McMath had five.

Boys Hockey
North Attleboro, 5 @ Oliver Ames, 1 – FinalNorth Attleboro exploded for four goals in the middle period to earn a season-opening win on the road over Oliver Ames at Asiaf Arena. Jake Gruber redirected a shot from Sean Mahoney to put the Rocketeers on the board and goalie Jimmy Burtch denied a Tiger penalty shot in the first. In the second, Nik Kojoian, Brady Sarro, Mark Ayvazyan, and Charlie Connolly each found the back of the net. Ross Carroll scored for OA in the second period. Sophomore Brandon Burke made 41 saves for the Tigers.

Franklin, 4 @ Foxboro, 2 – FinalFranklin scored three straight goals between the first and second periods to seize the lead, and tacked on an empty net goal with just four seconds to go to earn a hard-fought win over Foxboro. Thomas Marcucella scored midway through the opening period to put Foxboro ahead 1-0 but Franklin’s Dylan Marchand tied it up with under two minutes to go in the period. Justin Abely scored to put the Panthers up 2-1 with 5:42 left in the second and Sean Connelly scored two minutes later to make it 3-1. Foxboro’s Brady Daly cut into the deficit and the Warriors had a power play chance that followed but couldn’t find the tying goal. Marchand iced it with the empty net goal. Will Sheehan had two assists for Franklin while JT Dwyer and Ben Jarosz each had one. Jack Paterson (27 saves) earned the win in net.

Attleboro, 0 @ Canton, 7 – FinalCanton scored three goals in the opening period and added four more in the third to pick up a win over Attleboro in the first game of the season for both teams. Eamon Kelly scored twice while AJ Thomas, Jeff Chaput, Dylan Coyne, Tommy Phaneuf, and James Delello each scored once in the win.

Girls Hockey
Franklin, 0 @ Canton, 4 – FinalClick here for a Recap and Photo Gallery from this game.

Boys Swimming
Franklin, 100 @ Milford, 54 – Final
Oliver Ames @ North Attleboro – Postponed to TBD.

Girls Swimming
Franklin, 105 @ Milford, 52 – Final
Oliver Ames @ North Attleboro – Postponed to TBD.

Gymnastics
Canton vs. Attleboro, 2:15

2020-2021 Hockomock Boys Hockey Preview

2020-2021 Hockomock Boys Hockey Preview
Mansfield and North Attleboro clashed on the ice in January 2020. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

By HockomockSports.com Staff

2020-2021 Hockomock Boys Hockey Preview

Attleboro

2019-2020 Record: 5-14-1
2019-2020 Finish: Missed postseason
Coach: Greg Chamberlain
Attleboro struggled down the stretch last season, losing nine of its final 11 games (five of those losses by two goals or fewer) and narrowly missing out on a postseason berth. Former Canton assistant Greg Chamberlain has taken over this season with the goal of making the Bombardiers competitive in the Kelley-Rex division.

Goalie will be a position of strength this year, as Attleboro has three players that can step in between the pipes. Junior Nick Piazza will be the starter after a breakout sophomore year where he made nearly 500 saves. Junior Michael DuTremble and freshman Julien Horton are the other goalies on the roster. In front of Piazza, Attleboro has three solid pairings. Senior Owen Dryjowicz moved from forward to defense late last season and looked comfortable on the blue line. Junior Sean Marshall and senior Zack Pierce are also returning defenders that the Bombardiers are counting on.

Offensively, the Bombardiers will miss the scoring of Ryan Morry, who led the team with 21 points, but with several returning players Attleboro has the potential to put together solid forward lines. Senior Aidan Dryjowicz is the team’s top returning scorer with nine goals and classmate Jake Ward, junior Nate Parker, and freshman winger Dane Holskie have the potential to contribute to the attack this season.

“I think the key to this season,” said Chamberlain, “is that everyone needs to pull their weight. If you look around the league teams that win have three or four lines that they can roll out every night. That is going to be the name of the game for us. Keeping it simple and do your job.”

Canton

2019-2020 Record: 21-1-3
2019-2020 Finish: Div. 2 State Co-Champion
Coach: Brian Shuman
Although Canton didn’t get the chance to go to the TD Garden to face Lincoln-Sudbury and try to avenge its only loss of the past two seasons, the Bulldogs brought home a second straight Div. 2 state championship. Even for a program with the sustained success of Canton, last year’s senior class had a uniquely impressive record and that class’ graduation leaves a lot of holes that new faces will need to step into.

Last year’s top scorers, Johnny Hagan and Chris Lavoie, combined for 37 goals and 68 points, so it will be tough to reproduce that output. Senior Dylan Coyne will be hoping to make up some of that scoring punch and the Bulldogs will hope junior Eamon Kelly can return from an injury and get back to the form he showed last year.

While the defense was also hit hard by graduation, Canton returns a pair of defensemen that saw considerable time on the blue line last season. Junior Sean Connolly and sophomore Vincent Sica both jumped right into the lineup and looked comfortable competing at the top level, but this year they will also be experienced veterans and leaders in that group. Senior Liam Polles will get the chance to jump in goal this year.

