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.”
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.”
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.”
CANTON, Mass. – The fans were jammed into the Canton Ice House on Saturday night, not surprising since both Canton and Westwood call it home, with lines stretching out into the parking lot at game time and people filling not only the rink’s lot but the parking lots of businesses down the street.
The massive crowd was expecting to see a close game between two contenders for the Div. 2 South title, a game that would go down to the wire. What the crowd got was a second straight dominating performance by the Bulldogs.
Canton outshot the Wolverines 38-13, controlled play the full length of the ice, and were relentless in a 5-0 victory that moves the Bulldogs into the sectional semifinal. Canton has now scored 16 goals without reply in two playoff games and gave head coach Brian Shuman some bragging rights when he returns to his classroom at Westwood High on Monday morning.
“This time of the year, you have to play every shift like it’s 0-0,” Shuman said. “It can’t just be a saying, you can’t be just talking, you have to play every shift like it’s 0-0 and I thought they did a good job of that.”
Special teams were critical for the Bulldogs on Saturday. Canton went 3-for-6 with the man advantage, including a pair of goals in the first period, and also killed off all four Westwood power play opportunities, while limiting the Wolverines to half-chances and long-range shots.
“They had maybe just a couple of shots on the power play,” said Shuman, praising his defensive corps for keeping senior goalie Quinn Gibbs (13 saves) largely untroubled. “Our neutral zone play on the penalty kill in particular was very good. They didn’t give them a chance to possess the puck in the neutral zone to get any possession coming into the zone.”
The dominance began right from the opening face-off, as Canton came out skating hard and creating chances. Ryan Nolte had the first good look on goal skating across the slot onto his forehand but the shot was saved by Westwood goalie Justin Anderson (34 saves).
With 7:26 remaining in the first, Canton broke the deadlock on the power play. Nolte was the first to a loose puck in the crease and he was able to knock it in for a 1-0 lead, Johnny Hagan and Timmy Kelleher picking up assists. Two minutes later, the lead was doubled as Bubba McNeice picked the top corner to Anderson’s blocker side.
Westwood had one good scoring chance in the first when Tim Dalton drove hard at the net from the left side, but Gibbs kept his pad and stick in place to block the shot at the near post and it was cleared. Kelleher and Hagan both had good chances soon after but both narrowly missed the net.
The Bulldogs went up a man with 21 seconds left in the first and quickly made the opportunity count. Nolte set up Hagan in the slot for a one-timer that gave Anderson no chance and gave Canton a 3-0 lead.
“Those power play goals in the first period were huge,” said Shuman. “I think we really moved the puck well and for those guys to get that one right before the end of the period was big.”
Nolte, a junior forward, had a goal and an assist in the first, hit the crossbar in the second and he continues to put together strong playoff performances on both ends of the ice. “Ryan is laid back but he’s had a different look about him the first couple playoff games,” Shuman said. “He’s really stepped up and been consistent for us every game this season and he had another good game tonight.”
The Bulldogs did not take their foot off the gas in the second period, although Anderson did his best to tap the brakes. The Westwood goalie made 12 saves in the second alone, denying Canton on a number of golden scoring chances.
Mike Dadasis was fed in front by Jack Goyetch but Anderson made the point-blank save and he also stopped Hagan after the sophomore danced around several Westwood defensemen to get free for a shot. He then denied Nolte with a scrambling pad save on a shot from the edge of the crease and stopped Joe Robinson right in front.
“He made some incredible saves in the second period,” said Shuman of Anderson. “He kept the score where it was making some incredible post-to-post saves. It was big to get some early because if you let him get hot then it’s a game from start to finish.”
The Bulldogs finally ended any doubt on the power play with five minutes gone in the third period. Anderson stopped the first two shots but the puck squirted loose to McNeice on the far post and he took his time to roof the rebound for a 4-0 lead.
“Bubba’s goal in the third period was huge,” Shuman explained. “That’s the kind of goal you need to score this time of the year, especially against a good goalie who makes those initial stops. For him to finally put that one in was big, not only for the game but also for our goal-scoring psyche as well.”
