FRANKLIN, Mass. – When you are struggling to get into a rhythm offensively and everyone is grabbing the stick a little tighter, it takes players grinding in the corners and making the effort to get to the front of the net to turn things around.
After watching Oliver Ames tie the game early in the third period of Wednesday night’s league opener at Pirelli Veterans Arena, Franklin needed a little inspiration to avoid extending its winless streak to six games (0-3-2 after opening the season with an exclusion win against Malden Catholic). Up stepped senior forward Joe Lizotte.
Despite being the only Panther in the offensive zone, Lizotte managed to hold possession in the corner against three OA defensemen. He squeezed the puck out to the right boards where it kicked to Tom Tasker, who sent a puck across the crease. The puck was deflected by C.J. Spillane, and several bodies in front of goal, to the far post and Zac Falvey popped up to knock the loose puck into the back of the net.
It was the spark that the Panthers needed. Franklin scored again three minutes later to seal a 4-2 victory and kick off its league title defense with a much-needed two points.
“He’s by himself and we get help off the bench and next thing you know it’s in the back of the net,” said Franklin coach Chris Spillane about the game-winner. “A dead play, with a little effort, turned into a positive play. It’s just hard work. He’s a good player and we love having him on our team.”
Franklin came out strong in the first period, holding a 9-3 edge in shots after the first, despite giving up a power play only 50 seconds into the game.
Sophomore Declan Lovett had a good look from the dot that he sent just wide and the puck bounced out to Cam Cassella at the point, who forced a save from OA goalie Owen Connor (26 saves). Lizotte forced a save from the left circle and then Spillane and Tasker put shots on goal only to be denied.
“He kept us in it,” OA coach Sean Bertoni said of his goaltender. “It was his best game of the year. We just didn’t take sticks out on those last two goals. He played excellent.”
OA’s best chance of the opening period came with just under six minutes left. Jake Gottwald slipped a pass into the slot where Ross Carroll put a shot on net only to have Panthers goalie Ryan Cameron (10 saves) kicked it aside. The hosts nearly took the lead with just seconds left in the first but Tasker’s shot came back off the post.
“Our forecheck non-existent to be honest,” Bertoni admitted. “The first period was one of our weakest of the year, which was kind of disappointing. They know if we don’t establish our forecheck, then we’re not going to win anything. We rely on our speed.”
The Tigers started the second on the power play and needed only 19 seconds to make it count. Following a Connor save, Brett Williams broke down the right side and was able to play the puck across the crease into defenseman Matt McCormack, who forced a save from Cameron, and Cullen Gallagher was on hand to tap in the rebound.
Unfortunately for the Tigers, Gallagher was injured not long after the goal and forced to leave the game, one of two OA forwards to get injured on Wednesday.
Lizotte had a decent chance at an instant response only for Connor to make the save and then the OA goalie kept out Kyle Hedvig on a tip of a Cassella slap shot. Brendan Sicchio came close too with a shot off the post.
Finally, with 7:33 left in the second, Franklin’s pressure paid off. Lizotte got behind the OA defense in the left circle and cut across goal onto his backhand before sliding it under Connor.
Just seconds after Williams and Carroll had chances on the other end, the Panthers took their first lead of the night. Again it was Lizotte that created the opportunity by riding a challenge and keeping hold of the puck. It skipped behind the net to Matt Holmes, who flung a pass out to the point where Cassella fired a wrister through traffic and into the top corner.
“We worked on chipping the puck into space and every time you have No. 11 (Lizotte) on the ice you’re going to win those races and we had a couple of other kids pick up pucks too,” said Spillane. “It’s not the prettiest brand of hockey but it’s effective.”
Franklin almost doubled the lead in the third when Falvey made it three posts for the Panthers, but OA answered back to tie it. Off a face-off in the attacking zone, Gottwald had a chance from the slot that Cameron saved, but the rebound was knocked out of mid-air by Colin Bourne and slammed into the back of the net.
Bertoni said, “Their energy was there to start the period, their effort was there, and they didn’t get down on themselves when two guys went down and that’s all you can ask for.”
Williams almost gave the Tigers the lead but Cameron made a sprawling save. It was one of the few times that OA managed to get in behind the Franklin defensemen.
Spillane explained, “I thought we did very well defensively with our gap control, slowing them down as they came in the zone and not giving them space to move around.”