Canton coach Brian Shuman said, “I can say that after the first two weeks, things are certainly different in many ways, but I am confident that we will adapt and adjust like most teams our league to give our players a much-needed physical outlet and important connection to a team.”

Foxboro

2019-2020 Record: 12-5-5
2019-2020 Finish: Reached Div. 3 South Semifinal
Coach: Mark Cedorchuk
Foxboro has grown by leaps and bounds in recent seasons. Each of the past three years have seen the Warriors set a new standard for the best season in program history, culminating in last winter’s 12 wins and run to the Div. 3 South semifinal.

Depth at the forward line will be a strength this season and Foxboro should be capable of scoring plenty of goals. Senior forward Kirk Leach was second in the Hock last year with 20 goals and he leads an experienced group. Junior Jack Watts had 13 goals and 14 assists last year and is another big, physical forward. Senior Brady Daly will look to add to his nine points from last season and junior Eoin Reager can play multiple positions, including forward, and added 14 points as a sophomore.

The Warriors will obviously miss former Hock MVP Espen Raeger, who was one of the league’s top goalies. Senior Jack Spinney was the backup goalie last year and could step in between the pipes after seeing a few minutes of action as a junior. Junior Dylan Pothier and sophomore Alex Coviello are two of the returning defensemen from last year’s team and both played big roles in the team’s strong performance in the postseason. Eoin Reager can also play in the back line.

“We have a lot of forwards returning, so the depth is there,” said Foxboro coach Mark Cedorchuk. “We also have a lot of skilled defenseman holding the blue line. Looking forward to the season, even though it will look and feel a lot different, I’m just happy for our guys get to play.”




Franklin

2019-2020 Record: 11-8-4
2019-2020 Finish: Reached Div. 1 South Semifinal
Coach: Anthony Sarno

Head coach Anthony Sarno can’t help but wonder what could have been for this season. Franklin had a strong group of returners back from last year’s squad and Sarno had a schedule filled with top teams from around the state ready to see how his Panthers stacked up to the elite talent. But now Franklin will focus on its 10-game Hockomock schedule with a chance to prove it’s the top team in the league.

Franklin will rely on its senior class to lead the way. The Panthers will be very solid in the back, starting with senior goalie Jack Paterson. After serving in a backup capacity previously, Paterson steps into the starting role but is getting pushed in practice by classmate Gary Mandia. Along the blue line, Franklin has plenty of familiar names with the likes of Joe LeBlanc (nine points), Will Sheehan, Justin Abely, and Pat Dolan — all four are seniors with a good amount of varsity experience.

Offensively, the Panthers have a good variety of attacking options led by last year’s HockomockSports.com Underclassman of the Year Dylan Marchand (13 points). Sarno is carrying 20 players and plans to use them all, rolling four lines offensively. JT Dwyer and Declan Lovett are both senior centers and have been strong in the face off circle so far. Sophomore Ben Jarosz should see an expanded role after getting some time last year. Franklin will look to expand on its puck possession after making the switch from a dump-and-chase team.

“We were looking forward to playing against some of the best teams in the state but we’re going to make the most of this opportunity,” Sarno said. “We’re going to give it our all each game. We’ve going to practice as hard as we play in games, the energy the kids have brought has been contagious. We’re treating every game like a playoff game, that’s the type of energy we want to bring to each game.”

King Philip

2019-2020 Record: 10-6-5
2019-2020 Finish: Reached Div. 1 South First Round
Coach: Paul Carlow
King Philip pushed Franklin to the final week of the regular season in its quest to win a first league title since 2013 (and end the nine-year reign for the Panthers in the Kelley-Rex). The Warriors did get back into the postseason, although again Franklin stood in the way in the preliminary round, and will return 13 players to make another run at that elusive league championship.

Experience on both ends of the ice will be the strength for KP this season, with eight seniors and eight juniors on the roster, including a pair of four-year players. Senior forward Conor Cooke and senior defenseman Rocco Bianculli have been critical players for each of the past three seasons. Bianculli is not only a leader at the blue line, but also one of the league’s top offensive defenders. KP returns three of its top four scorers from last year. In addition to Bianculli, senior Aidan Boulger and junior Nolan Feyler provide the scoring punch on the forward line and are a good mix with Cooke’s physical presence up front. Seniors Paul McDonald and Justin Yatsuhashi add speed and depth.

Defensively, senior David Lawler will join Bianculli on the blue line. More of a defensive-minded player, Lawler adds solidity in his own zone and is counted on to make the right plays under pressure. Seniors Shea Cunningham and Geoff Bowes are also returning defensemen that couple size and experience around their own net. Sophomore Kyle Abbott will take over between the pipes

“As always we are looking to build on last year and compete for the league title,” said KP coach Paul Carlow. “Our team this season has some good experience. We also have some real skill and speed in the younger group.”

