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.”

Bulldogs Seal South Title With Dominant Performance

Canton boys hockey
Canton boys hockey celebrates with its D2 South championship trophy. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
Josh PerryFollowJoshPerry


BUZZARDS BAY, Mass. – Canton is no stranger to playing important games at Gallo Arena. Coming into this year’s playoffs, the Bulldogs had played nine times in Bourne since winning the state title in 2010, reaching at least the sectional semifinal every year but one, but had only won twice at Gallo in that span.

After a convincing win against Norwood in the semifinal, Canton had the opportunity to end nearly a decade’s wait for a return to the TD Garden and set aside recent history in this venue. The Bulldogs did that in style, dominating second-seed Westwood from start to finish in the Div. 2 South final and putting an 8-0 exclamation point on their run to the final.

“It feels amazing,” said Canton senior goalie Mike Staffiere. “I pictured this in my mind when I was a little kid. In 2010, when they won it at the Garden, my Mite ‘A’ team was here to watch the state championship team win this game and it was one of the most special moments of my life.”

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When asked about what made this year’s team different than previous Canton squads, including two South finalists, Canton coach Brian Shuman said, “The word that’s used most often to describe them is relentless. They just don’t stop. They work hard, they love each other, they play for each other, and I couldn’t be prouder of them. I love it that on the ice all of them are saying one more, one more and that’s how they’ve been all year.”

Staffiere added, “I think we’re just more of a family this year. We’re so close on and off the ice and we’re always together, we’re all brothers, and I think that’s the difference.”

If there was any nervousness in the Canton locker room, the players certainly didn’t show it on the ice. The Bulldogs recorded the fist nine shots of the game, held an 18-5 advantage in shots after the first period, and needed only 43 seconds to get ahead. Johnny Hagan had a wraparound shot saved by Westwood goalie Ben Goodrich and the rebound skipped out to Owen Lehane at the blue line. His wrister snuck inside the post for the early lead.

“We just wanted a good start, we wanted to come out flying, and to come out hard,” said Shuman. “To get a goal in the first period is always a good way to start the game.”

Canton never looked back. Chris Lavoie nearly doubled the lead with a shot from the slot, but Goodrich made a big stop with his shoulder. Staffiere (19 saves) didn’t have much to do in the first but he was forced into a blocker save on a snap shot by Colin Fahey. The Bulldogs made their pressure pay with 3:19 left in the first, Ryan Nolte took his time in the left circle and fired a low shot that squeezed inside the near post.

After dominating play and grabbing a 2-0 lead in the first, Canton put the game away in the second.

Just a minute after the break, Timmy Kelleher blocked a puck at the blue line and then raced into the offensive zone to collect it. He dropped a pass off to Hagan in the slot and the junior took a look up and sniped the top corner on the stick side. Only 23 seconds later, Ryan Colby added a fourth.

The top line of Hagan, Nolte, and Kelleher was controlling the game and Westwood had no answer. With 12:10 left in the second, that trio combined for the fifth of the afternoon. Hagan had the initial shot and the rebound was pushed on goal by Nolte with Kelleher on hand to force it over the line.

Shuman said, “Timmy Kelleher I think played his best game of the season. He’s just a bruising right-wing. He made a great block that led to that goal.”

There was no letting up from the Bulldogs. Lavoie was the lone forechecker but he managed to swipe the puck from the Westwood defender on the right side of the net. The junior center brought it back to the other side and threw a puck in front looking for Tommy Ghostlaw in the crease, but it deflected off a Westwood player and looped into the goal.

Three minutes into the third period, Kelleher again showed the benefit of going to the net, as he followed up a chance by Nolte and knocked in the rebound to make it 7-0. Seven minutes later, Tommy Vaughan got in on the action. Eamon Kelly’s shot was going wide of the net, but it glanced off Vaughan’s skate and snuck in.