With 8:49 left, after Lizotte’s effort in the corner, Falvey put Franklin in the lead. Three minutes later, the Panthers sealed the win. Dan Magazu threw a puck in front from the right boards and Shane McCaffery managed to squeeze the tip under Connor’s pads for a 4-2 lead.
“We have nine forwards and when you lose two of them it’s hard,” said Bertoni. “I threw a guy out there on the ice cold and they scored the goal to make it 3-2. That’s on me but it’s hard when you’re short-benched against a team with so much depth.”
Freshman Brian Kearns had one more good chance for the Tigers but his shot was kicked out by Cameron and the Panthers got their first two points (for MIAA purposes) of the season.
Spillane said, “We just need to find an offensive flow. We had plenty of shots, we missed the net way too much, so we need to clean things up offensively.”
Franklin (2-3-2) will travel to Taunton on Saturday, while Oliver Ames (5-3) will look to bounce back when it hosts Foxboro.
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.”
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.
“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.
2017-2018 Record: 9-10-2 2017-2018 Finish: Reached Div. 3 South preliminary round. Coach: Mark Homer
After a two year drought of postseason hockey, the Bombardiers made it to the playoffs last year and are aiming to make it two years in a row. The Bombardiers only had three seniors on the roster last season, so the majority of the squad is back, plus a familiar face is back in the fold this season.
One of the three seniors that graduated was Jake Parker, who led the Bombardiers in scoring last season with 26 goals and eight assists. But Attleboro is slated to return its next three scorers in senior Cam Littig (12 goals, 14 assists for 26 points), junior Ryan Morry (11 goals, 15 assists for 26 points) and senior Kyle McCabe (three goals, 10 assists for 13 points).
Another positive is that the Bombardiers have some experience in goal. Both senior Evan Andrews (13.66 games played) and junior Derrik Rivet (6.33 games) are set to return. Having an experienced goalie is a huge positive but having a strong backup helps even more. Andrews had 270 saves last season with a 0.882 save percentage while Rivet turned away 144 shots and had a 0.842 save percentage. In front of goal, McCabe, Sam Flynn, and Matt Viveiros will be joined by Liam McDonough, Kyle Miniati, and Zach Pierce as members of the defensive unit.
While Littig and Morry will try to replicate their success from a season ago, one name that could help bolster the offense is senior Sam Larkin. Larkin played his freshman year and had seven goals and seven assists before switching over to juniors. His experience should give Attleboro a boost during the season.
“We have had some additions to our team this year that has created a little more depth that had been absent in previous years,” said Attleboro coach Mark Homer. “We are working on maintaining a better consistency in our play. We are still in our tryout mode and hoping to find the right mix to make us more competitive this season, especially in our league games.”
2017-2018 Record: 17-3-4 2017-2018 Finish: Reached Div. 2 South semifinal. Coach: Brian Shuman
Canton comes into every year with high expectations and the Bulldogs will be favorites to bring home a ninth straight Davenport division title and 11th Hockomock League title in the past 12 seasons. While the league campaign is a priority, the Bulldogs will also be comparing themselves to the top teams in Div. 2 and hoping this will be the year to break through in the South sectional and get back to the TD Garden for the first time since 2010.
After a dominant winter, the top scoring line is back in full for Canton. Senior Ryan Nolte, the reigning HockomockSports.com Player of the Year, and junior Johnny Hagan, the reigning HockomockSports.com Underclassman of the Year, will draw most of the plaudits but junior Timmy Kelleher gives the Bulldogs strong play on the other wing as well. That line combined for 69 points last season (27 apiece for Hagan and Nolte) and will be one of the league’s best going into this year. Canton also has juniors Tommy Ghostlaw and Chris Lavoie back to add scoring punch to the second line.
At the blue line, juniors Owen Lehane and Jack Connolly will both be expected to eat up a lot of minutes after strong sophomore seasons, and the Bulldogs will be looking for other players to step up and fill in defensively. After consistently strong goaltending from Quinn Gibbs over the past few seasons, Canton will turn to senior Mike Staffiere, who has been a backup the past two years and is drawing great reviews for his play during the preseason.
“Overall, we have a lot of experience returning up front at the forward position, but that’s true for a lot of teams in our league and in our division,” said Canton coach Brian Shuman. “The real question will be how much these players improved from last year, which we won’t know for sure until the games get going.”