With 3:29 left, Hagan slid in an empty net goal for his second of the night and third point. The goal wrapped up another convincing win for the second-seeded Bulldogs.
Shuman was not getting carried away after the win. He said, “It’s a good start but as you know this side of the bracket is tough and the next opponent up, whether it’s Medway or Plymouth South, is going to be just as good so we need to continue that.”
Canton (17-2-4) will face either Medway or Plymouth South on Wednesday at Gallo Arena.
CANTON, Mass. – In overtime, the quantity of shots on goal is less important than the quality and Westwood proved that point on Wednesday night against Oliver Ames in a Div. 2 South first round matchup at the Canton Ice House. Despite the Tigers holding a 7-0 edge in shots through the first five minutes of four-on-four hockey, it was the Wolverines’ only shot in OT that proved decisive.
Conor Donohue notched his second goal of the game with 47 seconds remaining in overtime to give Westwood a 3-2 win over OA (13-9), completing a comeback from two goals down entering the third period and denying the Tigers another shot at league rival Canton in the next round.
Of course, from the Tigers’ perspective, the game should never have gone to overtime anyway.
“They fought us hard,” said OA coach Sean Bertoni after a lengthy postgame team talk in the locker room, “but the overtime was our period. Our forwards and ‘D’ kept them penned in but couldn’t bury one and they come up the ice on a one-on-one and I think it was their first shot.”
He added, “That’s what happens in hockey. You can dominate for half a period and they come down, shoot and score. It’s frustrating.”
OA scored once in each of the first two periods to hold a 2-0 lead heading to the third, but Westwood wasted no time in cutting that lead in half. Donohue fired a shot from the left circle that beat OA goalie Owen Connor on the glove side inside the first two minutes of the period.
The goal turned the momentum and the Tigers did not seem to have the legs to stem the Westwood pressure. Although OA, which beat Westwood 5-2 in the regular season finale, would end up with a 6-5 edge in shots for the period, the Wolverines had loads of offensive zone time and the much better chances.
Donohue nearly added a second three minutes after his first but Connor made the save and Shane Cronin missed a golden chance to tie it right on the edge of the crease.
Max Ward had the best chance of the third period for OA but he was unable to get his stick on a rebound off a save by Justin Anderson (33 saves). A minute later, Mark Horsfall slid to his right along the blue line, picking the right angle to fire a wrister through traffic that went in off the post to tie the game with 2:46 left.
“Up 2-0, we make one mistake coverage-wise when the puck was in our offensive zone, we had a breakdown there, the coverage wasn’t there, they come down and score,” Bertoni explained. “The second goal to tie the game, we couldn’t block a shot, we let the ‘D’ walk to the center of the ice.”
Despite struggling through the third, OA looked suddenly refreshed after a quick break before the start of overtime and the Tigers came out flying in the four-on-four.
“I think we had a little more depth to roll out a few more forwards and everyone was on the attack,” Bertoni said. “We executed well in terms of offensive zone possession and coverage but just couldn’t bury one.”
Brett Williams, Rory Madden, and Eric LeBlanc all put shots on goal and the Wolverines were on their heels for the first five minutes. That was until a pass through the middle caught the OA defensemen pushing forward and allowed Donohue to find space in the left circle. His snap shot beat Connor to the far post and set off a raucous celebration.
The Tigers had started the game well. Huter Costello had the game’s first notable scoring opportunity five minutes in but his shot was kicked aside. Colin Bourne nearly opened the scoring with a shorthanded breakaway but Anderson managed to get a stick check in and the puck rolled to the corner.
It looked like Westwood had gotten on the board when Brian Reissfelder went bar down from the slot, but the puck was ruled to have not crossed the line. Neither team stopped skating, although there were questions raised from the Wolverines bench. Only two minutes later, freshman Ross Carroll put the Tigers in front with an inch-perfect backhand tip over the shoulder of Anderson from a Matt McCormack pass out of the left corner.
In the second period, defenseman Adam Healey made it 2-0 for the Tigers when his shot from the point made its way through a sea of bodies in front of goal. Seconds later, OA could have broken the game open with another chance, but a scrum in front led to a prone goalie and a puck that slipped narrowly wide of the post. Williams had a good look from the slot after a drop pass by Bourne, but he could not find the corner and Anderson blocked it aside.
