RAYNHAM – It is a story that has been seen before in the New England Future Stars Bantam Division. A now growing trend of dominance. An undefeated season with division best offensive and defensive numbers.
In 2014, it was the North Shore Stingrays. In 2015, the South Middlesex Coyotes. With the 2016 season having drawn to a close on August 14, it was the Central Mass Cobras turn to add their name to the list as they capped their run to perfection with a 5-2 victory over the defending champion Coyotes at the Raynham IcePlex.
The Cobras did not waste much time looking to punctuate the final paragraph of their perfect season. Just 49-seconds into the contest, Central Mass forward Jacob Maddalena went hard to the net and sent a puck in that direction that just managed to squeak through for the 1-0 lead.
Despite the dominating regular season performances of the eventual champions, that never seemed to stop them finding themselves in close matches when there was a trophy to be handed out at game’s end. The Coyotes seemed rattled at first by the early goal against, but eventually settled onto better footing as the opening period wore on. The game balanced and Maddalena’s goal ended as the only scored in the first.
Central Mass was back at it again early in the second, this time 1:08 after the period’s opening face off as Joshua Mills upped the advantage to 2-0. Twice more in the middle frame the Cobras furthered their advantage, Ryan’s Corbett and Gardula each with the score to make it 4-0 through 30 minutes.
Yet, as the game continued and the Cobras built on their lead, it seemed to be less about Central Mass’ ability to score as it was their defense’s ability to give the Coyotes so few opportunities to mount any sort of rally, one of the hallmarks of the Cobras throughout the season.
“Most of our offense this year came from good defensive play,” Central Mass coach Gilles Legault noted after the game. “If you look at our goals against, we only had 11 all season, so it started from our zone and when you have the puck on your stick, obviously the offense comes as well.
“First thing was defense all season long.”
Continuing to shutdown South Middlesex on the backend, their transition led to a mid-third period goal by Ben Martel that extended the lead to 5-0. Though the game was slipping away, Coyotes stood toe-to-toe – literally and figuratively – with their opponent throughout and did not back down. While they could not break up their perfect season, they did eventually break up the Cobras’ perfect finale.
“I thought both teams played probably the best game of the season,” Legault said. “We played them earlier on and they definitely gave us a much better game today. Both teams came to play hard to the end.”
And it was certainly hard through the end. Brendan George and Matthew Lajoie each scored in the game’s final two minutes to get the Coyotes on the board, but there was not enough time left to fully overcome their deficit.
The Central Mass Cobras claimed the 2016 Bantam Gold Cup Championship with a 5-2 victory over the South Middlesex Coyotes.