2019 Hockomock League Boys Lacrosse Preview

2019 Hockomock League Boys Lacrosse Preview
Canton junior Griffin Roach scored with 1:38 remaining in the first overtime to lift the Bulldogs to a dramatic victory over Scituate in 2018. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

By HockomockSports.com Staff

2019 Hockomock League Boys Lacrosse Preview

Attleboro

2018 Record: 5-13
2018 Finish: Missed playoffs
Coach: Kevin Patton

The Bombardiers will boast a relatively young group in 2019 but are still ready to compete in a difficult Hockomock League.

With a total of 14 underclassmen – eight sophomores and six freshmen – there will certainly be learning curves and some ups and downs throughout the year, but those new faces are hungry to improve throughout the season.

Attleboro’s strong suit will be in net as Hockomock League All-Star Trevor Koppy, a captain for this year’s team, returns to the cage. Koppy is one of the most experienced netminders in the league and the Bombardiers will be relying on him for his play plus his leadership as a captain. Attleboro will also rely on the leadership on and off the field by junior captain Tom Shipman, who will be a key piece in the midfield.

Shipman will be joined by senior Zach Thomas and sophomores Michael Strachan and Aidan Diggin in the midfield. All four have plenty of varsity experience so Attleboro will certainly rely on them to guide the way as the younger players are incorporated into the lineup. Sophomore Matthew Perry returns up front while junior Jack Handy is back defensively.

The Bombardiers are hoping junior Bryson Friess and freshman Fred Wheaton will make an impact defensively while freshmen Keigan Conley and Jack Lamothe will bolster the attack. Freshman Ryan Betts will also be apart of the midfield unit this season.

We are a young team…but they’re all ready to contribute quality minutes,” said Attleboro coach Kevin Patton, who switched from the girl’s team to the boys this Spring. “With Trevor Koppy and Tommy Shipman, our captains, they are prepared to lead the team to the next level. I’m looking forward to the future of the program!”

Canton

2018 Record: 10-8
2018 Finish: Reached D2 South Semifinals
Coach: Bill Bendell

After missing out on the playoffs in 2017, Canton put together a memorable 2018 campaign that ended in the D2 South Sectional Semifinals. The Bulldogs are looking to replicate that success and make another deep tournament run again this year.

And with a good amount of players back from last year’s squad, there is a lot of optimism that tournament run can happen. Senior Griffin Roach, a HockomockSports.com Second Team selection, will pace the offense again this year. Roach had 30 goals and 17 assists last year and his competitiveness is contagious to those around him. Roach will be joined by classmate Dan Cohen, a Hockomock League honorable mention selection. Cohen is a dangerous player, scoring 24 goals in the regular season last year.

David Allen, Chris Lavoie, Brendan Clifford, and Matt Martin are great athletes and capable scorers as well, while Tommy Vaughan will look to make an impact with his playmaking ability. On defense, the Bulldogs will turn to Brendan Albert and Nick Mackay, who head coach Bill Bendell called two of the most underrated players in the Hockomock League. Both possess a boatload of experience at the varsity level and will anchor the Bulldog defensive group. George Kent and James Murphy will also be apart of Canton’s defense while Shane Marshall, Sam Walsh, Jack Albert, and Carson Campbell will all see time and make key contributions this seasons, Bendell said.

Sophomore Dylan Coyne will take over in net for the Bulldogs and has had a strong preseason so far. Bendell believes Coyne is poised for a breakout year. Jeff Fitzgerald, Tommy Ghostlaw, and Mackay will all be in the running to handle faceoff duties.

“We are very excited about our offensive and defensive potential,” Bendell said. “Our varsity depth is not what we would like it to be at this point, but a few players have shown flashes of potential that make us think we will be much deeper come Memorial Day.”

Foxboro

2018 Record: 15-4
2018 Finish: Reached D2 Central/East Quarterfinal
Coach: Matt Noone

Foxboro will have a young squad with just five seniors this year but that doesn’t mean there will be a lack of experience from the defending Davenport division champions.

Senior Brendan Tully sets the example with his work ethic but is also one of the most dangerous players in the Hockomock League. A Providence College commit, Tully has tormented defenses for the past two seasons. He had 44 goals and 22 assists last year and will be one of Foxboro’s main weapons. Tully will be joined by Bobby Yerardi, who had over 40 points as a sophomore and has improved his game in the offseason. His ability to finish right or left makes life difficult for opponents.

The Warriors bring back junior Shayne Kerrigan for faceoffs. Kerrigan is one of the best in the area on the draw and puts Foxboro in good positions time after time; he will be a key piece in the midfield for the Warriors. Junior Pete Conley, Aiden Stapleton, and Charlie Baughan will make the up the attacking group for Foxboro this year.

Pat Stapleton is one of the most experienced players in the league as well as one of the top defensive players. He will anchor a defensive unit that has been one of the best in the region over the past couple of seasons. He will be joined by juniors Ronnie MacLellan and Will Morrison. All three players have the ability to move up to LSM when needed.

One question mark for the Warriors could be goalie, as Foxboro graduated Hockomock League MVP Jake Addeche. Head coach Matt Noone is confident in his options this season, with four players competing for the time in the cage. Freshman Matt Tully is beginning the season as the starter.

“I am really looking forward to this season as we are young but dangerous,” Noone said. “The best thing about this team is our depth, there is competition for every spot and they love to compete! What more can you ask for?”

Franklin

2018 Record: 16-4
2018 Finish: Reached D1 South Quarterfinals
Coach: Lou Verrochi

Franklin has had a lot of success in recent years, and that trend looks like it will continue in 2019.