Mansfield

2019-2020 Record: 7-8-6
2019-2020 Finish: Reached Div. 1 South First Round
Coach: Mike Balzarini

The Hornets aren’t focusing on how many games are on the schedule but focusing on taking it one game at a game instead. Mansfield brings back a lot of players that picked up varsity experience last season during the team’s postseason run.

Replacing three-year starter Sean McCafferty in goal won’t be easy but head coach Mike Balzarini has praised the work of Chris Hormann, who will be taking over in between the pipes. Balzarini said Hormann learned a lot last season in his backup role, is coming off a stellar fall season and has looked strong so far in practice this year. Captain Jake Quirk will anchor the blue line unit for the Hornets and will be joined by some familiar faces. Senior Joseph Gormley will bring a lot of experience to the defensive group and will be joined by sophomore Patrick Gormley as well as Ben Levine and James Hughes.

Senior captain Cam Page will spearhead the attack for the Hornets this season. Mansfield lost most of its point production to graduation so there will be plenty of opportunities for new faces to take advantage of. Mark DiDiralamo, Kyle Oakley, Dillon Benoit, Ryan Doherty, and Liam Anastasia are all in the mix for the top six for Mansfield.

“It’s a shortened season but we have looked good thus far in practice and in our scrimmage,” Balzarini said. “We’re looking to push the pace this year and play a faster-paced game.”

North Attleboro

2019-2020 Record: 7-8-6
2019-2020 Finish: Reached Div. 2 South Preliminary Round
Coach: Ben McManama

On the ice, it’s been business as usual for the Red Rocketeers, who have a strong returning core ready to make a run at dethroning Canton atop the Davenport division. The biggest challenges for head coach Ben McManama and his squad so far have been adapting to all of the changes off of the ice.

Expectations are high for the Big Red with some familiar names at each position. The most returners come from the offense where the Rocketeers have a handful of forwards back, giving McManama the flexibility to run at least three lines. Senior captain Tyler Sarro will be a leader on and off the ice and will be joined by his brother Brady as the wings on the top line. Nik Kojoian is back after missing almost all of last season and will center the top line. McManama notes his second and third lines are interchangeable, more “2A” and “2B” rather than second and third lines. Juniors Sam Clarke and Nick Longa and sophomores Mark Ayvazyan and Joe Quinn will all be in the mix.

The Rocketeers will have a lot of spots to fill along the blue line after graduating a strong corps of defensemen from last winter. Senior Charlie Connolly and junior Austin Comery are the veterans in the group, entering this season with the most experience. McManama has tabbed junior Anthony Westcott as another option along the blue line while the final spot is up for grabs. Senior James Burtch will take over in net for the Rocketeers while freshman Kyle Gruber is pushing for time.

“The big thing for us this year is being a system team,” McManama said. “We have to be disciplined with our system. We’re really harping on sticking to our system and what we do, and we have to be really disciplined and do our jobs. That’s how we’re going to generate goals and it’s going to be how we stop shots too, it works on both ends. We’ve had great practices, it’s been fun getting the kids back.”




Oliver Ames

2019-2020 Record: 6-13-2
2019-2020 Finish: Missed postseason
Coach: Mike Zucarelli
Oliver Ames finished 2019-20 with six wins, but also had four losses by a single goal (all four to teams in the playoffs), so the Tigers were closer to earning a postseason berth under first-year coach Mike Zuccarelli than the final record may indicate. This season, the Tigers return to the Davenport division for the first time since 2016 and with only six returning players there will be opportunities for new faces to step in and contribute right away.

Seniors Ross Carroll and Matt Nigro will provide leadership in the forward line and much-needed experience for a young group. Sophomores Sean McCarthy and Jack Perron both saw action last year and their development will be important for the Tigers to get consistent production from the forward lines.

Defensively, senior Kevin Tremblay and junior Elliot Cohen both grew into bigger roles last year and will be expected to lead the blue line corps this season. Sophomore Brandon Burke will take over in net after backing up Owen Connor last winter. Zuccarelli is also counting on a strong freshman group to come in and provide an instant impact and is excited about the potential for the program going forward.

“Patience and resilience are going to be two major themes this year as we have already experienced,” said Zucarelli. “Our goal is to grow as a team and tackle each challenge we are presented together both on and off the ice. I am confident with our senior leadership, outstanding assistant coaches, and the support we receive from the OA community that we will have a season to remember.”

Stoughton

2019-2020 Record: 4-16-1
2019-2020 Finish: Missed postseason
Coach: Dan Mark

After an up-and-down first year in a co-op with Brockton, the Black Knights are aiming for an improved 2021 season. After a year away, Stoughton is back in Hockomock League competition and will be vying for the Davenport title.

With just four players gone to graduation, longtime head coach Dan Mark has a veteran squad at his disposal for the upcoming 10-game schedule plus a small postseason planned. The foundation of the team starts between the pipes as the Black Knights have two goalies back with experience. Sophomore Chris Andrade will compete with senior Ryan Spano for the starting job in net.

