CANTON, Mass. – Holding an eight-point lead entering the final eight minutes of the game, the Canton boys basketball team did all the little things to extend that advantage and hold on for a win at the end.
The Bulldogs used a pair of steals and a pair of offensive rebounds to open the fourth with a 7-0 run, jumping out to its largest lead of the game at 45-30, and then held off a late push from visiting North Attleboro over the final three minutes to secure a 58-54 victory.
North Attleboro started with possession trailing 38-30 in the fourth but Ryan Lentol (nine points, seven rebounds) came up with a steal that led to a layup from Kyle Fitzgerald (11 points, nine rebounds, four assists).
The Rocketeers tried to go down low on the ensuing possession but Devin Foster (21 points, seven rebounds) came from the weak side to knock it free. Canton’s first shot was blocked by Jake Petersen but Fitzgerald grabbed the offensive board and found Foster for a triple. After an empty trip from the Big Red, Canton missed a triple, but Foster was there for the putback to put the Bulldogs ahead 45-30 with six minutes to play.
Canton had half of its eight offensive rebounds in the final quarter and out-rebounded the Rocketeers, 10-6, in the final frame.
“To get those extra possessions against a good team, it was the difference,” said Canton head coach Ryan Gordy. “We talked about it at halftime because we were behind on the glass. We talked about being able to get a little lower and crashing on the weak side for offensive rebounds. Felt like we made that adjustment and did a good job in the second half.”
The Bulldogs led by 11 with just over a minute to go but the Rocketeers continued to battle to the final white. Josh Montague (15 points) hit free throws and followed with a strong take to the Tim to make it 51-44 with a minute to go. Canton pushed the lead back to 10 behind free throws from Lentol and Foster, but Montague answered with two free throws and junior Ethan Friberg connected on a three to cut the deficit to six with 21 seconds left.
Canton also applied a press at various times in the second half, mostly intended to keep the pace slow while holding the lead.
“It becomes a time management thing,” Gordy said. “Once you get up 12 in a Davenport game in this rock fight type games, anytime you can have time management in the fourth quarter is valuable. The press helped take some time off the block and got the ball out of Montague’s hands, he’s such a good player, he kind of makes the whole thing work for him so we kind of wanted to get the ball out of his hands with that press.”
North forced a turnover but couldn’t convert and Foster tacked on two more free throws to make it 57-49. Josh Porter added five points over the final seconds to get North within four at the buzzer.
“I thought our defensive effort overall tonight was subpar,” said North Attleboro head coach Sean Mulkerrins. “There was always one rotation that we missed. Coach Gordy made a great adjustment, they were slipping hard in the third quarter. Foster got going, which you know he’s going to, and then in that fourth quarter when they had that run, we’re down so every minute and every possession matters. We just didn’t play well and Canton made us look pretty bad at times.”
Canton’s eight-point lead to start the fourth was the result of a strong third quarter. Leading by two at halftime, the Bulldogs opened the second half with an 11-1 run. After Foster was held to six points on two made field goals in the first half, Canton made it a priority to get their leading scorer looks early on.
Foster answered the challenge, driving to the basket on Canton’s second possession for two. After a miss from North, Foster again was able to get into an isolation situation and used the glass to sink another layup. Canton came up with two offensive rebounds on its next trip, the latter leading to a corner three from sophomore Eric Mischler and the Bulldogs suddenly led 30-21.
Foster came up with a steal, and despite losing possession for a split second, grabbed it back and went in for two. North got on the board via a free throw from Friberg but Canton countered with a nice feed from Lentol to a cutting Matt Giglio (13 points, four rebounds) and the sophomore finished to extend the advantage to 34-22 halfway through the quarter.
“The whole thing starts with Devin, everyone knows that, and then it becomes contagious,” Gordy said. “When good things are happening with Devin, other guys step up and play well as well. Devin only had six at halftime so we wanted to get him some good looks so we ran a few sets for him early and to his credit, he knocked down shots and made plays. He might have cold stretches but he’s too good of a player to play like it for a whole game.”
North responded with an 8-4 run over the final four minutes to stay within striking distance going into the final quarter.
