6-foot-5, 250-pound Canto giant in goal for Billerica High School
By Carmine Frongillo, firstname.lastname@example.org
At 6-foot-5 and 250 pounds, Billerica High boys lacrosse goalie Tyler Canto (3), shown during a game last spring, is an imposing presence. Canto will play lacrosse at UMass Lowell. SUN FILE PHOTO
BILLERICA — In a sport where goals are often scored in bunches, championship clubs are typically built from the goal on out.
The last line of defense is absolutely crucial. And few high school lacrosse squads in Massachusetts will begin the season with a netminder as talented — and physically imposing — as Billerica High’s Tyler Canto.
Canto is a 6-foot-5, 250-pound mass of energy who is fearless when it comes to getting his body in front of shots that routinely hum toward him in excess of 90 miles-per-hour. The Indians’ senior co-captain is incredibly athletic for his size, does a great job running the defense and most important of all — makes the saves that matter.
Practice for spring sports in Massachusetts officially began Monday, and even though the Indians weren’t able to practice on opening day due to the snowstorm that hit the region, Canto is eager to get back to the business of stopping shots.
“He’s the leader of our defense,” said Billerica coach Craig Flynn. “He’s a big, strong kid. He’s 6-5, 250. He takes up a lot of space in that net. He’s a very aggressive goalie. He’s very vocal out there. And he’s the backbone of our defense.”
In 2015, Canto was the focal point of a defense that helped Billerica win the Merrimack Valley Conference Division 1 championship and advance to the finals of the MIAA Division 1 North Sectional.
Canto made 293 saves while stopping 65 percent of the shots he faced last spring.
He was an MVC all-conference selection and a second-team All-American as a junior. Canto will attend UMass Lowell on a lacrosse scholarship.
“It’s been a great experience playing here,” said Canto. “I have a lot of great teammates and we have a great coaching staff. We have a really great atmosphere. Every day we go out there and we give it our all in hopes of reaching our ultimate goal of winning a state championship.
“We fell a little short last year. But I couldn’t be happier to be back and playing on this team. We have a lot of talented returning starters and players.”
Canto backed up former Indian star goalie D.J. Smith, who now plays lacrosse at UMass Amherst, as a freshman. And he credits Smith with helping him develop his skills.
“D.J. was a great role model,” said Canto. “When I was in eighth grade he’d come down and help me out. He has given me a lot of tips and stuff based on his experiences at the high school and college levels.”
Canto doesn’t give attackers much to shoot at. He has a high lacrosse IQ, rarely gets caught out of position, is good making saves with the stick and is fearless when it comes to standing tall in the line of fire.
“You don’t really see many goalies his size,” said Flynn. “But I love it. In lacrosse you make a lot of saves strictly on body position. I don’t care how quick or how good you are, when a ball is shot at you at 90-plus miles per hour you need to have proper body position to stop it. It definitely takes a special breed to be a great goalie.”
Canto’s athleticism was on display during the winter as a defenseman on Billerica’s varsity hockey team. The Zdeno Chara of the MVC, Canto is a punishing-checker who chipped in offensively with a goal and seven assists.
Canto made an immediate impact in the lacrosse net as a sophomore, finishing with 250 saves while stopping 59 percent of the shots he faced. And Canto is always quick to smile through the pain and bruises that typically accompany a busy game in net.
“From all the years of playing goal I’m used to any pain,” said Canto, an honor roll student. “The fact I’m keeping the ball out of the net makes it easier to deal with it. My goalie coach (Tom Lavery) says all the time it hurts a lot more when it’s in the net than when you actually make the save. And it’s true. When you make a save you are so pumped up that you really don’t feel it.”
Over the past two seasons, Canto’s stellar play has allowed his teammates to go out and perform without worrying about a mistake ending up in the net.
“It absolutely gives our team confidence knowing he’s between the pipes,” said Flynn. “He provides our defense with direction. He’s a leader. He’s always barking out where the ball is so our defense is on the same page. He just does a great job back there. He’s the total package. He’s committed to UMass Lowell and I think they got a blue chipper with him. He’s one of the best goalies to ever come through this area.”
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