In front of goal, Mark is leaning on a trio of juniors plus one senior to get the job done. Senior Kenny Young will be joined along the blue line by Josh Greenspoon, Anthony Hern, and Steven Westerlund — all returners from a season ago. Offensively, the Black Knights will turn three-year starters in junior Colin Alessi and Joe McNulty to anchor the offense. They’ll be joined by seniors Kyle Cruickshank, Cade O’Connell, Mike Andrade, and Ryan Flannery to bolster the attack.

“We have a veteran team blended with some younger players and are looking to improve on last year’s record,” Mark said.

Taunton

2019-2020 Record: 10-11-3
2019-2020 Finish: Reached Div. 2 South First Round
Coach: Kris Metea

Taunton is returning a plethora of players from last year’s varsity squad that had double-digit wins and made a trip to the postseason. Now, the Tigers are just hoping to play a complete — albeit shortened — season.

The Tigers got a couple of days on the ice before the school district paused all athletic activities over the winter break. Head coach Kris Metea and his 18 returning players are hoping to resume practice on Monday and get their season back on track. While the break will certainly be a setback for the Tigers, having such an experienced squad will help when Taunton does get back on the ice. Leading the way will be a pair of defensemen: senior captain and Hockomock League All Star Brady Nichols and junior Jack DeMoura, a HockomockSports.com All-Underclassman Team selection.

Having reliable options on the blue line will be key as the Tigers sort out the situation between the pipes. Senior Jason Frates, who only has a handful of years of experience at the position, is set to start in net. Offensively, the challenge will be replacing the production from Michael Albert, one of the most productive players in program history. Metea will look to juniors Nathan Fernandes and Loren Corcoran as well as sophomores Colton Scheralis and Connor McGrath to replicate that production. Senior Camden Faria will be a leader of the offensive group

“2020 has been a challenging time and we are hoping that athletics can provide respite for players and families as we enter 2021,” Metea said. “We will take whatever games guidelines allows us to play and be thankful for the opportunity to skate in the presence of friends!”

Taunton Bunkers Down to Beat North in D2 Playoffs

Taunton boys hockey
Taunton players celebrate Michael Albert’s game-tying goal in the second period against North Attleboro. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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ATTLEBORO, Mass. – Coming into Sunday afternoon’s Div. 2 South preliminary round game, Taunton had never beaten North Attleboro. The Tigers had a couple of ties against the Rocketeers prior to joining the Hockomock League, but no wins. They found the perfect time to change that record.

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Behind a strong performance from senior goalie Sean Bunker (36 saves) and a pair of breakaway goals, Taunton came from behind for 2-1 victory at the New England Sports Village, overcoming North’s 37-14 edge in shots on goals.

“He played awesome,” Taunton coach Kris Metea said. “He has big game experience. He knows that no rebounds means no goals, and he controlled everything, he smothered everything, and got us whistles. He did everything we needed him to do.”

Bunker made 17 saves in the first period alone and had several memorable stops, including a diving glove save to rob Jack Connolly in the opening period, a big pad stop on a Dennis Morehouse breakaway with three minutes to play, and a flash of his glove to stop Will Yeomans in the final minute.

“There were a lot of pucks lying around that we’ve got put it in,” North coach Ben McManama said. “We’ve got to bear down, but that’s been us all year. We want the easy goals but we’ve got to work harder to get those dirty, greasy goals. I thought we played pretty well.”

North came out flying to start the game, putting 18 shots on goal in the first and using its size and physicality to keep the Tigers pinned back in the defensive zone. Matt McSweeney had a chance at the post after a puck rebounded off the back boards, but Bunker got his pad down to make the stop and to block the ensuing scrum.

After five minutes, the pressure paid off with the opening goal. Tyler Sarro drove down the right wing and got below the goal line before firing a pass to the edge of the crease where Brady Sarro was on hand to redirect the pass through the five-hole from point-blank range.

Taunton had a couple of chances in the first. Michael Albert had a shot from the right circle on a quick transition and Colton Scheralis had a pair of chances at the post that Nick Digiacomo (12 saves) was able to smother.

The Rocketeers thought they had doubled their lead with three minutes left in the period. Morehouse gained the zone and fired a shot towards goal that took a deflection to Connolly at the far post. The forward knocked the loose puck towards what appeared to be an empty net, only to have Bunker dive across and make the stop.

In the second period, North managed eight shots, but struggled at times to gain the zone. The Taunton defense looked more comfortable than in the first, although Metea said there were no significant changes between periods.

“We knew that in the first period we were going to have to weather the storm,” Metea explained. “We said, you’re in the game, just keep doing what you have to do, box it up, stay tight, wait for your opportunities. They stayed with it and it was awesome.”

With 11:32 left in the second, Taunton used its lone scoring chance of the period to tie the game. Connor McGrath flipped a puck out of the zone and the North defense struggled to control the bounce. Albert pounced and got a free skate at goal. Taunton’s leading scorer planted a shot just under the bar on the glove save to make it 1-1.