2017-2018 Record: 10-9-2 2017-2018 Finish: Reached Div. 3 South preliminary round. Coach: Mark Cedorchuk
Foxboro is coming off the best season in program history, as the Warriors won 10 games and qualified for the state tournament without relying on the Sullivan Rule. Now, the Warriors come back this season hoping to build on that season and make another run at the state tournament behind an offense that, according to coach Mark Cedorchuk, is as deep as it has ever been.
Junior Ronnie MacLellan and sophomore Kirk Leach are two of the forwards to keep an eye on this season for the Warriors after the duo combined for 15 goals and 32 points last season. Also up front will be senior Tanner Kennedy and juniors Sebastian Ricketts and Josh Bertumen, who combined for 10 goals last year and are looking to continue their development to add depth to the attack.
Senior Brendan Tully will lead the defensive effort but is also the team’s leading scorer. The blue line standout scored 18 goals and had 19 assists and is going to be a major factor in all three zones as well as a leader on the penalty kill and power play. He will be joined on the blue line by junior Kyle McGinnis, while junior Espen Reager will be between the pipes this year.
“Even though we had a successful season last year, best in team history,” Cedorchuk said, “our players are not satisfied, they are hungry to improve on that.”
2017-2018 Record: 12-6-5 2017-2018 Finish: Reached Div. 1 South first round. Coach: Chris Spillane
Franklin started well last winter, reaching the final of the prestigious Mount St. Charles tournament and taking a point off Malden Catholic for the first time, but the Panthers couldn’t carry the momentum throughout the season and were knocked out in the first round of the tournament. As usual, Franklin graduated a lot of players, but also return a strong corps of experienced players to take on arguably the program’s toughest regular season schedule, which is loaded with some of the state’s top teams.
The Panthers return 11 seniors for this season, including eight forwards, but also have a group of eight sophomores that are jumping up from the JV to contribute on varsity this season. The forward line has plenty of experience and should be able to fire in the goals this year. Seniors Joey Lizotte, Zac Falvey, Scott Elliott, Dan Magazu, and C.J. Spillane will all be able to jump into the top scoring lines after playing major roles last year.
Defensively, the top five defensemen will be juniors Tom Tasker (who was on the HockomockSports.com All-Underclassman Team last year) and Colin Hedvig and seniors Cam Casella, Matt D’Errico, and Evan Forbes. Three sophomores will also see time on the blue line for the Panthers this season. After graduating three senior goaltenders, the job is open to senior Ryan Cameron and junior Ray Ivers, who are both making the jump from JV.
“Our hope is that team speed will drive the offense and that our returning defense will have the experience to make sound decisions in our end,” said Franklin coach Chris Spillane. “The boys are looking forward to the upcoming season. I see the Hockomock as an extremely competitive league this year. We will also challenge our boys with a high-end non-league schedule.”
2017-2018 Record: 8-12-1 2017-2018 Finish: Missed postseason. Coach: Paul Carlow
King Philip brings 11 players back from last year’s squad and is hoping a tough schedule will result in a battle-tested team ready for the D1 South Tournament at the end of February. It starts with the seniors for the Warriors with four of them back, plus a transfer.
There will be a lot of experience in the top line for KP, as well as its first defensive pair and between the pipes. Captain Ryan Fitzpatrick (10 points) had a strong season last year and will be trying to replicate that this year. Fitzpatrick is joined by assistant captain Luke D’Amico (13 points) as wingers while senior transfer Brendan Shandley steps in at center to give the Warriors a formidable line to work with. Juniors Chris Daniels (13 points), Joe Boselli (11 points), and Jack Coulter (10 points) are all back after successful sophomore seasons and should provide KP with good depth.
On the blueline, veteran Garrett Maxwell is the lone senior back from last year so he will be relied on for leadership. He is one of the strongest players in the league and plays in all situations for KP, including the power play plus the penalty kill. There will be some other familiar faces on defense for KP with junior Kyle Gray (seven points) and sophomore Rocco Bianculli (eight points) both back with varsity experience.
Senior James Lewis takes over in the crease as the starting netminder for the Warriors. Lewis saw action in three games last season, including a pair of wins and shutouts. While new to the starting position, Lewis has plenty of experience and that bodes well for the Warriors. Jesper Makudera and Nate Ihley will be pushing for minutes in net as well.
