The 11th-seeded Panthers built a two-goal lead after a period and appeared to add another over halfway through the second period.
Just before Shane McCaffrey released his shot, a referee blew his whistle on a delayed penalty against seventh-seeded Catholic Memorial. While Franklin was heading onto the power play, it had a clear goal taken away.
And then the Knights used an aggressive penalty kill to score a shorthanded goal. And just minutes later, Catholic Memorial scored another shorthanded goal, and suddenly the game was 2-2 late in the second period.
But these Panthers have seen just about everything this season, and found ways to fight back. That’s just what they did, going back in front with less than a minute to go in the second period.
Franklin tacked on an insurance goal early in the third and scored an empty netter in the final minutes to secure an upset 5-2 win over Catholic Memorial in the D1 South Semifinals.
“It’s a credit to the boys in the locker room, how hard they fight, they never gave up,” said Franklin head coach Chris Spillane. “The seed doesn’t matter, it’s what you do on the ice that matters.”
The Panthers, who qualified for the state tournament by winning the Hockomock League’s Kelley-Rex division, will take on top-seeded Duxbury in the D1 South Final. Franklin previously knocked off #6 Falmouth and #3 Mansfield while the Dragons defeated #5 Barnstable, 3-2, in double overtime.
At the midway point of the first, the Panthers went on their first power play but only managed one shot before getting whistled for an interference call to make it four-on-four. Franklin didn’t let its penalty kill the momentum.
Falvey found sophomore Joe LeBlanc at the blue line, and he shuffled the puck over to junior Tom Tasker. Tasker ripped a hard shot through traffic and past CM goalie Henry O’Brien, with Elliott providing a screen in front. Franklin led 1-0 with 6:27 left in the first.
Just two minutes later, the Panthers doubled their lead behind a terrific hustle play by senior CJ Spillane. Spillane blocked a shot at the blue line from one CM defensemen, beat the other CM defenseman in a foot race to the loose puck, and went in alone on a breakaway before depositing his wrist shot past O’Brien’s blocker for a 2-0 advantage with 4:11 to play in the first.
The Panthers nearly had a third in the final seconds of the period but O’Brien was able to get just enough of his pad onto a low shot from the blue line off the stick of Matt D’Errico. And on the rebound. Kyle Hedvig tossed a shot towards goal from the corner, and the puck bounced off the inside of O’Brien’s leg and out the other side.
Franklin goalie Ray Ivers (30 saves) had a strong game throughout, including a big save just a minute into the second. Franklin’s defensemen slipped allowing CM junior Owen Brady a chance in close but Ivers stood tall.
A minute later, the Knights had a two-on-one break, and Jack Curran elected to shoot but Ivers made the glove stop without giving up a rebound.
CM went on the power play with 8:54 left in the second but the Panthers got the kill. Falvey killed some time with a trip into the offensive zone, and Colin Hedvig had a clearance to kill off more time. The Panthers nearly grabbed a shorthanded goal when Spillane forced a turnover in the offensive zone, but O’Brien made a terrific glove save in close.
Kyle Hedvig and Joey Lizotte combined in the offensive zone, finding McCaffrey in front and he buried his chance but it was waved off in favor of a delayed penalty against CM. The Panthers couldn’t get a clean clear from the defensive zone, and Chris Rooney linked up with Will MacNeil to get the Knights on the board with 4:15 left in the second.
Franklin went on the power play with 3:42 left and cross check on CM was going to set up a 5-on-3 but the Panthers were whistled for a matching penalty to cancel the cross check out. The Knights got the offensive zone faceoff and Rooney made them pay, winning the faceoff then roofing his shot to make it 2-2 with 2:18 left in the second.
Back-to-back slashing calls within10 seconds gave Franklin a 5-on-3 opportunity for the final minute of the second. The Panthers took advantage as Tasker’s rebound fell in front of goal and Kyle Hedvig poked the loose back through the five-hole to put Franklin back up, 3-2, with 46 seconds left in the second.
“I think we found a team identity [down the stretch],” Spillane said. “For the past month, this is pretty much the team we’ve had. Where it was for the first month and a half, I couldn’t tell you but I’m glad we found it. It wasn’t pretty all the time tonight but it was effective. We don’t have a lot of pure goal scorers so we have to grind every inch of the ice and I thought we did that well minus the two shorthanded goals. Five on five, I thought we pretty much eliminated their quality opportunities, I thought we did a nice job.”
Franklin got an insurance goal just over three minutes into the third period. LeBlanc fired a shot from the blue line and Lizotte got just enough of his stick on the high shot to redirect it in as he skated past the front of the net.
“I just put my stick up, I saw it at the last second,” Lizotte said. “Luckily I’m so short it wasn’t a high stick.”
“Even that fourth goal, smallest kid on the team, he’s got that stick up by his shoulders, it’s a good goal,” Spillane said. “Anyone else on the team, it’s probably a high stick, so we’ll take it.”
Catholic Memorial had a chance to pull within one when it went on the power play a minute later but the Panthers didn’t surrender any big scoring chances and forced the Knights to take a penalty with 10 seconds left.
Franklin didn’t muster much up on the man advantage as O’Brien handled Franklin’s one good shot off the stick of Cam Cassella.
Ivers came up big again with 4:16 left, making a nice stop on Curran and then handling the rebound bid from Brady.
With the goalie pulled at 2:38, Colin Hedvig got a clearance for the Panthers, Falvey had a shot go just wide of the net and Ivers made a stop on Tommy Rooney.
After a battle in the neutral zone, McCaffrey came away with the puck and deposited a shot from distance to make it 5-2.
“One of the last games of the season we played LaSalle, we were down two goals and we came back and won it,” Lizotte explained. “That was a big confidence boost and every since then we’ve gone with it. I love this team. We’ve been through it all year, we’ve had a tough schedule from the start of the year. We got each other’s backs, and that’s what we did tonight. It felt really good.”
Franklin boys hockey (12-9-4) will square off with #1 Duxbury (20-4-0) on Sunday, back at Gallo Ice Arena, at 6:15.
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