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.

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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.

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