“The outlook for this season is very good,” said Franklin head coach Lou Verrochi. “It could be one of the best teams we’ve had at FHS.”

The reason for the high expectations is the amount of talent returning from last year’s Kelley-Rex team that reached the D1 South Quarterfinals. Although the Panthers graduated two-time All-American and two-time HockomockSports.com Player of the Year Eric Civetti and starting goalie Connor O’Rourke, Franklin has experience and talent back at each position.

It all will start with senior Jacob Alexander, who has been arguably the best faceoff man in the entire state over the past couple of seasons. Alexander’s ability to consistently win draws gives Franklin a huge advantage and sets the offense in motion. Patrick Morrison, a second-team All-American selection last season, will anchor the defensive unit for the Panthers this year along with Will Harvey, who was one of the most underrated players last year. Will Davis, who saw time in net some last year, is set to take over in the cage and could be one of the top netminders in the league.

The Franklin midfield will consist of Nitin Chaudhury – one of the hardest working athletes in any sport – along with Owen Palmieri and Ben Kolb, who has really impressed in scrimmages during the preseason. Franklin’s attack could be among the most dangerous in the league this year with three legitimate options. Jake Davis (32 goals, 23 assists), Matt Lazzaro (30 points), and Ben Greco are all unselfish but can also finish.

King Philip

2018 Record: 9-10
2018 Finish: Reached D1 South Quarterfinals
Coach: Hal Bean

King Philip is hoping that a good amount of returning experience from last year’s team will result in a successful season and possibly a run through the D1 South bracket.

The Warriors have one of the most experienced attackmen in the league in Colin DeVellis, who has been one of the best finishers in each of the last two years. He finished fourth overall in points his sophomore year (22 goals, 36 assists) and again his junior year (45 goals, 29 assists) and is the top returning scorer back from last year. His ability to finish in close makes life tough for opponents but he’s also able to find teammates when the defense focuses on him. Andrew Sajdak and Sam Mattson will also be key pieces on the attack and the three showed good chemistry in their first game this year.

Wes Bishop, who is committed to play at UMass Boston, is a great leader that will anchor the defensive unit. He has a lot of varsity experience and is the type of player that leads by example. Luke D’Amico is another experienced defender that will stand out for KP this year. Tyler Bartlett, Aiden Bender, Chris Longobardi, and Garrett Maxwell give coach Hal Bean a large group of experienced players.

Junior Andrew McKinney is back in goal after splitting time in the cage last season.

Mansfield

2018 Record: 9-9
2018 Finish: Reached D1 South First Round
Coach: Tim Frias

Mansfield has made the state tournament in each of the last four seasons and will be looking to make it five straight in 2019.

It all starts in the midfield with senior Aidan Sacco. Sacco, who played quarterback this past fall for the Hornet football team, is like the quarterback for the Hornet boys lacrosse team. A lot of the offense will run through Sacco because of his vision and ability to share the ball. He is also a key part of the Hornet defense. His ability to get back and track opponents while also causing turnovers and transitioning defense into offense will be key for Mansfield.

On offense, the Hornets have an experienced stick in the hands of Mike Reed, who will be relied on to lead the Hornets into the playoffs down the stretch. Connor Quirk will also be a key cog for Mansfield this year while Joe Plath, Sean Weber, and Will Nelson are going to be important pieces in the defensive unit.

The Hornets have a strong piece in Nico Holmes at the face-off X. Holmes picked up varsity experience at the position last year and he will look to give Mansfield extra possessions this year in their push for the state tournament.

Coleman O’Brien and Brian Rockwell are battling for the starting spot in the cage.

Milford

2018 Record: 6-11
2018 Finish: Missed playoffs
Coach: Jacob Scordato

After increasing their win total from 2017 to 2018, the Scarlet Hawks will be looking to continue that trend in 2019.

With returning starters back in a lot of positions, second-year head coach Jacob Scordato is hopeful that Milford can make a run at a state tournament berth.

“Our Goal as a team is to make the playoffs, this program hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2012,” Scordato said. “But this group of extraordinary young men are highly motivated on achieving that goal.”

The Scarlet Hawks bring back their leading scorer in Brendan White, who had 45 points last season (31 goals, 14 assists). White is a strong, physical forward with a strong shot. His ability to finish through contact makes him one of the top attackmen in the league. In the midfield, junior captain Danny Farrell is back after a standout sophomore year. Farrell, an LSM, led the team last season with 64 ground balls.

Senior Ryan Pearl will anchor a defensive unit that is looking to improve on last season. Sophomore Evan Hazard had a standout freshman campaign between the pipes last year. He will be relied upon this season to help keep Milford in games as they make a push for the postseason.

North Attleboro

2018 Record: 15-5
2018 Finish: Reached D2 Central/East Quarterfinals
Coach: Kevin Young

After coming close to the Davenport title a year ago, the Rocketeers are ready to make another run at the division title and as well as a deep playoff run.

While the Rocketeers graduated some top talent in the league such as midfielders Jason McNeany and Max Fontes, defenseman Tommy Lockavitch, and attack Tommy Lindstrom, North Attleboro has talent and experience in every position. Juniors Nate D’Amico and Jake McNeany are back after splitting time last season and will be competing for minutes again this season.

Defensively, the Rocketeers bring back three starters from a unit that allowed a league-low 95 goals last year. Junior Brett Labonte had a terrific season and will be joined by classmate Will Yeomans and sophomore Tyler Sarro. Head coach Kevin Young said the trio is tough, vocal, active, and play very well together. In the midfield, senior captains Nick Ward and Ryan Boyle will be key pieces. Ward will also see time at attack while Boyle will be a defensive minded midfielder.

