The Tigers nearly did it again in the second half, but couldn’t complete the comeback bid in the final seconds, suffering a 53-45 loss to the Rebels.
Oliver Ames trimmed a once 14-point fourth quarter deficit down to five in the final minute, even getting a chance to shrink the lead even more but came up just short as the Rebels hit enough free throws down the stretch as OA’s offense ran out of gas.
“We just didn’t finish it, we didn’t take advantage of our chances late,” said longtime Oliver Ames head coach Laney Clement-Holbrook. “We had the perfect scenario [at the beginning of the comeback], shooting free throws with no time coming off the clock trying to get back into it and we missed a couple.
“They were missing to keep us in it but we just didn’t step up to finish. We had the big comeback in the first and we had to get back into in the second, I wonder if we expended too much energy there.”
Walpole rattled off a 15-2 run over the final four minutes of the third quarter to create its second double-digit lead of the game and the Rebels’ advantage peaked just before the midway point of the fourth quarter when senior Ainsley Dundon drained a three for a 45-31 lead.
The Tigers slowly started to claw back into the game, first with defensive stops and then with trips to the line. OA went just 1-for-4 from the line in that span but sophomore Caroline Peper (19 points) sank her second three of the game on the next trip to make it 47-39 with three minutes to play.
A putback off an offensive rebound from Walpole freshman Catie Hurley and a free throw from senior Sydney Scales pushed the lead to 10, 50-40, with just over a minute to go but OA continued to fight back.
Peper scored off a nice cut to the basket, converting a feed from Tori Harney (five points, four rebounds, three assists). After Walpole missed the front end of a one-and-one, Harney drained a contested three and the Tigers were down just five, 50-45, with 57 seconds to play.
Walpole again missed the front end of a one-and-one to give the Tigers a chance to make it a one-possession game but OA couldn’t find a clean look and had a three-point shot go off the mark. Scales sank two more at the line and OA again came up short on a three. Walpole gave OA a final shot with two more misses from the line but the Tigers had two shots off the mark.
“Walpole is a good team…the Hock and the Bay State are the two best leagues in the state,” Clement-Holbrook said. “To draw somebody from that league, you don’t look at the record, that means nothing. They play tough teams throughout the year and the had beaten us before too.”
The Tigers score the majority of their points between the second and fourth quarters as the Rebels’ defense limited the hosts to just two field goals in the first quarter and seven points total, and six points total in the third.
“They really were physical with us, they didn’t give us any open looks,” Clement-Holbrook said. OA finished 3-for-14 from three-point range and shot under 30% from two-point range. “They bumped us like we’re supposed to bump others. I hope the takeaway from this is we learn from that, that’s how you defend when you’re going against teams that can shoot. You have to be right up on them, be physical.”
Trailing 12-7 after a quarter of play, OA’s offense didn’t shift into gear until it was faced with a 21-11 deficit. Anna Murphy converted down low to get the run started and junior Caroline Flynn (11 points, 12 rebounds) scored off a feed from Meg Holleran (eight rebounds).
Harney came up with a big block on Scales on one end and Peper converted on the other, and then the Tigers’ defense forced a shot clock violation before Peper hit a jumper. Holleran battled for an offensive rebound and sank a pair of free throws to make it 21-21.
Flynn hit a free throw to cap OA’s 11-0 surge to take a brief 22-21 lead before Scales answered with one of her own to make it 22-22 at the halftime break.
Holding a 26-25 lead early in the third thanks to a pair of baskets from Peper, the Tigers’ defense continued to focus in on Scales. When the two teams met in the regular season, Scales accounted for over half of her team’s points (25 of 48).
While Scales finished with less points this time around (20 points), her teammates stepped up to hit big shots. In Walpole’s 15-2 run. Scales help set up a pair of threes from freshman Brooke Walonis, who also added a strong take to the rim for eight points in the frame. Scales put an exclamation point on the run with a three that beat the third quarter buzzer.
“You know who’s who in the neighborhood and you’re going to try and take them away, but those role players for them stepped up,” Clement-Holbrook said. “They had players hit those big threes, they had the offensive rebound [putback].”