North had a flurry late in the period. Jeff Baker picked out Nick Longa right in front of goal, but Bunker made the pad stop. Jake McNeany was allowed to skate right down the slot but his chance went just wide and then McSweeney collected the loose puck and forced another big save from the Taunton netminder.

“They give us fits because they block shots, they do the right things, and they’re tougher in front of the net then we are,” said McManama. “That’s it. They were tougher in the dirty areas and my hat’s off to them. We’ve got to play through that better.”

Both teams had chances early in the third to try and grab the lead. North used the defensemen and threw bodies in front to try and cause problems for Bunker. On the other end, Digiacomo had to be quick with the blocker to stop a shot through a screen.

Connolly had a pair of chances for the Rocketeers. He drove behind the net and faked Bunker out to open space at the post, but the puck rolled off his stick as he went to score. Sam Clarke then set Connolly up inside the right face-off dot but he sent his shot just past the top corner.

“We missed the net a ton tonight,” said McManama. “We had a lot of shots on goal but we had even more shot attempts, a ton more. We’ve got to hit the net.”

The missed chances came back to haunt North. Scheralis slipped a puck through a pair of defensemen at the blue line and into the path of fellow freshman McGrath. The forward raced in alone on goal and showed great composure to fire a shot into the top corner for a shock lead.

Metea said, “We knew that they come in so hard that one pass through the ‘D’ will probably allow us to flip it out to center and allow our wings to go to work. I felt confident we could beat them in a footrace and we got the chances off that and I’m thankful that they stepped in.”

North was increasingly desperate for an equalizer as time wore down, but Bunker continued to be unbeatable. He stuffed Morehouse on a break down the right wing and then showed quick hands to deny Yeomans after Nik Kojoian teed him up right in front of goal.

“North played great, but Sean was equal to the test,” said Metea. “Goaltenders are the greatest equalizer and if you have a good one then you’re going to be in games.”

Taunton (10-9-3) will try to get some more strong play from Bunker and upset another league opponent when it travels to top seed Canton on Wednesday night.

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Rocketeers Punch Playoff Ticket With Tie Against KP

King Philip North Attleboro boys hockey
North Attleboro’s Mark Ayvazyan (right) makes a diving poke check on King Philip’s Rocco Bianculli in the third period. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
 
ATTLEBORO, Mass. – It might not have been a win, but it was mission accomplished for the North Attleboro boys hockey team.

The Rocketeers erased a two-goal deficit over the final 22 minutes of play to secure a 3-3 tie with Hockomock rival King Philip, and with the point, North Attleboro punches its ticket to the state tournament.

“They were outstanding,” said North Attleboro head coach Ben McManama after his Rocketeers controlled the third period from start to finish. “We knew we needed our best period of hockey and they delivered. I think it was obvious how hard we worked, how well we worked together and how we stuck to our systems. It was fun to watch.”

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The Big Red comeback started, surprisingly enough, on the heels of King Philip’s second goal of the second period. The Warriors had leveled the scoring in the first period, tying the game through 15 minutes, and went on to tack on two goals in the first eight minutes of the second period.

Sophomore Nolan Feyler put KP ahead just 1:18 into the second and scored his second with 6:59 left in the period as the Warriors looked poised to skate away with the game, up 3-1 with three straight goals.

But North Attleboro responded in a timely manner, using a smart hustle play that gave the hosts life. Senior Dennis Morehouse found classmate Jack Connolly entering the zone on the left side and Connolly unleashed a low shot. King Philip goalie Jesper Makudera (25 saves) made the pad stop but North sophomore Nik Kojoian made a great read and won the race to the loose puck, batting the rebound in to make it 3-2.

The goal came just 43 seconds after the Warriors built their two-goal advantage.

“That’s the type of play we needed,” McManama said. “It’s just the little things we talk about. That’s getting the puck to the net, shooting it low and someone else driving hard. That’s hockey, it’s basic and something we preach all the time but we get away from it. Now we’re getting some goals off it so they are seeing it works.

“That’s a very good team we played and I thought we played.”

Makudera came up with a big stick save to stop a five-hole shot from Morehouse with 15 seconds left and North Attleboro goalie Nick Digiacomo (15 saves) was equal to the task on a shot from KP’s Conor Cooke with less than a second to go.

Trailing by just a goal with the postseason a point away, the Rocketeers put together a terrific third period. And it didn’t take long for the hosts to pull even. Just under five minutes into the period, Jeff Baker had his bid knocked away but Morehouse was quick to pounce on the loose puck and blasted it into the back of the net to make it 3-3 with 10:48 to go.

North had a couple of looks at the winner but couldn’t get another put back Makudera. Connolly came flying down the left side and rifled a shot that was covered up. Minutes later, North’s Tyler Sarro and Jake McNeany were inches from a loose puck in front of goal but Makudera dove on top.

Connolly had another chance after a faceoff bounced in front of goal but he couldn’t lift his backhand bid over the goalie.