To begin the game, Canton built an 8-2 lead over the first four minutes but the teams combined for 20 points over the final four minutes of the first. Foster and Giglio each had a pair of threes in the frame while five different Rocketeers hit a field goal, including a three from Nate Gonsalves (12 points). Canton led 16-11 after one.
The Rocketeers’ defense shined in the second quarter and helped the visitors get back in the game. North limited Canton to 2-for-14 shooting in the frame, held the Bulldogs without a three-pointer, and forced three turnovers. Meanwhile, North’s offense got into gear scoring all of its points over the final 5:43, including a 7-1 run to finish the quarter.
Gonsalves bookended the run with a triple and a layup while Petersen and Friberg hit free throws and sophomore George Ladd (eight points, six rebounds) converted with a nice move in the post. North trailed 23-21 at half.
“I thought in the first half, we had two possessions we didn’t run the right thing, we missed some free throws, they had some offensive rebounds, and we were only down two,” Mulkerrins said. “So we tried to address those fixable things but the biggest thing is we have to defend better. We’re not going to put up 75 points. The defense just wasn’t there, and that has to be better.”
Trailing by a goal entering the third period, and without two of their top point producers due to injury and illness, the Tigers battled back to score the tying goal midway through the period and killed off a penalty in the final two minutes to grab a 2-2 tie with visiting North Attleboro.
“It was an awesome effort, I’m really proud of them,” Bertoni said. “We didn’t win the game but it was one of my proudest moments, being down guys and most teams in that situation against a quality team like North Attleboro are in trouble. Our theme is being resilient. No matter what, we just keep fighting, the effort is always there. We showed it against Canton, we showed it tonight. It’s rewarding to see as a coach.”
Despite being without leading scorers Cullen Gallagher and Brian Kearns, who each have 17 points, the Tigers twice overcame a one-goal deficit in the game.
North Attleboro took a 1-0 lead just over five minutes into the game and took that advantage into the locker room during the first intermission. OA knotted the score with 9:50 to go in the second period but the Rocketeers took the lead back with a late goal in the second.
“That’s a bad tie for us,” said North Attleboro head coach Ben McManama. “That’s taking nothing away from OA, they work their butts off. They have some guys who are sick, some guys who are injured and my hats off to them, they showed something today. We didn’t respond today, we have a full four line, healthy group that just didn’t get it done.”
Rocketeer senior defenseman Brendan McHugh put the visitors up 2-1 with just 1:03 left in the second period. After skating to a relatively even period, McHugh tossed a high shot on net from the blue line that OA goalie Owen Connor (14 saves) never seemed to get eyes on and it fluttered into the back of the net.
The Tigers opened the third by earning a power play but couldn’t muster any chances on goal. Instead, the best chance came for North Attleboro when the penalty expired. Rocketeer junior Jack Connolly came out of the box, took a pass and went flying into the offensive zone alone. But Connolly couldn’t quite get off a final shot with Connor covering the post with the pad.
Three minutes later, Oliver Ames had its equalizer. Senior Brett Williams prevented a clearance along the boards with a strong check that put the puck in the center of the ice. Junior Ryan Gottwald was able to bat the puck back to Williams, who was all by himself, and he deposited his shot five-hole to knot the score 2-2 with 6:47 to go.
North Attleboro had a final chance to go back on top when it went on the power play with 2:13 to go in the game. Oliver Ames’ top penalty killer Matt McCormick was whistled for a boarding penalty but the Rocketeers were only able to get one shot on net during the final two minutes.
Max Ward came up with a big early clear, and then teamed up with Williams to provide an aggressive forecheck that didn’t allow the Rocketeers to leave its own zone. McHugh had the lone shot of the man advantage but Connor easily gloved it.
“Even just getting the penalty with two minutes left in a tie game can deflate a team, especially with our top penalty kill guy in the box,” Bertoni said. “But it felt like we were attacking on it, we didn’t let them set up. I think they only had one shot on net, we had a good chance too. Brett and Max were relentless in the offensive zone. The kids are giving us everything, it’s awesome to see. We haven’t got much puck luck this year but hard work will pay off.
