FRANKLIN, Mass. – The Panthers recently clinched another outright Kelley-Rex division title, Franklin’s third straight outright league title and fifth in a row overall, but there was still a feeling that the team needed a marquee win to add confidence ahead of the state tournament.
On Saturday afternoon at Pisini Field, Franklin was determined to make a statement about its potential for another tournament run against Newton North. Behind six goals from junior attacker Eric Civetti, eight saves by junior Connor O’Rourke, and a strong performance at the face-off ‘X’ by sophomore Jacob Alexander, the Panthers jumped all over the Tigers and earned a 9-6 win.
“It was a good team we played and our kids responded real well,” said Franklin coach Lou Verrochi. “That’s a good quality team and a good, quality win for us.”
Despite being the focal point of the Newton North defense, Civetti showed the range of his skills, scoring from long range and using his strength around the crease. The Rutgers University-commit scored three goals in the opening quarter and left Tigers coaches scrambling for a solution.
Verrochi said, “Civetti’s a stud. He’s just a goal scoring machine. He’s so hard to control. He’s just so talented, he’s got strong hands, and he’s very difficult to strip of the ball. He definitely deserves All-American this year.”
The Panthers stormed out of the gates to take a 3-0 lead in the first quarter. Alexander won the opening face-off and the Panthers held the ball for two minutes before Packie Watson fed Civetti for a close range score.
The Tigers struggled to get any possession in the first and Franklin nearly doubled its lead when Nitin Chaudhury smacked the crossbar with a shot on the run. A minute later, Civetti muscled his marker to score on the edge of the crease.
With 2:22 left in the first, Civetti got his hat trick with a move from behind the cage. He pump faked a pass out in front that forced both Newton North defenders to take a step back and Civetti took advantage of the space to step in and finish with a backhand shot under the bar.
Verrochi was pleased with the great start that his team made. He said, “They were really excited to play this game today and part of the thought process was, from Packie Watson, ‘we haven’t beaten a real good team in a long time boys; we’re going to make sure this is a good game.’ They were very dedicated and very purposeful in what they did out here today.”
The Tigers got one before the end of the quarter (a highlight reel quality, behind-the-back shot by Bryce Adam) and then cut the lead to one early in the second. Civetti responded for Franklin. After smashing a shot off the bar that looked like it may have crossed the line, he collected a loose ball and went with a low angle shot into the corner.
Newton North had an opportunity to make it a very different game with eight minutes left in the half when it had a two-man advantage for 30 seconds, but O’Rourke denied the Tigers a crucial goal. O’Rourke made three saves during the man-down situation and Watson made the visitors pay when he scored in transition to turn a potential 4-3 game into a 5-2 lead.
“I can’t say enough about him,” said Verrochi about O’Rourke. “He’s our MVP. He plays lights out in big games and we’re very fortunate that he switched from attack to goalie. That was a huge transition for him and he’s been outstanding.”
That proved to be the turning point, as Franklin took control and put the Tigers on their heels. Sam Arsenault picked out Chaudhury on the edge of the crease to make it 6-2 and finish off a great move by the Panthers that saw everyone in attack touch the ball.
Civetti got his hands free and time for a rip into the top corner for a man-up goal early in the third and Arsenault added a goal off an assist by Kyle McEniry for a six-goal lead. The Tigers scored right before the end of the third, but Civetti restored the lead early in the fourth when he finished a transition sparked by a long run from sophomore pole Patrick Morrison.
The Tigers tried to make it close at the end, scoring the final three goals of the game to get back within three with 1:24 remaining. It was hard to get a run going though because Alexander continued to win every face-off for the Panthers. He won 17-of-20 for the game, including all five in the fourth quarter to help slow down the Tigers momentum.
“I think he’s the best in the state,” said Verrochi of Alexander, “even better than the [Lincoln-Sudbury] kid. I think he’s dominated every player he’s gone against this year and that’s huge. You’re almost guaranteed a possession every time there’s a face-off.”
Franklin (16-3) will finish off the regular season with Div. 3 power Dover-Sherborn on Wednesday and is expecting to be one of the top three or four seeds in the upcoming state tournament.
MEDFIELD, Mass. – Franklin did not follow the standard script on Monday night at Medfield High. Typically, girls’ lacrosse games are won by the team that has the ball the most. Coaches always preach winning draw controls and keeping possession, but the Panthers used a different formula to beat the Warriors.
Despite winning only 4-of-17 draws and spending long stretches of the game in the defensive zone, Franklin pulled out a 10-5 non-league victory over the perennial Div. 2 contender by hitting the Warriors with a series of quick counterattacks.
