For the first time in the past few seasons, the Canton High School Boys Ice Hockey team was facing a little adversity, as it entered last night’s road game against North Attleboro at the Foxboro Sports Center.
After two consecutive seasons advancing to the Division-2 State Title game, and winning it last year, the Bulldogs have gotten used to being on top of the standings, looking down.
This season, with a very young team, the Bulldogs were coming off a heartbreaking home-loss to Franklin on Monday, and are approaching a very tough game at undefeated Mansfield this Saturday. Both teams are currently ahead of Canton in the Hockomock League overall standings and state rankings.
Then there was last night’s opponent, a much improved North Attleboro squad. Despite being winless, the Rocketeers have played every opponent very close, including two-goal losses to both Mansfield and Franklin, while coming off three ties against Taunton and league opponents Oliver Ames and Stoughton.
After a shaky first period, the young Bulldogs took control of the contest and won a hard-fought encounter, 3-0. Canton now improves to 6-1-1 overall and 4-1-0 league.
Looking ahead "we knew that North Attleboro is a very good team and we expected to have our hands full,” said Canton Coach Brian Shuman. “We came out and in the first period, North Attleboro controlled the game and outplayed us, with most of the play in our zone. We were very fortunate to limit their shots on net and come out of the first period with a lead.”
Canton did score the only goal of the opening period when freshman Brian Brooks beat North Attleboro goaltender Will Porter with a shot along the ice, on assists from sophomores Kurt Leavitt and Matt Lennon.
The Bulldogs had seven shots on net in each of the three periods, and with an excellent defensive effort, held North Attleboro to only eight shots on net throughout the entire game.
“Defensively, we began to beat them to the puck and keep all their offensive pressure to the outside and away from the net,” said Shuman. “When we failed to clear the puck, Nick Naples came up with some big saves for us in the net.”
Naples, a junior, didn’t have to face many shots, but when called upon, made brilliant saves without giving up a rebound.
The game remained, 1-0, until 5:52 left in the final period, when Nick O’Connor, a sophomore, netted a goal with assists from sophomore Mike Denehy. O’Connor added a power play goal with 2:17 remaining, with an assist from sophomore Pat Ward, to account for the final score.
“Our young players came through for us and our depth began to wear them down a little bit,” said Shuman. “It was good to see us handle a tough game after a disappointing loss as well as we did against North Attleboro.”
Canton now prepares for it s battle with undefeated Mansfield, hosting the Hornets Saturday at 6:00 p.m.
C-Brian Brooks from Kurt Leavitt and Matt Lennon at 8:45
C-Nick O’connor from Mike Denehy at 9:08
C-Nick O’Connor from Pat Ward at 12:43
Canton 1 0 2 - 3
North Attleboro 0 0 0 - 0