FRANKLIN, Mass. – Two good bounces turned into two goals for Franklin, one for Dan Magazu in the second period and one for Brendan O’Rielly in third, and senior netminder Owen Ginley made 27 saves to make those goals stand up, as the Panthers pulled out a 2-0 victory over rival Canton in a non-league meeting on Friday night at Pirelli Veterans Arena.
“We had a really bad practice yesterday after a big win Wednesday (4-3 against defending Div. 1 state champion St. Mary’s of Lynn) and I just didn’t know what to expect,” said Franklin coach Chris Spillane.
“Canton did a great job taking a lot of space away. When we’re playing our best hockey is when we’re using our team speed and they didn’t allow us to do that tonight. We just had to grind it out.”
The Bulldogs came out of the gates flying, outshooting Franklin 11-4 in the opening period and creating a number of scoring opportunities only to be denied by Ginley.
Sophomore Chris Lavoie had the first good chance of the game nearly three minutes in when he was fed in front by junior winger Joe Robinson, but Ginley got his blocker on the shot. The puck deflected up off the post and out with several Bulldogs fans arguing that it had actually gone in. Five minutes later, Lavoie had another chance when he corralled a loose puck in the slot but it was saved and Robinson’s rebound was gloved.
“He was solid for us last year,” said Spillane of Ginley, “and it’s going to be hard for those other two senior goaltenders to take his spot away. It really is because when he’s focused and he’s mentally into the game then he’s a really good goaltender.”
Franklin had its best chance of the period when Zac Falvey managed to knock the puck into the zone with his hand, barely staying onside in the process. He slipped a pass to senior Jeremy Miller alone in front but his shot slammed off the post. A couple minutes later, Miller found Falvey with a drop pass but again the Panthers were denied by the post.
In between those chances, Canton junior Ryan Nolte found the perfect pass to spring senior Bubba McNeice behind the defense, but he was denied on the breakaway by Ginley. McNeice was stuffed a few minutes later with Jack McGrath clearing the rebound off the line and in the final seconds of the period Robinson had another chance but again the goalie was up to the task.
“To come out with no goals in a Franklin/Canton game is always disappointing,” said Canton coach Brian Shuman. “We couldn’t get any momentum at all. It’s one thing to have a shot on net and get a rebound and have an opportunity and it’s another thing to put one home.”
Franklin came out much stronger in the second period and started to take control of the game. Within two minutes, the Panthers nearly created the opening goal when Miller forced a turnover with an important back-check in the defensive zone. He hit Falvey on the outlet, who then found Joe Lizzotte flying past the defense only for Canton goalie Quinn Gibbs (22 saves) to make the stick save.
“Our second line is carrying a lot of weight right now,” said Spillane of the combination of Miller, Falvey, and Lizzotte. “Jeremy is just a strong, strong kid and he makes good hockey plays and he’s got two speedsters on his line that are small but they’re fast and they’re good with their hands. They seem to pick up the pace when we need it.”
The deadlock was finally broken with 9:13 left in the second. O’Rielly carried the puck into the offensive zone and was met just outside the left circle by two Canton defensemen. The puck squirted free and Magazu skated onto it all alone. He cut across the crease and lifted a backhand over Gibbs’ pad for a 1-0 lead.
Spillane said, “The first goal is huge and it definitely gave us a boost of energy. You could see the kids get into it. After the first period, I just knew it was going to be one of those games and we were going to have to grind it out and we were fortunate to get a couple bounces in the end.”
Franklin doubled its lead early in the third period thanks to another friendly deflection. Luke Downie battled along the nearside boards to sweep the puck back to the point and retain possession. Tom Trasker lined up a slapshot that kicked off the skate of a defenseman right to O’Rielly, who took a second before wristing a shot past Gibbs.
“We went down 1-0 and our bench felt like we went down 5-0 with two minutes to play and that was disappointing,” said Shuman. “We did fight back and had some chances, but it’s hard to climb back from 2-0 hole with eight minutes left against these guys because they have good goaltending and play defense better than most.”
Canton stepped up its intensity in the closing minutes, desperately searching a goal that would get the Bulldogs back in the game. Nolte had the best chance on a power play with five minutes left. He tipped a shot from the point right in front of Ginley, who made the first stop, and then had the rebound come right back to his stick only for Ginley to throw out a pad and stuff the chance on the post.
It was the first loss of the season for the Bulldogs, who won their third straight Gormley Cup last week. Shuman explained, “I just thought they outplayed us. They looked like a seasoned, veteran team out there that was ready to play, won more battles than us, and I think intimidated us in many aspects.”
Franklin is unbeaten through its opening two games of a very difficult stretch to start the season. Spillane remarked, “Pope Francis next and then Newburyport and then Mount St. Charles (Holiday Tournament) is just crazy and it’s back-to-back days. It’s going to tell us where we are and where we need to get to so that in league play we’ll be firing on all cylinders.”
Franklin (2-0) will travel to the Olympia Center in Springfield to face perennial Super 8 contender Pope Francis on Thursday. Canton (1-1-1) will host defending Div. 3 state champion Shrewsbury on Wednesday.