“Nick is a very smart, sneaky threat with great IQ and stick skills,” said North Attleboro coach Kevin Young. “Ryan is just a grinder that all coaches appreciate.”

Junior Dan Conroy takes over as the main faceoff guy and will be joined by Ryan Rajotte, Damien Curtis, Nick Morse, Jack Puccio, Cam Cornetta, and Joe Milosh in the midfield.

The attack will be spearheaded by junior Andy DeMattio, last year’s HockomockSports.com Underclassman of the Year. DeMattio had a tremendous season, scoring 52 goals and adding 22 assists for a team-high 74 points. “He should be fun to watch as he’s picked up some size and speed,” Young said. DeMattio will be joined by junior Jack Connolly and freshman Matt Antonetti.

Oliver Ames

2018 Record: 14-7
2018 Finish: Reached D2 South Semifinals
Coach: Ben Devlin

Coming off the best season in program history, Oliver Ames is aiming to have another successful year and hoping to replicate last year’s playoff push.

The Tigers reached the D2 South Sectional Semifinals last season and bring back five of the top seven scorers from a year ago. While the top two scorers — Eric LeBlanc and Owen Gallagher — and their 146 points graduated, there is a lot of optimism in the program because they have reloaded for this year.

Oliver Ames will be young on the attack with junior Sandro Masciarelli and sophomore Remi Creighton, but there is still experience in the position. Masciarelli had 25 goals last year while Creighton will see more minutes this year. The strength of the program will be in the midfield with the likes of senior captain Colin Bourne (30 goals), junior Shane Kilkelly (32 goals), junior Sam Stevens (23 goals), and junior Frankie Ireland (29 goals). That group was a big reason for OA’s memorable season last year and now have a year of experience playing together under their belts.

Defensively the Tigers are looking for senior captains Shane Murphy and Matt Saba to lead the way. Both players were apart of the defensive unit last year and have been a big reason for the program’s improvement over the past couple of seasons. Senior LSM Cullen Gallagher will be a key defensive midfielder while junior Tyler Campbell will likely factor into the Tiger defense this year. Junior Nick Gillis returns as the starting goalie while senior Steve Heino is an experienced backup.

“Our goal is to keep improving each day and keep building on last year’s success,” said OA head coach Ben Devlin. “The kids have bought into the program and are excited and enthusiastic about the season. We don’t expect anyone or two players to replace the production we graduated, but if all our returners can progress like they did last year, we should be in the mix for a tourney berth.”

Sharon

2018 Record: 12-7
2018 Finish: Reached D2 South First Round
Coach: Jon Shocket

Sharon has a strong mix of returners and new faces and is hoping that combination will result in a return trip to the state tournament.

The Eagles will have an experienced defensive group with all three starting defensemen back this year, and all three are seniors. Sam Spencer, Coleman Loftus, and Ronin McCabe are back to give the Eagles a formidable defensive group. Having an experienced defensive in front of new goalie, sophomore Adam Rabb, will help as the season gets underway.

Sophomore Drew Litner is back after a terrific freshman year. Litner can score but he is one of the most unselfish players in the league and does a terrific job finding teammates on the move. He was among the league leaders in assists last year, dishing out 28 helpers. Litner will be joined by senior Brandon Buckman and freshman Zack Waxman in the attacking group.

The midfield will also have a good amount of experience with seniors Daniel Lillenfeld and Mitchell Director leading the way. Nick Stamm and Rowan Barnes have impressed this preseason and should be apart of the group as well. Junior Max Posner could be poised for a breakout year while sophomore Cobe Jacobson and freshmen Brady Daylor and Jace Nestler will be in the mix too.

Returning LSM Tyler Freedman is back after a terrific rookie campaign and could be a top player for the Eagles while there are high hopes for freshman faceoff specialist Ben Shocket, who could be an X-factor for the Eagles.

Stoughton

2018 Record: 1-15
2018 Finish: Missed playoffs
Coach: Pat Healey

The Black Knights enter their third season as a varsity program and are looking to continue to grow as a program in a difficult league.

After being inexperienced last year, the Black Knights are hoping the lessons learned from last year will pay off this year. It starts with the four captains: Sean Doherty, Luke Bainton, Alex Wilson, and Nate Wilson. Doherty and Bainton will do a little bit of everything for the Black Knights and will be two of the top options offensively. Alex Wilson and Nate Wilson will anchor the defensive unit, bringing plenty of lacrosse experience to that group.

Stoughton is also looking for a big season out of junior Foster McLeod. McLeod has shown in the past the ability to beat defenders and create opportunities for others. Sophomores Max Huminik and Mike McLaughlin will also see increased roles after impressing during their rookie seasons in 2018.

Sophomore Thomas Ratcliffe, a Hockomock League honorable mention last year, returns in the cage and gives the Black Knights a steady presence between the pipes. Sophomore Marty Barrett returns as a long pole and will be a key piece of the Knights’ defense.

Nolte, Hagan Make Most Of Top Line Reunion

Ryan Nolte, Johnny Hagan
Canton senior Ryan Nolte (left) and junior Johnny Hagan celebrate with the D2 State Championship. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
BOSTON, Mass. – For the first 13 games of the season, Canton senior Ryan Nolte and junior Johnny Hagan took turns punishing teams as members of different lines.

For the last 13 games, the duo reunited on the Bulldogs’ top line, ramping up Canton’s already potent offense.

