When you’re seemingly at the TD Garden playing for a championship every season, it can be easy to get caught up in the moment.
But after scoring an empty-netter to finish off a 3-1 win for the Canton boys’ hockey team over Duxbury in Saturday’s Division 2 state semifinal at Gallo Arena — securing the Bulldogs’ fourth trip to the Garden since 2019 — senior A.J. Thomas decided to try and soak it all in.
Thomas, who also netted the winner at 10:24 of the third period, described the atmosphere in Bourne as amazing.
“After that one, I turned around to look at the fans, looked at the team, they were all going crazy,” Thomas said. “I took it all in, it was a great moment.”
Jeffrey Chaput scored a minute into the third period on a 5-on-3 for the third-seeded Bulldogs (21-4), who had trailed for the first time all postseason after previously outscoring foes by a 9-0 margin.
“They’re playing their best hockey at the right time,” Canton coach Brian Shuman said of his team. “I can’t even begin to say how proud I am of them. Duxbury is, by far, one of the best teams we’ve seen all season and we’ve faced some good teams. I have a lot of respect for them.”
The Bulldogs defeated Tewksbury for a state title in 2019 and were set to skate for a second title in a row in 2020 before the COVID-19 pandemic halted the tournament in its tracks. Canton returned to the Garden last winter, falling 6-2 vs. Tewksbury.
“We’re so lucky to have a group of players that when the new guys come in, they feel an obligation to carry on this tradition,” Shuman said. “I feel like the luckiest coach in the world.”
The second-seeded Green Dragons (18-6-2) fell in the state semifinal for a second straight season. Senior defenseman Wick Ross had the the lone goal, his first of the season.
Division 4 State
Sandwich 3, Nantucket 0 — Playing one last game at his home rink, Colin McIver treated Sandwich boys’ hockey fans at Gallo Arena to the grandest of finales.
The senior scored once each period for the second-seeded Blue Knights in a 3-0 win over Nantucket in the state semifinals, sending Sandwich back to TD Garden for a second straight season.
In the process, McIver surpassed 100 points for his career and brought his total in the current campaign to an even 50.
“It’s pretty cool, but I couldn’t have done it without my linemates Jack [Connolly] and Chris [Cardillo],” McIver said. “Obviously, it’s a great achievement and I’m wicked proud of it, but we’ve got work to do.
McIver scored 7:29 into the opening frame on the power play for Sandwich (19-4-1), the 100th point of his career. He added a goal at 13:57 of the second period and one more for good measure 7:58 into the third, more than enough offense for netminder Mitchell Norkevicius (16 saves).
The deepest run in postseason history for the sixth-seeded Whalers (16-7) came to a close with a third loss this season to their Cape & Islands League rival; Sandwich swept both regular-season conference matchups.
The Blue Knights will be vying for their second straight state title against either No. 1 Norwell or No. 4 Grafton, who play Sunday at Loring Arena in Framingham. Sandwich began its regular season with a 4-1 loss vs. Norwell.
Division 3 State
Scituate 4, Watertown 2 — All it took was 76 seconds for Johnny Donahue to feel a full range of emotions for the Scituate boys’ hockey team.
The junior forward witnessed a puck shot by Watertown/Wayland defenseman Jack Dickie deflect off of him 10:50 into the third period, allowing the fifth-seeded Raiders to pull even with the top-seeded Sailors in a Division 3 state semifinal.
Donahue’s response? The winner at 12:06 of the third, sending Scituate back to TD Garden for the first time since 2017 with a 4-2 win over Watertown at Gallo Arena.
“That might have been the greatest moment of my life,” Donahue said. “I gotta thank the boys for helping me keep my head up. It’s the resiliency of this team. We’re always in it, we all work hard, there’s never a shift off.”
Donahue also had a power play goal in the first period for the Sailors (20-4-2), who led 2-0 after 15 minutes after a Peter Cappadona offering at 11:39.
Gradually, the tides turned in favor of the Raiders (14-7-3), who got one back from Vinny Wolff 1:08 into the second period and continued to dictate the pace of play for large stretches before finally drawing even.
Watertown, which advanced to the Division 4 final last winter as a standalone program, was unable to put the finishing touches on a comeback bid, however, after Teagan Pratt fed Donahue for the winner late.
Pratt, who surpassed 100 career points for the Sailors earlier in the tournament, recorded several key blocked shots over the course of the game for Scituate before burying an empty-netter with 0:16 remaining.
The Sailors, who’ll be vying for their first title since 2007, will face the winner of Sunday’s game between No. 10 Triton and No. 11 Nashoba.
Jake Levin reported from Bourne. Globe correspondent Julia Yohe contributed to this report.