A stellar effort from senior goalie Jack Lang and an early lead were not enough for the Hopkinton High School boys hockey team, as the Hillers came up short in the state title game, falling 4-1 to Canton at TD Garden on Sunday.
Canton (22-4), the No. 3 seed in the Division 2 tournament, scored twice in just over a minute at the end of the second period to take a lead it would not relinquish. The Bulldogs, who lost in the state final a season ago, captured their third state championship and first on the ice since 2019 (they shared the 2020 title after it was canceled due to the pandemic).
Hopkinton (20-5) lost for the second time in the season’s final game after dropping a 3-2 contest against Wachusett in the Division 3 title game in 2019, but the season represented a marked improvement after a .500 record last winter.
“I’m proud of the boys, I thought they played incredibly hard,” coach Scott Hayes said. “We worked hard for every chance that we got, but it just didn’t go our way today.”
Aside from Canton’s flurry at the end of the second period, Lang was masterful in net in the face of relentless pressure. Four different Bulldogs scored and Canton finished the game with a 33-17 edge in shots on goal, but Lang helped keep the game within reach until the closing moments.
“He was outstanding, Jack just keeps getting better and better,” Hayes said. “He played great hockey for us through this stretch run, he’s been awesome for us all year. I wish we could have generated a little more offense to help him out today. He deserved it.”
Senior Jeffrey Chaput gave the Bulldogs a two-goal cushion with less than three minutes to play in the game when he took a pretty feed from captain AJ Thomas and ripped a shot past Lang. Thomas added an empty-netter with 25 seconds left to make it a 4-1 game.
Pavit Mehra put the Hillers on the board first just 3:12 into the first period. Coming off a four-goal performance in the semifinal win over Walpole, the senior forward scored off a rebound from a Cam MacPherson wrist shot.
Pavit Mehra puts one in with assists by Cam MacPherson and Drew Morse – Hillers lead 1-0!! pic.twitter.com/J8KlqNpivi
— Hopkinton Athletics (@HillerAthletics) March 19, 2023
“It was a heck of a season,” Mehra said. “Any time you get to the state finals, that’s about as good as it can be. I am so proud of the team and the guys.”
Mehra said he thought the Bulldogs were able to settle down more than the Hillers and gather their emotions playing in front of a big crowd at the home of the Bruins. But, as Canton continued to keep the pressure on, the Hillers and Lang held off a furious attack for the rest of the opening frame. Lang stopped 12 Canton shots through the first 15 minutes, and Hopkinton escaped the first period with the one-goal advantage.
Hopkinton held on to the one-goal edge even as the shots on Lang continued to pile up. The Bulldogs finally broke through with 1:48 left in the second period when junior forward Brendan Tourgee managed to get a puck to trickle past Lang after it ricocheted off the post. Just 75 seconds later, Canton scored for a second time when junior Brian Middleton buried a wrist shot from the left wing.
Despite the late tallies, Lang stood up to the Bulldogs barrage throughout the second period, after which Canton held a 22-6 edge in shots on goal. During one wild sequence early in the period, Lang blocked a shot and then made a spectacular glove save on the rebound attempt, diving to his left to snag the puck out of midair and keep it a 1-0 game.
“I was definitely trying to track the puck, because the puck was going everywhere at that point,” Lang said. “The next thing I know, it ends up in my glove as I’m diving across the crease.”
As the Hillers cleared the puck back to the offensive end following the highlight-reel save, the student section showed appreciation for the goalie’s efforts.
“Thank you Lang,” they chanted.
Senior captain Joe Carrazza saved his thanks for the fans and students who packed the Hopkinton cheering section on Sunday.
“It was awesome playing here, seeing everybody here and knowing that we made our town proud,” Carrazza said. “Being [in the final] for the second time in five years. It was great, it was awesome.”