The Tigers even had a chance to score the game winner while shorthanded. Junior Hunter Costello cleared the puck off the boards and senior Colin Bourne used his speed to get around a North defender and get to the puck first. He was able to get a close bid on goal but North senior goalie Ryan Warren (19 saves) made a big pad save to prevent the shorthanded bid.
“They had a lot more energy in the third, they work really hard,” McManama said. “It didn’t feel like one team was better than the other in the third, it felt pretty even but I thought we could have been better. It breaks down into just some simple plays. We weren’t getting pucks in deep, we were turning it over at the blue line. Those little things, they add up. Those little things snowball and can really hurt you.”
North Attleboro struck on a rebound chance 5:31 into the contest. Andrew Zammiello put a shot on goal that Connor turned aside but junior Dennis Morehouse had plenty of space in front to bury it into the back of the net for a 1-0 lead.
North had a couple of chances to add to its lead in the first but couldn’t find the back of the net. The best opportunity came when Todd Robinson fed Connolly in the slot but Connor came up with a big pad stop.
OA’s best chances came off the stick of McCormick, who fired a slap shot that Warren gobbled up and a backhand chance from Jake Gottwald that Warren turned away.
OA senior James Beatty set the tying goal up with an absolute perfect pass. With possession in his own defensive end, Beatty fired a perfectly weighted pass through the neutral zone right onto the stick of Williams as he entered the offensive zone for a breakaway, and Williams used a nice move and lifted the puck into the net to make it 1-1.
Beyond North Attleboro’s first goal, the Tigers’ defense did a nice job of limiting chances for the Rocketeers.
“Defensive positioning has been great all year,” Bertoni said. “We only rolled four defensemen tonight, [McCormick], James [Beatty], Julian [Krowski], and Ryan [Gottwald]. They gave us a ton of minutes, and we had to kill a couple of penalties too. Other than that first goal, where we didn’t get our sticks in there, we didn’t give up a lot of quality chances. And we had some chances in the third too so I’ll get that point for sure.”
Oliver Ames boys hockey (2-2-1 Hockomock, 7-4-1 overall) hits the road on Saturday with a visit to Taunton at 2:00. North Attleboro (3-1-1, 5-5-1) is off until Monday when it takes on Foxboro at 6:00 at the Foxboro Sports Center.
ATTLEBORO, Mass. – North Attleboro came into Saturday afternoon’s game with King Philip a game below .500 and already thinking about how many points it will need to ensure a playoff spot. When games are tough and points are at a premium, then it take goals of all kinds to build momentum.
With one minute left to play, Jake Ebert fought his way to the crease and was the first to react when a shot slipped past KP goalie James Lewis. Ebert tapped the rebound into the open net and secured the Rocketeers a much-needed, come from behind 3-2 victory that pulls North back to .500 on the season.
“That’s what we’ve been focusing on,” said North coach Ben McManama. “I asked him after the game, how did you score that and he said, ‘dirty goals,’ and that’s what we’re trying to do. Hopefully they understand now that it doesn’t have to be pretty.”
Through two periods it didn’t look like the Rocketeers would need late heroics to pull out the win.
North grabbed an early lead on a two-man advantage inside the opening five minutes of the game. Will Yeomans had the initial shot from the slot that Lewis (28 saves) was able to get a piece of but not fully collect. The puck fell behind the goalie and Justin Moccia was in the right place at the right time to tap it in.
The Rocketeers kept pushing for a second goal. A scrum in front forced a last-ditch, goal line clearance by KP defenseman Kyle Gray. With a minute left in the first, Lewis was forced into two reaction stops to deny both Jack Connolly and Ebert from point-blank range.
In the second period, the Warriors struggled to stay out of the box. KP picked up four penalties in that period alone, including a five-minute major that carried over to the third.
“We’ve got to stay out of the box,” KP coach Paul Carlow said. “You have to play even strength hockey to win. I would’ve like to have played them even strength more. We were shorthanded most of the night.”
Joe Boselli had a good look dragging the puck into the slot but he shot over the net and then Luke D’Amico forced Warren into a good glove save from a tight angle. Jake McNeany tested Lewis with a shot from the point that was kicked aside and Todd Robinson set up Connolly for a tip on the edge of the crease but it was sent just past the post.