Oliver Ames girls basketball finishes the season at 14-7.
WESTWOOD, Mass. – While there are plenty of different coaching philosophies in the game of basketball, you can essentially split coaches into two groups: those who foul up by three late in the game, and those who don’t.
You can count Sharon’s Andrew Ferguson among the former group.
Right after Sharon senior Aaron Strong (career-high 19 points) sank two free throws to make it 61-58 with 5.2 seconds left, the Eagles fouled, sending Walpole to the line to shoot two with 3.3 to go.
The strategy worked out, as the first free throw was off, forcing the Rebels to purposely miss the second. A loose ball ended up with a jump ball with 0.3 left, and Walpole’s last-second desperation three was off the side of the backboard, giving the Eagles their first win of the season.
“We were very worried of Matt Falvey getting open and hitting a three,” Ferguson said. “We wanted to put them on the line, and then if he missed it, have to make that decision to miss the second. Nick Stamm knew exactly what we wanted to do right away, he did such a great job in the fourth quarter on [Falvey]. We felt fouling was the best strategy for us in that spot. With under 10 seconds left, didn’t want to get caught on a switch on a screen and it ended up working out.”
Ferguson’s concern about Falvey was beyond warranted as the senior guard scored a game-high 29 points, keeping the Rebels within striking distance until their fourth-quarter push that nearly stole the game.
Sharon had a 12-point lead at halftime and entered the final quarter with a 51-42 advantage and control of the game. The Eagles had an answer for Walpole’s early push as Caleb Gayle (eight points, seven rebounds) had back-to-back baskets and Stamm drove to the hoop to put Sharon ahead 57-46 with just under six minutes to go.
Walpole refused to go quietly, hitting a three after Sharon missed a pair of free throws. The Rebels got a turnover on the ensuing inbounds and converted a three-point play to make it 57-52.
After an empty trip, Falvey scored his lone two points on the final quarter with a nice take to the basket.
“That was Nick Stamm’s job, I told him ‘Don’t let him breath’ in the fourth quarter,’” Ferguson said. “Nick knows what his role is and he’s embraced it. He really stepped up to help us in the fourth.”
Sharon had a chance to answer but missed two more free throws. After trading misses over the next two minutes, Walpole made it a one-point game on two free throws from Brian DiPasca (18 points).
Sharon once again failed at the free throw line but forced a turnover on the defensive end to keep the lead. Despite a missed three, Sharon got the offensive rebound and Strong hit one of two chances at the line to push the lead to 58-56 with 1:32 to play.
With 30 seconds to play, Walpole came out of a timeout with a play to try and get level. It looked like the play was going to work when Connor McDonough got free on a curl but Ben Kaplan made a terrific block from behind off the backboard and Strong grabbed the rebound.
“We thought we could pressure them a little bit,” Ferguson said of the defense early on. “They have a young point guard so we were very successful with Ben [Kaplan] and Aaron [Strong] at the top of that 22. But Falvey was really killing us so we switch to the box-and-one and we really shut him down in the fourth quarter. Other guys stepped and hit shots for them but I’m proud of the defensive effort from my guys tonight.”
Strong hit one of two from the line to push the lead to 59-58, but Walpole sophomore Jack Connell drove to the basket for two, cutting the lead to one again. Sharon was almost called for a 10-second violation in the backcourt but Ferguson called a timeout. Out of the timeout, Strong got the ball, was fouled, and hit two free throws to seal the win.
“I told Aaron that I trusted him, that I trusted he would make the free throws,” Ferguson said.
Sharon trailed twice in the early minutes of the game but went ahead 14-10 by the end of the first quarter and never relinquished the advantage.
The Eagles had their best stretch of the first half at the very end of the second quarter. Holding a 22-18 advantage, Sharon closed the first half with an 11-3 run.
Aidan Kane (18 points) drove to the rim for two, Gayle hit a mid-range jumper and Kaplan took it strong to the basket for a 29-19 lead. Strong had one of his six steals and converted an easy two and Kane drilled a three on a feed from Stamm just before the buzzer to make it 33-21.
