Bourne vs. Sandwich In 28th Annual Canal Cup
By: Dan Crowley
The 28th Annual Canal Cup hockey game between Bourne and Sandwich High schools will be played Saturday, February 5, at Gallo Ice Arena at 8 PM. The Sandwich Blue Knights have won the last four games and hold a 16-11 advantage since the rivalry began in 1983.
“It’s really something special,” Sandwich team captain Steve Lessard said. “Both towns come out to support their team. It’s good fun for everyone and I’ll guarantee that if you come to see it once, you’ll come back.”
Like Thanksgiving Day football, when it comes to a traditionally emotion-packed game like this, you can throw out the record book. When the two teams step on the ice they both admit it’s anyone’s game to win.
“I think it will be a hard-hitting, high-intensity game that will probably come down to who wants it more,” Bourne senior captain Jeff Small said.
“I think whichever team comes to play and skates hard will win,” Bourne senior captain Devin Welch added. “Records don’t matter. Anyone can win.”
Some of the players on the Gallo ice that night will be continuing an ongoing family tradition. Sandwich senior Alex LaRocco, who will be skating in his third Canal Cup game for the Blue Knights, is the fourth in his family to play in the annual game behind brothers Jarrod, Craig, and Connor. Lessard, who will be participating in his third cup game, is following in the footsteps of brothers John and Garrett. SHS senior Jake McCombs was preceded by his brothers Luke and Matt. Blue Knight senior assistant-captain Tom Columbo was preceded by his brother Ryan, and SHS assistant-captain Pat Farrington’s brother Dan played in cup games as well. On the Bourne side Devin Welch, a Sandwich resident, was preceded by his brother Kevin, who skated for the Blue Knights.
“It’s like the Red Sox-Yankees,” Small said of the rivalry.
“It’s the biggest rivalry game that I’ve ever played in,” Bourne senior captain Matt Crowley added. “It’s good to be a part of something like this.”
Many of the players who will take the ice this year have been playing hockey from a young age. They have sat in the stands and watched past Canal Cup games, waiting for their chance to take the ice.
“I saw my first Canal Cup when I was in first grade,” Lessard remembered. “I saw guys like Josh Helms, Brian Kolb, and maybe even Jordan Mohre play. They’re our coaches now.”
“I saw my first game when I was around 11,” said Small who didn’t play hockey at the time. “Seeing it really impressed me. It was instrumental in my deciding to play.”
“I saw it for the first time when I was in the 6th grade,” said Sandwich senior assistant-captain C.J. Dolan, who played in a precup middle-school game that year. “I didn’t understand what it was then, but it was the biggest crowd I had ever played in front of.”
“When I was in the 7th grade I watched my brother play,” SHS senior assistant-captain Pat Farrington said. “It’s a big game with a lot of hype. The fans and both towns really get into it.”
Like previous years, many of the players who will face off this season know one another very well.
“I’ve played with most the Sandwich guys in Canal Youth and with some on the Cape Cod Whalers,” Crowley pointed out.
“I went to school in Sandwich until the 7th grade,” Welch added. “I’ve played on teams with Pat and Jake.
“I’ve probably played with half of the Bourne guys in Canal Youth,” Lessard explained. “I know them very well.”
“Devin and I played on the same team for three or four years,” Columbo noted.
“I was on the Cape Cod Whalers with Devin for a year,” Farrington added.
“We know each other very well,” McCombs said. “I’m good friends with Devin and Will Humfryes. I played on the Mariners with Devin in the 8th grade.”
“We’ve grown up together playing hockey,” Crowley pointed out. “That’s part of what makes the atmosphere leading up to the game so exciting.”
The Canalmen will bring a very successful record into this year’s cup game, while the Blue Knights have struggled.
“We’re going to have to keep an eye on Devin; he’s always a threat,” Lessard said of Bourne’s big defenseman. “He is strong and knows what he is doing. And we’ll have to watch Matt Crowley. He’s a pretty good player.”
“Will Humfryes is fast and strong and probably their strongest offensive player,” LaRocco pointed out. “And Devin has a good shot.”
“We’ll have to watch Humfryes, especially in the corners,” Dolan added.
“I think it might be their goalie, (Josh) Eddy,” Farrington said. “He has good movement and good skills. Teams haven’t scored many goals against him this year.”
“I think we’re going to have to watch Jake McCombs,” Bourne’s Crowley said. “He has a lot of skill and is fast with a good shot. Steve Lessard is a big body out there and he can score.”
“We’re going to have to beat Pat Farrington,” Welch pointed out. “He’s a good goalie and has played in some big games in front of large crowds. But both goalies are really good. Pat is one of the best in Division 2 and Josh is one of the best in Division 3.”
While their schedules don’t allow them to watch each other during the regular season, the overall familiarity allows each team to know what they will face.
“They’re a hard-skating team that likes to hit a lot,” Welch said of the Blue Knights. “We’re hard-working, too. We do what our coach tells us and we get the job done.”
“They have a lot of individual talent and skill,” Small added. “I think we play good systems and our defensive coverage might be the best in the South Coast Conference.”
“I think it will be pretty even,” Colombo said. “This game is about who wants it more.”
“I agree with Tom,” Dolan added. “It’s who wants it more. We’re going to execute. I think we’ll get some mismatches.”
“Our first two lines will match up well, but our third line could wear them down,” LaRocco explained. “I think we have more depth.”
Every player admits that the other team has plenty of good players, and they would know. The Blue Knights will have to contend with Bourne’s Beau LaFlamme, Spencer Andrews, and Conor Hanley as well as others, while the Canalmen will also be watching guys like Dan Branzetti, Joe Robertson, Tom Maciel, Drew Buckland, and Jon Cassista.
“We haven’t seen many of their games,” Crowley pointed out, “but we know they play a tough schedule. They are a quick, hard-working team and Pat Farrington is a good goalie.”
“They’re doing something right,” Lessard said of the Canalmen.
“They are a hard-working team that skates to the whistle with talented players,” LaRocco pointed out.
“Bourne’s disciplined,” Farrington added, “with a good goalie.”
A raucous crowd and a tournament atmosphere will fill Gallo Ice Arena for the game. For many of the players on both teams it will be the largest crowd that they will ever play before.
“I’ll probably be a little nervous,” Crowley admitted, “but I’ll be excited to get out there on the ice.”
“It is an unbelievable feeling,” Lessard said of stepping out on the ice for the game. “You get the chills.”
“I might have a few jitters,” Colombo admitted, “but once I skate that first shift I’ll be focused.”
“When you look up at all the fans, your heart starts beating really fast,” Dolan said of the pregame excitement. “It’s loud, but once you start to play, you tune it all out. All you can hear out on the ice is your teammates’ voices.”
Winning the Canal Cup is big. The last four years it has resided in Sandwich with the Canalmen last winning, 4-2, in 2006.
“We want to win,” Welch said. “We’re thinking positive and we’re not going to make mistakes.”
“I want that cup,” Small added. “I want to skate around the rink with it.”
“We’re going to be pretty motivated to win,” Farrington said. “Everyone is going to be going all out.”
“I want to see an intense game,” Colombo noted. “I want to score early and be able to say after the game that we did our best.”
“I want to see the kind of game that Alex and I have seen since we were water boys,” Lessard added. “Hopefully, we’ll bring the cup back home. I want to skate around the rink with that cup.”
“It’s one of the biggest games of the year. I love the Canal Cup,” McCombs added. “We share the same rink. This one is for bragging rights.”
(Additional Bourne players were not allowed to participate in this story without permission.)
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