North led 19-10 in shots heading into the third period and with 4:51 remaining on a major penalty, the Rocketeers looked like they were in control. But, KP stormed out of the locker room looking like a completely different team and, despite being down a skater, started to take the game to the hosts.
“You have to give credit to KP on that,” said McManama about North only scoring once while up a skater. “Our power play has been working at 33 percent coming into today and that’s the hardest our power play has had to work. They did a great job. They have a very good system and they work their butts off.”
Ryan Fitpatrick missed the net on a backhand seconds into the third and Warren was forced to make a sprawling save to deny Brendan Shandley when the rebound caromed to him at the far post. North nearly doubled its lead seconds later when Robinson’s shot forced a save out of Lewis and Connolly flicked the rebound wide of an open net.
That miss looked costly as KP skated down the other end and tied the game. Coulter had the initial shot from the right circle and Boselli was right there to follow up the rebound to make it 1-1.
“I think it was good that we had locker room time to talk about the kill and get the guys ready to go out for the kill,” said Carlow. “When you’re getting penalties all night, not only does it take away your chance to score but it kills your guys’ legs, so now when you come back from the kill then you don’t have any legs.”
Both teams continued to get chances in an end-to-end period. Robinson had a shot tipped inches wide by Ebert in front and Anthony Zammiello set up McNeany but his shot was blocked in front. Rocco Bianculli tested Warren with a blast from the edge of the right circle but the goalie got his blocker to it and Shandley forced another save that left the North defense scrambling.
With 5:47 to play, KP stunned the home crowd by grabbing the lead. Coulter played the puck into Conor Cooke, who was parked in the slot with a defenseman on his back. The forward collected the pass, spun, and ripped a shot over the shoulder of Warren and into the roof of the net to make it 2-1.
“Once we killed that penalty,” Carlow said, “it gave everyone a boost of confidence and then we were able to play some 5-on-5. When we played 5-on-5, we scored.”
Rather than get down, North turned the game around again. After KP cleared off yet another penalty (its eighth of the game), North got space in transition with Connolly finding a lot of room on the left circle. He opened his body up and went top shelf, far corner to beat Lewis and tie the game seemingly out of nowhere.
McManama explained, “Not much needed to be said. Everyone just started to step up and really it was one shift that got the other guys going. Winning a battle here or there and that built momentum for the last couple minutes.”
Zammiello hit the post from a very tight angle a minute later and then Ebert popped up 30 seconds after that with the dramatic finish that North needed to pull out a crucial two points at the midway point of its season.
“I thought they were playing very hard in the third period and they were winning all the battles,” McManama said. “It was very difficult to play them, even when we were on the power play…we didn’t match it in the third and that’s why the wheels started to come off a little bit, but I’m proud of the boys for battling back. It’s not an easy thing especially at this point in the season.”
North Attleboro (5-5, 3-1), which is just a game back of Canton in the Davenport title race, will travel to Oliver Ames on Wednesday, while King Philip (6-5, 2-2) will get a week off and be right back at the NESV to face Attleboro.
ATTLEBORO, Mass. – For two periods, the Mansfield Hornets boys hockey team controlled the game, finally solving North Attleboro senior goalie Ryan Warren in the final seconds of the second period.
And after that, Mansfield turned to their own netminder, junior Sean McCafferty, to thwart a furious comeback attempt from the Rocketeers in the third period, resulting in a 2-0 decision for the visiting Hornets.
“That was a great game. North Attleboro is relentless, they really are, in all aspects of the game,” said Mansfield coach Michael Balzarini, who earned his 100th career win with the result. “[North Attleboro] got better period by period, they just kept coming and coming. But this was a team win, we played as a team tonight. And Sean McCafferty played out of his mind. His rebound control was great, he was phenomenal.”
Balzarini previous had successful stints at Dover-Sherborn and Milford before coming to Mansfield two seasons ago.
A dominant first period saw the Hornets skate to an 8-1 advantage on shots on goal, but no advantage on the scoreboard. While North Attleboro asserted itself more in the second frame, the Hornets still had the edge in play and shots (19-8).
