By Josh Perry, Managing Editor
FRANKLIN, Mass. – The top two teams in the Hockomock have been struggling to score goals consistently this season and on Saturday afternoon at Pirelli Veterans Memorial Rink Canton and Franklin continued to find offense hard to come by in a scoreless tie that provided plenty of excitement despite the puck never finding the back of the net.
“I joked with Coach Spillane in the line, if that doesn’t sum up both of our seasons right there then I don’t know what does,” said Canton coach Brian Shuman. “We’re both struggling to put the puck in the net.”
“Ironically that was one of the most wide open Franklin-Canton games. We both had plenty of chances.”
Franklin coach Chris Spillane agreed with those sentiments. All season he has talked about the need for players to step up on the offensive side and that continued against the Bulldogs.
“Canton has the same disease as Franklin, can’t put the puck in the net,” he laughed. “Both teams had really good opportunities and maybe credit the goaltenders, they stepped up and made stops when they had to but yeah it was a game with very few quality, wow that should’ve been a goal.”
Franklin had the first chance of the game just two minutes in. Alex Bissanti and Luke Downie combined to create an opening to slide a pass across the crease to Adam Assad charging in at the back post but the junior was not able to put the puck on net under pressure from the defenseman.
With 7:44 left in the first, Jeremy Miller had a chance after intercepting a poor clearance but his shot from the slot was wristed wide.
Canton held a 5-4 edge in shots after the first but the Panthers dominated territorially in the second, controlling the puck in the Bulldogs’ zone for the opening four minutes of the period and managing five shots on goal. Despite Franklin’s domination of possession, it was Canton that had the best chances.
Midway through the period, Jim Jenkins redirected a shot from the point but was denied by a quick kick save by Nick Jasinski (15 saves). Nearly two minutes later, Canton had two great chances, both created by Matt Lazaro. He set up Bobby Mullaney for a shot from the slot with a behind the back pass but it went wide and then 30 seconds later he had another chance on an odd-man rush and was stoned at the near post by Jasinski.
“Any time that their first line was on the ice they seemed to have a little edge,” said Spillane. “Lazaro creates opportunities and other than that it was equal. He’s always finding those second and third trailers and giving them good opportunities.”
With 4:23 left in the second Miller had another shot on a rebound in the slot but Justin Slocum (25 saves) stood tall and denied the close-range chance.
“You can’t discount what the goaltenders did,” said Shuman. “They made some big saves on both ends.”
The third period was a replica of the second. Franklin outshot Canton 21-10 in the final two periods and had almost constant pressure on the Bulldogs back line, but defensemen Jackson Maffeo, C.J. Martin, D.J. Trerice, and Ryan Lodge helped Slocum keep the Panthers off the board.
Shuman explained, “They were all over us for very long stretches of time. I thought they outplayed us for long part of that game, but we still had chances to win it. It was an exciting game.”
Canton also had the two best scoring chances of the third, despite only recording four shots in the period. Brad Murphy created the first with a charge up the far boards and a pass right across the crease that Bubba McNeice directed towards goal but Jaskinski snatched it. With 1:01 remaining, Lazaro had a clear look from the slot but again the Franklin goalie stood tall to save.
“That’s what you get with us,” said Spillane about the rivalry. “There was very little flow, it was back and forth, hard forechecking, hard hits…it’s good hockey, good to watch.”
He also credited his defensemen for keeping shots from getting all the way to the goaltender. Joe Corsi made a diving intervention to block a 2-on-1 in the first period and he and fellow seniors Matt Pleshaw and Tyler Oakes and freshman Kevin McKay were regularly in the way.
“Sometimes, I think it was more out of panic, sliding around, but today I think that we did line up with them well and play good, positional defensive hockey,” said Spillane.
It was a game that had the potential to break open, but both teams came in struggling to create offense and that continued, although both will go home with an important point and still unbeaten in the league this season.
“We just couldn’t put it away and sometimes that happens,” said Shuman. “Two good teams, good defenses and a couple guys holding the stick a little tight and throwing it at the pads.”
Franklin (7-3-3, 5-0-2) will travel to Asiaf Arena to face Stoughton on Wednesday, while Canton (10-2-1, 7-0-1) will travel to Aleixo Arena to face Attleboro on Monday.
Josh Perry can be contacted at JoshPerry@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @Josh_Perry10.
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