Westwood created some chances down the stretch, but Staffiere stood tall to preserve his shutout in the final. “I wanted it so bad,” he said about the shutout. “They had a couple of odd-man rushes but my ‘D’ played well and they helped me out to get that shutout.”

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

This is Staffiere’s first season in goal, after three years as a backup to Quinn Gibbs, and that has made the title even sweeter. He explained, “I did my time as a backup. I still worked hard every day and it really paid off. It’s amazing, my dreams are coming true.”

Canton (24-0-1) heads to the TD Garden next Sunday and will face either Boston Latin or Tewksbury in the state championship game. It has been an impressive run through the sectional for the Bulldogs, which didn’t allow the disappointment of not being chosen for the Super 8 deter them.

“That’s so far in our rearview mirror,” said Shuman of the Super 8 snub. “Those guys put that past them right away and all they wanted to do is move on and have a moment like this. The best part is that they’re not satisfied and they’re looking forward to that next game and whoever the North sends out.”

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)
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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.”

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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.

Wednesday’s Schedule & Scoreboard – 01/30/19

Today’s games are listed below.

Boys Hockey
Attleboro, 9 @ Stoughton, 2 – FinalAttleboro senior Sam Larkin scored a hat trick and Cam Littig found the back of the net twice as the Bombarders skated to two points on the road at Asiaf. Carter Gerome scored twice for the Black Knights.

Taunton, 0 @ Canton, 5 – FinalRyan Nolte scored a pair of goals while Tommy Vaughn, Tommy Ghostlaw, and Johnny Hagan each scored once for the Bulldogs, who finished a perfect 9-0 in league play. Andrew Gomes made 49 saves in net for Taunton.

Foxboro, 1 @ Mansfield, 0 – FinalFoxboro goalie Espen Reager made 52 saves and the Warriors scored a third period goal to earn an upset over the Hornets. Reager turned away 23 first period shots and then 29 over the second and third periods to earn the shutout. Tanner Kennedy scored on a rebound in front to put the Warriors ahead, just one of two shots from Foxboro in the third period.

North Attleboro, 5 @ Franklin, 2 – FinalClick here for a recap and photo gallery from this game.

Oliver Ames, 1 @ King Philip, 3 – FinalKing Philip senior Brendan Shandley scored the game-winning goal less than a minute into the third period and assisted on the Warriors’ other two goals to earn two points against Oliver Ames. Max Ward put Oliver Ames ahead late in the first period before Conor Cooke (from Shandley) tied it midway through the second period. Shandley put KP in front just 18 seconds into the third period, and then set up Joe Boselli for an insurance goal with four minutes left in the game. James Lewis made 17 saves for the win.

Girls Hockey
Mansfield/Oliver Ames, 1 @ Franklin, 4 – FinalClick here for a recap and photo gallery from this game.

Stoughton, 0 @ King Philip, 8 – Final

Wrestling
Milford, 39 @ Canton, 35 – Final

North Attleboro, 44 @ Foxboro, 21 – FinalClick here for a Recap and Photo Gallery from this dual meet.

Franklin, 60 vs. St. John’s (Shrewsbury), 15 – Final

King Philip, 24 @ Mansfield, 51 – Final

Oliver Ames, 57 @ Taunton, 18 – FinalSeven Oliver Ames grapplers earned wins by pin as the visiting Tigers topped Taunton. John Dobbin (106), Stavros Constantinou (113), Remi Creighton (126), Bryan Young (138), Billy Tat (170), Andrew Fraser (182), and Dean Pacini (195) all won by pin for OA. Tyler Lima (120) and Candido Santos (160) won by pin for Taunton.

Stoughton, 22 @ Sharon, 45 – Final

Gymnastics
Oliver Ames, 134.95 @ Sharon, 122.05 – FinalOliver Ames Lauren Picanzi scored a meet-high 9.1 on the vault on her way to winning the All Around as the Tigers picked up a win over Sharon. Picanzi scored a 35.6 for the All Around, adding a 8.8 on bards, 8.9 on beam, and 8.8 on floor to go with a strong vault performance. Ashlyn Latham was second in the All Around, highlighted by a 8.8 on the vault. Gianna Martucci added an 8.9 on the vault and an 8.7 on the beam for the Tigers.

