FRANKLIN, Mass. – Coming off a tie to Mansfield and a loss to Canton, and now trailing by a goal to King Philip with just a period left, the Franklin boys hockey was on the verge of letting its grasp of the Kelley-Rex division slip away.
But first-year Panther coach Anthony Sarno challenged his squad to rise to the occasion over the final 15 minutes, and the team delivered.
Franklin scored three goals in the third period, erasing a one-goal deficit and landing a 4-2 win over King Philip. With the win, the Panthers move into sole possession of first place in the division with 10 points with one game to go. The win also secures a playoff spot because Franklin can’t finish worse than second place in the Kelley-Rex.
“‘How bad do you want it?’” Sarno asked his players between the second and third periods. “It’s not the X’s and O’s, it’s the will to win, how bad do you want to push back? We’re tired of being slapped in mouth late in the games with all these ties. And against Canton last game, they the best team in the league no doubt, but we didn’t really challenge them the way we should have or could have.
“We have to take care of the puck and do all the little things, we have to do what we did in the third period tonight and we came out with the will to win.”
Franklin took the first lead of the game midway through the opening period but King Philip answered inside the final minute and took the lead with the only goal of the second period.
Despite not converting on a very early power play chance in the third period, the Panthers pounced on a chance just over four minutes in to level the scoring. Senior forward Kyle Hedvig fired a tough angle shot on goal that was knocked down by KP senior goalie Jesper Makudera (40 saves) but senior defenseman Colin Hedvig had pinched down in and lifted the rebound into the back of the net to make it 2-2.
King Philip nearly regained the lead past the midway point of the period but the play ended giving the Panthers the go-ahead strike. KP senior Joe Boselli intercepted a clearance attempt and skated into the slot before unleashing a hard wrist shot. Franklin senior goalie Ray Ivers (26 saves) got just enough of it with his shoulder to keep it out, the puck deflecting over the net and up the sideboards.
From there, Franklin raced into a 2-on-1 situation as Kyle Hedvig snuck a pass under the KP defenseman to an open Declan Lovett in front, and he buried his chance from in close to give the Panthers a 3-2 lead with 4:11 to play.
The momentum stayed with the Panthers for the remainder of the game, and Kyle Hedvig and Declan Lovett combined to set up the insurance goal for the hosts, finding Colin Hedvig wide open in the slot in front of goal and his one-timer made it 4-2 with 1:49 to play.
“It was nice to see the kids make the push to come back,” Sarno said. “I give them a lot of credit. Like I said from the beginning of the year I love these kids, they’ve been resilient and really fought through a lot of adversity, even if we created some of it on our own. But it takes a hell of a team to come back from that, now we just have to stop putting ourselves in those positions and start using our assets like our speed, moving the puck quickly, stick to stick, and I think if we do that, we’ll be a much more deadly team in these last seven games.”
King Philip had one other good chance in the third period, coming on the penalty kill. Boselli jumped onto a loose puck in the neutral zone and skated it towards goal before firing a shot that was denied by Ivers. The Warriors had 10 total shots in the third but didn’t threaten with a serious chance after falling behind.
The Warriors were also without their top defenseman in Kyle Gray (sick), who is also third on the team in points, but head coach Paul Carlow said that wasn’t an excuse.
”Kyle’s our anchor back there so we had a built-in excuse with him out but the boys didn’t take it, they rallied around each other,” Carlow said. “I felt like we gave everything we had, just ran out of gas. I felt like we needed some momentum so that first goal in the third was going to be huge. They got it and I think that kind of turned the tide. We played mostly two lines, four or five defensemen, I just think we ran out of legs.
“We had some breakdowns at the end and I think it was fatigue more than anything else. I don’t think it was their will, we just ran out of gas and [Franklin] is a good team.”
Both teams scored in a first period that was fast-paced and full of hard hits as both teams came out flying. The Panthers jumped ahead just moments after Makudera robbed them of the opening tally. Shane McCaffrey intercepted a clearance pass and made a nice move to find space to unleash a shot that Makudera saved, the rebound falling to Shea Hurley but a diving stop from the goalie kept it scoreless.
But on the ensuing faceoff from the right circle, the puck squirmed towards the slot with multiple sticks batting at it. The puck eventually found the stick of junior JT Dwyer and he turned and whipped a shot on target that found the back fo the net for a 1-0 lead with 6:11 to go in the first.
King Philip responded in the final minute. Senior defenseman Ethan McGuire ripped a low shot through traffic that hit the back of the net and came out, quick enough that the ref signaled for no goal. But the second official called the play dead, got together with the other ref, and ruled it had gone in making it 1-1 with 37 seconds left in the first.
Just over the midway point, the Warriors broke through to take their first lead of the game. A quick break from Chris Daniels led to a two-on-one opportunity and Daniels made the right decision, sliding a pass over to Aidan Bougler and the junior smashed his one-timer into the back of the net to make I 2-1 with 5:22 left in the third.
Franklin came close on a handful of chances in the final couple of minutes but Makudera made some terrific stops to keep the Warriors ahead. Senior Tom Tasker had a blast denied, Will Sheehan linked up with Kyle Hedvig right in front but Makudera made the point-blank stop, and then denied Lovett on the rebound.
On the other end, Sheehan tossed a shot on goal that was redirected by Sean Dunbar just over the net, and in the final seconds Colin Hedvig sent a cross-ice pass to McCaffrey who quickly delivered a pass in front to Dylan Marchand but his one-timer was blocked by Makudera and Hurley had his rebound bid stopped.
Franklin boys hockey (4-1-2 Hockomock, 6-4-3 overall). can clinch the Kelley-Rex division outright with a win over North Attleboro when they meet on Saturday at 7:30. A point can also clinch depending on the outcome of the Mansfield and Foxboro game. King Philip (3-2-2, 8-4-2) falls into third in the division but is still in contention for a division title, but would need help from Foxboro and North Attleboro, and would have to take care of Oliver Ames on Saturday at 6:10.
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