But it was far from easy.
The unbeaten Bulldogs were put to the test by ninth-seeded and league rival Oliver Ames, with the Tigers consistently applying pressure over the course of 45 minutes. In the end, a patient Canton team cashed in twice inside a one-minute span and, more importantly, didn’t allow Oliver Ames to do the same in a 3-0 victory.
“[Oliver Ames] is a team that always plays us hard, they’ve done so for years,” said Canton head coach Brian Shuman. “And they played us hard tonight, they came out flying. They pinned us, they hit us, and I was proud of our guys for battling through that. Every playoff game is like a rollercoaster ride and you have to survive the onslaughts and punch back like we did.”
The Tigers were strong from the opening puck drop, flying all over the ice and coming up with a couple of good goal scoring chances. Just minutes in, senior Matt McCormack made a leaping stop to prevent a Canton clear resulting in a good chance from Cullen Gallagher, but Canton goalie Mike Staffiere (17 saves) made the stop.
Just minutes later, the Tigers had a chance at a two-on-one, but Bulldog defenseman Ryan Sullivan thwarted the chance before a pass or shot could happen. A Canton error in the neutral zone led to a chance for OA senior Brett Williams, but the puck wouldn’t lie flat, and his shot was gobbled up by Staffiere.
As the period went on, Canton started to get more of the play, and Timmy Kelleher’s tough angle shot from the left circle forced a paddle save from OA junior goalie Owen Connor (27 saves), and a rebound chance from Johnny Hagan was denied as well.
With just a minute left in the first, Kelleher won a foot race to get in on goal but his close shot was denied by Connor, bringing a physical, back-and-forth, well-played first period to a close.
“I don’t think we could have played a better game,” said Oliver Ames head coach Sean Bertoni. “We preached effort, effort, effort, and it’s such a simple term, but I’m not sure many teams could do it for three periods like we did against one of the best teams in the state. They did everything I asked so it’s a little frustrating they weren’t rewarded for it, but that’s sports. The effort was there through the whole game, and we had some chances.
“Their effort is what got them here. That was our recipe for success all year. No matter what there are going to be lulls, and you’ll make hockey mistakes, but the effort was always there. I couldn’t be more proud of their effort.”
OA had another bright start to the second period with freshman Bryan Kearns forcing a turnover, and Williams linking up with Gallagher in front for a backhand shot that was just over the bar. Five minutes later, Duncan Pereira blasted a shot that was saved by Staffiere into the air, bounced off his back, and just wide of the post.
Similar to the first, Canton was able to handle the strong push from the Tigers early and take control as the period went on. This time, senior Joe Robinson linked up with classmate Ryan Colby to force an odd-man rush, and Oliver Ames was forced to take a penalty.
The first power play of the game resulted in the first goal of the game as well. Just over 30 seconds into the man-advantage, junior Jack Connolly ripped a low shot/pass through traffic that found Canton senior Ryan Nolte positioned perfectly for a tip-in from right in close, giving the Bulldogs a 1-0 lead with 6:57 to go in the second period.
With momentum on their side, the Bulldogs struck again before a minute elapsed. This time, it was senior Matt Martin delivering a shot from the blue line through traffic with junior Chris Lavoie providing the redirect right in front, making it 2-0 with 6:09 left in the second period.
“The second one was huge,” Shuman said. “Both goals came from point shots too. Jack Connolly with a great shot to find Ryan on the back door and then Matty Martin just getting the puck through, which is what we try to do. [OA] does a good job of collapsing in their zone and protecting the middle of the zone so our defense was going to have to get shots through for us to have some offense.”
Oliver Ames nearly cut the deficit in half on a chance with just over a minute to go in the second. Williams skated into the offensive zone, drawing the defenseman but slid a pass across to an open Kearns, but his wrist shot clanked off the crossbar and stayed out.
“You would think it would hurt, but our two themes this year were effort and resiliency,” Bertoni said of the back-to-back goals. “You have to push back after a goal, and I thought we did after the second one. Obviously, it’s a little deflating but the guys didn’t show it, didn’t change how they played. Power plays are going to happen, the puck had eyes and it found one of the best players. Tough to give up the two goals but it didn’t change how we played which was great to see.