Sharon’s lead expanded to as much as 15 when Strong converted a layup with five minutes to go in the third quarter, but Walpole rallied to get within seven with under two minutes left in the period. JuniorAlec Filipkowski drilled a three to push the lead back to double digits.
“They ramped up their defensive intensity, they were cutting off the lane really well and we just weren’t making our foul shots,” Ferguson said of what changed in the fourth quarter. “We got to the free throw line but just didn’t cash in there. We’re going to shoot a lot of foul shots tomorrow in practice. Mike [Masto] does a great job with Walpole and they really ramped up their defensive intensity. We have a young group experience wise so we will work on that in practice and get better.”
Sharon boys basketball (1-4) returns home for a Hockomock League game against Davenport division rival North Attleboro on Friday, January 4th at 6:30.
TAUNTON, Mass. – Cassi Ronan picked up the ball inside the 30-yard-line and pushed the ball forward. She weaved her way past a pair of defenders and then touched it past a third to get clear on goal. The Walpole defender eventually caught up to Ronan, but not before she carried the ball nearly 70 yards.
The defender managed to slow her down but a foul was called, giving the Franklin senior a penalty stroke. She buried the shot, giving the goalie no chance and giving the Panthers a 3-1 lead over the No. 1 seed with just nine minutes remaining in Thursday night’s Div. 1 South semifinal at Taunton’s Tiger Aleixo Stadium.
It seemed like the Panthers, seeded 13th in the tournament, were finally going to end Walpole’s dominance in the rivalry and do it on the biggest stage. But, instead, the goal seemed to wake the Porkers up and they came storming back into the game.
Walpole scored twice in the closing minutes, including a goal with just two minutes left, to force overtime and then added a game-winner eight minutes later to stun Franklin 4-3 and advance to the South final.
“I thought we had it in the bag,” said Franklin coach Michelle Hess. “I thought we completely dominated the first half, dominated 75 percent of the game and in control. They definitely needed to comeback and got a spark, which probably speaks to their experience in tournament play and getting this far.”
Franklin has struggled in recent years against the Porkers, who are a perennial state title contender, but the Panthers weren’t intimidated and played at least an even game through the opening 50 minutes.
The Porkers jumped in front after just three minutes. Christina Luccini (18 saves) stopped the first shot by Molly Weiand, but Emery Murphy was on hand to tap in the rebound. Rather than let their heads drop, the Panthers answered back just five minutes later when Victoria Quinn redirected a shot by Ashley Reutlinger after a quick restart.
Franklin nearly took the lead right away when Regan Paterson got loose behind the Walpole defense, but her shot was saved. A minute later, Paterson pressured the Walpole goal and had a clearance rebound off her and just wide of the post.
In the 18th minute, Quinn and Amanda Lewandowski battled to keep the ball in the attacking zone and it opened up a chance for Quinn but she was unable to put it on frame. A minute later, she had her second of the night by being the first to react on a loose ball in the middle of the crease.
Walpole nearly tied it right after halftime with a quick move from a corner but Luccini came up with a sliding save to keep it out. Maeve Ledwith showed off her game awareness shortly after when she got behind Luccini and cleared a goal-bound shot off the line.
The Panthers nearly doubled the lead with 10 minutes to go. Quinn started the move down the left side with a pass to Paterson, who drove the ball all the way to the end line. She sent a ball towards goal that was tipped at the near post by Reutlinger, but only into the side of the goal. One minute later, Ronan got a head of steam and went on her amazing run to make it 3-1.
“She’s a phenomenal player,” Hess said of Ronan. “She’s strong, smart, and she definitely leads by example. She shows that when you put your nose to the grindstone you can make it happen.”
The third goal seemed to wake Walpole up. The Porkers flipped a switch in the final 10 minutes to put Franklin back on its heels and open up chance after chance.
Murphy got the comeback started with her second goal of the night, tipping in a corner to make it 3-2. Luccini was doing everything she could to keep the Panthers in front. She made a pair of saves to deny the Porkers and the rebound was knocked into the outside of the net by Jessica Tosone.
