Franklin Title Defense Ends With Loss to Framingham

Franklin hockey
Joey Blasie (10) battles with a Framingham player in the corner during Sunday’s quarterfinal loss to Framingham. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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BUZZARDS BAY, Mass. – There will be a new Division 1 state champion this winter, as Franklin hockey saw its title defense come to a close on Sunday afternoon at Gallo Ice Arena with a 3-0 quarterfinal loss to Framingham.

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All season long, the Panthers (14-9-1) have played with a target on their backs following last year’s historic run to the state title. Franklin battled through that adversity to win 14 games and claim another Kelley-Rex division crown, Saturday’s defeat means there will be no repeat for the program, which has made quite a bit of noise in its short time in Div. 1.

“At the beginning of the season, we talked about we need to come with our best every night or we’re not going to win hockey games because we’re going to get everyone’s best,” said Franklin coach Chris Spillane, who finishes the season 10 wins shy of 300 for his career.

He continued, “We’ve had a bullseye on our back for sure. We’ve handled it really well at times and at other times we didn’t handle it so well.”

The Panthers handled it pretty well against the Flyers, outshooting Framingham 26-23 for the game and dominating play in the second period. Franklin just could not find the final touch to get a puck past Framingham goalie Alex Moore.

“I thought we played pretty well tonight,” said Spillane. “The hockey gods were not on our side tonight. We had a lot of looks, we had a couple of open nets that we didn’t bury. At the end of the day you need to score those goals.”

Adam Assad had the first opportunity for Franklin five minutes into the first period. He got his stick onto a pass by Luke Downie, but Moore blocked it with his pads. Matt Holmes had a chance three minutes later when he got to a rebound from a deflected shot but it was saved. Joe McInnis had the Flyers best chance on the break but Franklin goalie Cam Benham stood tall to block.

Franklin stormed out of the intermission and outshot the Flyers 13-6 in the second period but found itself down by a pair of goals.

Freshman Connor Opelt had a blast from the point saved by Moore early in the period and Jack McGrath had a couple chances to put the puck on net. On the Panthers first power play, Downie sent a rebound shot just wide of an open net. Then Holmes and Assad had a two-on-one rush that ended with Holmes’ shot from the left circle being saved by Moore.

After all that pressure, Framingham caught the Panthers pushing up ice and stunned them with the opening goal. Ben Stefanini broke down the right wing, crossed the blue line, and then cut across the zone before firing a low shot past Benham into the bottom corner.

“Our defense sort of gave up the blue line,” said Spillane. “He took it, came across and he had a nice low shot in the corner and caught Cam a little deep in his net. I would’ve like our guys to step up more and maybe not give him that time but we were pressing and we were all over them and then that happened.”

Franklin continued to pressure and had another great chance when Assad received a pass from James Kilroe but again could not beat Moore. With 3:29 left in the second, Framingham got a power play and needed only 10 seconds to make it count. Stefanini found space in the slot and cut a pass against the grain to Mike Tersoni, who roofed his shot for a 2-0 lead.

The Panthers had a minute of power play to start the third period and Spillane said that he talked in the locker room about not panicking and using their experience to battle back.

“We talked about having a solid power play, whether we scored or not,” he said. “We talked about scoring one in the first five minutes. We had some good opportunities in the first five minutes but we didn’t get it and I think giving up that third goal was the backbreaker.”

Brendan O’Rielly had a snap shot that caromed off Moore’s shoulder, but Franklin could not create clear scoring chances. Benham kept the Panthers in it with a blocker save on a blast arrowing to the corner and then robbed Tersoni on a breakaway.

With 2:08 left, the Flyers put it away. McInnis scored off an assist by Tersoni to make it 3-0 and seal the win.

Spillane reflected on the season and the difficulty of being the defending champs.

He said, “We started the season with our best start in a long time…we just hit some roadblocks in the Hockomock League. Obviously, we’d like to be playing still but bottom line it’s so hard to repeat at any level in any sport. I think our program is heading in the right direction.”

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Benham Saves the Day for Franklin Against Oliver Ames

Franklin hockey
Sophomore Matt Holmes (19) celebrates with Jack McGrath (15) after scoring the opening goal against Oliver Ames on Saturday night. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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FRANKLIN, Mass. – Former Franklin goalie Sean Bertoni (Class of 2002) made his first return to his alma mater as a head coach on Saturday night, leading Oliver Ames into Pirelli Veterans Arena with a chance to take control of the Kelley-Rex title race.

But it was current Panthers netminder Cam Benham that stole the headlines and the two points with a 40-save performance that helped Franklin claim a 4-1 victory and control of its own destiny as it seeks to clinch a sixth straight league championship.

