Canton boys’ hockey wastes no time in locking up return trip to TD Garden, Division 2 state final

It was even, but not for the first four-plus minutes. Just 58 seconds into the period, Canton went up 1-0 on a goal from Brennan Pecararo, assisted by AJ Thomas and Eddie Gillis.

At 2:22 in, it went to 2-0 on a goal by Sean Connolly, assisted by Eamon Kelly. Less than a minute later, it was 3-0 after another Connolly goal, this one assisted by Brendan Tourgee and Pecararo. The blitz continued when Gillis scored an unassisted goal. Just 4:21 into the game and Canton held a 4-0 lead. The period ended with Canton holding a 15-7 shot advantage.

Canton didn’t let up in the second period, taking a 5-0 lead on Thomas’s score just 1:23 into the period. It went to 6-0 on Pecararo’s second goal, with assists to Brian Middleton and Pat Drury. With that goal, Gloucester pulled goalie Nick Tarantino in favor of Riley De Haan.

But give Gloucester (19-5) credit, the Fishermen cut the margin to 6-2 on goals by Joe Orlando (assisted by Emerson Marshall and Brett Cunningham) and Cunningham (assisted by Jack Costanzo and Marshall).

Canton outshot Gloucester, 12-11, in the second period and went into the last 15 minutes up, 6-2.

The final period was scoreless until Costanzo scored a power play goal with 55 seconds to play. But at that point, Canton fans were making plans for a trip to the Garden. The Bulldogs played there in 2019, but missed out in 2020 when the state final was canceled because of COVID.

Bulldogs freshman Colin Davis netted 22 saves.

Division 3 State

Hanover 1, Scituate 0 — Two years ago to the day, on March 15, 2020, Hanover was scheduled to face Longmeadow at TD Garden in the Division 3 state championship game.

Then COVID hit. The game was called off and co-champions were declared.

The sophomores on that team were determined to earn their chance to skate on the Bruins’ home ice, and after the 2021 postseason was canceled, they had one last chance remaining.

On Tuesday night at Gallo Ice Arena in Bourne, those seniors manifested that mission into reality with a victory over Patriot League Fisher Division rival Scituate in the Division 3 semifinals.

“It feels awesome,” senior Robbie Hanna said. “We have some unfinished business.”

In a rivalry that stretches back decades, Tuesday was the first playoff meeting between the third-seeded Hawks (17-7-1) and second-seeded Sailors (18-8) since 1999, when they met in the Division 3 South quarterfinals. After splitting two regular-season games this year, Tuesday night’s rubber match proved how evenly matched they were, with Scituate goalie Cole Coyne (28 saves) keeping his team in it until the last second despite Hanover’s puck dominance. The Hawks finished with a 29-15 shots advantage.

“That was a great battle,” Hanover coach Jonny Abban said. “I couldn’t be happier. It’s a long grind. These kids stuck with it and believed in it. I’m happy for them. I really am.”

In the end, the difference, Hanna’s goal was 95 seconds into the second period. Hanna took a pass from senior Jack Watson and unleashed a laser from just inside the blue line.

“I saw the whole left side open,” Hanna said. “I just threw it on net and it went in.”

Hanover, which lost the 2018 Division 3 title game to Shrewsbury, will seek its fifth state championship (1997, 2001, 2007, 2020) on Sunday against top-seeded Marlborough (21-1-1).

“We have our work cut out for us,” Abban said. “You have to come and compete. It’s a different level now. You’re playing for a state title.”

Division 4 State

Sandwich 3, Norwell 2 — Sandwich coach Jordan Mohre had no doubts. Neither did the Blue Knights bench.

Even sophomore Jack Connolly felt something magical was about to happen as he collected a pass in the neutral zone and raced up the ice on a breakaway with 27 seconds left in the second overtime of the Division 4 semifinal at Gallo Ice Arena.

One on one with Norwell’s freshman goalie Quinn Devin, Connolly went top right for a walkoff goal and the upset of top-seeded Norwell. Sandwich advances to Sunday’s state championship game against No. 2 Watertown at TD Garden.

“When he got that puck in between the red and the blue line, we knew it was going in,” said Mohre, whose fourth-seeded Blue Knights (17-4-3) advance to their first state title game in 14 years. “Everyone on our bench was ready to celebrate. Jack has ice water in his veins and bullets in his glove.”

Connolly, who scored the game’s first goal off his right skate, gave credit to the team’s conditioning as it survived more than 60 minutes of hockey.

“We’re a very well conditioned team,” he said. “It really paid off in this moment.”

Mohre agreed: “Most conditioned team in the state. We talk about that all year long. I’m hard on these guys. We don’t skate for punishment, we skate for third periods and overtimes and double overtimes. We skate for when we’re tired and don’t think we have any more.”

After Connolly inadvertantly staked Sandwich to a 1-0 lead in the first period off a pass from junior Colin McIver, Norwell (21-2-0) scored the next two goals. Joe Daly tied it up off a rebound midway through the second period, then Kevin Leary put the Clippers ahead when he went five-hole from just inside the blue line early in the third.

Sandwich answered less than three minutes later when McIver drilled one home from the point. Blue Knights goalie Mitchell Norkevicius finished with 32 saves, including nine between the two overtime periods. Devin stopped six shots in the second overtime alone, finishing with 23 saves for the game.

Correspondent Brendan Kurie reported from Bourne.

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