And in the biggest game of the season, the Division 2 State Championship against North sectional champion Tewksbury, Nolte and Hagan — along with linemate Timmy Kelleher — delivered when it mattered most.

“They are so dynamic together, they play so well together,” said Canton head coach Brian Shuman. “They know where each other are at all times. They have this unique relationship on the ice that I’ve never seen before.”

Nolte and Hagan played on the same line for nearly the entire 2017-2018 season, helping the Bulldogs win another Davenport division title and reach the D2 South Semifinal. This season, Shuman decided to split the dynamic duo to begin the year, putting them on separate lines.

Click here for a photo gallery from the D2 State Final.

After tying for a team-high 36 points a year prior, splitting Nolte and Hagan gave Shuman an elite player on each of his first two lines, and also allowed Hagan to play his natural position of center.

“The best part about them, when I talked to them about splitting them they might have been unhappy but they didn’t show it,” Shuman said. “They just went out and had an outstanding first half of the season. That just shows the kind of leaders that they are. I know a lot of high school kids that would pout and sulk and let it affect their game, but not those two. They are just two special players, as good as they are individually, they are two great team players.

While Nolte and Hagan admitted they weren’t thrilled to part ways, neither let it show in their performance and helped the Bulldogs raced out to a perfect 13-0, outscoring opponents 64-13 in that span. Plus, it wasn’t an entire split as the pair played together on the power play and penalty kill.

“Coach told us a few weeks before the season, so it definitely hurt the next few days knowing we weren’t going to be playing on the same line,” Nolte said. “But we had to stay focused no matter who we were playing with. We knew we’d be together for the power play and PK, so it wasn’t a full split. But we knew that we had to work just as hard with our new linemates and we adapted well.”

So after three straight close games — a win over Newburyport, a third-period rally to stun Franklin, and a close win over North that included a late game-winner — along with the emergence of junior center Tommy Ghostlaw, Shuman elected to reunite Hagan and Nolte with Kelleher on the first line.

The result was four straight comfortable wins, outscoring opponents 24-1 in that stretch. And in one of the most challenging games of the year, Nolte and Hagan each scored in a 4-3 decision over D3 powerhouse Hanover.

“We already had the hot start so we knew playing together we could really pounce on teams even more,” Nolte said. “It was just a great feeling to be back on the same line and playing together.”

A week later, Hagan provided the heroics by scoring a goal regulation to salvage a tie with Boston late and keep the Bulldogs unbeaten. The junior then scored in overtime to help Canton advance to the final of the Quinn Memorial tournament.

“It’s always good to kind of shake things up,” Shuman said. “Since I’ve been coaching here, I don’t think we’ve ever gone from start to finish with the same line combinations, and it’s kind of by design. You play some teams twice, like Franklin, or could see another team twice like OA. It’s good to have different looks. It was always in the plans to do this at some point.”

Ghostlaw’s strong play allowed Shuman to keep Nolte and Hagan together on the top line. Ghostlaw (13 points) clicked with linemates Chris Lavoie (27 points) and Shane Marshall (15 points), giving the Bulldogs a strong second unit.

“Tommy is kind of the other part of the equation,” Shuman said. “He had such an outstanding season that allowed us to keep those two on the first line together. Chris Lavoie was fantastic, and Shane Marshall, someone who doesn’t enough credit a lot of the time, he was outstanding too.”

When the playoffs rolled around, Canton’s top line took its game to another level. In an opening-round rout of Medway, Nolte scored twice while Hagan and Kelleher each scored once in a 6-0 victory.

Again Oliver Ames, Nolte scored the game-winning goal midway through the second period by tipping in a shot from Jack Connolly. Kelleher buried an empty net goal to seal a win over the Tigers, arguably the toughest opponent the Bulldogs played this postseason.

In the semifinals, Nolte recorded a hat trick, two of which were assisted by Hagan. And Hagan also scored once, set up by Nolte, as the Bulldogs ran away with a 6-1 decision over Norwood.

The offensive onslaught continued in the South Final as the Bulldogs’ top line was responsible for half of Canton’s eight goals. Kelleher scored twice while Hagan and Nolte both found the back of the net once while registering two assists apiece.

“He definitely makes it easier for everyone on the ice,” Hagan said of Nolte. “We’ve played together since we were very young. We’ve always clicked, we know where each other are going to be. We knew what we had in front of us in terms of winning the state championship. We wanted it really bad, so we just came to work every day. We worked out butts off in practice and in games to get here, and here we are.”

Under the lights at the TD Garden, Canton’s first line shined the brightest. That line was on the ice for all six of the Bulldogs’ goals, scoring five of them.

Kelleher opened the scoring, tucking in the rebound off a shot from Owen Lehane with Nolte getting an assist with 9:04 left in the opening period. Minutes later, Connolly blasted a low shot from the right point to make it 2-0 with 7:27 to go in the first.

It took just 16 seconds for Canton to add to its lead as Nolte muscled his way into the slot and buried a wrist shot to make it 3-0.

“Without question, they are the best team we’ve played for sure.” said Tewksbury coach Derek Doherty. “You don’t get this far without three lines. Those guys play three lines but that first line of theirs, that’s definitely the best line we’ve played.”

The cohesion between Nolte and Hagan was on full display for the next two goals. The first, Hagan interrupted a pass near the blue while Tewksbury was on the power play. He went into the offensive zone and had his shot saved, but Nolte won the battle behind the net and found Hagan in front for a one-timer and a 4-0 lead.

Click here for a photo gallery from the D2 State Final.

Of Canton’s 29 playoff goals, the top line of Nolte-Hagan-Kelleher scored 19 of them.

