When Canton started the 2021-22 season with an 0-2-1 record, it probably would have been premature to automatically pencil them into their usual slot playing deep into March.
But the Bulldogs, who won or shared the previous two Division 2 state championships, never can be counted out. And when AJ Thomas roofed a loose puck from in front 4:07 into overtime Saturday night, the #3 Bulldogs are still alive after fending off #6 Walpole, 3-2, at Gallo Ice Arena.
The goal capped the 21st consecutive win for Canton since the Dec. 18 tie with Barnstable, which followed losses to Lincoln-Sudbury (in overtime) and Franklin. The Bulldogs also picked up their 12th consecutive postseason victory dating back to the start of the 2019 tournament.
But it didn’t come easy. Walpole, which also shared the Division 1 state championship in 2020, was looking to continue a postseason streak of its own. Down 2-0, the Timberwolves got goals from Declan Hunter and Matt Bianculli, the latter tying it with 11:29 left in regulation.
However, a bad bounce off a skate on a clearing attempt put the puck right on Thomas’ stick and he didn’t miss.
Andrew Valkanas scored twice and Eamon Kelly had a pair of assists for Canton.
Scituate 6, Nashoba 1
The #2 Sailors led nearly wire to wire, with Dylan McDonald scoring just 28 seconds in to set the tone against the #7 Wolves at Gallo Ice Arena.
McDonald’s goal still stood alone on the scoreboard well into the second period, when Danny Brown and James Sullivan struck to give the Sailors some breathing room with a 3-0 lead after 30 minutes.
After Brendan Boyle pushed the lead to 4-0, Kameron Pierce finally got Nashoba on the board. But any thoughts of a comeback were erased with goals from Teagan Pratt and Andrew Belsan to seal the Scituate win.
Hanover 2, Medway 1
The #3 Hawks also continued their recent postseason success, erasing an early deficit to overcome the #6 Mustangs at Gallo Ice Arena.
Max DaSilva scored the tiebreaking goal in the second period for Hanover, and then it became a goaltending duel between the Hawks’ Liam Monahan (19 saves) and Medway standout Evan Monaghan.
Cole Davis struck first for Medway in the opening period at the 9:11 mark, but Nate Patch pulled Hanover even just 1:22 later.
Lynnfield 2, Hopedale 0
Leading scorer Chase Carney, who had posted seven assists in the #4 Pioneers’ first two tournament wins, finally turned back into goal scorer just at the right time. His tally in the second period stood up until Drew Damiani hit the empty net with 6.6 seconds left to finally put away the #5 Raiders.
Phineas Mitchener posted the shutout for Lynnfield, which picked up its first postseason hardware since winning the Division 3 state title in 1996.
Norwell 7, Assabet Valley 1
Ronan Schipani scored twice during a five-goal second period as the top-seeded Clippers took complete control and rolled past the #9 Aztecs at The Bog.
Kevin Leary put Norwell on top for good with the only goal of the opening period. But any thoughts of an upset by Assabet were dashed in the middle 15 minutes, when Quinn Simmons, Timmy Ward, Griffin Vetrano and then Schipani twice in rapid succession ballooned the lead to 6-0 through two periods.
Vetrano added his second of the game early in the third period and the Clippers were well on their way to their first state semifinal appearance since 2015. Eric Perry scored for the Aztecs with 33 seconds left.
Watertown 2, Grafton/Blackstone Valley 1
The #2 seed Raiders also are back in the semifinal round for the first time since 2015, but they had a much tougher battle in this one to get there.
After winning their first two games by a combined 20-1, the Raiders were locked in a scoreless battle with the #7 Gators through 15 minutes. But Mauricio Souza broke the ice 54 seconds into the second period, and Alec Banosian added a power play goal to double the lead.
Zack Baker’s goal with 58 seconds left in the second period pulled Grafton/BVT within a goal, but they couldn’t find the equalizer in the third.