“I think that’s just a testament to our defense and our goalie,” said Franklin coach Kristin Igoe Guarino about the Panthers winning without having the ball for much of the game. “We can score quickly, but we’ve got to get better at those things.
“I said, we didn’t win the draws and we didn’t win possession of the game and we still somehow won, so imagine if we put it all together. We still have room to grow and improve.”
Franklin opened the scoring inside the opening minute with a lightning break that stemmed from a point-blank save by freshman Gianna Cameron (nine saves, including six in the first half). The ball quickly flew up field and Jette finished off the transition for a 1-0 lead.
Five minutes later, Brooke Deady got a shot past Cameron only to see it carom back off the crossbar. Franklin scooped up the ground ball and took off on another fast break that led to an eight-meter try for Erin Walsh. The freshman put it away and made it 2-0.
Medfield responded with goals by Jordan MacLean and Maggie McCarthy to tie the game up with 14 minutes left in the half.
The score stayed the same for seven minutes until Jette picked out a cutting Annie Walsh for the go-ahead goal. Medfield would get another long spell of possession to close out the half, holding the ball for several minutes, but only managed one shot off target and Franklin held firm to force a turnover and keep the lead.
When asked about the halftime conversation, Igoe Guarino said, “Get the ball more, so draws, which we didn’t do and we need to get better at that; 50-50 balls, which I thought we did better when it was on the ground; and just making our possessions count on offense because we didn’t have the ball a ton.”
The Warriors won the opening draw of the second half (and won 9-of-11 after the break) but the Panthers stole the ball and MacCallum turned it into a goal with a drive to her lefthand and bounced shot. Just 31 seconds later, after a rare draw control, the Panthers made it 5-2 on an Annie Walsh free position.
McCarthy scored again for Medfield to cut the lead back to two and then nearly added another just minutes later only to be blocked by quick reactions from Cameron. A quick outlet turned the momentum around, as Walsh fed Caroline Lounsbury down the middle for the goal.
“Gianna is a huge factor,” said Igoe Guarino of her freshman netminder. “Our defense in front of her is very good, but then she makes amazing saves and is the key to our transition. If we’re not winning draws then we’re counting on her to make big saves and she does.”
MacCallum scored her second with a drive off a free position and answered a Medfield goal with another lefty chance and low shot to the corner for an 8-4 lead. Walsh got her hat trick off an eight-meter try and after Medfield cut the lead back tok four, sophomore Halle Atkinson hit Jette in front for a backhanded, sidearm finish.
Igoe Guarino praised her team’s balance on the offensive end. She said, “We don’t rely on one person. I think we have a team where everyone is comfortable sharing the ball and putting it on a teammate’s stick to score. We’re trying to get everyone to see the open player and that’s why our breaks were so effective.”
With Monday’s win, the Panthers are now 11-1 on the season despite a roster filled with underclassmen and a schedule that featured some of the top teams in the state. On Monday, seven of Franklin’s 10 goals came from freshmen and sophomores and Igoe Guarino was pleased with the way the younger players were adapting to the varsity level.
“The underclassmen have done a really great job,” she said. “They’re still learning and we’re picking out a lot of things in film and practice and they’re improving every day but I think they’re handling the schedule well and I think the challenging games are the best types for getting better as individuals and as a team.”
Franklin will be back at home on Wednesday afternoon to host North Andover in a rematch of last year’s state semifinal.
BOSTON, Mass. – Heading into the third period down by a single goal to defending Div. 2 state champion Notre Dame Academy (Hingham), the Canton girls’ hockey team was probably thinking that it had the Cougars right where it wanted them.
The Bulldogs (14-5-6), who entered the playoffs as the No. 14 seed, had shown a propensity for coming from behind to pull out wins during an improbable tournament run that had brought Canton all the way to the TD Garden for its first state title game appearance since 2006. Despite being behind by a goal, the Bulldogs remained confident.
“It was only 1-0 and we have come back from 1-0 games so many times,” said senior captain Rebecca Eckler. “We can get a goal in 30 seconds. We just knew that we can come back, we can do this, never give up and even with a minute left, we just cannot give up.”
Canton did come back and tied the game early in the third period. Andrea McNeil popped in a backhander on the rebound and fired up the large contingent of fans that made the trip up 93 for the early morning game.
However, the Cougars (23-0-1) responded just nine seconds later to regain the lead and freshman Katherine Pyne caught fire, scoring all four of NDA’s goals in the third period, while classmate Skyler Irving added a goal and three assists. The Cougars skated to a 5-2 victory and back-to-back state titles, despite a roster that has zero seniors.