“We hit the crossbar late in the second, we had a couple of other chances…we were still buzzing despite not scoring. That was one of our best games all year for three full periods. We didn’t give them much time, we did a good job of taking it away. They did everything we wanted, they were aggressive, they were physical, we just came up short.”
Connor came up with a big stop early in the third, denying Lavoie in front after a nice feed from junior Shane Marshall. Staffiere answered on the other end, stopping a shot from Ryan Gottwald that was set up by a block from Gallagher.
The Tigers got their first power play of the game with 9:55 left in the third, but Lavoie, Connolly, and Nolte all came up with clearances to limit OA’s chances. The lone chance came off the stick of Max Ward, who beat a pair of Canton players as he entered the offensive zone and snapped a wrist shot that was gloved by Staffiere.
Hagan created a turnover for Canton in the offensive zone but was denied by the post, and minutes later, OA’s Williams was turned away when his shot went off of Staffiere’s mask.
In the final seconds, Hagan connected with Kelleher for the empty net goal, the assist giving Hagan his 100th career point.
WELLESLEY, Mass. – The upset was there for the taking. Oliver Ames was down by just one point entering the fourth quarter on the road at second-seeded Wellesley in Friday night’s Div. 1 South quarterfinal and battled back from seven points down in the fourth to get within three twice, but the Tigers couldn’t find the baskets they needed against the experienced Raiders.
Oliver Ames (13-9) gave the hosts everything they could handle, but the Raiders showed their mettle and made the big shots when they were needed to pull out a 46-41 victory that sets up a semifinal against Bay State Conference rival Braintree.
“We knew we were going to have to deal with a lot of screening, a lot of slips,” said OA coach Laney Clement-Holbrook. “We spent two days on how to help, how to hedge, how to help the helper, all those things, but you’ve got to put the ball in the basket at the other end too. It’s one thing to get a stop but you’ve got to score.”
From the start, it was obvious that offense was going to be tough to come by for both teams. Despite scoring a combined 26 points in the first quarter, neither team was able to find a rhythm offensively, although Wellesley was finding some success slipping screens in the pick and roll and getting its forwards heading to the basket.
OA was relying on its ability to get into the paint and out on the break to generate its offense. Senior forward Alex Sheldon got off to a good start with five points in the first, including three free throws, and sophomore Caroline Flynn got an offensive rebound and then scored off a Meg Holleran assist.
Wellesley led 15-11 after one, but the defenses got even tougher to breakdown from that point forward. The Raiders would only make two shots and score seven points in the second quarter, but they also held OA to just one made field goal (a Flynn layup in transition) and six points to actually extend their lead to five points at the break.
Senior guard Gianna Palli came out firing in the third, getting free for a rare drive to the basket and burying a deep three from the wing to push the Wellesley lead to as many as eight points. As it turned out, the basket would be her last of the night, as Sadie Homer clamped down and allowed Palli (11 points) little room to maneuver.
“I’m really proud of her,” Clement-Holbrook said of Homer, who has the opportunity to play volleyball and basketball next year at Dean College. “She was able to finish as a senior the way that we hoped that she would.”
Just when it looked like Wellesley may break the game wide open, the young Tigers came storming back. Freshman Caroline Peper, OA’s leading scorer, finally wriggled free of the attentions of Wellesley senior Molly Cronin to score on an offensive rebound plus the foul. Homer found Flynn (10 points) in transition for an easy basket and then Flynn set up Sheldon (seven points) for a short jumper.
When Flynn kicked out to Holleran for an open three, OA had come all the way back to tie the game at 29-29. Wellesley responded with a big three from Cronin but Holleran set up a cutting Peper (12 points) for a basket that made it a one-point game with eight minutes remaining.
In close games, when the pressure gets ratcheted up, experience counts and the Raiders definitely benefited from playing in this stage or later in recent years. Anna Glashow drilled a three and then, after a Peper basket, Lily Woodring beat the buzzer with a contested mid-range jumper following a great defensive possession. Brooke Guiffre (game-high 14 points) hit a three from the corner to put the Raiders back up seven.
Peper had been largely held in check by Cronin’s defense, but she got fouled on a three-point attempt and made all three at the line to get the game back within four. Clement-Holbrook saw this game as a learning experience for the rookie on how to handle this level of attention from opposing defenses.