“That’s the goaltender that we need every night,” said Franklin coach Chris Spillane. “We’re looking forward to Cam getting on a roll. He had a shutout the other night, played unbelievable for us tonight, made some really big saves, and kept us in the game.”

Benham needed to be ready right from the opening face-off because the Tigers came flying out of the gates with 18 shots in the opening period and used their speed to create host of great scoring chances.

Eric LeBlanc set up Cullen Gallagher in front just a couple minutes in only for the sophomore to fire wide. Five minutes into the game, Brett Williams found Korey Sweezey in front alone but Benham made a point-blank pad save to keep the game scoreless. Rory Madden got free for a shorthanded chance but again Benham was up to the challenge.

Franklin took advantage of those saves and of a four-minute major penalty to get the lead against the run of play. Tom Sicchio’s shot from the point was kicked aside by Zach Walsh (16 saves) but right to Matt Holmes and he knocked in the rebound.

“I knew they were going to [start quick] and they were all over us,” admitted Spillane. “We weathered the storm and we sort of had our opportunities and we found the back of the net.”

Right at the end of the first, Benham came through with a flurry of saves, batting aside five or six shots from the Tigers who were trying to head into the first intermission on even terms.

“The first period was probably our best period of the season,” said Bertoni. “I was saying to the coaches maybe if we were a little bit older because young guys in a big game, maybe they were a little tight on their stick.”

Franklin settled down after the break and started the second much stronger and finding ways to slow down the speedy Tigers.

Just a minute into the period, Adam Assad controlled the puck near his own blue line and took a hit to feed Sicchio pushing forward into the neutral zone. Sicchio drove into the attacking zone, dragged the puck past his defender and fired a shot into the bottom corner for a 2-0 lead.

“He has stick skills, which is nice because he can make those plays,” said Spillane of Sicchio. “He’s really the backbone of our defense right now.”

Three minutes later and the Tigers were stunned again, as a shot from the point by freshman Connor Opelt was redirected in front by Jeremy Miller and past the left pad of Walsh for a 3-0 lead.

When asked if his team had been disheartened by dominating the first period but trailing, Bertoni responded, “I don’t think so because we’ve been there before. They were so excited to start the second period especially because of how we ended the first. We must have had four shots in that scramble and just couldn’t bury one.”

Gallagher had a chance from the slot to get one back for OA but fired over the bar and Williams set up LeBlanc in front for a tip towards goal that was blocked by Benham.

The Tigers had the final seven shots of the second but trailed by three goals entering the third period. Within the first minute, Franklin had extended the lead to 4-0. Jack McGrath passed the puck across the blue line to Sicchio, who sent the puck towards net. Luke Downie redirected the shot from the slot and inside the post.

When asked if the Panthers had made any adjustments to try and combat OA’s speed, Spillane replied, “We’ve played fast teams before, we knew what we were in for and we just needed to pick up our tempo. Against a team like that, you have to play fast and move the puck.”

The Tigers finally got on the board on a power play goal with 1:32 remaining. Benham made two saves but the second rebound popped out to Williams, who knocked it into an open net. OA got some energy to finish with another flurry, totaling 14 shots in the third period, but Benham stood tall again to ensure that the Tigers only got one on the board.

“They played hard, just some of the penalties…I told them when we play 5-on-5 that we can skate with anyone,” said Bertoni. “We generate offense when we’re 5-on-5.”

Bertoni had previously returned as an assistant coach with the Tigers during the 2013-14 season and watched then Tigers goalie Jimmy Tierney make 40-plus saves for the win. He is now 1-1 coming back to his alma mater (where his father Bill Bertoni and his uncle Bruce Bertoni, who is still an assistant coach for the Panthers, are both members of the Franklin Hockey Hall of Fame).

He was asked how it felt to be back here and on the visiting bench and, with the hint of a smile, Bertoni said, “It felt good, it felt good…Man…I wanted to steal this one.”

Franklin (9-4-0, 4-1-0) has jumped to the top of the league standings at the midway point of the league campaign. Next up for the Panthers is King Philip at Pirelli on Wednesday, while Oliver Ames (7-4-1, 3-2-1) will travel to Foxboro.

Panthers End Losing Streak With Win at Mansfield

Franklin hockey
Brendan O’Rielly scored a pair of goals to help Franklin bounce back and avoid a two-game losing streak in the league with a 5-2 win over Mansfield. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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FOXBORO, Mass. – Sometimes even the top teams need a friendly bounce every once in a while.

With Saturday afternoon’s game at the Foxboro Sports Center tied at 2-2 early in the third period, Franklin senior Noah Nasuti turned at the blue line and flung a puck on net. It landed a few feet from goal and bounced on its edge and slid past Mansfield senior goalie Tony Rullo, who finished with 28 saves and had a strong overall game to keep the Hornets in it.