Warren denied Mansfield sophomore Matty Copponi in the first period on a nice backhand attempt with a sprawling pad save. The senior goalie kept senior Jack Garland off the board six minutes into the second on a nice chance at the back post, made a terrific stop on a one-timer from senior Chris Copponi with 7:30 to go in the second, and then gobbled up a hard slap shot off the stick of junior Joseph Troiano.
It wasn’t until the 20th shot, with less than 10 seconds to go in the second period, that the Hornets struck.
North Attleboro had its first power play of the game with 2:43 left in the second period but couldn’t generate any serious scoring chances. Mansfield capitalized on the momentum gained from the kill and took the lead with 8.4 seconds left to go in the frame.
Chris Copponi got the play going, forcing a turnover in the attacking zone with a hit along the boards. The puck popped to senior Brad Grant and his blast was knocked over the net by Warren (26 saves). Garland was first to the puck, he connected with Matty Copponi, who quickly fed older brother Chris right in front for the goal.
“I thought we controlled the play for the most part but getting that goal was huge, with only nine seconds or so left, it was huge,” Balzarini said. “It helped put the momentum our way. We knew they would come out hard in the third period.”
For North Attleboro, it was a tough goal to swallow after just having a power play and an improved period over the first.
“The minute, minute and a half after a power play is so important and we have to tighten that up,” said North Attleboro head coach Ben McManama. “It’s a crucial part of the game. After a power play and the end of a period, one of the most important times in a game. We just have to get better there.”
Despite giving up a late goal int he second, North Attleboro came out flying in the third period, putting 15 shots on frame. Just seconds into the period, the Rocketeers were testing McCafferty, who was clearly up for the challenge.
North senior Anthony Zamiello found senior Justin Moccia in the slot for an open wrist shot but McCafferty turned it away. The Rocketeers earned another power play and had a big chance off the stick of junior Jeff Baker but McCafferty knocked it down and stood tall on a pair of rebound chances.
Just after the power play expired, the Rocketeers had one of their best chances when Zammiello and senior Todd Robinson found themselves alone in front of the net, and a pass from the former to the latter led to a one-timer in close but McCafferty made an amazing stop to keep the puck out.
“He stepped up tonight — he was calm, he wasn’t frantic, he was in the zone the entire game,” Balzarini said of McCafferty. “Coming off of the loss against Canton, I thought he really elevated his game tonight.”
Mansfield couldn’t capitalize on a power play attempt with 9:16 to go, and was whistled for a trip with 5:46 to go to put the hosts back on the man-advantage. The Hornets were whistled for another penalty 44 seconds into the advantage, giving North a 5-on-3 for 1:17.
But one save for McCafferty and a terrific individual defensive play from senior Coleman O’Brien canceled the power play chance for the Rocketeers. With just under three minutes to go, North Attleboro sophomore Tyler Sarro made a nice read on a clearance attempt, intercepting the pass to go in alone on net but whistled his shot wide of frame.
Junior Dennis Morehouse had another big chance with a minute to go on a loose puck at the back post but he couldn’t get the puck past McCafferty (25 saves).
With just under a minute to go, North Attleboro had an attacking zone faceoff but Matty Copponi won it back to Troiano, who alertly flipped the puck out into the neutral zone and Chris Copponi won the foot race and tapped it into the empty net to go up 2-0 with 50.9 to go.
“We’re trying to get better starts,” McManama said. “When our guys are going and we’re forechecking hard, we’re a very good team. But we’re not seeing it for 45 minutes, we’re seeing it spurts. It’s something we know about but we’re working about.
“We have to be tougher in front of the net, we have to bear down. We’re still not going at 100 percent in front of the net, that’s how goals are scored. It doesn’t have to be pretty.”
Mansfield boys hockey (2-1 Hockomock, 8-2 overall) concludes its three-game road trip on Saturday when it travels to Aleixo Arena to take on Taunton at 2:00. North Attleboro (2-1 Hockomock, 4-5 overall) returns to action at the New England Sports Village on Saturday against King Philip at 4:30.
With five minutes left in the second quarter in a one-point game, Attleboro turned it up a notch — on both ends of the floor — and orchestrated a 14-0 run to finish the first half and build a double-digit lead it never relinquished the rest of the way en route to a 68-50 win over the visiting Rocketeers.