“Now she’s a known entity,” Clement-Holbrook said of Peper. “Cronin’s not going to let a ninth grader beat her, that’s what it comes down to, so I just talked about this will be a good experience. I said, the down side will be if you don’t learn from this in the off-season and make yourself a better player.”
Trailing by five, OA had several defensive stops in a row, but each time the Tigers failed to take advantage at the other end and the clock started to whittle away. Finally, Holleran fought to grab an offensive rebound and wriggled through a few defenders for a basket that made it 41-38. Wellesley went to the line but missed a pair only to have Goehringer snag the rebound with 57.1 on the clock.
OA again locked down on the defensive side of the ball, sticking with players through a myriad of screens on the perimeter until the ball swung over to the left wing where Guiffre made the biggest shot of the game, sticking a three despite Flynn’s hand right in her face.
“She drained it,” said Clement-Holbrook. “Those were big moments for them and they took advantage of the situations and I think that was the difference that we didn’t do that in situations where we had fought back and got it to three.”
The game was far from over, as Homer (seven points) came down and answered with a three of her own to keep it a one-possession game with 10.2 remaining. OA fouled on the inbound and Guiffre missed the front end of the one-and-one. Flynn got the rebound and headed up court but the Tigers were called for traveling with 4.5 left.
Guiffre made amends by hitting two at the line and sealing the win.
BOURNE, Mass. – Coming into the month of February, Oliver Ames junior defensemen Ryan Gottwald was in search of his first career goal.
That came just over a week into the month in a big win over Brockton. Now he can add a game-winning goal in a playoff game to his resume.
Gottwald scored his second career goal just over two minutes into the third period, and that tally proved to the be the game-winner as the ninth-seeded Oliver Ames boys hockey team skated to a win over eighth-seeded Plymouth North.
“I honestly was trying to pass it out front, I was just trying to throw it to the middle and I was surprised when it went in,” Gottwald said. “I pinched in because the puck was open so I went down and got it and was just looking for someone out front and I think it went five-hole.
“This is a big confidence booster for us, we played hard tonight, so we deserved it.”
Neither the Tigers or the Eagles could find separation for the first 25 minutes of the contest, with Plymouth North twice answering goals from OA to tie the game. And after four total goals in the first period, neither team could get an edge in the second, not until the final minutes.
Oliver Ames bookended the end of the second and beginning of the third with goals, which proved to be the difference in the game. After a strong second period, the Tigers were rewarded with a goal with just over a minute left in the frame for a 3-2 lead.
And then Gottwald opened the third with a low shot that found its way in to make it 4-2.
“We talked about getting shots to the net,” said Oliver Ames head coach Sean Bertoni. “If you have a one-on-one situation, a get a shot to the net. It doesn’t have to be pretty. Most of the goals were deflection goals so wanted to get the puck to the net, we’re not an overly cute team. Credit to Ryan, it worked out in that case. He doesn’t have a lot of shots, doesn’t have a lot of goals but if you get the puck on the net, you can be rewarded.”
Plymouth North cut the deficit to one with 2:38 when the puck was deflected from behind the net to right in front for a tap in. The Eagles pulled the goalie with just over a minute left but junior goalie Owen Connor made two big saves in the final minute, and senior Cullen Gallagher – making his return after missing a majority of the season to injury – made a terrific effort play with a diving clearance to help the Tigers kill the final seconds.
Connor finished with 35 saves, making 11 stops in the first period, 12 in the second, and 12 more in the third period for the win.
“I think his confidence got higher as the game went on,” Bertoni said. “We didn’t do a good job for him in the first period. Our defensive coverage was poor, I thought we improved in the second and third but we had some breakdowns we aren’t used to but that’s also a credit to Plymouth North.”
Oliver Ames got off to a perfect start, scoring just 1:13 into the contest. Jake Gottwald, Ryan’s twin brother, came flying in and forced a turnover, intercepting a pass at the Eagles’ blue line. Jake Gottwald went in alone on the goalie, firing a wrist shot that was stopped but the rebound fell right back to him and he buried the chance.
