TAUNTON, Mass. – Prior to the game, Taunton honored its 10 seniors for helping to turn the program around and for being, as head coach Kris Metea announced, the winningest senior class in the 20-year history of the program.
On Saturday afternoon against Attleboro, those seniors provided another victory for the Tigers, contributing a combined two goals and three assists while senior goalie Justin Chappell made 26 saves in a 3-2 victory that moves Taunton to .500 in Hockomock play.
“This class means a lot,” said Metea outside the locker room after the game. “They’ve really had the ideals of commitment and it translated to success. The direction the program has gone is in large part due to them and the success we’ve had over the last six years is a big testament to them.”
The Bombardiers looked determined to ruin the day for the Taunton seniors, storming out of the blocks and dominating play in the first period. But, despite leading 11-6 in shots and creating a host of chances, Attleboro went into the first intermission trailing by two goals.
Chappell came up big right from the opening face-off. Just three minutes in he spread himself to stop Liam McDonough’s rebound effort after making the initial save on P.J. Elliott. Three minutes later, Cam Carnes teed up junior Jakob Roberts for Taunton’s first shot on goal from inside the blue line and he wristed it into the corner.
Attleboro continued to attack and Kyle McCabe thought he had a tying goal with a breakaway effort that Chappell was able to block and control the rebound as it squirted loose. Two minutes later and it was 2-0, as senior Jordan Hoey tossed a puck towards goal that went off the stick of classmate Zack Albert and trickled inside the far post.
Sam McKenzie rang the bar just before the end of the period, but Attleboro went into the dressing room playing well, but staring at a two-goal deficit.
“I know we outshot them in the first period, had better opportunities, but the score is 2-0,” said Attleboro coach Mark Homer. “We’ve been preaching to these guys all year not to play to the scoreboard; we just need to play a good period.”
The Bombardiers finally got one past Chappell four minutes into the second. Cam Littig saw his close-range effort blocked but the puck bounced to Jake Parker and he knocked it home. With four minutes left in the period, Littig set up McCabe in front and he thought he had the game tied but for a sprawling save by Chappell.
“He makes the saves he needs to make,” said Metea. “He’s big and he takes up a lot of space, so as long as he moves he’ll make those saves. He’s come up big for us.”
Attleboro held a 20-12 lead in shots after two periods, but many of those chances were from the outside, as the Taunton defense continued to absorb the pressure. Seniors Mike Volkmann and Svein Ormseth and junior Cam Welby also pushed forward and created shots on Attleboro freshman goalie Derrik Rivet.
“A lot of our kids are quietly confident,” said Metea about the defense, “so they know to play percentages and do your job and they’ll be okay.”
Taunton thought it had wrapped up the points six minutes into the third when Hoey fed the puck in front to Josh Denham but Rivet (15 saves) came through with a stellar stop to keep Attleboro within one. Just two minutes later, the save loomed even larger when Elliott was able to beat Chappell stick side from the right circle to tie the game.
“He’s only a freshman, this is probably only his fifth or sixth game on varsity and he gave up some goals in the first period, but that just shows the resiliency he has to play a better second period and then a better third,” said Homer of Rivet. “If not for those saves he makes, we might not be in position to tie the game.”
With 4:47 left to play, Taunton went on the power play and 30 seconds later the Tigers had the game-winner. Welby threw the puck at net from beyond the right circle, it deflected off a stick in front and fell to Hoey with an open net and he made no mistake for his second and the game’s decisive point (senior Nick Terry also had an assist on the play).
“Games likes this are good…you need the adversity, you need the battles,” said Metea. “If they’re going to play well in the tournament, they’re going to need these. You’re going to face adversity; it’s not easy.”
He took another moment to reflect on his seniors and how far they and the program have come in the past few seasons.
“They’re a bunch of great kids,” said Metea, “their teammates love them, they fight to the end, they’ve had to learn on the fly, and they’ve meant a lot to me, the other coaches, and ultimately to the program.”
Taunton (9-3-2, 3-3-0) will get a very tough test against Davenport leader Canton on Wednesday, attempting to make it two-for-two against the current league leaders. Attleboro (5-7-1, 1-4-0) will have a quick turnaround to play Foxboro on Sunday in a big Div. 3 game for the Bombardiers as they try to guarantee tournament play through the Sullivan Rule.