FRANKLIN, Mass. – The biggest difference between Franklin and Walpole might not have even been something that happened on the ice on Saturday night.
Instead, one extra day of rest might have been enough to push Franklin to a 1-0 win over the Rebels and into the D1 South Semifinal. Franklin beat Wellesley on Wednesday night and Walpole picked up a shootout win over Archies on Thursday to meet one another in the quarterfinals.
“It was a good physical game and from here on out that’s what you’re going to get,” Franklin head coach Chris Spillane said. “Walpole just came off a really physical, exhausting game on Thursday night. I think us having that extra day of rest, being able to go watch them play, and have two practices and sort of going easy in them knowing this would be a tough game, I think that was a little bit of a benefit for us. They were sort of gassing out there, the schedule definitely worked to our benefit.”
To be fair to the Panthers, they were dominant in almost every area of the game except for the scoreboard. Sophomore Luke Downie scored the lone goal on a power play in the second period and Nick Jasinski made 17 saves for the shutout.
The Rebels had the better start to the game with a couple of early shots, even going up a man less than three minutes in because of a tripping call. Yet Walpole was unable to muster up a serious scoring chance in the period. The best chance of the first period fell to the stick of senior Jake Downie. Downie blocked an attempted clearance and skated in alone on goal. He fired a low wrist shot but Walpole goalie James Corcoran was able to get his glove in the way for a huge save.
The play was just the start of the momentum swing as the Panthers slowly took control of the game. At nearly the same exact time in the second period, another penalty was whistle but this one a hooking call that put the Panthers on the power play. 40 seconds in, Luke Downie was able to corral a loose puck off a rebound that forced Corcoran out of his crease and wrap it around the other end, bouncing it off the goalie and just over the line.
“It was a power play opportunity and it was sort of a busted play,” Spillane said. “Luke Downie sort of wrapped it around and bounced it off their goaltender. It doesn’t matter how it goes in, it goes in and it’s still one on the board. I’ve said Luke has to be one of our better players for us to have success. He’s playing through an injury and he played very well for us.”
Shortly after the goal, the Rebels went on the man advantage but once again, Franklin’s defense stood tall and didn’t allow a serious chance against Jasinski. In the period, Franklin only allowed four shots on goal for Walpole.
“This was a good one to be in,” Spillane said of it being close throughout. “I don’t think at anytime I was saying we’re not playing good hockey. We played really sound forechecking and we eliminated all of their opportunities. I think the shots were two to one [ratio]. We threw a lot of pucks at [their goalie], he had a lot of work. But our goal was to forecheck and sort of eliminate the up and down hockey and I think we did a really nice job of that for three periods.”
The Panthers continued to roll three lines all game and it proved to be a big help in the third period. Franklin dominated the final frame with a 14-5 advantage in shots.
“We realized we wouldn’t be able to run two [lines] as much as we wanted to but that third line played great,” Spillane said. “They came out, forechecked, worked hard and were in the offensive zone. If you’re putting a third line out there and they are in the offensive zone, they’re doing something right. It was a good team effort. I think that was our best game for 45 minutes this year. The scoreboard doesn’t indicate it but I thought we played 45 minutes of hockey and we really didn’t give them too many quality opportunities.”
Just after an early power play concluded, Franklin nearly doubled its lead with 12 minutes to play in the third. Adam Assad saw his backhand attempt go just wide after a rebound off a good shot from senior Joe Corsi fell to his stick. The Panthers nearly put in a second with just two minutes to play when James Kilroe tipped a shot from Jack Chaffee but Corcoran was able to get a piece. 30 seconds after that, Assad had another chance kicked aside.
On the other end, Walpole’s best chances came in the final minute. Charles Harrington picked off a pass at the blue line and ripped a shot but Jasinski made the glove save. After a timeout and with the goalie pulled, Owen Hunter found himself in some space and fired a backhand that Jasinski just got a piece of. The puck trickled on the ice with an open goal but Franklin freshman Kevin McKay got to it first and clear it away, taking a hit into the post right after.
“Kevin overcompensated for his mistake, he was sort of creeping up into the high slot and that guy was wide open behind him,” Spillane said. “I’d rather the two defensemen be the last guys out of the zone but he’s a good skater and he was able to get back and make a great play for us.”
Franklin (14-3-5) advances to the D1 South Semifinals against Newton North at Gallo Arena in Bourne. At the time this article was published, the time and date are still to be determined.
Ryan Lanigan can be contacted at RyanLanigan@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @R_Lanigan.
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