King Philip had just two shots on goal in the entire third, spending most of the period playing defense. But with under a minute to go, the Warriors had a surge into the zone and Jack Coulter unleashed a blast but it hit off the crossbar and stayed out.

“We haven’t been able to close teams out,” said King Philip coach Paul Carlow. “We played a great second period. I’m not sure if we’re satisfied when we get the lead, or if we’re satisfied with the tie. I’d like to see us put some teams away, especially this time of year. [North Attleboro] is a good team but I felt like we could have won today.”

North Attleboro got off to a strong start early on as Digiacomo came up with a terrific positional save, denying a point-blank chance from Cooke after a great feed from Coulter.

And minutes later, Morehouse skated in uncontested down the right side and flicked his shot into the back of the net for a 1-0 lead with less than three minutes expired.










King Philip answered at the midway point of the period, and in similar fashion to the bid that was denied early on. Coulter forced a turnover behind the net and linked up with Cooke, who initially looked at goal but instead dished a pass in front and Aidan Boulger buried the one-timer to make it 1-1 with 7:31 left in the first.

Rocco Bianculli was the catalyst of KP’s second goal, taking control of a loose puck in the neutral zone and speeding into the offensive zone. He laid a pass off to Chris Daniels, and he quickly fed the puck across to Feyler for the finish plus a 2-1 lead with 13:42 left in the second.

The Warriors went on the power play shortly before the midway point of the game and took full advantage of their chance. Joe Bosellii, who just had a shot saved, let another rip go that was blocked down, the puck eventually finding Feyler for the finish in close.

“I didn’t think we came out that strong in the beginning, we always seem to give up the first goal,” Carlow said. “But after that, we got the goal back, we seemed to get stronger. Then we got the power play goal, which always helps. In the third, we had a broken skate blade and we ended up running around a little bit, couldn’t get the puck out of our zone and it ends up in the back of the net.

“[North Attleboro] needed a point [to qualify], they definitely had a little more 1-2 in the third than we did.”

Both teams have time to prepare for the postseason. King Philip (4-2-2 Hockomock, 10-4-4 overall) has two games left, including a trip to Rodman Arena on Saturday to take on Walpole, and a home game on Monday afternoon against a good Norwood team.

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“We haven’t lost in the last four or five games, we’ve won or tied, but I’d like to see us play a complete game going into the playoffs,” Carlow said. “From the drop of the puck to the final whistle. Overall, I like the way they are playing. They are playing strong defensively for the most part, we aren’t giving up a bunch of goals. I’d like to see us put a few more in.”

North Attleboro boys hockey (2-3-3, 7-6-6) will wrap up its regular season on Friday night when it takes on rival Bishop Feehan in what will likely be a playoff atmosphere.

“It’s more about how you’re playing when the playoffs come [instead of record] and when we look at it, especially that third period, we feel like we can do some work in the playoffs if we play like that. We have a big game on Friday against a rival, but I like where we’re at, I really do, but we just have to keep working.”

Rocketeers Rally In Third Period For Draw With Foxboro

Foxboro North Attleboro boys hockey Espen Reager
Foxboro goalie Espen Reager makes a save with North Attleboro’s Jack Connolly crashing the net in the second period. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
ATTLEBORO, Mass. – The North Attleboro and Foxboro boys hockey teams each exited the New England Sports Village with a point after their division clash on Wednesday night, but understandably, each left wanting more.

For Foxboro, it was 3-1 third period lead that slipped away and a last minute power play that saw the potential game-winning goal clank off the post and stay out that prevented the full two points.

And for North Attleboro, it was a dominating stretch during the second period that saw everything but a goal, as well as a two-goal flurry in the third period that tied the game and swung momentum in their favor but came up short of a game-winner.

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Nonetheless, it was a point apiece as the Rocketeers and Warriors finished deadlocked in a 3-3 draw.

“We should be going into that game knowing we can win the game,” said Foxboro head coach Mark Cedorchuk. “If they won that game, I felt like they would have stolen it from us. Our Achilles heel tonight was they scored two power play goals. We had our chances…but our penalty kill hurt us tonight. Overall I thought our defense played well overall, I thought all five guys played well and moved the puck up ice. And our forwards played well too.”

Foxboro never trailed in the contest, taking a 1-0 lead in the first period, jumping back ahead 2-1 in the second after the Rocketeers tied the game, and pushing the advantage to 3-1early in the third period.

North Attleboro, who was a bit unlucky to go down a goal in the opening period, knotted the score less than a minute into the second and then scored a pair of goals in less than a minute span in the third to tie the game.

Trailing by a goal going into the third, the message from head coach Ben McManama was clear.

“Very simple, it’s no secret…’This will be the most important 15 minutes of our season,’” McManama said. “It’s pretty obvious why, looking at the standings and who we have left on the schedule. I thought they worked hard all game but they brought it to another level in the third period.”