“To see them tie the game, we could have crumbled,” said NDA coach Jean-Yves Roy, “and things could have gone south for us but I think it showed a lot of character and bounced back very next shift and we just kept rolling from there.”
Defense has been the strength of the Bulldogs all season. Sunday’s final was only the second time this year that Canton allowed an opponent to score more than two goals in a game and the first time since Barnstable scored four all the way back in December. That defense was put to the test against the high-scoring Cougars.
Junior goalie Colleen Kelleher stood tall to make an early save on a scoring opportunity for Emma Duffey, but six minutes into the game Irving reacted first to a rebound and was able to finish for a 1-0 lead. Pyne also had Kelleher beat two minutes later only to see her shot come back off the crossbar.
Kelleher made nine saves in the first and the Bulldogs grew into the game as the opening period wore on. Sophomores Katie Trerice and Leah McClellan, senior Molly McLaughlin, and freshman Alexa Maffeo all making solid plays to limit the Cougars to shots from the edges and the forwards starting the defensive effort with an aggressive forecheck.
“We thought we had a pretty good grasp on what they wanted to do and it kind of in a way fit into what we do anyways,” said Canton coach Dennis Aldrich. “A couple times they almost stuttered with the puck because we were taking away their wide wings and stuff like that.”
Sophomore Lauren Fitzpatrick had Canton’s best chance of the first period with a solo rush up the right side and a shot from the circle that was blocked aside.
Canton took control in the second period and started to create scoring chances by forcing turnovers in the neutral zone. McNeil had a good chance just a minute into the second but her rush to the net was blocked at the last second. Five minutes later, Trerice had a shot through traffic batted away and Ava Bevilacqua took the rebound the length of the ice and forced Kelleher into a save.
Kendra Farrelly nearly created the tying goal with seven minutes left in the second but her initial rush was tipped away by NDA goalie Erin Murray in the crease and Farrelly’s deflected follow-up was well saved by Murray. Three minutes later, Farrelly again created an opening down the left but her shot through the crease could not be tapped in at the back post by Fitzpatrick.
“These girls’ heads never drop,” said Aldrich. “There’s no panic. Our mantra all along has been attitude and focus and it’s not if it’s going to happen but when and how.”
Just two minutes into the third period, Canton’s seemingly stole the momentum for the game with the tying goal. McNeil pounced on a rebound off a shot by Fitzpatrick and planted it top shelf.
Aldrich said, “When we tied, I don’t think the girls were surprised, I certainly wasn’t surprised. I’ve seen them do it over and over again.”
NDA won the ensuing face-off and the puck slid all the way down into the Canton zone. Pyne showed off her speed to react first to the loose puck and she buried the chance for a 2-1 lead. The game was tied for only nine seconds.
“It was just one of those squirter pucks,” said Aldrich. “There’s no one at fault, no one to blame, just one of those squirters that happen. When you’ve got someone like the Pyne girl swarming around like a shark, she smells the blood and she can finish.”
Pyne added a second goal a little more than a minute later, but again Canton showed the resiliency to fight back. Fitzpatrick turned in the high slot and flung a shot at goal that took a funny bounce and ended up in the back of the net.
NDA responded quickly to regain the two-goal advantage. Pyne’s wraparound effort slid under the pads of Kelleher, who appeared to have it covered until she was bumped but the goal was given. With 2:26 left, Pyne added her fourth and the team’s fifth to seal the title.
Despite the disappointment of losing Sunday’s final, Rebecca Eckler reflected on what it meant just to get to that round. She said, “The journey here was just as awesome as it was being here. We never gave up in any games and all our hard work paying off and to come here…it was just awesome. I’m so proud of everyone and we did our best.”
Aldrich noted that three years ago, the Bulldogs won just three games. He praised the leadership of the seniors for getting the program to this point. “These guys, especially Rebecca and Kristen (Eckler) being our leaders, kept everyone focused on what we wanted and needed to do as a program. We got consistently better each game,” he said.
Aldrich added, “I coached boys’ hockey for 13 years and these guys, no offense to the boys, have taught me more in five…I’m just very, very grateful and proud to go on a run like this.”
When asked what it was like to skate on the TD Garden ice, Kristen Eckler said, “When we first stepped onto it, I couldn’t wait for that moment. I’ve been thinking about it all week, you step out there and you see your town, you see your parents, you see your family, it’s just awesome to have this experience.”
She joked, “If you told me a month and a half ago that I’d be playing at the Boston Garden, I would probably slap you or something because I wouldn’t believe it…It was just so much heart, soul, and hard work, blood, sweat and tears…that’s just our team.”