“I expect the team to have some good chemistry and get off to a good start,” said King Philip head coach Paul Carlow. “Practice has been good, and we have good leadership this year with a strong core. The Hockomock League is always competitive, the Kelley-Rex is a strong division, and we have a tough non-league schedule too, so we want to challenge ourselves.”
2017-2018 Record: 9-7-5 2017-2018 Finish: Reached Div. 1 South first round. Coach: Mike Balzarini
The Hornets have a strong core of players back this season, along with the addition of a couple of new faces, and head coach Mike Balzarini is hoping that combination will result in success this season.
Experience will be a strong suit for Mansfield as five of its top six forwards played significant minutes last year. Chris Copponi (12 points) and Matt Copponi (16 points) will be on the wings around center Coleman O’Brien for one line while Jake Lund (eight points) and Kevin Bellanger are returners on another line. The sixth forward will be center Jack Garland, who played juniors last year but is back in the fold for the Hornets this year. Ben Ierardo, Cam Page, and Braedon Copparini will be in the mix for minutes as well.
Defensively, while there are certainly some holes to fill, Balzarini has some talent to rely on the blue line. Two-time HockomockSports.com selections Mike Arnold and Tyler Oakley graduated so there is a little bit of a void, but Austin Ricker has stepped on early on to anchor the Hornet defensive unit. Ricker is joined by Brad Grant, who played for the Hornets previously before switching to juniors. Nick Levine and Joe Troiano gained valuable experience last year, and Jack Gormley and Brian Grant should be in the mix as well.
Mansfield also has experience in the goalie position with junior Sean McCafferty back between the pipes after having a breakout sophomore campaign. McCafferty was one of the top goalies in the league last year, earning HockomockSports.com All-Underclassman honors. He had 377 saves and a 92 save percentage, which bodes well for the Hornets this year.
“We obviously want to pick up where we left off after making the playoffs the last two years,” Balzarini said. “With the returning players plus new additions, I think we’re a little bit deeper and we know what we need to do to be competitive and make sure we’re playing well at the end of the season.”
2017-2018 Record: 2017-2018 Finish: Reached Div. 2 South first round. Coach: Ben McManama
Defense will be key for the Rocketeers during the 2018-2019 season. With a handful of returners back on the blue line as well as veteran goalie Ryan Warren, North Attleboro boasts a talented defensive unit.
Senior captain Brendan McHugh will anchor the defensive group alongside juniors Jeff Baker and Will Yeomans. All three are very experienced players that put defense first. They can all get involved in the offense as well. Warren has shined between the pipes each of the last three seasons, earning HockomockSports.com Underclassman of the Year as a freshman and was a HockomockSports Third Team selection last season. Warren is pushed in practice each day as Chris Ulrich and Nick Digiacomo push for time.
Offensively, North Attleboro only lost two forwards from last year’s group, but those two players (Drew Wissler, Jason McNeany) combined for nearly half of the Rocketeers’ 76 goals a season ago. So this year, Big Red will need forwards to step up and contribute. Captain Anthony Zammiello scored 13 goals last year and will look to continue his success this season. Todd Robinson, Justin Moccia, Dennis Morehouse, Jake Ebert, and Jack Connolly are all candidates to have big years for the Rocketeers.
“We are a very big and physical team that works hard,” said North Attleboro head coach Ben McManama. “We will need to stay out of the box to have success this year. Defense and depth will be the strength of our team. We will also need three lines that can score. I am very optimistic on the season because it is obvious that all our players put a ton of work in during the offseason.”
2017-2018 Record: 13-9 2017-2018 Finish: Reached Div. 2 South first round. Coach: Sean Bertoni
Speed has been the strength of the Tigers since Sean Bertoni took over the team and Oliver Ames will be relying on that speed and aggressiveness to try and challenge Franklin at the top of the Kelley-Rex division and to make a run in the state tournament. With a few players coming back from juniors to join with an experienced group, OA has high hopes of pushing the Panthers for the league title.
Senior forward Brett Williams will be the key player in the attack, coming off a season in which he scored 21 goals and recorded 15 assists and was named to the HockomockSports.com First Team. Williams will have plenty of help up front from senior Colin Bourne, who is one of the fastest skaters in the league and had 13 points last season. Senior forward Cullen Gallagher will also give the offense a boost, as he comes back to the program after a year in juniors.
Senior Matt McCormack was one of the league’s top defensemen last year and his steadying presence on the blue line will be critical to OA improving on that end of the ice, after giving up 54 goals as a team last year. Senior James Beatty is back after a year in juniors and should be a big boost to the blue line. Junior Owen Connor is back in net and looking to build off last season’s efforts.