“They carried us today, we asked them to play a lot of minutes,” Shuman said. “When you have penalties and power plays, that throws a wrench in the plans. We joked with Johnny, ‘Where’s your hat trick’ and there it was today. That line of Ryan, Johnny, and Timmy, what can you say about them? They played great.”

The Redmen cut it to 4-2 with two straight tallies over the second and third periods, but Nolte and Hagan responded with a power-play goal. Nolte won a battle along the side boards, skated towards goal and slid a pass to Hagan right in front for a score.

Hagan completed the hat trick with an empty net goal, assisted, of course, by Nolte.

“No matter where we are on the ice, we seem to just know where each other are,” Nolte said. “We just find the open spots, and we both can finish in the tight areas. It makes life easier when you have someone who can finish like [Hagan] can.”

While Nolte and Hagan didn’t start the season playing on the same line, they finished it together as state champions.

Canton Caps Historic Unbeaten Season with D2 Title

Canton boys hockey
Canton’s Ronan O’Mahony (23) jumps on the pile to celebrate the D2 State Championship. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
Josh PerryFollowJoshPerry


BOSTON, Mass. – Canton went into Sunday afternoon’s Div. 2 state championship game against Tewksbury looking to put a fitting exclamation point on a historic season. The Bulldogs were trying to be the first team since Hanover won the D3 title in 2001 to finish a season unbeaten, be just the fourth team to win 25 games in a single year, and to earn the program’s first title since 2010.

Despite all that pressure, the Bulldogs did what they have done all season long – they found a way to win.

Behind a hat trick from junior Johnny Hagan and a goal and four assists by senior Ryan Nolte, Canton dispatched Tewksbury 6-2, closing out its season at 25-0-1.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

“It’s one of those things that it was hard not to know that we’d be good with the guys that we had back,” said Canton coach Brian Shuman, “but you still think you’re going to have a couple of tough games. It just goes to show how driven these guys are. That was their goal, to win every single game, and they did it.”

Nolte said, “It’s unbelievable. We knew in the summer that this was a goal, but, yeah, I don’t think the undefeated part came with it. We worked hard all off-season, so I think we deserved it and we went out and showed the work that we put in.”

Entering the playoffs unbeaten put a giant target on Canton’s back, but it seemed only to motivate the Bulldogs, who outscored opponents 29-3 during their tournament run. Canton scored six against Norwood in the D2 South semifinal, eight against Westwood in the final, and then another six against the Redmen on Sunday.

“They were just relentless, they did not stop,” Shuman explained. “We always say that it’s a 0-0 hockey game no matter the score, but they always played like that.”

Skating on the big ice and bright lights of the Garden can take some getting used to and it seemed like the Bulldogs needed a couple shifts to find their legs. Once they found their footing in the first period, the Bulldogs took control of the game.

Shane Marshall had the first chance on a feed from behind the net by Tommy Ghostlaw, but Tewksbury goalie Patrick Letourneau kept his pads down to block a pair of shots. Canton grabbed the lead five minutes into the game. Seconds after Nolte was denied on a shot from the left wing circle, Owen Lehane’s shot from the point rebounded to Timmy Kelleher for a tap-in.

Just about 90 seconds later and the lead was doubled. Ronan O’Mahony swung the puck across the blue line to Jack Connolly, who patiently crept towards the face-off circle before firing a low wrister just inside the post. Nolte added a third goal with a shot from the slot just 16 seconds later.

Three goals in less than two minutes had the Bulldogs thinking the title was as good as won.

Shuman said, “It seems like the story of the playoffs. We’ve played with a lot of pressure on us this entire postseason, but it’s amazing when you have a crew like these guys how quickly they can strike. It just goes to show the quality of players we have on that team.”

“It’s huge,” said Nolte about the early goals. “No matter what, Mike [Staffiere] will play his best every game, so if we get a few goals early that just makes us more confident. The earlier we score the better we feel because with Mike back there we know there won’t be too many pucks going in.”

The Redmen tried to cut into the lead early in the second period when Kyle Morris got free on a shorthanded breakaway but Mike Staffiere came through with a clutch glove save. Two minutes later, Canton got its own shorthanded odd-man rush that Tewksbury struggled to clear, the puck falling right to Hagan in the slot and he calmly put it away.

Tewksbury was down four goals but was playing much better in the second period. Staffiere again had to come up big to stop a pair of chances from the edge of the crease. The Redmen finally found a breakthrough after Morris stole the puck behind the Canton goal and played it out in front to Aaron Scott.

Chris Lavoie and Marshall nearly had instant responses for the Bulldogs but it remained 4-1 after two periods. The lead got smaller early in the third. Kyle Lombardo got a piece of a Campbell Pierce shot from the point, redirecting it past Staffiere to make it 4-2.

With 7:19 remaining, Canton added a big insurance goal on a power play. Nolte skated off the half-boards and picked out Hagan cutting to the goal. The junior took a touch to control and then buried his shot over the shoulder of Letourneau for a 5-2 lead.

“They carried us today,” said Shuman about his top line. “We kind of joked with Johnny, ‘where is your hat trick?’ and he had it today. He really stepped up. That line of Ryan, Johnny, and Timmy, what can you say about them? They played great.”

Tewksbury had a goal disallowed for an offsides call and with three minutes left decided to pull its goalie. Hagan sealed the title for the Bulldogs when he beat a defender to a loose puck and scored on the empty net.

“It definitely feels good and I’ll definitely remember this forever,” said Hagan about his hat trick. “I think we really tried to play within ourselves and not really get into the hype around us. We just played our game.”