“She absolutely killed it,” Hess said of Luccini. “She was steady for us during the season but she rose to the occasion and stood on her head in every playoff game. Today was the epitome. She was just lights out.”
With just two minutes remaining, Luccini came out to challenge on a pass through the middle, but Weiand got to the ball first and managed to pull it past the goalie and just inside the post for a tie game.
In overtime, Luccini continued to be the hero for the Panthers, stopping both Audra Tosone and Brooke Skulski from close-range.
“I called a timeout and tried to settle them down a little bit and it worked for a little bit but then I think the emotions just started to rise and we made a few little mistakes. I’m very, very proud of my team.
Unfortunately for Franklin, Walpole looked like it had another gear while the Panthers were tiring. Off a corner, Caileen Quinn ripped a shot from straightaway, through a crowd, and into the back of the net for the win.
“They’re a quick team,” said Hess. “We tried to have our first step to the ball but they definitely have speed. They definitely seemed like they had a little more pep in their step. We were playing a little defensive.”
It is the second straight year that Franklin (13-6-2) has been knocked out in overtime in the tournament. Last year, King Philip went on to win the South title, a feat that Walpole will look to replicate on Saturday afternoon.
MILFORD, Mass. – As the clock was winding down, the desperation to find an equalizing goal ratcheted up from the stands to the fans lining the fence behind the Milford bench to the players, coaches, and alumni on the sidelines to the players trying to make it happen on the pitch.
Every move to create space was met with a roar, every perceived Walpole infraction met with arms thrown into the air and calls for a whistle, and every time the ball went into the box the cheering turned from words (in several languages) into a single, unintelligible sound trying to will the ball into the back of the net.
Unfortunately for the Hawks, every one of the chances that they created in a frenetic final 20 minutes on Wednesday night in the Div. 2 South quarterfinal was cleared, blocked, saved, or just trickled wide and Walpole’s second half penalty kick held up as the winner. The Rebels, who eliminated Oliver Ames in the first round, advanced to the sectional semifinal with a 1-0 victory.
“Frustrating is putting it lightly,” said Milford coach Brian Edwards after the game. “Frustrated at this result and how this game went. I’m proud of how our guys played. I think we stayed true to our style. I thought we played the kind of soccer we’ve been playing all year and unfortunately it came down to a PK call.”
After an evenly-matched opening half, which saw Milford have a goal called back for offsides, Walpole started the second half brightly, putting the Hawks on their heels and pinning Milford back on the edge of its own penalty area. Alex Maclean was peppering the Milford back line with a succession of long throws that forced center backs Tiago Filadelfo and Joao Boaventura to constantly be on their toes.
The Hawks took 14 minutes of the second half before creating anything of note going forward and it was a long-range effort by Jordan Borges that was comfortably saved. Walpole answered right back with a great chance of its own, but Tom Walsh blazed over the bar from only a few yards out.
In the 57th minute, Milford nearly grabbed the lead. Boaventura played the ball out of the back to Leo Coelho, who managed to get a toe on the ball and redirected it into the path of JJoey Madden making one of many forays down the right wing. Madden got all the way to the end line and cut it back to Walisson de Oliveira but the junior couldn’t generate enough power and his first-time shot was saved.
Three minutes later, the Rebels got on the board. Another long throw came in but was allowed to bounce in the penalty area, with the ball striking the hand of Joao Vitor Neiva. The officials deemed it enough to call a handball and a penalty. Aidan Murray got Josh Orellana to go the wrong way and knocked in his shot from the spot to make it 1-0.
“We’ve seen it a few times this year,” Edwards said about the challenge of defending Walpole’s set pieces. “We knew the game plan they had coming in, we stuck to ours and I thought we executed it well. I thought we didn’t finish our chances, but I thought we played well enough to win.”
The majority of the time remaining would be spent in the attacking third for Milford, as Walpole sat deeper and deeper, defending in numbers, to protect its advantage. de Oliveira, the team’s leading scorer and one of the top scorers in the Hock this season, fashioned a chance with skillful footwork in the box but the Walpole defense charged it down and blocked the shot.