“I had just come off the bench, it was one of my first shifts,” Jake Gottwald said. “I took away the middle and the pass came right to me. I took the shot and was able to get the rebound, it popped out to the right side.”
The lead lasted just over two minutes as the Eagles were able to establish an offensive zone presence, and Jake Fleet tossed a puck on net that took a wild deflection and found the back of tenet to make it 1-1.
Oliver Ames went back in front, capitalizing on its first power play chance of the game. Junior Hunter Costello was extra patient with the puck on his stick, and was able to fake the defense by making a move behind the net. Instead, Costello came back to the left and found senior Max Ward flying in and hit him for a one-timer for a 2-1 lead with 4:58 left in the first.
Plymouth North once again had an answer just over two minutes later. Cam Caraher came up with a bad giveaway at the blue line from the OA defense, skated across the zone and snuck his wrist shot into the back of the net to make it 2-2.
The Eagles earned a power play chance five minutes into the second and appeared to have the go-ahead goal, celebrating as if that was the case but the ref had blown the whistle before the puck crossed and the game stayed 2-2. In the remaining time on the power play, Gallagher came up with a big clear and Connor made a terrific stop on a redirected shot.
At the midway point, the Eagles’ Jason Norwood had a partial break, going in one-on-one with OA’s Julian Krowski, and the Tiger junior won the battle, sweeping away the puck to prevent a chance from the Eagles.
OA nearly went back in front with 5:20 left in the second when Costello connected with Gallagher in front but Plymouth North goalie Jack Arnold made a terrific left-to-right push to rob Gallagher.
Freshman Bryan Kearns had one of the best chances of the frame for Oliver Ames, skating in on a partial breakaway with a defenseman riding his back. He unleashed a hard shot that Arnold got just enough of up high to keep it out.
While Kearns’ bid was turned aside, the Tigers cashed in on the ensuing face-off. Brett Williams and Gallagher linked up with Costello, who turned and fired a low shot from the right circle that banked off a Plymouth North defenseman’s skate and into the back of the net for a 3-2 lead with 1:04 left in the second.
“We played a very good second period, we started the third well, and the first period was just okay. We did an excellent job killing penalties, especially those two in the third. This is one of the most resilient groups I’ve been around, nothing really fazes them. No matter what happens, they have a quick turnaround. The effort was there tonight, nothing was really pretty tonight but we got it done. At this point in the new season, we did a good job grinding it out.
“Getting that one with two minutes left, that was huge to go into the locker room with the lead going into the third. And since we rely so much on protecting our net, having a lead in the third is big for us.”
Oliver Ames killed to Plymouth North power plays in the third period. Connor made four saves on the second extra-man opportunity, Ryan Gottwald and Gallagher had clearances, and Colin Bourne pinned the puck in the offensive zone to kill some time.
Oliver Ames boys hockey (14-8-1) advances to the D2 South quarterfinal to take on a familiar foe in league rival Canton. The Tigers, who dropped a 5-2 decision to the Bulldogs in the regular season, will renew acquittances with one of their rivals on Saturday at 6:45 at the Canton Ice House.
Below are the seeds and matchups for Hockomock teams in the MIAA playoffs. Records listed are for MIAA tournament purposes and do not include exclusion games. Times and dates are subject to change and we will update this post with any changes.
Seeding will be determined following Monday’s Super 8 play-in games.
#1 Canton (20-0-1) will host the winner of #16 Dedham (8-8-4)/#17 Medway (9-10-2) on Wednesday, Feb. 27 at 7:30 at the Canton Ice House.
#9 Oliver Ames (13-8-1) will face #8 Plymouth North (11-6-3) on Wednesday, Feb. 27 at 5:30 at Gallo Arena in Bourne.
#13 North Attleboro (10-8-2) will face #4 Quincy (15-4-3) on Tuesday, Feb. 26 at 6:00 at the Canton Ice House.
#13 Foxboro (11-6-3) will host #20 Mashpee/Monomoy (9-9-2) on Monday, Feb. 25 at 4:00 at the Foxboro Sports Center.
#17 Attleboro (10-8-2) will travel to #16 Nantucket (9-7-2) on Tuesday, Feb. 26 at 5:15 at the Nantucket Ice Skating Rink.