Boston High School: Ryan Dunn
BUZZARDS BAY, Mass. – Where the hearts goes, the body will follow.
Entering Saturday’s Division 1 South quarter-final matchup against No. 2 seed Archbishop Williams, Norwood senior captain Jack Sheehan kept an altruistic mentality.
“We had to believe, first off, that we could do it,” he said.
The No. 7 seed Mustangs got the start they needed, taking a 2-0 lead to the first intermission. But, after a lackluster second, they found themselves down a goal entering the third.
That’s when Norwood showed its heart, climbing back and finishing out a 5-3 win.
“We had to win those one-on-one battles and get the puck to the net,” Mustangs head coach Bill Clifford said. “We did that and I thought we had a great third period.”
Fresh off a double-overtime loss to Xaverian in a Super 8 tournament play-in game, the Bishops (12-7-3) look jetlagged in the first as Norwood (13-5-4) jumped out to a two-goal lead.
Mark Powers was first on the board at 12:32 of the first, with a nice cutback shift to the slot and a stick-side wrister. Just 58 seconds later, the Mustangs worked for their first of two power-play goals with Sheehan letting go a slap shot from the point.
However, with a power play that spilled into the second, Archies was able to get right back in the game with a power-play goal of its own 32 seconds into the period on Ryan Dunn’s redirect of an Ed Riley point shot. With the goal, Dunn hit the 100-point plateau for his career.
Midway through the period, the Bishops pulled even on a Mike Davis goal at 7:06, before Sean Keenan’s go-ahead goal at 12:48, with Dunn picking up his second point of the game on the assist.
“The second period was rough for us and we got down,” Sheehan said. “But our first period was great, that might have been the best period we’ve had all year that first period.”
Norwood drew even with its second goal on the man-advantage at 3:16. Matt Hajjar hit Jake O’Rourke with a back door pass, allowing O’Rourke to step in and beat Bishops goaltender Matt McCaughey gloveside.
John Galvin score the game-winner at 10:55, sneaking behind Archies’ blue-liners on a sneak away pass from O’Rourke, and beating McCaughey on a partial break.
Sheehan capped scoring with his second of the game on an empty-netter with 19 seconds play, while fighting off the forecheck of a Bishop defenseman.
“Their forwards are very quick and they like to get it up to their forwards right away,” Clifford said. “We were very weary of that. I thought our defense did a good job of staying up on our blue line and forcing them to try to dump it in, instead of carrying it in all the time.”
The Mustangs advance to play Barnstable in the D1 South semifinals at a time to be announced.
This will be the first of four installments I plan to bring you through and at the conclusion of the tournaments. I’ll also be bringing you my weekend picks on some of that week’s most anticipated matchups:
Optimism through disappointment: By this point, you’ve likely seen and formulated a definitive opinion on the controversial “no goal” call during Monday’s Super 8 play-in game between Braintree and Catholic Memorial. While the Wamps have to be letdown by the turn of events earlier this week, Braintree can still embark on a championship quest of a different kind.
The Wamps, now the No. 1 seed in the Division 1 South tournament following their Super 8 exit, open sectional play Saturday against No. 8 seed Falmouth. It’s always interesting to watch how teams who are jettisoned from the Super 8 play-ins are able to readjust after falling short of an ultimate goal.
However, I think there’s hope for both Braintree and Archbishop Williams – which was also dealt a crushing blow in a double-overtime classic in its play-in tilt against Xaverian – and they might just cross paths down the line.
Undoubtedly, the Wamps played their best hockey of the season in its final month. They played their way into the Top 10 with wins over Super 8 No. 6 seed Duxbury and on the final day of the regular season against CM. I liked what I saw from a steady defensive corps, led by Joe Harrington and Kevin Howard, and Nick Anson has been a reliable presence in net.
For the Bishops, I don’t think there are many teams – statewide – that can match their depth and offensive skill of their top six forwards, in addition to Ryan Dunn’s emergence as a legitimate All-State candidate in the late season. Head coach Derackk Curtis characterized Steve Jenner as a “hot and cold” goaltender earlier this year, but in the final weeks of the season, Jenner has become a dependable puck-stopper.
If both teams can refocus quickly, I’d expect them to meet up at Gallo for the D1 South championship game.
A nod to a great: Think about some of the most famous headwear in sports history -- Tom Landry’s legendary fedora, Trot Nixon’s pine tar-stained hat, Craig MacTavish’s noteworthy lack of a bucket and compensation with some serious flow on top -- among those, in local hockey circles, the late Ed Burns' own fedora has to be included.
The Arlington hockey coaching legend died earlier this month and, as a nod to his mentor, Spy Ponders head coach John Messuri sported Burns’ trademark hat behind the bench during their surprising 1-0 win over Catholic Conference power St. John’s Prep. While Messuri paid homage to Burns’ legacy, the Spy Ponders honored it with their performance, playing their tough-minded brand of defensive hockey, buttressed with the unusual in-game tandem goalie rotation of Ryan Cote and Mike Schiller.
It marked a bumper crop of wins for the Middlesex League on Wednesday, which was a combined 5-1. Surprisingly, the one team to lose on the night was two-time defending Division 1 state champion Burlington, which was shut out by St. John’s of Shrewsbury.
Three Stars of the Week:
3. Sam D’Antuono, Jr. F, Dexter – The former Hingham Harborman put his team on his back during the third period of their 3-2 comeback win over Canterbury School in the first round of the NEPSAC Piatelli/Simmons tournament. D’Antuono scored the tying goal, before netting his second with the game-winner, all in the third period.
2. Al Lynch, Sr. G, Framingham – The Flyers’ netminder earned his first career playoff win with a 42-save performance in a 5-2 win over defending Division 1 South champion Marshfield on Wednesday.
1. Joe Marella, Sr. F, Abington – Marella single-handedly put a hurting on Division 3 South No. 1 seed Cape Cod Tech, scoring six goals in the Green Wave’s 7-1 thrashing Wednesday at Gallo.
This weekend’s picks du jour:
(Note: I’ll have full Super 8 breakdown and picks later this weekend.)
D1 North boys: ST. MARY’S over Winchester; MELROSE over Reading; ST. JOHN’S (SHREWSBURY) over Arlington; WILMINGTON over Medford.
D1 South boys: BRAINTREE over Falmouth; FRAMINGHAM over Franklin; ARCHBISHOP WILLIAMS over Norwood; BARNSTABLE over Milton.
D2 North boys: BEVERLY over Danvers; LINCOLN-SUDBURY over Winthrop.
D2 South boys: CANTON over Medway.
D1 girls: READING over Austin Prep.
Bracket-buster upset special: D2 boys – OLIVER AMES over Westwood.
STONEHAM, Mass. -- The level of pressure just partaking in a Super 8 tournament play-in game can be excruciating enough. But when that game needs to exceed regulation to decide a winner, well, let's just say it is not for the faint of heart.
Monday night, inside Stoneham Arena, No. 8 seed Xaverian and No. 9 Archbishop Williams laid down the gauntlet to decide which of them would earn the right to play top-seed BC High in Sunday's opening round of the state's most-coveted high school hockey tournament.
In a wide-open offensive contest from beginning to end, a second overtime was needed before Ricky Smith, flying down the right boards, ripped a shot from the circle past goaltender Steve Jenner at 1:15 of the second overtime period to send the Hawks to the Super 8 tournament at TD Garden with a 6-5 victory.
"I had a good feeling coming onto the ice during that shift," said Smith, a senior defenseman, who missed the last two seasons due to injury. "I just felt that I needed to step up and do my job as a senior captain and step up for the team. We were pretty nervous but we could never get down. We needed to stay positive throughout. We just came out and played Xaverian hockey."
The Bishops (12-6-3) season still continues as they move into the Division 1 South tournament.
New rules this season indicate that during the first six minute overtime period, both teams play 5-on-5. In the second overtime, still six minutes in length, the number of players is reduced to 4-on-4.