In the 70th minute, Anthony Salvador drove into the box from the left and he went to ground under a challenge that the officials ruled was fair. The ball rolled into the path of Lucas Da Silva but his shot through traffic was well-saved by Walpole keeper Dennis Crowley.
A minute later and it was Dan Santos that found himself with room to try a shot. His left-footed effort got through the crowd of players in front but was cleared off the line at full stretch by Sebastian Pignone. Three minutes later, Salvador worked enough space to get off a shot but it was deflected and easily grabbed by Crowley.
A long throw by Madden reached de Oliveira but his header went just wide of the post. in the 80th minute, as the Walpole bench was pleading for a clearance and/or the final whistle, another Madden throw caused a panic in the box. Several Milford players got a touch and the ball seemed to pinball off everyone’s legs before rolling inches wide of the bottom corner.
It would be the game’s final chance. The whistle sounded and the Davenport division champions dropped to the ground in disbelief.
Edwards said, “I told my guys that I’m proud of how they played, but soccer is like that – you can play a good game and lose.”
Milford (13-2-5) won the program’s first Hockomock League title this fall, so there was plenty to celebrate, but on this night there was only the feeling that the Hawks season ended prematurely.
“These guys have done more than any Milford team in the last two decades, so of course I’m extremely proud of them but we felt like we could do a lot more,” said Edwards.
He added, “I’m sure the guys who are coming back are going to use this as motivation because they’re going to feel very angry with how this game was decided.
Trailing 7-2 and just one out away from elimination, Mansfield orchestrated an improbable comeback. Seven straight Hornets reached safely, including six hits, resulting in five runs that tied the game and sent the game to extra innings.
But as quickly as the Hornets got back into the game, the roller coaster ride came to a screeching halt.
Walpole bounced right back in the top of the tenth, scoring three runs on three straight hits with two outs, taking a 10-7 decision over the Hornets. With the loss, Mansfield is eliminated from the Super 8 tournament.
“When you get to a certain point to the game, and you’re trailing and you know there’s a lot to be done in order to get back in the game, you stay positive and just take it one pitch at a time,” said Mansfield head coach Joe Breen. “These guys just kept battling, that’s the type of team we had. Our motto over the last couple of weeks has been ‘empty the tank’ and while we lost tonight, the boys definitely emptied the tank tonight and I’m so proud of them.”
Walpole scored a run in the fifth, two more in the sixth, and broke the game wide open with a four-run seventh inning to take a 7-2 lead over the Hornets with just two innings to go.
It looked as though the Rebels were ready to celebrate with a 1-2-3 ninth inning when starting pitcher Matt Donato got the first two outs in just five pitches.
Breen called upon Chris Kelleher for a pinch-hit attempt and the senior delivered, giving Mansfield a chance with a single.
“I think Chris has probably six at-bats this year but he’s just a guy that has hits in key situations,” Breen said. “I knew he’d go out there and put a good swing on something. Fortunately, it came with two outs and sparked a rally. That’s just a senior doing the job for his team.”
Junior Mike Hargadon followed up by sending the second pitch he saw over the wall in left field for a two-run home run – the first of his career – to bring Mansfield within three runs with two outs.
“Nothing surprises me when it comes to Michael Hargadon,” Breen said. “He’s one of the hardest working guys we have on the team. He’s a ‘heat and soul’ kind of guys. He’s never played a game where he hasn’t left everything he has on the field and tonight was no different.”
Leadoff hitter Sam Nugent kept the rally going with a single and junior Dan Saraceno followed with his first hit of the game to put runners on first and second. The Hornets executed a double steal and senior Kevin Dow launched the next pitch he saw into left-center field for a two-run double, making it a one-run game.
Walpole elected to walk senior Tyler Dalton (two hits) but senior Justin Pena cashed in with his chance, driving the ball up the middle to bring Dow in for the tying run. With a Dalton at third, Donato finally got the third out with a fly ball to right.