“We are a team that will rely heavily on our team speed,” Bertoni said. “Our aggressive style of defense will lead to a successful offense. We will have to establish our forecheck to be effective. Our transition game will be a strength for us this year, creating turnovers and getting on the attack.”
2017-2018 Record: 1-20-1 2017-2018 Finish: Missed postseason. Coach: Dan Mark
Overall, the Stoughton Black Knights will be on the young side but they have a veteran first line that will lead the way.
The Knights will be looking to improve on last year’s record, while possibly trying to surprise some teams along the way. Leading the way offensively will be senior Sean Doherty. Doherty was Stoughton’s second-leading scorer last year behind Brendan Campbell (graduated). Doherty was second on the Black Knights with 12 goals and added 11 assists and will be relied upon to be a key piece of the offense this season. Joining Doherty on the first line will be senior Luke Bainton, who brings a lot of varsity experience to the table. Bainton will look to improve on last year after recording seven points (four goals, three assists).
Senior Josh Hough will anchor the blue line for the Black Knights. In his fourth year on varsity, Hough has logged a lot of minutes on the ice over the past couple of seasons and will be one of the most experienced defensemen in the league. Hough is able to create on the offensive end as well, scoring a pair of goals last year along with seven assists. Senior Thomas McCoy is set to return in goal after getting experience between the pipes a season ago.
2017-2018 Record: 12-10-2 2017-2018 Finish: Reached Div. 2 South semifinal. Coach: Kris Metea
Taunton has been a program on the rise for the past few seasons and last year the Tigers took another big step forward by making a push to the Div. 2 South semifinal. That unexpected tournament run as the No. 13 seed, which included wins over No. 4 Old Rochester and No. 5 Nauset, has boosted the team’s confidence heading into a new year in which all but four players are back.
Scoring has not been a problem for the Tigers in recent seasons. Last year, Taunton scored a league-best 98 goals, five more than Davenport champ Canton, and senior forward Cam Sneyd (30 points) and junior Mike Albert (32 points) both eclipsed the 30-point mark. Senior Jack Patneaude added 15 points last year and he is poised for a big year along with classmates Jaden Weyant, Owen Ross, and Nick Vandermeel.
The defense is almost completely returned from last year, led by senior Andrew Carter, who was solid in the defensive zone but also chipped in with 20 points. Senior Brady Nichols and sophomore Dylan Nichols are also back for the Tigers. Junior Sean Bunker returns in net after a solid performance in the tournament run and he will be backed up by classmate Andrew Gomes, who has shown that he is a capable replacement when needed.
“The players have embraced the enjoyment of the journey, the process, and working hard to get better every day,” said Taunton coach Kris Metea. “They have the potential to continue their accomplishment of new heights. They will be fun to coach, and watch grow throughout the season.”
Albert is coming off a remarkable sophomore season in which he was among the league’s leading scorers and helped the Tigers make an improbable run to the Div. 2 South semifinal. Albert scored 17 goals and recorded 15 assists last year and is a tenacious forward in the attacking zone, chasing every puck and capable of making plays anywhere in the offensive zone. Although not the biggest forward, Albert never shied away from a hit and his speed makes him a threat wherever he picks up the puck. Taunton has been a program on the rise over the past few seasons and Albert’s skill and scoring touch have the Tigers confident of continuing that upward trajectory this winter.
The reigning HockomockSports.com Underclassman of the Year, Hagan is one of the top forwards in the Hockomock League and part of the league’s most dynamic scoring duo, along with senior Ryan Nolte (see below). Hagan was tied for the team lead with 36 points last year, including 14 goals and a team-high 22 assists, and came through in the clutch with nine of his points coming in three playoff games. He seems to love the physical part of the game and is very difficult to dislodge from the puck when he is breaking into the zone and he has the vision to find seams to set up his teammates or take the puck to goal. Hagan has an impressive shot and a love for the big hits (which sometimes gets him in trouble with penalties) and when he is on the ice opposing defenses have to keep an eye out for him at all times. Canton has been consistently among the top teams in Div. 2 and Hagan’s growth on the first line should keep the Bulldogs in that category again this winter.