But before North could rally, it faced even more adversity as the Warriors scored less than a minute into the third. Junior Kirk Leach netted a highlight-reel goal, splitting a pair of Rocketeer defenseman and shielding one as curled back in front and popped a shot top shelf to give Foxboro a 3-1 lead with 14:16 to play.

North Attleboro got some life with a power play chance with 11:11 to play and cashed in less than a minute into the man-advantage chance. Tyler Sarro and Dennis Morehouse connected with senior Jack Connolly along the boards in the corner. Connolly curled back to the right circle and fired a wrist shot into the top corner with a screen in front to make it 3-2 on North’s second power play goal of the night.

“The two power play goals were great but the reason they were great is because he didn’t see either shot,” McManama said. “That’s something that we’ve been working on…we’re not just trying to get to the net, we’re trying to take the goalies’ eyes away. So it was refreshing to see it happen.”

With momentum on its side, North Attleboro cashed in less than a minute later. Senior Matt McSweeney drove hard to the net but lost possession. However, the puck popped free right in the middle and senior defenseman Jeff Baker stepped up and blasted a shot through traffic into the back of the net to make it 3-3.

The Rocketeers had a chance to make it three straight with another power play chance at the midway point of the third period but Foxboro goalie Espen Reager came up with a double save on Morehouse and another on a shot from Will Yeomans through traffic.

Reager (34 saves) came up with another key kick save on a low shot from Baker with sophomore forwards Nick Longa and Nik Kojoian crashing hard in front.

Leach broke free in the final minute and went on a breakaway that drew a slash and a power play chance for the Warriors with 38 seconds to play. After winning an offensive zone faceoff, Foxboro sophomore Jack Watts bounced on the loose puck, maneuvered past a defenseman and backhanded a shot five-hole but North goalie Nick Digiacomo got just enough of it and it hit off the post and stayed out.

“We tried to keep everything in front of [Reager] but tonight our Achilles heel was our penalty kill,” Cedorchuk said. “I thought we skated with them, we transitioned well with them, and we kept them to the outside for the most part. I really thought we were going to have that one.

“Knowing where we are now and the level of talent we have, we know that we can compete with anyone on our schedule.”










Foxboro opened the scoring just under three minutes into the game with a bit of an unlucky bounce for the Rocketeers. The Warriors were in the midst of a line change and North looked to counter up ice but the puck was inadvertently blocked by the ref and stayed in North’s zone.

Foxboro’s Kyle McGinnis quickly jumped on the puck and connected with Leach, who found some space and blasted a shot into the back of the net.

North had the edge with eight shots on goal in period but Reager was up to the task each time. He first blocked away a chance from Brady Sarro, gloved a shot from McSweeney, and kicked away a rush from Sam Clarke.

The Warriors’ best chance to double its lead came when Watts gloved down a loose puck and found Ronnie MacLellan but his shot was denied by Digiacomo.

The Rocketeers came out flying in the second period and were rewarded with the tying goal less than a minute in. A flurry of chances resulted in a big scrum in front of the net and eventually, it was Connolly that found the puck and the back of the net, Tyler Sarro and Yeomans assisting, to make it 1-1.

But North was whistled for a penalty after Foxboro’s Ryan Jacobs and Josh Bertumen applied pressure. Less than 20 seconds into the man advantage, Leach skated to the right circle and fired a low shot that Watts redirected right in front to regain a 2-1 advantage.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

North dominated a solid six-minute stretch in the second period but couldn’t find the back of the net. Clarke, Longa, Connolly, and McSweeney all had good chances come up short. But the Rocketeers were able to ride that momentum into the third and score a pair of goals to tie the game.

“There’s a lot of little things going on this year so you have to look at the positives,” McManama said. “We battled back, we probably played one of our better periods energy wise of the year, and we just have to keep doing that. Every day at practice, we have to keep showing up and getting better. If we compete and work hard, we’re going to be fine.”

North Attleboro boys hockey (2-1-3 Hockomock, 6-4-5 overall) is back in action next Wednesday when it travels to Canton. Foxboro (1-2-2, 4-4-3) will visit Taunton on Saturday.

Nolte Hits Milestone and Canton Edges North to Title

Canton boys hockey
Canton senior forward Ryan Nolte (22) scored one goal and set up two others, reaching 100 career points and helping the Bulldogs to a dramatic win that clinched a ninth straight league title. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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ATTLEBORO, Mass. – The puck was dug out on the near boards and angled towards Canton defenseman Owen Lehane, who was hanging at the blue line. The junior lined up a slap shot that deflected almost immediately off a North Attleboro stick and knuckled, weaving its way through traffic, past North goalie Ryan Warren and somehow under the bar.

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For the second straight game, the Bulldogs had pulled out a win in the closing minutes. Lehane’s goal with just 2:08 remaining in Sunday afternoon’s matinee at the New England Sports Village handed Canton a 3-2 victory and clinched the program’s ninth league title in a row.

