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From faceoff to finish: How Zac Tucci led the Cannons to victory

Zac Tucci Zac Tucci

In all the excitement of Saturday’s overtime win for the Boston Cannons, Zac Tucci didn’t even notice Matt Kavanagh grabbed him the game-winning ball from the net until his teammate handed it to him in the postgame huddle.

“My dad called me after the game and said, ‘You’ve got one hell of a teammate over there!’ and I was like, ‘What do you mean?’” Tucci recalled. “He told me, ‘As soon as the game ended, as much as everyone was very happy for you and that they won, the first thing your teammate [Matt] did was run and grab the ball for you.’” 

It’s little things like that that make Tucci happy to be a Cannon.

“The Zac Tucci Game,” as it’s now been coined, saw heroics from start to finish from Boston’s faceoff specialist. 

Signed in the offseason as a free agent, the Bedford, N.H., native earned his first victory with his new team in Week 2 against the Maryland Whipsnakes after being left off the 19-man roster for the season opener. The win marked the first time in the Cannons’ history in the PLL they’d won a game with a faceoff specialist at the stripe. 

Then, in Week 3, all Tucci’s team needed him to do was continue to win faceoffs and grant the Cannons offensive possessions off the 32-second shot clock. In the end, he delivered that and more against his former squad.

Tucci and the Cannons knew headed into Philadelphia that the Waterdogs did not have a faceoff specialist on their roster. Obviously, this meant the preparation and game planning for Tucci looked quite different than it would for a matchup against a traditional faceoff man. 

Boston assumed Philadelphia would go with Zach Currier at the stripe and rely heavily on their wings to help slow Tucci down. 

“Currier’s definitely not a foreigner to facing off, that’s for sure,” Tucci remarked. 

“He can get you on the rakes occasionally,” he added, “but their game plan for the most part [without a faceoff specialist] is just slowing the brakes. The benefit for me there is I have that speed factor that not a lot of faceoff guys have, so that weakened their strategy.

“If I really go full sprint, even if the wing guy is immediately beelining towards me, I can still get a step that maybe other faceoff guys can’t, so that was a benefit for me.”

With Currier raking quite a bit, making it difficult to secure the ball in his stick and pop it to one of his wings, Tucci responded by doing the same back. Luckily for Boston, he was a little quicker than Currier at it, allowing him to push forward into transition. 

One of those pushes led to what everyone assumed would be the offensive highlight of the faceoff specialist’s day. Off a clean faceoff win in the first quarter on the penalty kill, Tucci netted the first goal of his professional career. 

Head coach Brian Holman is by no means relying on his faceoff guy to do the heavy lifting offensively for his squad. Truthfully, Tucci was just happy to get on the board and contribute.

“Since the beginning, Coach has preached being the person that’s there when you’re needed,” he said. “I was just glad to fulfill that.” 

Fast forward to the end of the second quarter, with four seconds remaining on the clock in the first half, and Tucci found himself with yet another unexpected opportunity to be that guy for his team.

“When there’s only a couple seconds left on the clock, I’ll count to myself while I’m facing off,” he told me. “My plan was to try and get the ball forward, because you knew definitely they weren’t going to do that. They just wanted to try and stop the break. With only four seconds, I was just trying to get the ball down and maybe hit the point guy, but they jumped right into cutting off the break and I got a little caught up, so I didn’t have much time to do anything else. 

“Instead, I thought I would just throw it at the goal as hard as I could and hope that maybe someone could catch it. Fortunately, it wasn’t that good of a pass.”

With a Hail Mary at the buzzer, Tucci’s two-pointer put his team up 8-5 at the half.

“It was one of those things where it was just so absurd that it wasn’t even like I could get that excited or juiced up that I made some great play – it was more so just hilarious!” he exclaimed. 

The hero at the faceoff and the hero from range. Maybe the writing was on the wall all along as to who would call ball game. 

Going into overtime, Holman knew Tucci would win the faceoff. Plan A was to have Tucci chuck the ball over the goal for a possession shot and help set the offense up. But Holman told his faceoff guy if he really had it, to just keep going.

With a clean win off the faceoff, Tucci gave Holman a look as soon as he realized he had it and could push forward himself. 

“It was one of those things off the faceoff where I just got super lucky and got the ball super quickly,” he said. “So I had the extra step and decided to just send it.”

“He took three steps out the chute and decided he wasn’t going to chuck it over the goal," Holman chuckled, "and I thank God he’s a lot smarter than I am."  

Tucci’s bouncing shot beat Waterdogs goalie Dillon Ward to give the Cannons a 12-11 victory. 

A 75% win rate (18-for-24) at the stripe, Boston’s scoring leader (4P, 3G, 1T) and the hero in overtime – all against his former team? That game ball was all Tucci’s.

In only three games, the 24-year-old feels right at home with his new team, on and off the field. Coming into training camp, the Cannons were the only team Tucci didn’t have any close friends on beforehand.

“Everybody has welcomed me with open arms, and I think that’s something you saw on Saturday,” he said.

At the end of the game, getting interviewed on the broadcast for the first time, all of Tucci’s teammates cheered him on.

“They were clapping and cracking up laughing, helping me enjoy a good moment,” he said. “They were all just genuinely happy for me. I don’t think that’s something you’d see on every team in any league or sport – it really speaks to what a great group of guys we have.”

Though he might not be a part of Coach Holman’s starting offense anytime soon, Tucci has certainly cemented his spot as a Cannon.