Lizzotte is one of Franklin’s top returning forwards from last year’s league title-winning side and he could make the move up from the second to the first line for the Panthers this season. His energy and tenacity in the offensive zone made him one of Franklin’s top scoring threats, as the Panthers advanced to the final of the competitive Mount St. Charles tournament and got a point for the first time against Malden Catholic. Lizzotte scored nine times and assisted on four other goals, partnering with Zac Falvey on the second line and both are back to keep Franklin rolling into a new season. Lizzotte utilizes his speed to open up space for diagonal passes and is willing to chase pucks into the corners to try and keep the offense going. In addition to league play, Franklin has a schedule loaded with some of the top teams in Div. 1, so Lizzotte and the forwards will need to be firing right from the start to help the Panthers compete with some of the state’s best.
McCafferty has put in two impressive seasons for the Hornets and he will be one of the top returning goaltenders this winter, as Mansfield looks to challenge Franklin for the league title and make some noise in the state tournament. As a sophomore, McCafferty allowed only 1.85 goals against and saved 92 percent of the shots that he faced. Overall, he made 377 saves last year and had a solid performance in the loss to Xaverian in the tournament. McCafferty is quick with a strong glove and does a good job of positioning to be in the right places to make saves. The loss of graduated defensemen Tyler Oakley and Tim Arnold will make McCafferty’s communication with the blue line group even more important this season, but at least the Hornets know that there will be a solid last line of defense if things do break down. McCafferty will be tested this season, but the Hornets are confident he can come through and give them the type of performances needed to push Franklin and try to win a first league title since 2011.
McCormack has been one of the most consistent defensemen in the league over the past couple of seasons and is an imposing figure on the blue line for the Tigers, who will be hoping to challenge perennial power Franklin for the Kelley-Rex division title. In addition to his physical presence in the defensive zone and his ability to dominate the crease, McCormack also chipped in on offense, scoring eight goals and providing eight assists. His passing in the transition game is a key to the Tigers taking advantage of their speed in the forward lines and he has a rocket of a shot from the point. Teams look for reliability from the blue line and McCormack has provided that for OA the past few seasons, limiting the opposition’s scoring chances and adding toughness to the lineup. With McCormack in the back line, the Tigers will be confident of keeping pace with the top teams in the division.
With the graduation of leading scorer Jake Parker, the Bombardiers will be counting on Morry to continue his development into a top line center. As a sophomore, Morry centered the second line and was part of the top power play and penalty kill units and he contributed 11 goals and 15 assists to help Attleboro get back into the state tournament. This year, the skilled, physical forward will be counted on to make up some of the production lost from Parker’s graduation and continue playing big minutes (more than 25 minutes per game last season). He has solid stick-handling skills and an accurate shot on the move, but it is his vision and ability to pick out the right pass under pressure that makes him effective for the Bombardiers. With Sam Larkin back after a year at juniors and a year of experience for Morry, Attleboro has the pieces in place to make another run at a playoff place.
The 2017 HockomockSports.com Underclassman of the Year and 2018 Player of the Year, Nolte is arguably the top two-way forward in the Hockomock League and leads the top line for the Bulldogs, who went unbeaten in the Hock last year. His partnership with Johnny Hagan (see above) was the league’s most dynamic last year and they are back to try and bring another league title to the Canton Ice House. Nolte scored 18 goals and had 18 assists for the Bulldogs and was also part of both the penalty kill and the power play because of his work in all three zones. Physically strong and with impressive skill with the puck, Nolte can score in a variety of ways and is not afraid of getting into the crease and causing havoc in front opposing goalies. He is also a patient attacker, willing to cycle the puck and wait for the right opening. Canton has high expectations every winter and this season is no different, as the Bulldogs look to secure another league title and make a run at an elusive sectional title.
Tasker jumped into the mix for Franklin and made a quick impression as a solid performer on the blue line in all three zones, providing big hits and a hard shot from the point. Now as a junior Tasker has solidified himself as a mainstay and one of the leaders of the Panthers defense as they try to continue their dominance in the Kelley-Rex division and make another run in the tournament. Tasker is a physical presence in the defensive zone but also showed good touch on his outlet passes to get the Panthers into the attack quickly. He scored four goals and had four assists last season and became a dangerous weapon on the power play. After a year of experience on the varsity level, Tasker will be one of the leaders in the back line and keep driving the team forward from the defensive zone. Expectations are high for Franklin defensemen but Tasker seems more than capable of meeting them.