Given a little more freedom to move the puck around the ice with one less player seemed to benefit the Hawks (12-3-6). While both teams were showing signs of fatigue both physically and mentally, this contest eventually would come down to which club would be the strongest inside the attacking zone. With this triumph, that nod goes to Xaverian, which finished the evening with 47 shots.
Late in the third period, the Bishops were desperately clinging to a 5-4 lead. But at 11:10, junior Jack Cook deadlocked things with a shot from the left wing that trickled through the pads of Jenner. It marked Cook's third goal of the night. During the first overtime frame, the Hawks managed six shots on Jenner but to no avail. Except for the opening period, when it registered 13 shots, Archbishop Williams' offense was experiencing difficulty trying to match Xaverian's. Yet, despite all that, the Bishops were still even after 51 minutes and change.
"I felt like we got better and better throughout the game," Hawks coach Dave Spinale said. "They had a fast start and are a very dangerous team. I give them a ton of credit. Their top six is as good as anyone we've seen all year. But I just felt after each period our team was gaining more confidence and more momentum. We really started pressuring them and they seemed to be sitting back more in that third period as if they were playing not to lose and I was telling my guys to keep going after them. We certainly got a good bounce to tie it up in that period."
In spite the Bishops dictating the play for much of the opening period it was the Hawks who converted a score on their first attempt to grab the lead. Senior forward Tony Marini took a well-placed behind-the-net pass from Tim Sweeney and one-timed it past Jenner (41 saves). The score was initially set up by Marini, who intercepted the puck along the right half wall before moving himself to the slot as he awaited Sweeney's feed.
Three minutes later, the Bishops tallied for two goals in a span of only five seconds to move in front. Ryan Dunn, a senior, beat Aidan Murphy (22 stops) with a hard wrist shot from the left circle. Then, off the face-off, senior Mike Davis moved into the right circle and lofted a shot into the top right corner. But with just 37 seconds remaining in the period, Xaverian answered. Cook notched his first, showing a burst of speed down the right wing, before letting go of a hard wrist shot into the net and send both teams into the first intermission tied at 2 apiece.
The offensive fireworks seen during the first 15 minutes carried into the middle period. Just 4:19 in, Eric Keefe put Archbishop Williams back in front with a rebound goal. It only took 20 seconds for the Hawks to grab the equalizer. Andrew Durkin, standing just outside the crease, poked in a pass from Connor McCarthy to make it 3-3.
A few moments later, the Bishops were whistled for back-to-back penalties. After a 20 second 5-on-3 advantage went by the boards, Xaverian still continued to play with a man up. However, a costly turnover at mid ice led to a 2-on-1 break for Archbishop Williams. On the play, Dunn hit Garrett Foley in stride with a centering pass. The senior capped things off with a shot between Murphy's pads coming at 7:37 to put the Bishops back on top by a goal. They would extend the advantage to 5-3 thanks to Colin Boyle's power play marker at 10:20. But with just over two minutes left in the period, Cook was able to re-direct Smith's long-range shot off the post and into the net, sending Xaverian into the break trailing by one.
"I thought we were the better team and things came down to some key saves at key moments," said Bishops head coach Derackk Curtis. "Tough way to lose in overtime because I think Steve makes that save most of the time. I thought my team played well all the way through and we were in it to win it. I think the goaltending dictated why this game was so wide-open. I think shots that most of time these guys would save. That opened things up at both ends. Take nothing away from Xaverian, they played very well but I thought my team played great too."
The Hawks dominated the third period in all facets. The offense continued to attack the Bishops end of the ice on every shift. But all of their shots were off-line. That was before Cook delivered with his tying goal late and Smith closing things out later on.
"Ricky has been a great leader for us," said Spinale. "I'm really happy and proud of him to be able to get that goal for us tonight. Jack is probably the fastest guy on our team so we like to use his speed and try to play fast. That's been our system to play fast, be physical and pressure the puck."
In the consolation game at the Buddy Ferreira Classic on Thursday, Archbishop Williams was looking to a final stamp on its season with a 3-1 win over Waltham.
It was a performance that Bishops head coach Derackk Curtis found to be a little uneven.
“We were never really able to get on track, but we’ll take the win,” he said. “We just had way too many penalties and there was just no momentum.”
Archies (12-5-3) never trailed, but never found its rhythm either, giving the Hawks (8-8-5) the benefit of seven power-play chances.
All-tournament team selection Mike Jessman opened scoring at 9:05 of the first, with assists from Mike Sorrenti.
Ryan Dunn netted his first of two goals on the evening at 11:07 of the second on a beautiful end-to-end rush.
Waltham interrupted Steve Jenner’s shut-out bid at 6:04 of the third on a Ben Macewen goal.
Now, all the Bishops can do is wait and see which tournament they will enter next week.
“We should have beat HIngham, but we won the next two games,” Curtis said of his team’s performance on the Cape this week. “That’s the way it can be sometimes, but I’m happy.”
FALMOUTH, Mass. -- Hope is still alive for the Hingham Harbormen.
With a 4-4 tie against Archbishop Williams in the first round of the Buddy Ferreira Classic on Saturday, Hingham remains in the hunt for an MIAA postseason berth, by the skin of their teeth.
Hingham rallied back from two goals at the start of the third period to tie the game up late in the third period. They advanced into the winner’s bracket of the tourney when Matt Demelis popped in a rebound at 3:26 of overtime.
The MIAA does not sanction regular season overtime, so the game goes into the record books as a draw for Hingham. It doesn’t make things any easier though. The Harbormen must run the table going forward, starting with a Classic semifinal battle against rival Duxbury on Monday.
“I think the kids showed a lot in the third period,” Tony Messina said. “They knew what they were up against and sometimes when you play with desperation it works.”
Youngster Luke McInnis scored the biggest goal of his high school career to bring the Harbormen all the way back at 12:02 of the third period. The sophomore defenseman collected his fourth of the season to square the game at 4-4.
McInnis started the play in the defensive end. With his team looking low on gas, and chasing around the Bishops and the puck in their own end, McInnis came up with the puck and worked it through the middle of the ice, unloading a slapper just a stride over the blue line. His rising blast glanced off goalie Steve Jenner’s outstretched glove and chimed in off the bottom of the crossbar.
McInnis said he wasn’t trying to be a hero, he was just trying to get the puck into the Bishops’ zone and good things happened.
“I just got it out of the zone and skated it up the ice and took a shot and it ended up going in, got kind of lucky, I was trying to get it on net, get a rebound,” McInnis said. “It felt great, a great relief that we finally tied. Our whole team was battling, our goalie was playing good and it felt great to get a tie and a win in OT."
Early on it looked like the two teams were going to wear out the scorekeeper as they combined for five first period goals. Mike Sorrenti struck first for the Bishops just 70 seconds into the game with a one-timer from Mike Jessman. Less than three minutes later the Harbormen tied it up with a floater from the top of the left wing circle by Billy McNally that Matt McCaughey misjudged.
Hingham gained its only lead of the night, until overtime, at 6:52, when Pat Colpoys poked a pass from behind the cage inside the near post. That goal chased McCaughey from the game and brought Steve Jenner out of the bullpen for the Bishops. Jenner calmed things down and did not give up a goal until the third.
The Bishops rallied to tie it up at 2-2 a tad over a minute later. Jessman shoveled a pass from Kyle Leonard under the crossbar. Then, at 13:08, the Bishops went out front, 3-2, on a goal by Ryan Dunn, who also scored early in the third to make it 4-2.
Hingham dodged a bullet late in the second when Dunn had a bid for a hat trick. With just four seconds left in the period, Dunn broke in clean against Alex Bonn, off of a steal, but his backhander hit the crossbar.
McInnis said the players knew what they were up against.
“You could feel it in the room. Everybody was real uptight and everything. We just came out ready to play in the third and came back from 4-2,” he said.
Colpoys agreed, and had a big hand in doing something about the deficit.
“The captains were yelling, trying to get everyone fired up. Seventeen seconds later, we get on the ice and pop one,” Colpoys said.
It was Colpoys that made it a one-goal game. With his team opening the period with a power play, they won a draw in the leftwing circle. Colpoys switched spots with a teammate and went for the far post, where he camped out and jammed in a nice feed through traffic by Joe Personeni.
