FRANKLIN, Mass. – When Franklin and King Philip met in Foxboro back in January, it took almost the full 45 minutes for someone to find a breakthrough, so when the teams met again on Wednesday night at Pirelli Veterans Arena the expectation was for another close, tight, low-scoring game and that was exactly what happened.
Alli Meehan gave the Warriors the lead with 11 minutes remaining but freshman Victoria Quinn answered back for Franklin with a breakaway in the final minute and the teams skated away with a 1-1 tie. The point was enough to seal KP’s place in the state tournament.
“After tonight we have three games left,” KP coach Jack Unger said, “so it was nice to get that point put away now and focus on playing good hockey and getting ready for the tournament.”
It was senior night for the Panthers, who honored their five seniors prior to the puck drop, but it ended up being a pair of freshmen, goalie Natalie Stott (17 saves) and winger Quinn who helped secure the point.
“Freshman goalie saving the day at one end and a freshman stepping up and scoring that goal at the end,” said Franklin coach Margie Burke. “Victoria’s played well all year. The last few games she’s really stepped up.”
Franklin started the game on the front foot and controlled the puck in the offensive zone for long stretches of the first period, although the Panthers struggled to get the puck on goal. The first good chance fell to sophomore Jordan Dwyer after good work down the right wing by Quinn but KP goalie Lilly Potts (22 saves) kicked the shot aside.
Quinn was a menace right from the opening face-off and she managed to split a pair of defensemen on a 1-on-2 attack and forced Potts to make a save on a backhand shot. KP had six shots but the only real test for Stott in the first was a late blast from the point by Nicole Connor that was saved in traffic.
There was no break between periods and Franklin seemed to be energized by getting right back on the ice, recording nine shots in the second and creating several good scoring opportunities.
Meghan Gorman had the period’s first shot on a quick break out and forced Stott into a pad save, but three minutes later Regan Paterson nearly knocked in a loose puck but for a scrambling save by Potts who ended up prone on the ice facing her goal.
With nine minutes left in the second, Paterson opened up space for Jackie Connelly to get a shooting lane as she raced down the channel inside the left circle but the shot was kicked away and two rebounds blocked in front. Seconds later the same combo opened up another scoring chance but this time Potts was able to block aside a Connelly shot that looked destined for the corner.
KP forced a save out of Stott in the final minute. Connor skated from left to right outside the blue line and took a hopeful shot that knuckled and bounced right in front of the goal. Stott turned into an infielder as she took a bad hop off her shoulder to keep the game scoreless.
“Their goalie played great, our goalie played great,” said Burke. “Last time we played these guys it was 0-0 right up until the final minute of the game, so we knew it was going to be this kind of a game.”
KP came out of the second intermission stronger and had a few early chances, as Franklin took a few minutes to get back going again.
“That’s why we only cut the ice once now because I feel like we come out a little flat after we take that break,” Burke explained. “I warned them about coming out flat for the third and they didn’t come out flat but they didn’t come out the way they had left the second.”
While the Warriors started well in the third, Franklin very nearly took the lead when Paterson had a shot that was arrowing into the top corner blocked just over the bar by Potts. Mere seconds later, KP took the lead.
Unger said, “Lily Potts played great. That save with about five minutes left, it was an open net and she just stuck her glove out and saved it. That was phenomenal. It was a big turnaround.”
A breakout of the defensive zone got KP a 2-on-1 break. Meehan skated down the right side and was able to saucer a puck over to Gorman on the left, who took only one touch to knock the puck right back across goal to Meehan and the junior tipped it up over Stott and just under the bar for the go-ahead score.
“Unselfish,” said Unger. “Meghan could’ve taken the shot but she chose to pass it back and it was a beautiful tip in. It was great.”
Potts made a big save with four minutes left to deny Libby Carter, following another Quinn set up, but with a minute left to play Franklin got a breakaway. Quinn had a deft touch to tip the puck past an onrushing defenseman in the neutral zone and took her time to bury a wrister into the top corner.
“That was a beautiful goal they got,” Burke said, “and we just kept pressing and even after Victoria tied it up I told them if you get it down there I want you pressing. We weren’t playing for the tie, but we’re happy with the tie.”
The game was typical for the first Hockomock League season in which every game seems to come down to the wire.
“Every game in the league has been [close]. Low scoring games…the league play has been really tight,” said Burke.
Unger added, “The teams that are playing well in the Hock, it’s a one-goal differential. A bounce off a skate here or there, a turnover, makes the difference in the game. One little mistake is all it takes.”
Franklin (12-3-4, 2-2-3) will close out the regular season against Whitman-Hanson/Silver Lake next Wednesday. King Philip (9-6-2, 4-2-1) will close out league play on Saturday against Mansfield/Oliver Ames in Foxboro.
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