Tully spent a year in juniors but returned last season to lead the Warriors to the best season in program history. The senior defenseman will hope to repeat that success this year, as not only the leader of the team’s blueline corps but also as one of Foxboro’s top scorers. Tully scored 19 goals and had 18 assists from his defenseman position, which was among the top scorers in the Hockomock League regardless of position. He is a skilled player with the puck, but can also play the physical game necessary to keep opponents away from goal. With his speed and game IQ, Tully can cover a lot of ice and always seems to be in the right position to make plays in either zone. Coming off a 10-win season, the Warriors will be turning to Tully to lead another run at a state tournament berth and continue the program’s forward momentum.
Warren has been one of the league’s top goaltenders for the past three seasons and he enters his senior year with the opportunity to help North Attleboro unseat Canton at the top of the Davenport division. Warren, the 2016 HockomockSports.com Underclassman of the Year, allowed only 2.75 goals per game last season and held 11 opponents to two goals or less, which gave the potent North offense the chance in just about every game. A quick and agile goalie, Warren makes some of the most difficult saves seem easy and he came through against some of North’s toughest opponents, such as 36 saves against Franklin or more than 50 stops against Canton. When Warren is on his game, North can compete with anyone in Div. 2 and the Rocketeers will be counting on consistent performances this winter as they make another run at a league title. With Warren back in goal, a tournament run isn’t out of the question for North as well.
FRANKLIN, Mass. – Mansfield scored the first goal of the game with less than seven minutes to play in the game, but Franklin had an answer four minutes later to help the Panther steal a point in a 1-1 draw.
The Hornets had a 29-25 advantage in shots, outshooting the Panthers in both the first and third periods. Despite multiple chances throughout the first and second periods, goalies Dan Sheehan (Franklin) and Sean McCafferty (Mansfield) kept the puck out of the net.
But just over the midway point of the third period, Mansfield was finally able to break the stalemate. A turnover in the offensive zone allowed Mansfield to race out to a 3-on-2 chance. Coming down the right side of the ice, freshman Coleman Jenkins dropped a pass to the middle of the ice for junior Austin Ricker.
Ricker fired a wrist shot up high that Sheehan (28 saves) denied at first, but the puck had enough mustard to trickle over his shoulder, bounce off his back and fall into the net to give the Hornets a 1-0 lead.
“I thought we played a great game, I really did,” said Mansfield head coach Michael Balzarini. “We had two really good days of practice and the momentum just kind of carried over. We knew after the first 15 minutes that it would be a very close game. We knew whoever scored first might be the eventual winner so it was good to get that, just overall I’m really pleased with the way we played.”
The goal seemed to wake the Panthers up and they were finally able to solve McCafferty with just 2:42 left in the game. Senior Luke Downie had his pass partially blocked and the puck ended up on the stick of senior TJ Durkin.
With his back to goal in the center of the ice, Durkin turned, pulled the puck back on his stick and roofed a wrist shot to tie the game.
“The result reflects our performance, we did not play well,” said Franklin head coach Chris Spillane. “We didn’t skate, we didn’t win 50-50 battles, they were more physical than us…they wanted the game more than us, simple as that. We were very fortunate to get the point.
“We had a lot of breakdowns in our end but on the flip side, Mansfield played well. They played physical, they came out and wanted it more. They probably deserved the win but we’ll steal a point from them.”
After Franklin’s Jeremy Miller hit the post on a low, turn around shot just over a minute into the game, the Hornets seemed to take control of the game.
Franklin had an early power play opportunity but an interference 20 seconds into the man advantage made it 4-on-4. That resulted in a quick 2-on-1 chance for the Hornets with Tim Arnold feeding Adam Anastos, but Sheehan made the save.
The Hornets had another odd-man rush with Chris Copponi and Anastos got into the zone but Copponi’s shot and rebound chance were gobbled up before Anastos could pounce.
On the ensuing play, Franklin came flying up ice with Miller finding Brendan O’Rielly and O’Rielly returning the pass right on front of net but just out of the reach of Miller.
Mansfield went on the power play with five minutes left in the period but couldn’t covert. The Hornets had another man-advantage chance at the end of the first and 70 seconds into the second period, but couldn’t cash in.
The best chance on the power play came just a minute into the second when Mansfield freshman Matt Copponi deked around a defenseman to get an open chance on goal but he couldn’t finish with little space in front.
