FRANKLIN, Mass. – Mansfield scored the first goal of the game with less than seven minutes to play in the game, but Franklin had an answer four minutes later to help the Panther steal a point in a 1-1 draw.
The Hornets had a 29-25 advantage in shots, outshooting the Panthers in both the first and third periods. Despite multiple chances throughout the first and second periods, goalies Dan Sheehan (Franklin) and Sean McCafferty (Mansfield) kept the puck out of the net.
But just over the midway point of the third period, Mansfield was finally able to break the stalemate. A turnover in the offensive zone allowed Mansfield to race out to a 3-on-2 chance. Coming down the right side of the ice, freshman Coleman Jenkins dropped a pass to the middle of the ice for junior Austin Ricker.
Ricker fired a wrist shot up high that Sheehan (28 saves) denied at first, but the puck had enough mustard to trickle over his shoulder, bounce off his back and fall into the net to give the Hornets a 1-0 lead.
“I thought we played a great game, I really did,” said Mansfield head coach Michael Balzarini. “We had two really good days of practice and the momentum just kind of carried over. We knew after the first 15 minutes that it would be a very close game. We knew whoever scored first might be the eventual winner so it was good to get that, just overall I’m really pleased with the way we played.”
The goal seemed to wake the Panthers up and they were finally able to solve McCafferty with just 2:42 left in the game. Senior Luke Downie had his pass partially blocked and the puck ended up on the stick of senior TJ Durkin.
With his back to goal in the center of the ice, Durkin turned, pulled the puck back on his stick and roofed a wrist shot to tie the game.
“The result reflects our performance, we did not play well,” said Franklin head coach Chris Spillane. “We didn’t skate, we didn’t win 50-50 battles, they were more physical than us…they wanted the game more than us, simple as that. We were very fortunate to get the point.
“We had a lot of breakdowns in our end but on the flip side, Mansfield played well. They played physical, they came out and wanted it more. They probably deserved the win but we’ll steal a point from them.”
After Franklin’s Jeremy Miller hit the post on a low, turn around shot just over a minute into the game, the Hornets seemed to take control of the game.
Franklin had an early power play opportunity but an interference 20 seconds into the man advantage made it 4-on-4. That resulted in a quick 2-on-1 chance for the Hornets with Tim Arnold feeding Adam Anastos, but Sheehan made the save.
The Hornets had another odd-man rush with Chris Copponi and Anastos got into the zone but Copponi’s shot and rebound chance were gobbled up before Anastos could pounce.
On the ensuing play, Franklin came flying up ice with Miller finding Brendan O’Rielly and O’Rielly returning the pass right on front of net but just out of the reach of Miller.
Mansfield went on the power play with five minutes left in the period but couldn’t covert. The Hornets had another man-advantage chance at the end of the first and 70 seconds into the second period, but couldn’t cash in.
The best chance on the power play came just a minute into the second when Mansfield freshman Matt Copponi deked around a defenseman to get an open chance on goal but he couldn’t finish with little space in front.
Franklin’s best stretch of the game came at the midway point of the second period when the Panthers went on the power play. Miller set up defenseman Tom Tasker for a point-blank shot that McCafferty turned away. McCafferty came up with two more huge saves on the kill to keep the game scoreless.
Just after Mansfield killed the penalty, the Hornets had a golden chance. Jenkins jumped on a Franklin turnover in the offensive zone and went at goal, trying to sneak a backhand in at the near post but Sheehan kept his position and made a big pad save.
With less than a minute left in the period, Copponi intercepted a Franklin pass across the blue line and raced into the offensive zone but his shot at the near post flew high.
The Panthers had two early chances in the third when Downie found Joe Lizotte in front but his shot went high. A minute later, Dan Magazu connected with Spillane but again McCafferty was up to the task.
Each team had a chance in the final two minutes but Mansfield’s Chris Kelleher had his backhand attempt turned away and Franklin’s Lizotte had his low shot denied.
Mansfield boys hockey (3-0-2 Hockomock, 5-3-3) remains in first place in the division with a one point advantage over Franklin. The Hornets host Oliver Ames on Wednesday at 7:50. Franklin (3-0-1, 8-1-3) is back in action on Wednesday with Foxboro scheduled to come to town.