North Attleboro hit four shots in the opening four minutes, including a pair of three-pointers, to build a 10-6 lead. Attleboro responded on the back of junior guard Bryant Ciccio, who scored 12 of his game-high 21 points in the opening frame, to take a 19-13 lead after one.
The Rocketeers got the momentum back on their side with a 7-2 spurt to open the second quarter. Ethan Friberg (10 points) scored down low, and Josh Montague (11 points) hit five straight points while North’s defense got five stops, including a turnover, to get within one at 21-20.
After a timeout by the hosts, Attleboro rattled off 14 straight points to change the complexity of the game.
“We’ve really been focusing on ending quarters and halves strong,” said Attleboro head coach Mark Houle. “When you can get those runs, like 8-0 or something, during those stretches, that’s when you get really separate yourself. I think we’re starting to figure out how to do that. We did a little last game, but we were certainly able to do that more tonight, and it put us in a good position. It starts with defensive energy.”
Mason Houle (nine points, seven assists, four rebounds, two steals) started the run with a strong take to the basket, Qualeem Charles (six points, seven rebounds) added two more off a nice feed from Ciccio, Houle went coast-to-coast for two and then found Ciccio for a triple to make it 30-20 with two minutes to play.
Attleboro forced a turnover and then was fouled going for the offensive rebound on a missed three. Keep possession resulted in two from Lorenzo Wilson (from Houle) and then Houle capped the run with a triple with under a minute to go to send the hosts into the locker room with a commanding 35-20 advantage.
“Our defense tonight wasn’t good,” said North Attleboro head coach Sean Mulkerrins. The Rocketeers had allowed 46.5 points per game on average entering the game and held its past five opponents under 50 points. “You give all the credit in the world to [Attleboro], they beat us one-on-one and then our rotations on the weak side weren’t there. Ciccio had that big first quarter and then they had that run in the second quarter. We just couldn’t get any momentum off of our defense. And offensively we weren’t countering what their aggressive defense was giving us. I felt like we lost our composure a bit when we weren’t defending well. We’ll bounce back, but that was a tough one for us.”
North Attleboro senior Nate Gonsavles (12 points, four rebounds) hit an early triple in the third quarter but Attleboro’s Kevin Velazquez (18 points) had his best frame of the season to keep the Bombardiers ahead. Velazquez opened the quarter with a layup and added two more after a near two-minute gap without scoring.
“A couple of our last games, our defensive intensity has been there, but now we’re playing smarter defensively,” Houle said. “We’re not gambling, we’re making the other team work hard. When you do that, you put the other team in pressure situations and force tough shots. And on top of that, we’re getting to those 50-50 balls and getting some transition baskets from it.”
Tim Callahan hit a three in the corner and Velazquez converted from deep after an offensive rebound from Ciccio. Gonsalves answered with a triple of his own but Velazquez game right back down the other end and sank a three-pointer to extend the lead to 48-26.
“I think we’re starting to see that our shooting percentage is a lot better when we get so many touches per possession,” Houle said. “There’s a magic number that we want to get to and what I think that does is gets the defense moving and gets us open looks. I think for the second game in the row, we’re starting to build some consistency with it. When we didn’t do it, you saw turnovers. When we did, we got some good looks. I thought defensively [North Attleboro] did a nice job inside, we didn’t get a lot of looks inside tonight, but we were able to shoot the ball pretty well.
After Gonsalves hit a floater, Velazquez came right back down and made his third straight triple to help the Bombardiers take a 53-32 lead into the final quarter.
“Kevin had his best shooting game tonight,” Houle said of Velazquez, who went 4-for-8 from deep and shot 47% from the field overall. “We told him it would take a couple of weeks coming off a fall sport, just getting in a rhythm. He’s starting to come along and get his basketball legs back, which means he’s getting his shot back which is nice.
“In the first half, I thought Bryant played terrific. There are times in a game where you can see someone trying to take it over and Bryant had a four or five-minute stretch where he was terrific.”
Ciccio and Velazquez each connected on a three in the opening 90 seconds of the fourth quarter to effectively put any thoughts of a miraculous comeback away.