“It starts and ends with our seniors,” Breen said. We had incredible senior leadership this year, especially out captains (Tyler Dalton, Kevin Dow, Cullin Anastasia). Those guys set the tone and the whole team follows. Kevin did a great job on the mound and Cullin has been the best defensive catcher in the state, he’s been incredible with our pitching staff. But it starts with our seniors, they led us the whole way.”
Walpole responded in the top of the 10th with its own two-out magic. Matt Falvey drew a one-out walk but a fly ball to center gave the Hornets the second out. Tyler Page picked up his first hit with a single that got by the Mansfield outfielder, allowing Falvey to score and Page to take second. Bryan Kraus and Chris McLean followed with RBI doubles to give the Rebels a 10-7 advantage.
Kyle Moran reached on an error to lead off the bottom of the 10th inning but Rebels reliever Matt Chamoun got three straight outs to seal the win for Walpole.
“It was an amazing comeback by Mansfield,” said Walpole coach Chris Costello. “Two outs, nobody on and I think it was seven hits in a row against a pretty good guy [Donato]. They weren’t cheapies either, they can hit, they are a hell of a team. But it just really speaks to our mental toughness. We’ve really grown mentally as a team as the year has progressed. We challenged ourselves and put ourselves in stressful situations for just this reason, so it would pay off in situations like this.”
After four scoreless innings, Walpole took the lead with a run in the top of the fifth. Brett Lavanchy battled to a leadoff walk, took second on a sac bunt, moved to third on a groundout, and scored when Falvey was called safe at first for an infield single.
Mansfield responded right away in the bottom half to tie the game. Cullin Anastasia beat out an infield single to lead off and took second on a groundout. With two outs, Hargadon got a blooper to fall in shallow left-center to plate Anastasia.
Walpole added to its lead with two runs in the top of the sixth. A double from Kraus preceded a triple from McLean that was ruled to have just landed in fair territory. McLean scored on a squeeze play to make it 3-1.
Dow (no decision) finished with five strikeouts, two walks, six hits, and three earned runs in six innings of work.
The Rebels’ bats came alive in the seventh inning. Aidan Murray singled and a triple from Falvey made it 4-1. Falvey scored on a hit from Hanifan while Page reached (and Hanifan took third) on an outfield error. After a hit batter, a McLean sac fly made it 6-1. Lavanchy came through with a two-out RBI single to make it 7-1.
“The defensive side, unfortunately, was kind of the key with these last two games,” Breen said. Mansfield made a total of seven errors in its two Super 8 games. “We just played probably two of our worst defensive games of the season at the worst time. Unfortunately, and it’s no excuse, but playing one game over the last week and a half…we were playing eight games in 12 days, we had a great rhythm, and then we had the break and I think it threw us off our rhythm. But in the end, no excuses, we have to come out and make the plays for our pitchers.”
Mansfield cut the deficit to five with a run in the bottom of the seventh. Hargadon got things started with a two-out single and went to third on a double from Nugent and came home to score after the ball got by the outfielder.
Sophomore John Carney pitched three innings in relief with five hits, five strikeouts and three earned runs allowed.
Mansfield baseball finishes the season at 19-5.
“We came in four years ago and we knew there was a lot of talent coming through the pipeline,” Breen said. “We wanted to put these guys in the best position possible to be at the top of the Massachusetts high school baseball food chain. And these guys earned the right to be here. While we didn’t come out with the results we wanted, no Mansfield team has been in this spot. It’s arguably the best regular season in program history. We have a lot of guys going to play college ball so this isn’t the end for them and we have a lot of guys coming back and I know they are going to remember this feeling.”
CANTON, Mass. – The first two periods had been largely dominated by the 18th seed. Walpole held, by one count, a 23-9 edge in shots, including a 14-5 edge in the second period and had Canton on its heels in Sunday afternoon’s Div. 2 opening round game at the Canton Ice House.
It turned out the Bulldogs, and especially junior forward Maggie Malloy, were saving the best for last.
Malloy scored a natural hat trick in the third period to break open a tie game and lift second seed Canton to a 4-1 victory over the Rebels that sends the Bulldogs back to the Div. 2 quarterfinal and sets up a rematch with Notre Dame Academy (Hingham), which Canton faced in last year’s state title game.
