32nd Annual Canal Cup Saturday At Gallo Ice Arena
By: Dan Crowley, January 31, 2014
For the 32nd time Bourne and Sandwich will go head-to-head at Gallo Ice Arena this Saturday for the annual Canal Cup game. While in the early years of the annual classic Bourne held the winning edge, the Blue Knights have dominated the game recently, winning the last seven times. Over the years Sandwich has posted 19 wins against 11 victories for the Canalmen. The game in 2005 ended in a tie.
This year’s game will once again take place on the first Saturday in February, with the game being played at 3 PM, proceeded at 2 o’clock by the junior varsity Pup Cup game between the two towns. The Division 2 Blue Knights, members of the Atlantic Coast League, will take the ice with a record of 5-6-2, while the Division 3 Canalmen, members of the South Coast Conference, enter the weekend at 8-4.
As with each of the past 31 seasons, the two schools pull out all the stops in gearing up for the big game.
“When the schedule comes out at the beginning of the season,” Bourne senior forward and team captain Chad Marsh said, “it’s one of the first games we look for.”
Over the years the Canal Cup has become more than just a rivalry between neighboring town hockey teams, it has become a part of family tradition at both ends of the canal. Sandwich senior Max Kent grew up a fan of Cup games.
“I grew up watching my cousins, Jared and Ryan Kent, play. They both played for Bourne and I was a big Bourne fan back then,” Kent said, smiling. “I always thought that it would be awesome someday to play in the Canal Cup.”
Sandwich senior captain Jon Cassista came to Canal Cup games as a young player to watch his cousin Zack Lamb play for the Knights. Kevin Marsh, an older brother of Bourne’s Chad Marsh, played in the game. Bourne senior captain Jimmy Commesso played in last year’s game alongside his cousin Joe Commesso. Sandwich senior captain Ben Maciel’s older brother Tom, who graduated last year, played in four Cup games and his younger brother Matt is a member of the Blue Knight junior varsity team. Bourne senior Devin Britto watched his cousin Scott Burgess skate in the Cup for the Canalmen and SHS senior Dan O’Brien is following in the footsteps of older brother Tom and leading the way for his younger brother Scott.
“My family plans around the Canal Cup,” Sandwich’s Maciel said. “My father and my uncle take the day off to be here and last year my grandmother flew in from Chicago.”
Hockey fans are expected to once again pack Gallo Ice Arena this year with possibly the largest crowd that either team will see all season.
“A lot of people from both towns come out for this,” Bourne senior captain Ed Lavelle said. “It’s a big game and a big rivalry.”
“There is a lot of energy in the rink,” Britto said. “The atmosphere is different from any other game.”
“You can feel the atmosphere,” Maciel said. “With all the people the air is warmer and there is much more noise. You can feel it under your skates, the ice is softer.”
“The excitement level is higher,” Bourne junior Austin Braley said. “It’s the Canal Cup.”
The players on both teams know one another very well. They’ve played hockey together, in most cases, since they first laced up skates in the Cape Cod Canal Youth Hockey program at the age of 5. They both call Gallo Ice Arena home, and their current locker rooms are next to one another. Oftentimes players from both teams, will line the glass outside their locker rooms to watch a game together. There will be no surprises when the puck drops. Friendships aside, it will be all business.
“We know everything about each other,” Sandwich senior Pat Plummer said. “We grew up playing hockey together. We’ve seen them play and they’ve seen us.”
“I played Canal Youth hockey with Ed, Jimmy, Austin and Devin,” Sandwich senior Dan O’Brien said. “Ed is a solid defender, a good skater and has a good shot. Jimmy is a very good player. He’s fast and will be a guy we’ll have to watch.”
“Cassista, Plummer and Kent all have a lot of skill,” Commesso said of the Blue Knights. “They skate hard, they’re fast and can make plays.”
“Cassista and Plummer have a lot of talent,” Bourne’s Braley agreed, “Jonny is physical and Pat has a good shot. I think we need to keep an eye on [Alex] Cabana. He is really fast. We’ve played hockey together our whole lives and we still play together on the Seawolves. He is a good friend of mine.”
“I played with Jimmy in Canal Youth,” Sandwich senior defenseman Nick Buttafuoco said. “He brings a lot of speed and can handle the puck. You have to keep him in front of you and not allow him any open shots.”
“I played with Jimmy in Canal Youth,” Maciel said. “He is smart with the puck and an all-around solid player. He knows what he is doing on the ice.”
“Cassista, Plummer, O’Brien, Kent or Cabana, they’re all fast and physical,” Bourne junior Mitchell Eldredge said. “They’re always going 100 percent into the corners, and just everywhere on the ice. They never give up.”
The Blue Knights have won the last seven Cup games and the Canalmen want it back. But first things first. Neither team is accustomed to playing in front of a Canal Cup-sized crowd. Discipline will weigh heavily on both teams in the early going to settle down and focus on the ice.
“I like the atmosphere when you first come out of the locker room,” Buttafuoco said. “It’s a rush unlike any other experience you can have in high school.”
“It’s just different,” Marsh said. “In the locker room before the game everyone is much more energetic and louder.”
“It’s one of the only games that we have a huge crowd,” Cassista said. “It really gets you pumped up.”
“When you step out onto the ice you get goose bumps, you’re a little nervous,” Lavelle said of playing before a large and loud crowd.
“You’re nervous,” Braley agreed, “and you’re excited for the puck to drop. Once the puck drops you have to blank out the crowd, the nerves are gone and you play.”
Both teams have talent, both have speed and can be physical. The Knights hold an edge when it come to depth.
“We have a lot of speed,” Buttafuoco said, “and I think our talent up front is definitely big this year.”
“We have a lot of good skaters,” O’Brien said. “We’ll be able to race them and beat them into the corners. They have some fast forwards and their defense has some heavy hitters.”
“I think we can match up,” Commesso said. “We have some guys that are good skaters and that can make the plays.”
“I think we can put the puck in the net,” Eldredge said.
“We have a strong work ethic,” Kent said. “We play three periods and all 45 minutes.”
“I think we can skate with them,” Britto said, smiling. “We have a lot of speed and we can push the puck deep into the zone and beat them.”
“I like our forecheck,” Maciel said. “We’ll play them tight.”
Neither team is short on confidence, as it should be. But there can only be one winner and that will be determined Saturday.
The Canal Cup game has become a rite of passage for hockey players from both ends of the canal. From those stumbling Learn to Play days of Canal Youth Hockey they have looked forward to their chance to play in the big game.
“The atmosphere in school and on our team is exciting,” Maciel said. “The Canal Cup is something you always talk about growing up in Canal Youth Hockey and it’s nice to see young kids come out to watch.”
“I can remember coming to games since I was 10 years old and wanting to play in this game,” Marsh said.
“It’s like a professional game; there are so many fans,” Cassista said. “I’ve been watching or playing in this game for nine years and love it.”
“It’s just the best feeling,” Commesso said of playing in the Canal Cup. “It’s the best atmosphere we play in.”
“We all grew up playing hockey with each other,” Plummer said. “This game brings everybody together.”
The winter tradition continues Saturday and both teams are ready and eager to skate.
“I think if everybody plays their best game we can be a hard team to beat,” Britto said.
“We’re viewed as the underdogs,” Braley said. “We’ll just have to see about that when we get onto the ice. Sandwich has had the Cup for seven years. We want it back.”
“I just want to get on the ice and hear that crowd,” Plummer said with a smile.
“I grew up looking forward to playing for the high school and playing in this game,” Buttafuoco said. “We’re ready.”
“It’s tradition,” Braley said, “and it’s pretty cool just how long this game has been going on.”