Franklin’s best stretch of the game came at the midway point of the second period when the Panthers went on the power play. Miller set up defenseman Tom Tasker for a point-blank shot that McCafferty turned away. McCafferty came up with two more huge saves on the kill to keep the game scoreless.
Just after Mansfield killed the penalty, the Hornets had a golden chance. Jenkins jumped on a Franklin turnover in the offensive zone and went at goal, trying to sneak a backhand in at the near post but Sheehan kept his position and made a big pad save.
With less than a minute left in the period, Copponi intercepted a Franklin pass across the blue line and raced into the offensive zone but his shot at the near post flew high.
Franklin had one final chance in the period when Matt Holmes made a nifty pass with his skate to set up CJ Spillane but his shot from in close was smothered by McCafferty.
The Panthers had two early chances in the third when Downie found Joe Lizotte in front but his shot went high. A minute later, Dan Magazu connected with Spillane but again McCafferty was up to the task.
Each team had a chance in the final two minutes but Mansfield’s Chris Kelleher had his backhand attempt turned away and Franklin’s Lizotte had his low shot denied.
Mansfield boys hockey (3-0-2 Hockomock, 5-3-3) remains in first place in the division with a one point advantage over Franklin. The Hornets host Oliver Ames on Wednesday at 7:50. Franklin (3-0-1, 8-1-3) is back in action on Wednesday with Foxboro scheduled to come to town.
Franklin, 3 vs. Newburyport, 2 – Final – Franklin scored a pair of goals over the final 65 seconds to score an improbable win against Newburyport. Trailing 2-1 with just over a minute to play, sophomore Tom Tasker scored to tie the game. Right off the faceoff, senior Jeremy Miller scored the game-winning goal. Senior Luke Downie put the Panthers on the board in the second period.
King Philip, 2 vs. Bishop Feehan, 0 – Final
Oliver Ames, 2 @ North Attleboro, 1 – Final – Oliver Ames junior defenseman Matt McCormack scored on the power play with three minutes left to lift Oliver Ames to a non-league win over North Attleboro. Senior Michael Nikiciuk scored Oliver Ames’ first goal as the Tigers held a 31-12 advantage in shots.
Stoughton, 2 vs. Norton, 6 – Final – Brendan Campbell and Matt Brown scored third-period goals for the Black Knights.
Taunton, 5 vs. Dartmouth, 7 – Final
Franklin, 3 @ Auburn, 1 – Final
King Philip, 4 @ Dennis-Yarmouth, 2 – Final – King Philip raced out to a 2-0 lead in the first period but the Dolphins battled back with a goal in the first and the second to tie the game. But the Warriors answered quickly as Meghan Gorman put KP back in front with her second goal of the game. Defenseman Nicole Connor carried the puck in from the blue line, evaded multiple DY defenders, and dished a pass to Gorman, who was open in front. Gorman had the opener for KP off an assist from Kyleigh Remmes. Junior Ali Wilson put KP ahead 2-0 while junior Alli Meehan gave the Warriors insurance with a goal in the third period, assisted by Talia Quinn. Defensemen Katie Crowther, Jess Daniels, Marin Cormier, and Madda Kelly kept DY scoring opportunities to a minimum through the second and third periods.
Mansfield/Oliver Ames, 0 @ Medfield/Norton, 3 – Final
Stoughton, 2 vs. Framingham, 7 – Final
Franklin, 70 @ Ashland, 0 – Final
Sharon Quad (Sharon, Hingham, Norton, Danvers) – Sharon pinned down a pair of wins at its own quad meet on Saturday morning. The Eagles beat both Hingham (41-36) and Danvers (46-36), but fell to powerhouse Norton (52-15). Senior captains Matt Callan (145) and Sam Mandelbraut (132) each win 3-0 on the day while freshman Jack Landstein (113) earned his first career win.
Franklin, 131.75 @ Taunton, 125.25 – Final – Franklin opened its season with a win over Taunton. Junior Mia Lizotte was first in the All-Around with a 36.15, edging out Taunton’s Elise Ferreira (34.1). Lizotte was first in the vault (9.45), bars (8.30), beam (9.20) and floor (9.2). Franklin freshman Lexi Lupien scored an 8.45 on the vault, senior Liz Traphagen scored 8.05 on the bars and 9.1 on the floor, and junior Sadie Rondeau scored 8.40 on the beam for the Panthers. Freshman Katelyn Guidi also placed on the bars.