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That bounce allowed the Panthers, who seemed nervous at times in the attacking zone, to breathe a little easier. Two late goals, one on the power play and the other into an empty net, sealed a 5-2 victory for Franklin and put an end to a two-game losing streak.

“I know out third goal won’t be making the ‘Top 10’ on Sportscenter, but it was big for us,” said Franklin coach Chris Spillane. “It gave us a little breathing room and we weren’t gripping the sticks so tight and we got into a flow.”

Everyone came into Saturday’s game thinking that Franklin was going to come out flying, motivated by last weekend’s state final rematch loss to St. Mary’s (Lynn) and the shocking loss to Taunton in midweek, which was the first loss for the Panthers in the league since the 2013-14 season. Franklin had not lost twice in the Hock since 2012-13.

Rather than Franklin asserting itself in the first, it was Mansfield that came out stronger and took the lead inside the first five minutes. James Bezeau fed a pass from the half-boards into the middle to a streaking Cullin Anastasia, who had a step on his defender and then slotted his shot five-hole for the opener.

“Everybody’s first shift, we wanted them to make good plays, get the first shot on net, make the first hit, and have them make the first save,” said first-year Mansfield coach Mike Balzarini. “We put in a good 15 minutes of hockey in the first period.”

Franklin had several chances in the first period to try and get the game on level terms. Nasuti had a good chance knocked down by Rullo, Luke Downie had a wrist shot from the left circle snagged and in the final minute Brendan O’Rielly had a one-timer from the slot saved by Rullo as well.

Despite a 9-8 advantage in shots, Spillane was not happy with the way the Panthers started the game. He said, “I expected us to come out in that first period and just explode and we didn’t do that. We have a lot of work in front of us. We haven’t played a full game…It’s hard to figure these guys out.”

The Panthers picked up the energy in the second period and started to control the play. Downie created a scoring opportunity on the forecheck but shot it into the chest of Rullo. Downie set up James Kilroe for a point-blank chance a couple minutes later but the shot was partially blocked and covered.

Mansfield almost doubled its lead against the run of play when Patrick McCafferty got behind the Franklin defense but his backhand effort was kept out by a combination of Owen Ginley’s shoulder and the post. Rullo then came through with a huge stop, going post-to-post and stretching out a pad to rob Adam Assad after a give-and-go with Jeremy Miller.

The pressure eventually paid off for Franklin with freshman defenseman Colin Oppelt having a shot from the point tipped by Kilroe and the rebound cleaned up by O’Rielly to tie the game. Just 10 seconds later and it was the Panthers in front after Dan Magazu sliding a shot under Rullo’s pads, assisted by Kenny DeMerchant and Jack McGrath.

“[Dan] is a sophomore we don’t play much, but he scores a goal every time we put him out there,” said Spillane. That’s his third goal, so putting players out there like that lets the upperclassmen know their jobs are not secure.”

A minute later, Mansfield tied the score again. After a scramble in front of Ginley, freshman Chris Jenkins got the final touch (Cullen Murphy was credited on the score sheet) to make it 2-2, despite the Hornets being outshot 12-7 in the period.

“The issue in the second period was that we played their game; we didn’t play our game,” said Balazarini. “We were flooding the neutral zone, taking away their D-to-D pass, and then we kind of strayed away from that.”

Franklin got the break it needed 2:24 into the third period, when Nasuti saw his shot find the back of the net.

“It’s tough,” Balzarini said. “They were getting pucks to the net from everywhere. They did a good job at that. It is what it is. That’s hockey. But we didn’t stop and we had some good chances.”

The Panthers were on top on the scoreboard and on the ice, but Mansfield had its chances to get back into the game. Matt Farragher twice in the span of a minute came flying down the right wing and had a shot from the edge of the circle but Ginley (22 saves) was able to glove one and stand tall to stop the other.

Franklin doubled its lead on the power play with 2:09 remaining. Assad pushed the puck to Miller behind the goal and dashed to the net. Miller passed it back out in front and Assad roofed it for a 4-2 lead. O’Rielly made sure of the two points with an empty net goal (his second) in the final minute.

“I like the way we competed in the second and third periods,” said Spillane. “Our forecheck really came to life, our speed jumped out, and the goals came, but that should be consistent every game, every shift.”

After a trying week, Spillane was happy to see the Panthers bounce off their uncustomary position at the bottom of the league standings. He said, “I think we’re going to see this every game in the Hockomock League. Once the message was sent that they’re beatable. we’re going to get everyone’s ‘A’ game. There’s no gimmes, at least not for us.”

Franklin (7-4, 2-1) will be back in Foxboro on Wednesday to face the Warriors, while Mansfield (5-4-1, 2-1) will be on the road to face Oliver Ames.

