FRAMINGHAM, Mass. – With Franklin leading 2-0 in the second period, sophomore Jeremy Miller skated past three Wellesley defensemen in the zone and unleashed a rocket that appeared to hit the bar in the back of the net and ricocheted out.
Wellesley fans at that end of the ice were waiting for the officials to stop play for the goal, but instead it was ruled that the shot hit the crossbar and the Panthers’ lead stayed at two goals.
Just seconds later that lead was cut in half and for the final 23 minutes of the game Wellesley became the aggressor and put Franklin back on its heels. Despite the Raiders’ pressure, Franklin held on, thanks in part to 20 saves from senior goalie Nick Jasinski, for a 2-1 victory in the Div. 1 South opener at Loring Ice Arena in Framingham.
“We’ve just got to learn how to put teams away,” said a relieved Franklin coach Chris Spillane after the game. “We seem to have a problem; we keep teams around all the time and I can’t take many more of these games.”
In the first period, it seemed as though Franklin could run away with a comfortable win. The Panthers carried play for the majority of the first, outshooting Wellesley 14-4, and with 3:20 left in the period Adam Assad took an outlet pass from Joe Corsi and beat goalie Andrew Johnston five-hole to make it 1-0.
The lead was doubled just 1:42 into the second period and on Franklin’s first shot after intermission. Sophomore Luke Downie made a move past his man to the right circle and snuck his shot past Johnston into the far corner.
“It was a big goal,” said Downie. “I got a pass in the middle from Jake Downie (Luke’s cousin) and I made a move to beat the kid wide and shot it falling down and it went in.”
Spillane added, “Luke’s been a great player for us…as the year has progressed, he’s simplified his game a little bit, and become a north-south player. It’s good to see him play like that tonight.”
Miller thought that he had given the Panthers a three-goal cushion five minutes later, but with 7:52 left in the second Wellesley got on the board on Zach Doughty’s shot through a screen.
The goal turned the momentum of the game and for the final eight minutes of the second it was one-way traffic towards the Franklin goal. While Wellesley was not racking up a ton of shots (just seven total in the second period), the pressure was mounting and the buzzer sounded during a flurry in front of Jasinski.
The buzzer felt like a reprieve for Franklin, as it seemed only a matter of time before Wellesley scored.
“It was coming,” said Spillane, “and maybe our guys were a little gassed, but it was wasted energy. I thought we were chasing the puck around too much instead of playing good, sound positional hockey.”
“They took it to us for two periods. I thought we had a good first period but after that they dictated the pace of the game.”
Early in the third, there was another scramble in front of Jasinski after he knocked down a shot from the outside but was unable to cover the rebound. Asad nearly wrapped up the win with a chance with 2:45 left but Johnston made a big save while on his back.
As the clock was winding down to the final minute, Jasinski had to come through several times to preserve the lead. He made a solid kick save and managed to get his stick on a shot when he seemed to be out of position. It was a scramble at times, but he managed to hold the lead.
“They were getting a lot of shots on me, but we just kept fighting them off getting it out of the zone as best we could,” Jasinski said. “I just focus on keeping my head and not thinking about giving up a goal but just stopping the next shot. It helps me out and makes me less nervous.”
Spillane said, “In tournament you need your best player to be your goaltender…I can’t knock Nick at all. He’s been there for us all season and we need him to step up next round.”
Finally the buzzer sounded and the Panthers could celebrate a victory and a chance to play in the quarterfinal against the winner of Archbishop Williams and Walpole.
Downie admitted, “When I looked at the clock, I didn’t realize there were zero seconds left. I thought there was a lot of time left so I was excited about that.”
“It was a grind,” he added. “We had to work really hard to keep the one-goal lead. They were coming strong and we had to keep fighting, but we pulled off the win.”
Josh Perry can be contacted at JoshPerry@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @Josh_Perry10.