“We just reminded them that this was the end of the road for us for the tournament,” Messina said. “They knew that and they came out and played with a lot of heart. I’m very proud of them.”
Next up for the Harbormen is a do-or-die affair with their biggest rival, Duxbury. The Dragons, who won earlier in the day against Arlington Catholic, won the only meeting between the clubs back in late January, 5-3.
Hingham’s players said that they’re looking forward to getting another shot at the Dragons, and did not soft sell its importance.
“That’ll be an absolute war, I’m so happy for that game,” Colpoys said with a smile. “That’s going to be a good one.”
Both Archbishop Williams and Chelmsford were deemed winners in overtime in their respective games. However, since the MIAA does not recognize overtime until postseason play, those clubs, along with their respective foes, Westford Academy and Falmouth, played to ties.
No. 5 Archbishop Williams and Westford Academy’s game will go into the record books as a 4-4 draw, while Chelmsford and host Falmouth counts as a 1-1 deadlock.
Of the four tying squads, the Bishops were the ones that had the most to feel good about at the end of the day as they rallied from two goals down in the final minute of regulation to tie the score.
Even so, head coach Derackk Curtis was hardly jumping for joy following a game that saw Bishops’ sniper Nick Menzel complete a hat trick with two goals in the final 48 seconds, both with the goalie pulled for an extra-attacker.
“I thought we should have been able to dominate the game a little bit more. Nothing against Westford Academy, but coming off the Springfield Cathedral game I thought we’d come in here and have a little more success, a little more confidence,” Curtis said. “We finished the game strong, so there is a positive, because last year we don’t win this game. Last year, we don’t come back from this, because we didn’t have the confidence, we didn’t have the leadership, and the determination to finish it off.”
Westford Academy (0-1-1) looked like it’d be finishing off a win as the game got down to crunch time. Riding a standout performance by sophomore goaltender Kyle Martin (31 saves), the Ghosts held a 4-2 lead through 44 minutes and needed to just survive the last 60 seconds to earn their first win of the year.
Archbishop Williams put that first win celebration on hold, though. The Bishops went on to win in overtime, on a goal by Mike Davis two minutes and three seconds into the extra session.
Menzel and the Bishops were the better team for much of the game, but Martin kept making big save after big save. With the extra attacker out in the last minute, the numbers game caught up to the netminder and the Ghosts. Menzel popped his second of the game with just 48 seconds to play, as he camped on the right pipe and waited for a pinpoint pass off the far side boards that found him unmarked.
Archies then controlled the ensuing faceoff, got Steve Jenner out of the goal again, and went back on the attack. In a matter of seconds the puck was on the ice in front of Martin being whacked at by a gaggle of sticks. It was the one held by Menzel that made solid contact, and slipped it through the maelstrom to knot the score and leave the Ghosts stunned and the Bishops on Cloud Nine.
In the meaningless overtime, Archies dominated the proceeding as it accounted for all six shots that found the net, the last of which Davis popped in to make it 5-4.
After a scoreless first period, the Ghosts got hot in the second and tickled the twine three times to take charge. They struck first just 34 seconds into the period when Ryan Hesseltine completed a cross by Jay Drapeau. At 3:27 Andrew Gounaris buried a rebound, after Jenner stoned Tim Curran, to make it a two-goal game.
The Bishops answered 17 seconds later as Sorenti got his first of three in the game on a break-in.
The back-and-forth third period continued with Westford going up 3-1 on a gal by Anthony Gulliver, who found himself in the right place at the right time. The Bishops attempted to clear the puck out of their own end, without looking up first and sent a pass right to Gulliver in the high slot, who skated a stride in and then snapped a wrister past Jenner to the glove side at 6:15.
Four minutes later the Bishops made it a one-goal game on the first varsity goal of Cullen Lyne’s career. The sophomore, who had not played with the big club before the Cape Cod Cup, stepped into a regular shift when Eric Keefe went down with a shoulder injury early in the game. He popped a rebound up and over Martin, finishing off a break-in by Ryan Dunn.
In the third period it looked like Westford had the game in hand after taking a two-goal lead with 5:42 left in regulation. Hesseltine set up the Ghosts’ final tally with a brilliant lead pass out of the defensive zone, splitting the middle and finding Cam MacDonald in stride for a 2-on-1 break with Drapeau, who buried a cross to make it 4-2.
That set the stage for the Bishops’ late-game dramatics, whose plan was to get Jenner out of the cage with 100 seconds to play and try to wreak havoc. They did just that, and rallied to earn the draw, which felt like a win, and unofficially was one.
“They made a lot of good plays at the end, you have to give them a lot of credit,” Westford head coach Bob Carpenter said. “They really hung in there and made a lot of great plays on both goals, I thought. They’re good.”
Chelmsford 1, Falmouth 1
In the nightcap, the goals did not flow as freely as in the opener. Chelmsford (1-2-2) and Falmouth (3-1-1) each netted a goal in the second period, just 71 seconds apart, and that was it, other than an overtime goal by Mike DeDonato, that was set up by Matt Calnan with 45 seconds left in the extra session.
Paul Moore, the Clippers’ new head coach who replaced Massachusetts legend Buddy Ferreira this year, was upbeat about his young team’s performance against an opponent he sees as high quality.
“I’m so proud of the way that they played,” Moore said. “That’s a huge point for us right there and the effort from top to bottom was unbelievable. Cody Bailey had the game of his career, he got the game puck. Isaiah Lineaweaver, he could have gotten the game puck, too. I’m just so proud of there effort, we hung in there.”
While they weren’t exactly lighting it up, the two teams did light one another up with plenty of solid hitting in the open ice and solid defense all-around on both sides. The goalies were good, too. Falmouth’s Jake Beaton stopped 16 of 17 shots that he saw during regulation and his counterpart from Chelmsford, Tim Huggins, halted 17 of 18.
Beaton stopped two late first period shots, by Wes Phillips and Derek Adamson, which were definite scoring opportunities. Phillips’ bid hit a skate on the way to the goal, but Beaton stayed with the deflection and covered it up. He then dove to the far post with just 20 seconds left in the period to deny a wraparound try by Adamson that would have crossed the line if not for the lunge.
Chelmsford head coach Mike McGrath said he felt like his team left Falmouth off the hook early in the game. “I’m disappointed. We had four two-on-ones in the first period, and we had an opportunity to put them away early and we let them hang around,” McGrath said. “Right now we’re just struggling to score. We’ve only got four goals in the last three games.”
Huggins came up biggest late in the game, with Falmouth flying around in the final five minutes looking to bring the hometown crowd to its feet. He robbed Bailey on a break-in with six minutes to go in the game and then answered the bell on an Arlin Moore chance with 5:05 to play.
As for the goals that were scored, they both came late in the second frame. Chelmsford took a brief 1-0 lead at the 11:53 mark of the second when Jack Olson roofed a rebound over Beaton after the keeper had stopped a shot by Jesse Lye, but was left prone on the ice.
Shortly after they fell behind, the Clippers drew even as their leading scorer, Robbie Souza, found the back of the net for the fourth game in a row. The senior co-captain blocked a shot by the Lions and beat everyone else up the ice in a mad dash for the loose puck. Souza tipped it ahead to himself in the neutral zone and bore down on Huggins, beating the goalie from the high slot with a wrister to the glove side for his ninth tally of the young season.
All four teams will be back at tomorrow afternoon. Falmouth will face Westford Academy at 1 p.m., followed by Archies against Chelmsford at 3 p.m.
WEST SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- When Peter Crinella knocked home his second goal of the afternoon very late into the third period to tie the game for Springfield Cathedral, there was more than a few heads bowing on the Archbishop Williams bench. The Bishops felt they played too hard and had come too far for them to earn just a measly point out of this contest.
With still a little time left, Archbishop Williams had a go-for-broke attitude. As the clock ticked down to under a minute, they conjured up one last rush down ice. With the puck on his stick, Eric Keefe let a shot fly which caromed off the left goal post. Fortunately for Keefe, the puck retreated directly back onto his stick and the junior was able slip it underneath Panther goaltender John Liquori for the game-winner with just 42 seconds left.