Hagan Caps Comeback for Canton at Franklin

Canton boys hockey
Canton junior Johnny Hagan scored with 1:29 left in the third period to seal a come from behind victory for the Bulldogs. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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FRANKLIN, Mass. – After Canton stormed back from two goals down in the opening two minutes of the third period and with both teams create chance after chance in a fast-paced, end-to-end finish, both teams could have been forgiven for feeling content with going home from Wednesday night’s game at the Pirelli Veterans Arena with a hard-fought point apiece.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

But there was one more twist in this rivalry tale, as a Franklin defensive clearance ricocheted off the skate of the ref and fell right to Canton junior Johnny Hagan. The forward stepped in and ripped a one-timer over the blocker side of Franklin goalie Ryan Cameron to seal a dramatic 3-2 win for the unbeaten Bulldogs.

“The kid’s got a 101-degree temperature but he wasn’t missing this one,” Canton coach Brian Shuman said of Hagan. “He just grinded it out, he didn’t want to come off the ice, and that’s just typical Johnny Hagan. He’s the fiercest competitor I’ve ever coached.”

Franklin coach Chris Spillane was understandably frustrated to watch his team let a two-goal lead slip only two minutes after the second intermission.

“We had some jump in our legs but in the third period we just made poor defensive zone decisions,” he explained. “Turning pucks over, guys unattended in front of the net, and their offensive zone face-off where they drop the puck off to the winger killed us all night. We knew they were going to do it…and we had a play to defend it, but our kids just couldn’t execute.”

The Panthers tried to set a physical tone from the opening face-off and were flying around, chasing pucks into the corners, and creating scoring chances. It took seven minutes for the hosts to grab an advantage. Zac Falvey raced into the zone and when he got to the edge of the right face-off circle fired a shot through the legs of the retreating defenseman that beat Canton goalie Mike Staffiere (26 saves).

Falvey nearly added a second goal in the final minute of the first when he got a shorthanded breakaway, but he put his shot just wide of the post.

Canton had several great chances to even the score in the second period. Colby Ciffolillo had time and space in the slot, but his shot was smothered by Cameron (30 saves). Ciffolillo then set up Declan Pfeffer right in front but his deflection was knocked down by Cameron and covered. The Bulldogs got a power play chance and Ryan Nolte had a good look off the first face-off but his backhand shot was saved.

After nearly scoring on a shorthanded break in the first period, Franklin doubled its lead by finishing one in the second. Scott Elliott collected a loose puck at the blue line and raced past the Canton defense before firing an unstoppable shot past Staffiere to make it 2-0.

The chances kept coming for the Bulldogs with Owen Lehane flicking a shot through traffic that beat Cameron but not the crossbar and then the Franklin goalie again came up with a big save to deny a wide open Matt Martin, who was set up by a cross-ice pass from Chris Lavoie.

Coming out of the break, Canton jumped all over the Panthers. Timmy Kelleher struck the bar just seconds after the period started and then Tommy Ghostlaw had his rebound effort saved by a sprawling Cameron.

Nolte skated the ensuing face-off down to the red line before picking out Jack Connolly all alone at the point. The defenseman lined up a shot that went through a mass of bodies in front and found the back of the net just 36 seconds into the third.

Less than two minutes later, the game was tied. Ghostlaw didn’t miss this chance on the rebound, lifting his close-range shot over the shoulder of Cameron to make it 2-2.

“We just had to keep going,” Shuman said about the conversation after the second period. “We talked about we had chances and we just need to bury one. As it turned out we buried two…In the second period I felt they were trying to score two goals with one shot and I just said lets get one and see what happens.”