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

One of the storylines throughout the playoff run was Canton bouncing back after being snubbed by the Super 8. Shuman, who played on the unbeaten 1998 Catholic Memorial team that won the Super 8, dismissed the idea that the Bulldogs were motivated by not being selected.

“That’s so far in the rearview mirror,” he said. “These guys, when we shared with them about the Super 8, they were just like, ‘okay, on to D2.’ This was their goal from day one and I can’t believe the maturity they showed when that happened. It didn’t motivate us, we just focused on taking care of business in D2.”

The Bulldogs took care of business and made history in the process. “I really don’t even think it’s set in yet,” said Hagan. “It will probably set in with the police escort, riding through the center of town. It’s unreal.”

Relentless Bulldogs Put Six Past Norwood in Semifinal

Canton boys hockey Ryan Nolte
Canton senior Ryan Nolte attacks the goal against Norwood in the D2 South Semifinal. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
Josh PerryFollowJoshPerry


BOURNE, Mass. – The game was scoreless for 12 minutes when Canton senior center Ryan Nolte won a face-off to the right of Norwood goalie Austin Reardon. Nolte kept possession of the puck, dragging it through the legs of a Mustangs defenseman, brought it back to his forehand and then roofed his shot from a tight angle.

It was a stellar opening goal for the unbeaten Bulldogs, eased some nerves for the top seed, and opened the floodgates for Canton in Tuesday’s Div. 2 South semifinal. Once the Bulldogs got their noses in front, they were relentless, scoring four times in the second period and rolling to a dominant 6-1 victory over the No. 5 seed.

“It was definitely huge,” Nolte said about getting in front. “Sophomore year was my first time really playing down here and we didn’t get any (1-0 overtime loss to Medway) and then last year we had the tough 3-0 start (against Plymouth South), so it was good to play with a lead throughout the game and just maintain it and putting some goals in.”

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Canton got off a to a great start and looked dangerous every time that it got into the attacking zone. Timmy Kelleher created the first good chance with a big hit behind the net to win back possession and he fed it out in front for Johnny Hagan, whose shot caught a piece of Reardon’s blocker and then the post.

Norwood nearly took advantage of a turnover to score the opener, but was denied by a hustling back-check from Tommy Ghostlaw. The Bulldogs then got a chance in front when Tommy Vaughan angled in from the near boards and picked out Colby Ciffolillo, but Reardon again made the stop.

Finally, with 2:55 left in the first, Canton’s pressure paid off with Nolte stepping up and going bar down on a wrister to put the Bulldogs in front.

“The plan was just get more pucks and bodies to the net,” said Canton coach Brian Shuman. “We’ve been through some crazy games down here and a lot of times those crazy games start off with letting up goals early. I think if you can get up early down here and get up early this time of the year, it’s always a big step in the right direction.”

The Bulldogs had to clear off two penalties, including one that stretched into the second, but going on the penalty kill hardly slowed their momentum. Chris Lavoie had a chance from the slot that Reardon spilled but managed to recover in time to deny Ghostlaw on the rebound.

A little more than two minutes later, Lavoie got on the board to double Canton’s lead. The play was made by Shane Marshall, who managed to block a clearance at the blue line under pressure, got enough space to get his head up and flicked a pass to Lavoie in the high slot. The junior went blocker side to make it 2-0.

Canton added a third a minute later when Nolte held off a check behind the net and saucered a pass to Hagan right in front and the junior didn’t miss from close-range. The duo combined for the fourth goal of the night as well. Hagan ripped a wrist shot off Nolte’s face-off win. The puck trickled behind Reardon and Nolte reacted first to prod it over the line for a shorthanded goal.

“We’ve been playing together forever, so we know where we are on the ice at all times,” Nolte said about playing on the same line with Hagan. “It’s just good to know that if I throw one in front he’s going to be there to put it home and vice versa. It’s fun and hopefully we can keep it going for a few more games.”

On the same power play, Norwood got one back. Mike Staffiere made the first two stops but the puck slid off to his left and, with the goalie prone in the crease, Chris Martin was in the right place to tap it home. Any momentum for the Mustangs lasted less than two minutes. Owen Lehane lined up a wrister from the blue line that snuck through traffic and, with the help of a deflection off a Norwood player in front, snuck inside the post to make it 5-1.

“We have a good mindset after scoring a goal to not let up and going right back out after a goal. no matter what the score is, and keep the pressure on,” said Nolte. “I thought we did a good job of it tonight.”

Reardon needed to be at his best to keep it a four-goal game early in the third, as Hagan set up Kelleher at the back post only for the goalie to get a toe across. With 8:32 to go, freshman Eamon Kelly burst through the middle of the Norwood zone, split a pair of defenders and the lifted a backhand shot stick side to get Canton’s sixth.

Nolte had a chance at his hat trick after a pinpoint three-line pass from defenseman Declan Pfeffer, but he couldn’t get his shot over Reardon’s glove. Undeterred, Nolte then popped up in his defensive zone, chasing back when the Mustangs got a three-on-one and getting a poke check in to deny a scoring chance.

“He played well in all three zones,” Shuman said of Nolte. “Not many players can be that good defensively, that good in the neutral zone, and that good in the offensive zone, and kill penalties the way he does. It’s a testament to his skill but to how smart of a player he is too.”

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

While the offense will get the headlines, the Canton defensive corps had another impressive performance. The Bulldogs have allowed only 21 goals in 24 games this season and the top two pairings of Jack Connolly and Ronan O’Mahony and Matt Martin and Lehane, held Norwood to only 12 shots through the first two periods and kept the front of the net largely clear for Staffiere (20 saves).