"After the first shot hit the post I was able to grab it,'' said Keefe, who also netted a second-period goal. "At that point I was just thinking I had to put it in. This is a huge win for us. We hadn't beaten [Cathedral] in my three years here. This certainly brings up our confidence to a high level. We have a solid goaltender and all three lines played their hearts out today and we were able to come away with the win."
Both programs lived up to the standards they've created for themselves over the years in this one. For the most part, things were evenly balanced.
No. 3 Cathedral (2-1-1) mustered 36 shots while the No. 7 Bishops (2-0-0) recorded 35. Archbishop Williams' defense throughout was solid led by Kenny Lofstrom, Colin Boyle, Kyle Leonard, Pat Wombly and Tyler Bradford. All played physical again the Panthers high-octane offense and sacrificed themselves on numerous occasions to dive in front of shots.
"We knew coming up here it was going to be a tough game for us," Bishops coach Derackk Curtis said. "This was an early test for us and the boys played real well. We've been putting a lot of work into this group. Tonight we started to see the fruits of our labor in terms of them being more physical, blocking shots, being aggressive and working their checks. I think all of those things are starting to come together and the kids are starting to identify what it takes to be successful."
Crinella, who leads the Panthers with eight goals, gave his club an early 1-0 lead at 10:09 of the opening period. Positioning himself just outside the crease, the junior took a pass from Devan Tongue and lifted a backhand past Matt McCaughey.
That lead lasted just four minutes. With Archbishop Williams on the powerplay, Ryan Dunn tied matters. The senior dragged the puck through traffic before slipping a shot between Liquori's pads.
Another power play midway through the middle period produced another goal for the Bishops. Archbishop Williams pressured the Cathedral zone. After two shots bounced off of Liquori's pads, Keefe made sure his didn't, finding an open left side of the net to slip the puck into giving his team a 2-1 advantage.
Things remained that way for the remainder of the frame. In the third, the Panthers showed much more aggressiveness on offense. A team literally made up of underclassmen, Cathedral didn't play like it for most of the final 15 minutes. The Panthers ambushed McCaughey (34 saves) with several shot early. But the junior blocked all of them. Then, after Cam Mariani was called for a hook, Cathedral had the opportunity it needed, working the puck methodically into the Bishops' zone, a couple of quick shots netted nothing. However, McCaughey couldn't control the rebound on one of them in which Crinella was in perfect position to poke it into the back of the net to knot this affair at 2-2.
"I thought this was a great game," Panthers coach Brian Foley said. "It was two good teams going at it. We're improving and we're young. Missing [forward] Zac Prattson (two game suspension) hurts us because they have a bunch of seniors, physically he brings a lot to the table for us. We felt his absence today. I thought [Liquori] had a great game in net as did their goalie. We came out on the wrong end today but we'll learn from it."
At this point, the Panthers probably would've settled for a tie and did everything they could defensively to block Archbishop Williams' passing lanes and breakaways. It seem to work until Keefe was able to squeeze through and finding himself in the right place once his initial shot bounced off the pipe and directly in front of him to slip his shot by Liquori (32 saves) for the game-winner.
"You get a little worried in those type of situations," Curtis said. "Cathedral seemed to keep missing the net high and we had some good, quality chances that were stopped. You get worried because you don't have a significant-enough lead in the dying seconds of the game. But we were able to bounce back late.
“Last year, I don't think we win this game. The other team would tie it up late and we might fold at that point. This year the boys are a lot more focused and you have to proud of the way they've played."
(By the way, look for our full preseason boys' and girls' Top 25 polls, along with All-State teams, starting next Monday.)
1. Austin Prep
Last year’s record: 16-2-6
Last year’s final ranking: 3
Key returners: F Bobo Carpenter, D Andrew Cross, G Elijah Harris, D J.J. Layton, F Eric MacAdams.
Why they’re here: Feeling was that the Cougars were about a year away from contending heading into last season and, low and behold, AP was just a goal or two away from capturing last year’s Super 8 title at the Garden. A young and talented nucleus returns largely intact this season, so the expectation is even higher. The goal will be to interrupt Malden Catholic’s designs on a four-peat.
2. Malden Catholic
Last year’s record: 16-6-3
Last year’s final ranking: 1
Key returners: F Matt Filipe, F Austin Goldstein, D John McLean, F Ara Nazarian, D Nick Rolli, F Tyler Sifferlen, F Jake Witkowski.
Why they’re here: As a three-time defending champion, it’s again the Lancers’ derby to lose. There are questions entering this season, as they’ll again be breaking in a new goaltender and Casey Fitzgerald moved on to the United State National Team Development Program. However, with returning ESPN Boston Mr. Hockey award winner Ara Nazarian (a UNH commit) returning, anything’s possible with this group.
3. Springfield Cathedral
Last year’s record: 16-3-4
Last year’s final ranking: 7
Key returners: F Peter Crinella, G John Liquori, F Johnny Leonard, F D.J. Petruzzelli.
Why they’re here: The Panthers might have the best forward depth of any returning squad, but there are some serious voids to be filled on the blue line, with All-Staters Matt Foley and Jack Williams lost to graduation. However, for whatever Cathedral might lack in experience on defense, three-year starting netminder John Liquori should mask.
4. Central Catholic
Last year’s record: 15-7-3
Last year’s final ranking: 6
Key returners: F Zack Cote, F Lloyd Hayes, D Alex Lester, G Colin Soucy.
Why they’re here: Arguably, there was no bigger breakout star in last year’s Super 8 tournament than Colin Soucy. The then-junior goaltender backboned the Raiders in a hard-fought, three-game series against St. John’s Prep, nearly earning the upset against the top-seeded Eagles. Head coach Mike Jankowski’s teams are always defensively responsible and well-organized through the neutral zone, thus they are perennial staple to the tournament.
5. BC High
Last year’s record: 15-5-3
Last year’s final ranking: 5
Key returners: F Steve DeForge, F Pat Kramer, F Tim Larocque, F Jake Lemanski, D Ryan Shea, D Sam Topham.
Why they’re here: Of course, there’s the question of how will take Peter Cronin’s place in between the pipes, but the Eagles are deep on returning talent. Sophomore defenseman Ryan Shea has generated a good amount of Division 1 college interest in just one year at Morrissey Blvd. Meanwhile, junior Pat Kramer was among the Eagles’ top scorers last year. If the transition in net is smooth, they’re likely the second Catholic Conference team in.
Last year’s record: 16-6-3
Last year’s final ranking: 11
Key returners: F Brendan Greene, G James Offner, F Nolan Redler.
Why they’re here: The Sachems were a couple bounces and a shootout away from a Division 1 state title appearance last season, going down in a narrow defeat to eventual champion and Middlesex League rival Burlington. This year, Winchester could assume the poll position in the state’s premiere public school division. The aforementioned Red Devils and last year’s Super 8 entrant, Reading, both graduated significant portions of last year’s roster, so the time is now for the Sachems to make their run.
7. Archbishop Williams
Last year’s record: 13-6-4
Last year’s final ranking: 15
Key returners: D Matt Clifford, F Ryan Dunn, F Mike Jessman, F Nick Menzel, F Mike Sorrenti
Why they’re here: After an albeit brief appearance at last year’s Super 8 tournament – getting trounced by MC in a play-in game – the Bishops should remain a top team in the Catholic Central, which is often a two-bid league at the Super 8 table, with 13 seniors on the roster. They could be the team to push AP in league play, and if everything holds true, they’ll be in the picture come tournament time.
8. St. John’s (Shrewsbury)
Last year’s record: 7-11-4
Last year’s final ranking: N/A
Key returners: D Bryan Nelson, G Mario Pizzeri.