After the Bulldogs had the first seven shots of the period, Franklin got back into the game and had chances of its own. Dan Magazu had a one-timer kicked aside by Staffiere, who was also forced into good stops on Kyle Hedvig from the left dot and Declan Lovett from the point. The Panthers had another breakaway midway through the period but Staffiere read Shane McCaffery’s move and got his right pad to the post.

“We had plenty of chances,” Spillane said. “We had a breakaway, we had some rebounds that were sitting there with open nets but we just couldn’t fight through their stick checks. It’s a tough loss but we played hard for a good portion.”

Canton nearly got a winner when Kelleher got behind the Franklin defense, but the combination of Cam Cassella and a diving poke from Cameron kept the puck out. The Bulldogs did get a power play from the chance and on the ensuing face-off Hagan got free in the slot and struck the post.

Hagan didn’t miss on his next chance, putting the Bulldogs ahead for the first time with a rocket into the corner. The Panthers managed one last chance in the final seconds, but Tom Tasker’s shot went over the bar and Canton skated away with two more points and a grip on a potential ninth straight league title.

Despite the perfect start through a dozen games, Shuman is taking nothing for granted. He said, “It hasn’t been easy. It’s not like we’ve been blowing anybody out. We just have to keep grinding, taking them one game at a time because there’s plenty of games left and I’ve been around long enough to know you never win anything in January.”

Canton (12-0, 7-0) can wrap up another Davenport title on Sunday afternoon when it travels to second place North Attleboro. A point will be enough to clinch the title outright. Franklin (5-5-4, 4-1-2) has slipped a point behind Mansfield in the league standings heading into a trip to King Philip on Saturday.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Power Play Goals Lift Canton to Win Over Mansfield

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Canton junior Johnny Hagan scored twice and assisted on another goal to help the Bulldogs beat Mansfield 4-0 on Hockey Fights Cancer Night. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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CANTON, Mass. – Every team talks about the importance of cashing in on power play opportunities, but teams don’t typically expect to have as many chances as Canton did on Saturday night. The Bulldogs were given a man advantage 11 times against Mansfield and scored three times, including twice in the first period to take control.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Special teams were the story of the night for Canton, which added a crucial shorthanded goal late in the third period that sealed the win, and the Bulldogs skated away with a 4-0 victory over the Hornets on Hockey Fights Cancer night at the Canton Ice House.

Mansfield started the game with a flurry of chances, using an early power play of its own to spark its offense. Matt Copponi, Jack Garland, and Jake Lund were some of the Hornets who created early scoring opportunities but were denied by Canton senior goalie Mike Staffiere (22 saves).

“We had good looks,” said Mansfield coach Mike Balzarini. “We didn’t give up, even the second period with all those penalties I thought the momentum was going our way. We had our chances but their goalie played well.”

With nine minutes left in the first, Brian Grant stepped up and had a chance driving to the net. Staffiere got a piece and the rebound trickled just wide of the post and seconds later Braedon Copparini had a shot that went narrowly wide as well.

“They’ve got a boatload of talent over there,” Canton coach Brian Shuman said. “They’ve got defensemen who are basically like forwards and we expected some flurries and it was good that we had a good goalie to back us up.”

Three minutes later, Canton took the lead. On the power play, Johnny Hagan weaved his way past several Mansfield defensemen and slipped a backhand shot under Mansfield goalie Sean McCafferty, who managed to keep it out but then the rebound was pounced on by Ryan Nolte.

Just three minutes later and the lead was doubled. After a penalty was called, the Bulldogs had a face-off to McCafferty’s left. Hagan was kicked out of the face-off and Nolte stepped in. He won the draw back to Hagan, who was cutting across the circle onto his forehand. The junior forward took the puck in stride and rifled a wrister inside the far post to make it 2-0.

Shuman said, “We had to mix it up a little bit. They knew we were going to run certain plays over and over and finally we just had to keep it simple and get some pucks to the net and get some guys out in front.”