“I’m really happy with all four lines playing well tonight, played big minutes and played regular shifts, which I think was big for us tonight,” said Shuman. “It was really a team win. It’s not a cliche, it really was a team win. I thought all the guys played well tonight.”

After three straight losses at the semifinal stage, Canton boys hockey (23-0-1) is back to its first South final since 2015 and will face No. 2 seed Westwood (the same team that they faced in the 2015 final and the team that shares a home with the Bulldogs at the Canton Ice House), after the Wolverines beat Medfield 3-2 in the first semifinal of the night.

Canton Emerges Victorious Against Gritty Oliver Ames

Canton boys hockey
Canton senior Ryan Nolte tries to keep the puck from Oliver Ames’ Matt McCormack (right) in the third period. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
CANTON, Mass. – The top-seeded Canton boys hockey team is headed back to the Division 2 South Semifinals after earning their second straight shutout.

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.”

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

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.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

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.

Oliver Ames finishes the season 14-9-1. Canton boys hockey (22-0-1) will take on #5 Norwood (13-3-6) on Tuesday at 7:30 at Gallo Ice Arena.

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)

Josh PerryFollowJoshPerry


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.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

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.

Strong Start Carries Canton Over Oliver Ames

Canton boys hockey
Canton’s Chris Lavoie tries to skate past Oliver Ames’ James Beatty in the first period at Asiaf Arena. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
BROCKTON, Mass. – Every team aims to get off to a good start, but few accomplish it as well as the Canton boys hockey team did on Saturday evening.

The Bulldogs scored twice inside the first minute of the game and had a third goal before the midway point of the first period, eventually skating away with a 5-2 decision over Oliver Ames.

Canton needed just 12 seconds to find the back of the net, doubled the lead in similar fashion at the 58 second mark, and again won a battle down low with 9:51 to go in the first to build a 3-0 lead.

“That’s as a good as I’ve seen coaching Canton High,” said Canton head coach Brian Shuman. “It was a good start, we came out flying, but you knew it was going to settle down at some point and [Oliver Ames] was going to play better. And it did and it was an even hockey game. When you play like a team like OA, and you know each other as well as we do, it’s going to tighten up eventually and it did. They are a good team, they run three good lines, four good [defensemen] and a good goalie. It was a good hockey game.”

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After quickly getting possession in the attacking zone, Canton senior Matt Martin fired a low shot that was turned aside by OA junior goalie Owen Connor (18 saves) with a pad stop but the rebound was won by junior Timmy Kelleher and he quickly lifted the puck into the back of the net for a 1-0 lead with 14:48 left.

Canton continued to apply pressure and doubled its advantage with a similar play. Junior Chris Lavoie came streaking down the left side along the boards before rifling a low shot that was once again denied by Connor. But once again, Canton had plenty of help in front with senior Ryan Nolte providing a screen in front and junior Shane Marshall there to clean up the loose puck to make it 2-0 just 58 seconds into the game.

“We’d like to have the first minute back, yeah,” said OA head coach Sean Bertoni. “We knew what we were in for and it’s kind of ironic because we worked on a lot of 3-on-3 down low all week and that’s how they scored the first three goals. They came out hard, they wanted it more…that’s how Canton plays. They were hungry out front and we weren’t. We just didn’t take sticks, we were in position, but we just didn’t take sticks, and Canton wanted it more.”

The Bulldogs didn’t relent after building a 2-0 goal, pushing forward and finding the back of the net just over five minutes into the game. This time the set up came from junior Ronan O’Mahoney, who sent the puck towards the net from a step inside the blue line. The puck didn’t make it through, blocked down by a body in front and Canton senior Joe Robinson was the first to react, batting in the loose put for a 3-0 lead, all before Oliver Ames was able to register a shot on goal.

The Tigers’ first shot on goal came with 6:45 left in the first and Oliver Ames made the most of it. Senior Brett Williams connected with classmate Max Ward in front and he directed the puck into the back of the net to get the Tigers on the board, down 3-1.

Oliver Ames started the second period with a power play, but it was quickly erased by a tripping call to make it 4-on-4. Canton had over a minute and a half of power play time when the 4-on-4 elapsed, but good forechecking from Williams and freshman Bryan Kearns prevented Canton from creating any real chances.

Junior Johnny Hagan nearly extended Canton’s lead with 9:50 left in the second period when Kelleher set him up in the slot but Connor made a terrific save to keep the puck out and the deficit at two.

But just over a minute later, Connor had no chance when Lavoie was left all alone in front. Marshall did the dirty work, pinning the puck in behind the net and drew the attention of three OA players. Marshall delivered a perfectly weighted pass in front to Lavoie and he one-timed it in to make it 4-1.

OA had a power play in the final minutes of the period and had a couple of looks but couldn’t solve Canton goalie Michael Staffiere for a second time. First, Kearns centered a pass to junior Jake Gottwald but he was tied up by a pair of Bulldogs defensemen and couldn’t get a stick on it. Moments later, senior Julian Krowski fed sophomore Ross Carroll but his bid from in close was denied.

The third period belonged to the defenses as neither side could generate much offense. Ward had one of the best chances just over five minutes into the period but saw his shot go just over the bar. It wasn’t until 3:17 left in the game that the pace picked up again.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Ward was on the receiving end of assists from Williams and Kearns, finishing off a chance in front to bring the Tigers within two late in the game. OA had another good look on the stick of Williams, but Staffiere came up with a big save.

Kelleher scored an empty net goal on an assist from Hagan with less than a minute to go to ice the game.