Why they’re here: Hey, what would a preseason picks segment be without a dark horse? Last year was a bumpy season at best for the Pioneers, but after a one-year absence from the Super 8 (and tournament play for that matter), St. John’s could be dangerous behind first-year head coach Mike Mead. The Pioneers are built from the net out, with Mario Pizzeri in goal – a holdover and standout in St. John’s Super 8 appearance two years ago.
“I’m going to be straight forward, we haven’t been playing very good hockey down the stretch coming into this tournament, we just had to get the monkey off of our back,” Bishops head coach Derackk Curtis said. “We needed to find a way to win, dirty, scrappy, I didn’t care … Sometimes you just have to exorcise those demons, get the winning feeling, get that monkey off of your back.”
The Bishops scored two first period goals and then hung on for dear life, thanks in large part to the play of goalie Joe Vinay, who stopped 29 of the 30 shots that he saw in the game.
The day’s offense for the Bishops came within a short stretch in the first. In less than three minutes, the Bishops bolted ahead by a pair and then had to make that stand up the rest of the way.
Michael Sorrenti enjoyed his personal home ice advantage. The Archies forward, who hails from Bourne, grew up playing on the Gallo Ice Arena sheet and he was the first one to put a puck in the net for the Bishops. Sorrenti scored on a shot that Natick goalie Griffin Bailey wished he could have had back, as he didn’t cover up the near side pipe and Sorrenti sneaked a wrister inside of it to give his team a 1-0 lead at 8:21.
Shortly later, at 10:48, the Bishops doubled the lead. Colin Boyle snapped a wrister from the high slot that found its way behind Bailey, who was lifted in favor of Mike White for the latter two periods. White was excellent down the stretch, stopping all 14 shots that he saw, including a couple of breakaways.
Penalties were a bugaboo for the Bishops the rest of the way as Natick enjoyed six power plays in the game, and cashed in one. The Red Hawks would have loved to have had more, but Vinay and forward Ryan Dunn led a PK unit that got the job done effectively.
Matt Clifford’s second minor penalty of the second period led to Natick’s lone score. Just 19 seconds after the infraction, Natick junior captain Derek Butler planted himself in front of the cage and tipped in a feed from behind the cage by Max Plasker to cut the lead in half at 5:34, making it 2-1.
With Natick losing its best offensive weapon, Matt Kustra, in the first period with an ankle injury, head coach Karl Infanger said that his team’s power play unit lacked its usual cohesion. The Red Hawks had five power plays over the final two periods, including a four-minute advantage midway through the third, but were never able to find the equalizer, despite outshooting the Bishops, 21-14, over the final 30 minutes.
FALMOUTH, Mass. -- Wednesday was supposed to be a night of consolation games at the Cape Cod Classic hockey tournament at the Falmouth Ice Arena. However, a few surprising results over the first two days meant that three teams in the ESPN Boston boys’ hockey Top 25 rankings, and one team in the Last 10 Out, wound up meeting in the losers’ bracket.
The night began with No. 6 Hingham (12-7-2) and No. 9 Archbishop Williams (12-4-4) in a game that meant far more than consolation. Both teams were looking for another critical win to bolster their resumes ahead of Saturday’s Super 8 vote.
Both teams struggled under the weight of the game’s importance, but Archies rode the stellar play of goaltender Joe Vinay (27 saves) to pull out a vital 2-0 win over the Harbormen.
Archbishop Williams head coach Derackk Curtis believed that his team needed to get back to hard work and its style of play. He admitted that the allure of playing in the Super 8 and the praise heaped on his team may have affected the Bishops.
“We just wanted to go out and play like we could play, show a little bit of pride and commitment to the team and I think that it was a good game,” Curtis said. “In this tournament, we didn’t play to our fullest potential, but we just wanted to go out there and play up to our opponent.”
The first period was high on physical play but short on scoring opportunities as both teams focused on staying tight defensively. The second period was dominated by Hingham, but the Harbormen had no way past the Bishops’ senior goalie, who produced a series of highlight reel saves.
The best save of the night came at the expense of Hingham senior forward Justin Ryder. After holding strong to make two saves at his near post, Vinay swiveled and dove across the goalmouth to glove Ryder’s attempt to tap in at the far post.
It was a save that left the crowd in awe and added to the pressure that Hingham already felt. The Harbormen have hit a rough patch at the worst possible time and head coach Tony Messina rued his team’s missed chances.
“We’ve actually had a lot of those periods that we deserved a better fate, but you can only say that for so long,” Messina said. “Even the kids realize that. It’s frustrating, really frustrating.”
Archies came out strong in the third and finally broke the deadlock on a goal by Nick Menzel that was set up by fellow forwards Jake Reardon and Ryan Dunn. The Bishops held out against a late, desperate charge by Hingham and tacked on an empty-net goal just before the final buzzer.
Curtis remarked following the game that his team had done what it needed to do, but the team’s postseason destination was now in other people’s hands.
“I don’t think it was our perfect game, our best game, but it was good enough to win,” Curtis said. “I’ll take the win any day of the week, now you just got to hope that it was good enough to get someone to look at you.”
BC HIGH 2, WALTHAM 0
The nightcap held far less pressure as No. 3 BC High (13-3-3) faced off with Waltham (11-8-2) in a game that was dominated by the Eagles’ attack and the outstanding play of the Hawks senior goalie Nick Russo.
BC High outshot Waltham ,48-8, but, thanks to a heroic performance from Russo, only managed a 2-0 victory over the Hawks.
Waltham generally sits back and absorbs pressure, while hoping to catch a team with a lone goal that could win the game. The Eagles made that a difficult strategy with a goal just 1:24 into the game. Junior defenseman Sam Topham with a quick shot that snuck past Russo.
From that point on, a pattern emerged. The Eagles would attack, pepper the goal with shots, and Russo would do his best to repel everything that was thrown at him. He stopped one-timers, slap shots, and tips with a series of quick kick saves and solid positioning.
Despite Russo’s great game, the Eagles wrapped up the victory with 10:35 left in the second period. Sophomore Patrick Riley was on hand to tap into an empty net after Russo made three saves at his near post.
One player that epitomized the effort of BC High on Wednesday was junior captain Tom Besinger. The forward was battered for much of the game as the Waltham defense tried to limit his chances to find open ice. Still, Besinger created several great scoring opportunities, including three shots that rang off the post.
“When you’re as skilled as he is and you’re a difference maker like he is, you’re a target,” said Eagles head coach John Flaherty, who credited his playmaker for staying calm in the face of the constant hits. “Tommy’s got to come to expect that and know that’s going to happen.”
Flaherty was pleased with the effort and the team’s ability to bounce back after Monday’s loss to Austin Prep.
“Very happy with the effort,” he remarked. “The fact that we were able to play the way we played and to control the game against a very good team, I’m very happy with that. It’s a good bounce back from the misstep we took the other day and, going into St. John’s Shrewsbury. We needed a good game to close out the regular season.”
However, Wednesday night’s 4-4 draw between the teams at the Stoneham Arena was enough to net the Bishops their first Catholic Central Large crown since a share of the title in 2009-10.
It was all there for Archies (11-2-4, 7-0-3), which held a 4-1 lead early in the third period. But the Cougars (9-1-6, 6-0-4) came alive in the third period, scoring three goals in a span of two minutes, 25 seconds to pull into a tie.
“You have to be happy that you won the league, but it’s very disappointing,” Bishops head coach Derackk Curtis said.
He added, “Hopefully, we learn from it. You can’t get caught up in it.”
The teams traded goals in the first period (Nolan Vesey for AP and Mike Jessman for Archies), but the Bishops broke loose in the second. Archies claimed its first lead of the game at 2:22 of the second with a power-goal at Jake Reardon tipped home Kyle Leonard’s point shot. Ryan Dunn padded the Bishops’ lead with 22 seconds remaining in the period with Reardon picking up his second point of the game on the assist.
“In the second period, we got back to doing what we do well – taking the body, getting pucks in deep and cycling it,” Curtis said. “I though we carried the play.”
Archies was off to fast start in the third as well with Mike Davis stuffing a shot in shortside on a broken play 1:08 into the period.