“The first couple, we weren’t playing like us,” said Canton coach Dennis Aldrich. “I don’t know if it was the week and a half layoff or playing a heck of a team but they kind of took it to us a little bit and we were losing a few more battles than I’m used to us losing.”
He added, “All we talked about is no matter what happened, we can’t control whether we win or lose, but we can beat them on then compete level and I think we definitely did that in the third period, finally.”
Although Walpole had the advantage in shots in the opening period, it was Canton that had the lead. Sophomore Alexa Maffeo set up Kendra Farrelly in the slot for a rare scoring opportunity and the senior made no mistake, going bar down with her shot to beat Walpole goalie Kiera McInerny.
The Rebels came out flying to start the second and almost immediately found an equalizer on the power play. Amanda Janowicz was able to shed a defender behind the Canton goal and caught goalie Colleen Kelleher looking the wrong way when she stepped forward and slid the puck into the open net.
Kelleher (26 saves) was the backbone to the Bulldogs’ run to the TD Garden in last year’s playoffs and their inaugural Hockomock League championship and she came through with a series of big stops to keep the game tied in the second.
Janowicz nearly got her second power play goal only to have Kelleher block it aside and then get down quickly to stop the rebound shot as well. Audra Tosone skated through a couple of Bulldogs before stopping on a dime and firing a wrister that Kelleher gloved.
The best chance for Canton in the second came from junior Lauren Fitzpatrick, who showed off her stick-handling skills to dance through the Walpole defense, but her shot attempt was blocked on the edge of the crease.
Aldrich said, “The talk we had with them [after the second period] was, we haven’t even played our best hockey and I think they’re playing as well as they’re going to play.”
He continued, “[Walpole] had the body language, they had everything, they were ready to go and for us to answer that bell…we talked about, you’re used to this type of game, it’s not new, you know how to come out on top, and I don’t know that they do.
After two periods on the back foot Canton came out flying for the third and snatched back the momentum after just 27 seconds. Malloy skated three-quarters of the ice down the left wing and drove towards the goal. She faked as though she was going to carry the puck across the crease to get McInerny to give up the near post and then just calmly slid it past the goalie’s trailing leg.
“She was shot out of a rocket on the go-ahead goal to start the third and a natural hat trick in the third period,” Aldrich raved. “You can’t beat that.”
Canton went on the power play with 6:06 remaining and on the ensuing face-off Malloy nearly got her second only to have McInerny make the point-blank stop. Twelve seconds later, Malloy scored. This time, she found space inside the left circle and was set up with a perfect pass from Farrelly, took a second, and then placed a shot just inside the far post.
Katie Trerice had a blast from the point tipped on goal by Fitzpatrick, but the Walpole goalie did a good job reading the shot through traffic and was able to get a pad on it.
In the final minute, Malloy took advantage of hesitation by a back-pedaling Walpole defenseman to latch onto a loose puck on the edge of the blue line and she easily dispatched an empty net goal for her hat trick and to clinch the win.
Last year, Canton was the 14th seed and played the role of the plucky underdogs all the way to the final. This year, the Bulldogs are expected to make a run and now have the target on their backs.
“Every team that we played last year said that the better team didn’t win,” Aldrich said. “Every team starting from Shrewsbury on down and that was fine because we were the hunter and this year we’re the hunted.”
Aldrich credited some of the seniors on his bench that do not see much ice time for the leadership and positivity that they bring to the Bulldogs bench. He said, “One of the biggest things that we have is the support of our non-playing seniors. They bring us up when we’re down and we owe a lot of that third period to them.”
Canton (16-3-3) will get another shot at NDA on Tuesday night at the Warrior Arena in Brighton. Aldrich knows that it will be a tough test against one of the best in the state, but he and his players are excited for the challenge.
“If you don’t want that shot, then you don’t belong playing sports,” he said. “Yeah we maybe would want to face them in the final, but you’ve got to beat good teams to get there and it would be another feather in the cap. Last year, we maybe weren’t sure but this year we’re sure, we can skate with them.”