“It’s a long season and especially this time of year when you get into the middle of January and guys are sick, guys are hurt, so if you can pull out a win when it’s not your best day it says a lot about a team and it says a lot about our guys,” said Canton coach Brian Shuman, who gave a lot of credit to the Rocketeers for making it tough all game.

He added, “I think they dominated most of the game. They had more puck possession than we did, they had certainly more zone time than us, they had more shot attempts, and they really did outplay us. Even the first period didn’t feel right. We had two goals but they were making it very difficult for us and I didn’t think the score reflected the game.”

North Attleboro coach Ben McManama could only shrug at the way the game ended, as the Rocketeers had gone toe-to-toe with (and at times outplayed) not only one of the Hockomock League’s perennial powers but a team that was just added to the initial watch list for the Super 8.

“We realized something about ourselves today, which is great,” McManama explained. “We wanted the win or even the tie, but we realize that when we move our feet and work hard, then we can hang with anybody. I think it’s a good lesson that we learned today but we just have to keep on going.”

Digging the puck out on the boards to set up the Lehane winner was senior forward Ryan Nolte. It was his second assist of the day, to go along with the one goal he scored, and with his three-point haul on Sunday he reached the 100-point milestone for his career.

“He’s someone that always seems to show up and make big plays in a game like this,” Shuman said of Nolte. “He made little plays that he normally wouldn’t do like throw a big hit in the neutral zone in the middle of the game when we needed that. He was important in all areas of the ice tonight.”

The Rocketeers came out of the gates trying to set a physical tone and looked faster and sharper, but it was the Bulldogs that got the goals. Nolte set up the opener five minutes into the game when he fired a pass from behind the goal line out to Matt Pigeon at the point. The defenseman’s shot was tipped in front by Chris Lavoie, giving Warren (22 saves) no chance.

North almost leveled the score just a minute later when Justin Moccia found himself alone on the edge of the crease. Canton goalie Mike Staffiere (20 saves) managed to scramble and get a piece of the shot and then got a piece of luck when the rebound looped up and landed on the bar before bouncing behind the goal.

Only a minute later and Canton had doubled its lead. Nolte cut across the slot and initially lost control and whiffed on his first attempt, but he stayed with the puck and whipped a backhand on goal. The puck caught Warren trying to slide across and it slipped through the five-hole to make it 2–0.

“Our group’s very good in that they’re very resilient,” said McManama. “Some teams would’ve gone in the tank after the two goals, I mean it’s Canton, but we just kept battling back. Since day one when I got here that’s the team I was trying to bring out. I’m happy with what we did today.”

The game changed in a span of 23 seconds. First a slip on the blue line allowed Dennis Morehouse to steal the puck and find space to rifle a shot from the right circle inside the far post to cut the lead in half. Nine seconds after the goal, North went on the game’s first power play. Fourteen seconds after that, the game was tied.

Brendan McHugh started the offensive set by making a grab at the blue line to keep the puck in the zone. North got a shot on goal and Staffiere made the first stop. The rebound was initially played into the side of the net but Anthony Zammiello kept following the puck and knocked it in.

Lavoie nearly nabbed his second of the game but Warren flashed a quick glove to deny his shot from the left circle. Shane Marshall had a good chance for the Bulldogs as well when he flicked a quick shot from the slot but Warren was just as quick with his pad. Zammiello had a pair of chances, one set up in front by Jack Connolly and the second on a breakaway, but both times Staffiere had the answer.

“We were dumping the puck in and that’s what happens when you play a team physical, stay up in the neutral zone, and close your gaps,” said Shuman about Canton’s struggles to develop consistent attacks. “We had so many opportunities to make that one pass for an odd-man rush and we would just dump the puck in and that’s all credit to their play that got us a little antsy with the puck.”

The first half of the third period was all Rocketeers. North came flying out of the locker room and had the first six shots of the period. Canton didn’t get a puck on net until the 7:40 mark of the third. The best chance fell to Matt McSweeney, who was picked out in front by freshman Nik Kojoian, but Staffiere made a big pad stop to keep the scores level.

Despite all the North pressure, Canton held onto the tie and then got the one moment it needed to keep its perfect start to the season alive.

“I’ve been around hockey for a long time,” McManama said. “It’s no secret that good teams get those good breaks. We also did very well defensively, we worked really hard, they made some big saves, and I thought it was all-around a great hockey game.”

It is the ninth straight league title, and 11th in 12 seasons. No other team has won a Davenport crown in the nine years since the league split into different divisions. It speaks to the level of consistency as a program that the Bulldogs have displayed down the years.

Shuman said, “We talked about how fortunate we are to be competing every year for league championships. It’s a testament to the guys before and to our guys now that they are able to rise to that level every year. We don’t take it for granted.”

Canton (13-0, 9-0) will try to complete a perfect league campaign when it hosts Taunton on Wednesday. North Attleboro (7-6-1, 5-2-1) will try to make history on Wednesday when it travels to Pirelli Veterans Arena to face Kelley-Rex division leader Franklin, which the Rocketeers have never beaten.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.