AP took over from there. Just 36 seconds later, senior captain Frankie Candelino put the Cougars on the comeback trail and Jake McKenelley brought AP within a goal 24 seconds later.
George Sennott scored the equalizer with 10:52 remaining on a beautiful feed from Vesey (2 points) on the power play.
MINOR SETBACK, SUPER FUTURE?
While the Cougars ultimately couldn’t find the go-ahead and fell short of the league title, all wasn’t lost.
“I liked our effort in that there was no quit and we came back,” AP head coach Louis Finocchiaro said.
Finocchiaro admitted he’d considered pulling goaltender Elijah Harris in the game’s waning moments, searching for the go-ahead goal. But he was content to take the point and take his chances that his team’s resume to date will be enough to gain entry to the upcoming Super 8 tournament.
“We’ll take the point,” Finocchiaro said. “We have a very strong strength of schedule if that comes into effect when they look at us. …
“We have to finish. We have some games in front of us.”
SEE YOU SOON?
And with that, there’s also the possibility that the Bishops and Cougars could cross paths for the third time this season in next week’s crucial Cape Cod Classic in Falmouth. Both teams will play in the 8-team tournament which features six Top 25 teams and five teams featured on the Super 8 Watch List.
Archies opens the tournament with Waltham in a 5 p.m. faceoff on Saturday, while AP skates with Hingham in a potential Super 8 preview matchup at 3 p.m.
That was evidenced in Saturday night’s season opener between No. 6 Austin Prep and No. 17 Archbishop Williams. The Cougars and Bishops skated to a 2-2 tie in a very even game by all accounts.
Each squad saw equal amounts of positives and negatives. Likewise, AP head coach Louis Finocchiaro saw his team’s performance as indicative of where they are at the early juncture of the season.
“We’re still very young,” Finocchiaro said. “Our decision-making, at times, wasn’t what it needed to be. But our compete level is there, I thought the kids competed tonight. They’re a great team. They’re fast, they’re physical. They brought a lot of neutral zone speed against us.”
Archies (0-0-1) held two, one-goal leads in the contest, only to see the Cougars (0-0-1) respond to each tally.
Mike Jessman had the Bishops to a 1-0 lead with 3:41 remaining in the first, but AP answered in the final minute on a Jake McKenelly goal, assisted by Dan O’Toole.
After a scoreless second, the Bishops reclaimed the lead with 11:43 remaining in the game on Ryan Dunn’s blast. Jessman picked up his second point of the game on the assist.
The lead again would be short-lived as Cam Russo knotted the score less than three minutes later with an assist from Matt Morgan.
Quality scoring chances were hard to come by in the final minutes, as Bishops netminder Joe Vinay and Couagars goaltender Elijah Harris volleyed saves back and forth. Archies also had a power-play opportunity for the go-ahead goal in the final two minutes, but AP’s penalty kill unit held the Bishops without a shot.
“To be honest, I think all three of our lines are skilled and pretty even, even down on our third line, we have [George] Sennott, [Brent] Hill and Russo,” Finocchiaro said. “We’ve outshot everybody we’ve played so far, but we’ve been a little snake-bitten early, but if we keep playing like we have, they’ll come.”
NO. 5 WALPOLE (9-0) AT NO. 21 NATICK (8-1)
Scott Barboza, ESPN Boston High Schools editor: You can pick just about anyone off this elite Rebels’ defense, but let’s go with senior captain and inside linebacker Cam Hanley. He’s been the quarterback to this Walpole defense for a few years now and will be a vital cog plugging the running lanes when Natick quarterback Troy Flutie takes off on the run.
Brendan Hall, ESPN Boston High Schools editor: When these two teams squared off last season, Walpole went almost exclusively with a three-man front and five in the box. They did just fine, holding the Red Hawks to just 17 yards of offense in the first half, and eked out a 16-13 win on a last-second field goal. I don’t expect much to change this year. Walpole has one of the state’s most aggressive pass rushes, with 6-foot-4, 270-pound defensive end Chris Collins leading the way, and is a big reason why the Rebels haven’t allowed a point since Sept. 28.
This Natick line has improved since the beginning of the season, but expect their hands to be full. Natick plays an uptempo, hurry-up style aimed at making the defense think fast, but quarterback Troy Flutie is going to have to make quick decisions –- chuck it or tuck it. And with receiver Brian Dunlap expected to draw extra attention, supporting receivers Justin Robinson and Andrew Boynton are going to be crucial.
Adam Kurkjian, ESPN Boston correspondent: This game will come down to whether or not Natick can make enough stops to give its explosive offense a chance in the end. Both of these teams can put up big numbers on the scoreboard, but while Walpole's defense has been equally effective, Natick's was lit up last week against Wellesley and lacks the same amount of playmakers the Rebels have on that side of the ball. The Red Hawks need to make stops early and often or else they can kiss their hopes of a Bay State Herget Division title goodbye.
BISHOP FEEHAN (6-2) AT NO. 16 SOMERSET-BERKLEY (9-0)
Barboza: Sometimes the simplest answer is the best answer. I might be going super-safe here, but Garrett Carlos and Mike Garrant have been the key to Somerset-Berkley’s success all season long. If the two-headed backfield is on point on Saturday, the Blue Raiders will be tough to beat.
Hall: There’s nothing fancy about Somerset’s offense -– Garrett Carlos left, Mike Garrant right, vice-versa, fullback dive –- and there are no tricks. With its one-inch splits, the double wing eliminates blitz packages. Stopping the attack requires discipline not to over-pursue, and generally the play is read by following the pulling guards or watching where the quarterback opens his hips, then crashing the other way.
Of course, Feehan knows all this. This is nothing new to the Shamrocks, who sees this attack year in year out, and solved it last season for a 41-7 romp of the Blue Raiders. Somerset is looking like its 2010 dominance, but it is a smaller yet faster unit than that Super Bowl finalist squad which ran behind 320-pound road grader Ian Levesque. Plain and simple, the Feehan defensive line is going to have to get off its blocks -– and do it quickly.
Kurkjian: Bishop Feehan has to force negative plays on early downs and get Somerset's offense off the field. The way Somerset pounds teams on the ground, your defense can be worn out by the time the fourth quarter comes around. The Shamrocks would love to take an early lead and force Somerset out of its comfort zone by going to the air, although it's unlikely to happen unless Somerset is behind my multiple scores in the latter stages of the game.
Josh Perry, Managing Editor, HockomockSports.com: The X-factor between the top two teams in the EAC will be Shamrocks senior quarterback Nick Romero. Both teams are heavily focused on the ground game, but if Feehan can get something going in the passing attack and balance its offense it should provide the edge. Both teams will be crowding the line of scrimmage and bringing numbers up into the box. If Romero can connect with his receivers, even simple screens to Matt Allen and Isiah Douglas, it will give Feehan an edge.
NO. 18 KING PHILIP (8-1) AT NO. 24 NORTH ATTLEBOROUGH (6-3)
Barboza: I’m going with go with Sam McDonald, who’s made King Philip’s offense more dynamic in recent weeks. McDonald’s had two-touchdown games in two of the last three weeks, including last week’s win over Oliver Ames, when he hauled in a 22-yard touchdown pass from John Dillon and added a spark to the Warriors’ special teams with a 66-yard punt return for a touchdown.
Hall: Joe Johnston gives this King Philip rushing attack its spunk, but it’s going to be his play on defense that is the difference in this one. The Warriors are noted for devising great defensive gameplans, but that was delivered a swift wakeup call in the 46-33 loss to Mansfield. North has some big-play threats, and if KP wants to keep them in check they will have to dictate the pace of this game early.
Kurkjian: A year ago, King Philip held North Attleborough to just seven points. This year, it's the North defense that will need to be up to the task if it wants to take this showdown in the Hock. North can't count on its offense to just outscore King Philip because outside of an uncharacteristic breakdown against Mansfield, the Warriors have been strong on that side of the ball. Lately, North's defense has shown some weakness and it cannot allow more of that because KP is not the type of team that is going to allow the type of Arena League scores that the Red Rocketeers have hund up on teams this year.