The missed opportunities during a period in which the Tigers had a 13-5 edge in shots would come back to haunt the No. 10 seed. Westwood finished the second with a quick flurry and then turned the game on its head in the third.
“End of the second and most of the third we were holding on. Our energy just dropped and we couldn’t claw our way back, but then we did in overtime,” said Bertoni. He repeated, “But, we just couldn’t bury one.”
By Joe Clark, HockomockSports.com Student Reporter
WESTWOOD, Mass. – Playing on the road is no easy feat, especially in the playoffs.
The Franklin girls field hockey team started strong, survived a comeback attempt and finished with a comfortable 7-3 victory over #15 Westwood in the preliminary round of the MIAA D1 South State Tournament.
Just 19 seconds into the game, Franklin got their first corner opportunity, and while they were unable to convert, they would get two others before two minutes would tick down on the clock. On their third attempt, Cassi Ronan saw her aerial just got over the top of the net, but seconds later, on Franklin’s fourth corner of the first half, Ronan was able to find the back of the net to put the Panthers up 1-0.
Franklin earned two more corners at the 23:50 and the 23:17 marks, but stout defense and play from Westwood goalie Megan Brown would keep the Franklin lead at 1-0. However, on their sixth corner of the first half, Victoria Quinn would find the back of the net, and the Panthers led 2-0.
“We scrimmaged a lot this past week, without our JV and freshmen teams playing we didn’t have to share the field this week, so we took advantage of that and did a lot more scrimmaging this week, practicing quick restarts. And having good energy on the bus, it was really about having more of an attitude,” said Franklin head coach Lisa Cropper said about her team’s fast start
Westwood finally got its offense going with its first corner at the 21:57 mark of the first half, but Franklin was able to keep the Wolverines off the board.
Four minutes later, Maddy Hinckley’s stick found the ball after a kick save by Brown, and she flicked it past the keeper to put the Panthers up 3-0.
Westwood would get on the board ten minutes later when Theresa Healy was able to get around the Franklin defense and drive her shot into the back of the net to make the score 3-1. Two minutes later, on Franklin’s eighth corner of the half, Ronan once again had an aerial, but it just nicked off the crossbar, and Brown was able to clear it just in front of the net to keep the Westwood deficit at two goals.
In the second half, Franklin’s offense got off to another strong start with Ronan scoring just over five minutes into the half to extend the Panthers’ lead to 4-1.
After Ronan’s goal, Westwood came roaring back as Kayla Conway scored to cut the Franklin lead to 4-2 with 18:42 left in the game, and off another corner, Healy scored her second goal of the game to cut the lead to just one at 4-3.
With 10:15 left to go in the game, Ronan completed the hat trick and put Franklin up 5-3, placing a perfectly lofted ball over Brown off a corner, and from there the Panthers never looked back, as Amanda Lewandowski and Natalie Stott added goals in the final ten minutes to give the Panthers a 7-3 victory.
With the win, Franklin field hockey moves on to face Kelley-Rex champions King Philip Saturday afternoon. The two teams met twice this season, and both those times the Warriors came out on top.
“It’s difficult to beat a team three times, and we’ve been right there with them both times, even the game that we lost last week, we outplayed them in the middle of the field, we just didn’t convert on our chances and they converted on theirs. ” Cropper said about the Panthers’ next matchup.
The Warriors (15-2) received a bye in the MIAA tournament and will host the Panthers on Saturday, November 4th at 3:00 at Macktaz Field.
BROCKTON, Mass. – Two years ago in the Div. 2 South final, freshmen Ashley Sampson and Grace Tamulionis combined for 20 points in a loss to eventual state champion Duxbury. On Saturday afternoon, Sampson, Tamulionis, and the Warriors returned to Brockton High and used that experience to good effect to rally Foxboro in the fourth quarter.
Sampson scored eight of her game-high 19 points in the final quarter (and added 10 rebounds as well) and Tamulionis scored six of her 11 points in the fourth to bring Foxboro back from a point down to beat Westwood 47-38 and claim the program’s first sectional title since 2003 and book a trip to the TD Garden.