McCafferty (35 saves) stopped a shorthanded breakaway chance by Tommy Ghostlaw before the end of the period and he kept that momentum going in the second, making 19 saves in that period alone. The Hornets were called for six penalties in the second and spent all but about three minutes on special teams in the period.

Hagan nearly got his second assist of the game when he set up Jack Connolly pinching in at the back post only to have McCafferty get across and get a shoulder to it. Hagan also hit the post and had another big chance saved when Connolly found him in space inside the circle.

Chris Lavoie had several chances driving towards the net from the right circle but couldn’t find the angle to beat the goalie. Tommy Vaughn had one of Canton’s best chances when he stole the puck from a Mansfield defenseman right in front of goal but sent his shot over the bar.

“You’re basically using six forwards and four ‘D’ and those guys get tired and credit to their goalie, he made some saves and they made some blocks,” Shuman explained. “It’s kind of ironic that when you’re on all those power plays it can wear you down a little bit, especially when you don’t score.”

Despite playing down a player for much of the period, Mansfield did have a couple of chances. Nick Levine had a shot from the point that was saved and the rebound nearly caromed back in off a Canton defenseman. The best chance of the period fell to Austin Ricker, who got a clean breakaway shorthanded only to be stoned by a great blocker save from Staffiere.

“Mike was probably tested the most he’s seen this year and he played the best he has this year,” said Shuman about his goalie. “He’s an exceptional goalie and he would’ve been a starter on any other team for the past two years if he wasn’t playing behind Quinn [Gibbs].”

Mansfield cleared off 1:16 of a penalty that extended into the third period and the Hornets were still in the game, down just two goals. Canton had the first good chance of the third when Ryan Colby rode a pair of challenges and still managed to slide the puck just wide of the post. Hagan and Nolte combined again on another power play chance but again McCafferty made the stop.

With six minutes to play, the teams traded great chances. Copponi flicked a pass into the slot for Coleman O’Brien but the senior missed the net with his shot and then seconds later Joe Robinson had a breakaway but the puck slid off the toe of his stick when he went to shoot.

““The second period, I think we had two minutes of 5-on-5 hockey,” said Balzarini. “They scored three power play goals and a shorthanded, but I thought when we played 5-on-5 we played well.”

Staffiere came through again to protect the lead when he made the save on a chance for Garland in the slot. That proved to be critical inside a minute when Hagan blocked a shot at the blue line, turned it into a breakaway and then calmly picked his spot to beat the goalie for a three-goal lead.

“That was huge,” said Shuman. “Last year we struggled to get out to the point and block shots and the past two games in particular, Joe Robinson last game and Johnny this game making huge blocks. You have to pay the price in this game.”

John Gormley had a chance for Mansfield that hit the bar and stayed out and with just a minute later, with three minutes left, Canton secured the victory on its 10th power play of the night. Connolly fired a shot from the point and Timmy Kelleher had the deft tip to find the back of the net.

Hockey Fights Cancer night at the Ice House was held in honor of Reo Todesca and Kristin Rocha, who were both connected to the Canton hockey program and both passed away a year ago. Proceeds from the night were donated to the Reo Todesca Memorial Foundation and the Kristin Rocha Memorial Scholarship.

“It was an intense hockey game but it was for a good cause,” said Shuman. “That’s really what the night is all about. We play a silly game and tonight the money raised is going to two good causes, so we’re happy about that.”

Canton (6-0) will travel to face King Philip on Wednesday night, while Mansfield (7-2) will travel to the New England Sports Village to face North Attleboro.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

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)
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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.

2018-2019 Hockomock Boys Hockey Preview

2018-2019 Hockomock Boys Hockey Preview
The Hockomock League boys hockey season is kicking off and should be as competitive as ever. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)

By HockomockSports.com Staff

2017-2018 Hockomock Boys Hockey Preview

Attleboro

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.”

Canton

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.”

Foxboro

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.”

Franklin

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.”

King Philip

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.”

Mansfield

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.”

North Attleboro

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.”

Oliver Ames

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.”

Stoughton

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.

Taunton

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.”