Perry: The biggest X-factor in this game will be health. Sean Peters and Alex Jette are back for the Rocketeers, but neither is 100 percent. Jette's hair-line fracture is not fully healed yet and Peters will probably need surgery on his shoulder after the season. Even at only 75 percent, both players have made a significant contribution to the team on the field as well as positively impacting the team's attitude and confidence. Meanwhile, KP are a little banged up after fullback/linebacker Ryan Dunn went down with an arm injury in last week's rout of Oliver Ames. Dunn left the field with his arm in a sling and he would be a huge loss for the Warriors if he can't play. He is the lead blocker for Joe Johnston, a good inside option in the power running game, and is one of KP's best defensive players against the run.
NO. 17 NAUSET (9-0) AT PLYMOUTH SOUTH (6-3)
Barboza: Dylan Oxsen obviously is having a historic season for the Panthers with 28 touchdowns to date, but Harrison Holbrook and Devin Guadagno have also been intergral to Plymouth South’s success. Now, we’ll see if they can run together to a Atlantic Coast League title.
Hall: South’s Dylan Oxsen is as hard-charging as they come -– you don’t tip-toe your way to 28 touchdowns -– running behind some quick pulling linemen. For that, I think the key to this game will if Nauset’s two-way lineman Dakota Girard can get off his blocks and create some havoc at the point of attack. The Brown University-bound senior is one of the biggest reasons the Warriors are having their best season in school history.
Kurkjian: Nauset needs to be able to slow down Dylan Oxsen enough to force Plymouth South to beat it in other ways. Oxsen has put up monster numbers this season and his team is on a major roll right now. If Nauset is somehow able to limit his yards and force the Plymouth South offense to go elsewhere, it could be the key in this pivotal Atlantic Coast League game.
NO. 11 BEVERLY (9-0) AT MARBLEHEAD (8-1)
Barboza: Pick your poison with the Panthers’ backfield, right? So I’m going to go with the Magicians’ defense, in particular their defensive line of Rajive Alcindor, Trever Gelineau and Kyle McCormack. They’ll have their hands full with the Panthers’ athletic offensive line and will have to play their responsibilities if Marblehead is to have any hope of slowing Beverly’s stable of backs and a chance at victory.
Hall: Fitting that Marblehead goes by the Magicians, because their front seven is going to have to turn in some majestic play to keep this one close. The evolution of the spread has yielded video game-like stats for high school teams across Massachusetts, but what should scare you about the Panthers’ average of 38 points per game is that they’re doing it heavy on the run with a Wing-T offense. My advice: shoot the guards up the A-gaps, get upfield and hope for the best.
Kurkjian: The Magicians will be heavy underdogs in this game and the key for them to pull the upset is to make Beverly play a four-quarter game. Most of the opponents on the Panthers' schedule have fallen behind by so much that the fourth quarter is usually a JV contest. The Panthers have not trailed much at all this season and a second-half lead or a one-score game in the fourth quarter would give Marblehead a major advantage because they've been in more close games this season.
NO. 23 ABINGTON (9-0) AT EAST BRIDGEWATER (6-3)
Barboza: We all know the big-play ability Babila Fonkem brings for Abington, but the Green Wave is very much a three-headed monster. And the straws that stir the Green Wave’s drink are a dangerous duo in Brian Kilmain and Jack Malafronte.
Hall: Abington goes in as the favorites, but they’re going to have to stop East Bridgewater’s option game. Andrew Benson is a run-first quarterback who can keep the sticks moving if you give him the edge. The Green Wave are going to have to contain the outside gaps and funnel things through the middle of the field.
Kurkjian: The Vikings will come into this one as underdogs and deservedly so because Abington has been so solid all season. However, an upset is not out of the question and the way that East Bridgewater can do it is by jumping out to an early lead and keeping the game close heading into the fourth quarter. Abington has not played a close game since September and since so much is expected of this team, all the pressure will be on the Green Wave in a hostile environment. The Vikings need to maintain that pressure and see if it can have a negative impact on the visitors.
FRANKLIN (7-2) AT MANSFIELD (6-3)
Barboza: Junior linebacker Alex Ruddy has taken a big step forward for the Hornets this season and leads the team in tackles with 62 (35 solo) through nine weeks. He’ll be key to slowing the Panthers’ potent offense.
Hall: We’ve mentioned before about this Mansfield offense’s ability to reel off scores in bunches, and we saw that a few weeks ago in the Hornets’ 46-33 win over King Philip. It was vintage Mansfield, rushing for over 360 yards as a team. For all the talk we’ve made of the Hornets opening up the passing playbook the last few years, they can still run the ball downhill efficiently. We know Franklin can hang with them in the air, but can they stop the run?
Kurkjian: Both of these teams have proven to be solid when they choose to go to the air. The winner of this game will likely be the one who can also get its ground game going to complement that aerial attack. A lot of these Hockomock battles lately have been very high scoring and this one could be as well, but if someone can find a rhythm running the ball it could be the difference.
Perry: Mike Carden could be the deciding factor in a game that will be Franklin's first of two straight title deciding games (they play King Philip on Thanksgiving). The Panthers' kicker is considered a D1-caliber talent by head coach Brad Sidwell and won the game against Attleboro a couple of weeks ago with a 41-yard kick. In fact, he had a 48-yard attempt against Taunton that would have kept the Panthers perfect but it fell inches short. A solid kicking game is a rare luxury at this level and it could provide the edge in a tight game.
BOSTON CATHEDRAL (7-2) AT POPE JOHN XXIII (5-4)
Barboza: Mike Sullivan’s done a fine job all season taking over for Robert McMaster at quarterback for Pope John all season. For Pope John to knock off Cathedral, he’ll need to be at his best again.
Hall: Pope John is going to need to find a way to neutralize Kadeem Edge. The 6-foot-4 Cathedral receiver is a matchup problem for most small-school squads, able to win jump-balls as well as accelerate quickly in space. Also look for several Cathedral defenders to have big roles in this one, namely Cameron Seemore, Derek Welcome and Mohammed Braimah.
Kurkjian: Cathedral quarterback Kejonte Hickman has not played like a sophomore in guiding this team to where it wants to be heading into the end of the season. For Pope John to win this game, it has to force him into the types of mistakes and bad decisions that sophomores tend to make. Cathedral's offense can be brutal to defend with the number of speedy athletes it gets into space, but a disruptive defense that hassles the quarterback into bad decisions is a nice way of messing up its timing.
Senior running back Charles Ruffin carried the load for No. 12 KP (9-1, 3-1) on Turkey Day, rushing 24 times for 196 yards and a touchdown as the Warriors routed rival Franklin, 42-21, on Thursday at Pisini Field. This, coupled with North Attleboro’s victory over Attleboro, created a three-way tie for the Hockomock League title, and gave KP the necessary tiebreaker to earn the league’s postseason berth.
Franklin (4-7, 0-4) actually struck first in the contest, with sophomore quarterback Nick Zucco hitting senior Rhett Davis for a 64-yard score on the Panthers’ second play from scrimmage.
“[The same situation] happened to us a couple of weeks ago with Canton, too,” Ruffin said. “We don’t get nervous about it, we’re just going to stay with the game plan. So it didn’t really bother us, we just knew we had to make some corrections.”
The advantage would not last long, however, as the Warriors received the ensuing kickoff and began hammering away at the Franklin defense with a combination of Ruffin and senior fullback Ryan Dunn.
Ruffin broke runs of nine, seven and 23 yards on KP’s opening drive before Dunn plowed in from a yard out. Holder Sam McDonald bobbled the snap on the extra point, but corralled the ball and ran it in for the two-point conversion to give KP an 8-7 lead.
Dunn finished with 46 rushing yards on 13 carries, and also kicked five extra points.
That would become the theme for the day, as the Warriors employed Ruffin’s speed and Dunn’s power running to control the clock and keep Franklin’s potent spread offense off the field.
After a Franklin missed field goal, KP drove down the field again with a steady dose of Ruffin, culminating in a 1-yard touchdown sneak by quarterback John Dillon.