Canton boys hockey (4-0-0 Hockomock, 8-0-0 overall) is back in action on Wednesday when it travels to Foxboro to take on the Warriors at 5:20. Oliver Ames (2-2, 7-4) will try to bounce back on Wednesday when it hosts North Attleboro at 5:00.

Canton Cashes In With Late Period Goals, Beats Franklin

Canton boys hockey
Canton’s Ryan Nolte sets up for a shot in the first period that turned into the Bulldogs’ first goal. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
CANTON, Mass. – There’s 15 minutes in each period, and the Canton boys hockey team made sure to use every second of each one.

The Bulldogs scored with less than five seconds left in each the first and second periods, both on the power play, to pick up a 3-1 win over Franklin in a non-league clash between Hockomock hockey powers.

“It was wide open at times with a lot of chances and it was very tight at times, it was a typical Canton-Franklin game,” said Canton head coach Brian Shuman. “The first goal, that puck went off a skate, the shot was going to be wide but went off a skate and in. We lost one of our better players for 10 minutes but our guys responded. Colby Ciffolillo, first-year player, was asked to play on like three lines and three different positions and played great. It was a good response for us after a tough start.”

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Franklin took the lead less than a minute into the contest but Canton equalized less than four minutes later. Panther senior defenseman Matt D’Ericco had a puck pop out to him in the attacking zone and fired a low shot that deflected off a skate and into the net just 54 seconds in to the game.

Canton senior Ryan Nolte answered less than four minutes later to bring the hosts level. Nolte made a nice move to get around a defenseman and released a shot right in front that was partially saved by Franklin goalie Ryan Cameron (25 saves), but the puck trickled over the line to make it 1-1.

The teams traded chances over the final 10 minutes, with Franklin junior Colin Hedvig forcing Canton senior goalie Michael Staffiere (18 saves) into a tough save. Two minutes later Canton junior Tommy Ghostlaw came flying down the left wing, drew the defense, and centered a pass for Ciffolillo but his one-timer went off the post and stayed out.

Just when it looked like the teams would head to the locker room level, Nolte drew a tripping call in the attacking zone with 33.9 to play.

After an attacking face off, the puck squirted free to Owen Lehane at the blue line. Lehane quickly passed to his left to junior Jack Connolly, who quickly one-timed a shot in front of goal. Junior Chris Lavoie was positioned all alone in front, made one move and stuffed his bid in with 2.7 left in the period.

“Both power play goals were because of Jack Connolly,” Shuman said. “Both times, knowing the clock, knowing how much time was left, jumped into the play to create a four man attack. The first one, the one-timer to the net and the second one, jumping into the play and getting it down low and we had some guys down there.”

Despite the late goal in the first, Franklin came out reenergized in the second and controlled the majority of the period. Franklin senior Joey Lizotte forced a nice save from Staffiere and the rebound bid from CJ Spillanee hit off the post and stayed out.

Tom Tasker drew a tripping call with eight minutes to go, and the Panthers even had 5-on-3 for 14 seconds after a cross check, but Franklin was unable to solve Staffiere again during the two-man advantage opportunities.

“We filled a lot of boxes [of things we don’t want to do] tonight,” said Franklin head coach Chris Spillane. “We were soft on the puck, not strong with our sticks, they had more speed than we had and that’s going to kill you every time. They wanted to play harder than us. I thought we had a good second period minus 0.2 seconds, that was a killer. We allowed two power play goals, both at the end of a period and that takes a lot of air out. I thought we had a good second but the third was just soft all around. I expected them to show me something and we didn’t have any effort out there.”

The best chance came on the stick of Lizotte, who beat a defenseman with speed and rifled a shot on net but Staffiere turned the bid aside to keep the lead.

Despite controlling the period and having the majority of possession, Franklin wasn’t able to cash in and took a penalty with 1:38 to go.

Canton once again took advantage of a late man-up chance. As the final seconds ticked away, Ghostlaw blocked a clearance attempt, Connolly jumped on the loose puck and dumped it in front of net, and junior Shane Marshall settled the puck and fired a backhand attempt with Lavoie screening in front.

The shot hit the back of the net with under a second to play, just a moment before the buzzer sounded for the end of the second period.

“I thought we carried the play in the second, we outshot them, we had more opportunities,” Spillane said. “We actually forechecked and turned pucks over, we did what we needed to do. But that’s a backbreaker with 0.2 seconds left, it was a legit goal no question about it. We had two guys fan on it, that puck shouldn’t have been anywhere near the net. A lot of little mistakes turned into a very lopsided game, 3-1 doesn’t even indicate what that game was like.

Franklin had a pair of early chances to get back into the game but Canton’s penalty kill wouldn’t allow it. The Panthers had 38 seconds of 5-on-3 but didn’t register any significant chances. Hedvig fired a pair of shots on the man advantage, but both were stopped by Staffiere.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

“You can’t get better defensively unless you’re pushed and challenged,” Shuman said. “Franklin was all over us [in the second period], and we have to learn from that. Franklin played well in the third period too. We have a lot of experience but a lot of youth too and these guys need to be challenged to get better and I thought Franklin really controlled the play in the second period. We were able to hold them at bay for the most part, and credit to Mike Staffiere too, he played great.”

Canton had two chances at the midway point as Matt Martin had a shot deflected just wide by Ryan Colby, and just a minute later, Nolte had his chance denied and Lavoie nearly snuck the rebound in by Cameron made the stop.

Canton boys hockey (3-0) doesn’t hit the ice for another game for over a week, hosting Westwood on December 29th. Franklin (1-1) is back in action on Saturday when it goes on the road to take on Newburyport.