After falling in the championship game last season, Canton got the redemption it deserved taking home the MIAA Boys Division 2 state title beating Hopkinton 4-1 Sunday at the TD Garden.
Trailing 1-0 until late in the second period, the Bulldogs kept their composure and were able to net two key goals in a little over a minute from junior captain Brendan Tourgee and Brian Middleton to take a 2-1 advantage heading into the third.
They kept all the momentum and defensively were limiting chances for the Hillers. Late in the third Jeff Chaput added the all-important insurance goal for the Bulldogs and senior captain AJ Thomas sealed it with an empty-net goal to give Canton the state title.
Senior defenseman James Young assisted on all four Canton goals.
Check out this post-game interview with James Young and Jeff Chaput:
Canton was in a similar situation in their semi-final game against Duxbury where they were trailing 1-0 after two periods and head coach Brian Shuman couldn’t be more proud of the way his team stayed calm despite being down.
“We have been in close games all year long,” said Shuman. “We are used to playing in tight games, so credit to our leadership. That was one heck of a team we played against. They have some really good players and for us to respond and keep them at bay was pretty impressive.”
Losing in the championship game last season was tough, but Shuman was thrilled to see the mental approach his team brought into the game and mentally they kept their emotions in check.
“They put a lot of pressure on themselves,” said Shuman. “Last year we really felt the pressure, but it was their dream to be able to hoist the trophy. This year our mental approach coming into this game was outstanding and it was so good to see.”
Even though Canton came out flying, it was Hopkinton that scored the game’s first goal three minutes into the game when senior Pavit Mehra spun around and scored on a loose rebound to put the Hillers on top 1-0. That was just the second goal Canton had allowed all post-season.
Canton had more quality chances in the first period putting Hillers goalie senior Jack Lang under serious pressure. The Bulldogs outshot Hopkinton 12-4 in the first period. Early in the second period, Lang was on top of his game coming up with a couple of unreal saves.
Canton continued to dominate play in the second as they held the Hillers to just two shots on goal and it was only a matter of time until they were going to break through. At 13:12 of the second period, Tourgee buried his own rebound after a pass from James Young to tie the game at one.
“It was a relief to score there,” said Shuman. “We try and win shift by shift and we never wanted to get too high or too low with our emotions.”
That was all the momentum Canton needed as a little over a minute later, Middleton sniped one five-hole past Lang to score what would be the winning goal with 34 seconds to play inthe second period.
Here is a clip of Brian Middleton’s game-winning goal for Canton:
Hopkinton came out in the third aggressive hoping to tie the game as they were putting a number of good chances on Canton goalie Colin Davis, who has been outstanding all regular season and has carried that into the postseason.
“Colin Davis has been fantastic,” said Shuman. “He has been the backbone of this team. We have to give credit to senior goalie Carson Eagles as well. Two exceptional goalies and he played a role in this as well. He brought the best out of Colin every day at practice. All of our defensive efforts have been outstanding this postseason.”
At 12:01 of the third period, Chaput fired one past Lang to make it a 3-1 game and with 25 seconds left Thomas sealed it with the key empty-net goal.
“Jeff (Chaput) and AJ (Thomas) have been tremendous all season,” said Shuman. “Jeff had four goals in the regular season and five in the postseason. He is a four-year player for us and he knows what it takes to win along with AJ, who was a great leader this season. We couldn’t be prouder of both of them.”
For Canton, the redemption was well worth the wait as they finished with a record of 22-4-0. Hopkinton has much to be proud of after a tremendous season and they finish 20-5-0.