The sophomore did not need to do much with his arm, but was efficient when he did. Dillon completed 3 of 4 passes for 80 yards, including a 25-yard touchdown strike to Joe Cochrane in the second quarter to stretch the Warriors’ lead to 21-7.
“We didn’t even have to throw if we didn’t want to, we could have just handed it off,” KP head coach Brian Lee said. “But when we asked [Dillon] to make a play, he’s so smart, so calm and collected that he can execute and he does a great job. He really has a lot of upside to him.
KP struck once more 46 seconds before intermission (a 19-yard dash by Ruffin), then again immediately out of the locker room as Cochrane took the opening kickoff of the second half 80 yards untouched into the end zone.
Down 35-7 at this point, the Panthers did not pack it in, as Zucco hit Davis again for 33-yard touchdown on Franklin’s next drive.
The passing game was the one bright spot for the Panthers in this contest, as Zucco -- who took over for injured starter Nick Canesi midway through the season -- was able to pick apart the KP secondary. The sophomore completed 7 of 12 passes for 215 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.
With the Warriors already having scored on the ground, through the air and via kick return, the defense joined in on the fun in the third quarter. Zucco was stripped in his own end zone and defensive tackle Brian Jones dove on the ball for a KP touchdown and a 42-14 lead.
With that, Ruffin, Dillon and several other starters were relieved for second-teamers and KP milked the clock for much of the fourth quarter.
Franklin managed one final score, a 64-yard bomb from Zucco to junior Brandon Eccher, before KP recovered the onside kick and ran out the clock.
After the game, players lingered on the field anxiously awaiting the final score of the Attleboro-North Attleborough game, and erupted into cheers at the announcement of North’s 14-7 victory.
The wins create a three-way tie atop the Hockomock between KP, North and Mansfield, with the Warriors earning the tiebreaker by virtue of having the highest point total in matchups amongst the three teams.
“When you look around, the Hock has been dominated by a few programs for a long time,” Lee said, “And to be part of … a tradition that’s coming up, it’s been exciting. A lot of hard work has been done in taking a program that didn’t have a lot of pride in itself and getting them to believe.”
The Warriors will play in the Division 2 semifinals against undefeated No. 2 Duxbury on Tuesday, at a site that has yet to be determined.
KING PHILIP 42, FRANKLIN 21
KP (9-1, 3-1) 8 20 14 0 42
FR (4-7, 0-4) 7 0 7 7 21
F – Rhett Davis 65 pass from Nick Zucco (Mike Carden kick)
KP – Ryan Dunn 1 run (Sam McDonald run)
KP – John Dillon 1 run (kick failed)
KP – Joe Cochrane 25 from Dillon (Dunn kick)
KP – Charles Ruffin 3 run (Dunn kick)
KP – Cochrane 80 kickoff return (Dunn kick)
F – Davis 33 pass from Zucco (Carden kick)
KP – Brian Jones fumble recovery in endzone (Dunn kick)
F – Brandon Eccher 64 pass from Zucco (Carden kick)
He managed to hold the QB long enough to allow the wall of defenders to build up behind him, resulting in a huge stop that turned what could have been a potential disaster into the spark that changed the course of the game.
Lussier and fellow linebacker Brett McEvoy each finished with eight tackles to lead the 'D' while Charles Ruffin rushed for 147 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 23 carries as the Warriors picked up a much-needed 19-7 victory over Hockomock League Kelley-Rex Division foe North Attleboro Saturday afternoon at Macktaz Field.
"That was huge," KP head coach Brian Lee of said the goal-line stand. "Everything kind of went wrong for us in the first half and we were still able to be up 7 so I was very happy. Special teams kind of put us in a hole and I'm the special teams coach so I have nobody to blame but myself. The defense really just bailed us out there."
The No. 18 Warriors, who improved to 5-1 overall and 1-1 in the league, thought they had the No. 25 Red Rocketeers (5-1, 1-1) stopped cold just beyond midfield. KP forced NA to punt, but the ball tailed toward the sideline and bounced several times, making it difficult to field. Reid Holden recovered for the Rocketeers at the KP 7, and they pushed it close to the goal line with a pair of runs and a short pass before Lussier came up with the big stop.
"We were all saying on the defense that we don't pick the situations when we go out there," explained Lussier. "We banded together, the whole unit. We don't have one standout player, we're a unit together. And we believed in each other and we just said, 'You know what? We didn't ask for this but we've got to make the best of it' and we did. We stopped them."
That set the tone for the Warrior defense, who held North to just 20 rushing yards, and 133 yards of total offense. KP allowed nine first downs in the game, five of which came on the Rocketeers final drive against a prevent defense while trailing, 19-0.
"We weren't able to run the ball and control the clock on offense. That's what we were able to do in all our other games," NA head coach Don Johnson said. "I think after we look at the film we're probably going to walk away and say KP's defense was pretty good. I'm sure we made our share of mistakes out there but I think they made us make those mistakes."
RUFFIN PLAYING HURT
KP's star running back Charles Ruffin can't seem to catch a break when it comes to his right ankle. He originally injured it two weeks ago in a 27-26 loss to Mansfield and sat out last week's 28-13 win over Oliver Ames.
The talented senior rushed for 84 yards and a 2-yard TD in the first half, but had to leave the game for a brief spell after getting the ankle twisted on a draw play right before the break.
"Its just gonna be a labor here," said Lee on Ruffin's injury. "He's really dinged up and doing what he's supposed to do. We needed him today and he came back and played. And he knows he maybe shouldn't be playing but he's sucking it up and knows he wants to be a part of this. It killed him to not be playing last week so he wanted to get in there."
Ruffin sat out the Warriors first series of the second half, but returned in style with a 13-yard TD on a sweep around the right side and was able to grit his teeth enough to stay in the backfield and help KP eat up valuable clock time.
"Our coaches, what they have us do, they have us remember a definition called 'Accountability.' You have to have the quality state of mind to be an accountant for your team," Ruffin explained. "That's what I'm trying to through adversity for my team. I know it hurts but I gotta suck it up and have that mental toughness to go back in the game."
TIMELY PASSING HELPS
It's easy to get lost in the large shadow cast by the talented Ruffin, but the maturation and development of KP sophomore quarterback John Dillon is going to give opponents something to think about when they try to load up the box to attack the run.
Listed at 6-feet, 156 pounds, Dillon is displaying a knack for coming through with a big play when the Warriors need one. His final numbers are nothing a quick glance at the box score will get you excited about (4-for-6, 87 yards) but it was about when the completions came and what they led to that made a big difference.
In the second quarter of a scoreless game, after four straight Ruffin carries moved KP from its own 40 to the NA 32, Dillon fooled everyone by firing a quick pass over the middle to Sam McDonald, who was wide open behind the Rocketeer linebackers. The play went for 30 yards, and Ruffin went in from the two for the game's first score.
On a third-and-10 in the third quarter, Dillon executed a perfect play-action fake and connected again with McDonald for 30 yards to set his team up at the NA 30. The Warriors ultimately missed a 34-yard field goal attempt, but Dillon once again came up with a big play to keep a potential scoring drive alive.
Then in the fourth on second-and-8 at the Rocketeers 40, Dillon drilled a 22-yard pass to wideout Mike Viola. Two plays later, Ryan Dunn bulled through the middle for a 14-yard touchdown run that gave the Warriors a 19-0 lead with 8:02 remaining.
"He's a young kid back there but whenever we call on him to make plays, he's been able to do it in a tough league," Lee said in praise of Dillon. "He's playing smart and doing what we ask. Not trying to win everything but just trying to make a play when he can. He's very bright and he's played in two big games now and he's really done a great job in both of them for us."
KING PHILIP 19, NORTH ATTLEBOROUGH 7
NA (5-1) 0 0 0 7 - 7
KP (5-1) 0 7 6 6 - 19
KP - Charles Ruffin 2 run (Ryan Dunn kick)
KP - Ruffin 13 run (kick blocked)
KP - Dunn 14 run (rush failed)
NA - Wesley Nichols 1 run (Spyro Varetimos kick)