“I think having been in here before, even though it was two years ago, was a huge advantage,” said Foxboro coach Lisa Downs. “I’m sure that a lot of their team hadn’t been in this venue with this many people. Even though they’re juniors, they play like seniors and they weren’t cautious at the end.”
Tamulionis added, “Knowing the environment really helped with all the fans and I know freshmen year everyone was nervous but this year almost all of us had been here before so it really helped.”
The Wolverines did not look overwhelmed by the environment early and came out strong in the first quarter with senior forward Carly Sugrue knocking down a pair of threes and scoring eight of her 13 points. Haley Connaughton also hit one from deep and Allison Morin had three assists, as the Westwood offense was clicking at the start.
Sampson was keeping the Warriors afloat on the offensive end with eight points in the first, all coming off drives to the basket. Foxboro’s aggressiveness driving to the basket led to seven Westwood fouls in the opening quarter. Junior Shannon Smally (six rebounds) also provided a spark with three points and a couple boards in the first.
“She did a lot of the things today that we’ve been asking her to do all along,” said Downs of Smally. “Luckily, it’s gotten to the point that she’s doing things in March we asked her to do in December, but she timed it perfectly.”
Foxboro trailed 17-14 after one and would continue to struggle shooting from the outside for the better part of the next two quarters. The Warriors stayed in the game in large part due to a defensive effort that held the Wolverines to only 21 points over the final 24 minutes.
“We just had to focus on our defense,” said Sampson. “Our shots weren’t falling, but our defense is what got us back into it.”
With Westwood leading 24-19, Foxboro inbounded the ball to Lily Sykes for a half-court heave as the half expired. The horn sounded and the shot fell short, but an official’s whistle blew just before the clock read all zeroes and Sykes made 2-of-3 free throws to cut the lead to just three.
In the second half, Downs made a change and put Sampson on Sugrue, a switch that limited the Westwood forward to just two points after the break.
Downs explained, “Ashley’s got these long arms because Carly does a good job with these step back jumps and Ashley can just get a little more in her face.”
Foxboro finally found the range from three. Sykes (seven points) buried her only shot of the game to cut the lead to 26-24. After a Westwood basket, Sykes drove baseline and kicked it all the way out to the three-point line for Riley Collins to knock one down and tie the game. The Wolverines responded with four straight but then again Collins got a clean look and hit from three sending Foxboro into the fourth down just 32-31.
Tamulionis said, “No one got frustrated and I think that really helped. When coach called timeout, she just kind of settled us down a little and we knew that we had to step it up.”
Catherine Bonfiglio (team-high 14 points) started the fourth with a drive to the basket to extend the lead to three, but her six points accounted for all of Westwood’s points in the fourth. After a ragged start in which both teams missed a lot of open looks, Foxboro clamped down and contested every Westwood chance.
On the other end, Sampson, the Hockomock League MVP, started to assert herself. She drove baseline and finished with a reverse layup plus the foul and then knocked down a jumper off a Sykes assist to give Foxboro its first lead (36-34) since the first quarter.
When asked if she knew that it was time to be aggressive at that point, Sampson replied, “I don’t know. When I got the third foul, I kind of got into my own head. I just had to calm down and play.”
Tamulionis stepped up next, knocking down a long jumper off a Smally kick out to extend the lead to four and then stepped a couple feet further back to drain an open three that made it 41-36 with 1:05 remaining.
Foxboro went 6-of-8 at the line in the closing minute to complete its run as the top seed in the South by lifting the sectional championship trophy.
“I knew we had it in us,” Downs said, “and I never panicked too much because I could see it in their eyes that they had this game within their grasp and it was theirs to win or lose. Defense was going to win it for us.
“It’s so exciting. The girls knew that they could win today and never looked back.”
Tamulionis said, “It’s awesome. The whole year, the whole team has worked so hard and we deserve it. Everyone has done a great job all year.”
Foxboro (22-2) advances to the Eastern Mass. final at the TD Garden on Monday at 5:45 to play the winner of Arlington Catholic and Hamilton-Wenham.