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Franklin Falls Short In Rematch of State Title Game

Franklin hockey
Franklin senior James Kilroe (7) scored a third period goal in the loss to St. Mary’s (Lynn) in a rematch of last year’s state final. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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FRANKLIN, Mass. – The last time that Franklin and St. Mary’s (Lynn) met on the ice, it was an instant classic. The Panthers and Spartans wowed the crowd at the Boston Garden in a dramatic, double overtime thriller that Franklin won to claim its first state championship in three decades.

On Saturday night, the teams met again, this time in the smaller confines of Pirelli Veterans Arena, and the game played out very differently.

Franklin got off to a great start, taking a lead just 1:23 into the first period, but for the majority of the next 43 minutes the game was dominated by the visitors. St. Mary’s took the lead by the end of the first and never looked back, pulling out a 7-3 victory and exacting a measure of revenge for last season’s title game defeat.

“I thought we played well for the first 10 minutes,” said Franklin coach Chris Spillane. “I thought we had a jump in our step, we forechecked well, we were physical, and then right after that you could see it start to derail. That’s sort of been our season. We haven’t played a full 45 [minutes].”

The Panthers got off to the perfect start to the game. Jeremy Miller burst into the zone and had a shot from the right side kicked aside by St. Mary’s goalie Andrew LoRusso, but Adam Assad was following up the play and he knocked the loose puck into the open net.

Shortly after the goal, the Spartans would be given a four-minute power play of which the first 90 seconds would be a two-man advantage. Thanks to a couple of solid kick saves by goalie Owen Ginley and strong defense that kept the visitors on the edges, Franklin managed to clear it off and gain even more energy.

Unfortunately for the Panthers, the strong start could not be sustained.

Colin Reddy tied the game with 3:18 left in the first when he tapped in Jason Loeser’s pass that slipped through the skates of a Franklin defenseman. Two minutes later, Kyle Ouellette flipped a pass towards goal that was knocked down into the slot by Mike Zampanti and knocked in by Anthony Bono.

Ginley came through with a huge save on Bono after a mix up by the Franklin defense in the final seconds of the first, but he picked up an injury in the process and would be taken out for Cam Benham in the second.

Spillane said, “We had all the momentum. It was great and then right after that we just lost it. Our starting goaltender got hurt at the end of the first period and then we had to switch goalies, got a cold goalie coming in…and it just kept rolling.”

Franklin got off to a decent start to the second period with Miller setting up Zac Falvey only for LoRusso to deny him. Benham made a big save on Bono after a slip by the Franklin defense gave the St. Mary’s forward a breakaway, but was unable to stop a wraparound by Damon Maribito that made it 3-1.

Benham stopped Maribito four minutes later on another breakaway and the Panthers nearly had an answer when James Kilroe was set up Noah Nasuti, but the shot was off-target. Twenty-four seconds after that chance a puck up the boards bounced between a pair Panthers and started a 2-on-1 break for the Spartans. Reddy scored his second off an assist by Mike Desmond.

“One bad bounce and that’s it,” said Spillane. “We sort of hung our heads…We have capabilities, we have good hockey players, but we’re not consistent right now. Against a team like this, you can’t play inconsistent.”

The fourth goal seemed to open the floodgates for St. Mary’s with Bono scoring on a blast off a face-off win to make it 5-1. Assad struck the post before the end of the second, but just three minutes into the third period Loeser flicked a wrist shot from the high slot through traffic that snuck inside the post.

The Panthers showed some life in the final period helped out by several power play opportunities. Brendan O’Reilly set up Luke Downie (the hero from last March’s final at the TD Garden) but LoRusso again made the stop. T.J. Durkin had a goal disallowed a minute later when he knocked in Assad’s pass only for the officials to rule that the net was dislodged first.

With 8:34 left to play, Kilroe followed up a rebound from Jack McGrath’s shot from the point to cut the lead to four with a power play goal. Dan Sheehan stopped a breakaway to keep it 6-2 and Cam Trask had a chance saved before Franklin added a third. Tom Sicchio drove to the red line and cut a pass across the crease that was tipped on net by Matt Holmes and tapped in by Downie.

St. Mary’s sealed the win in the final minutes with a shot through traffic by Marc Zampanti. Despite the defeat, Spillane saw positives for his team from playing that level of competition.

He said, “At the end of the day, it’s good for our kids in the long run. They’re a good team and we’re going to see teams just like this down the road, so we’ve got to be ready.

Spillane added, “I think we have the players to compete, it’s just got to be 45 minutes night in, night out. Now we go into our league play and I’m going to demand we play 45 minutes every night or you’ll be on the bench. We’ve got a lot of kids that want to play.”

Franklin (6-3) will return to Hockomock play on Wednesday when the Panthers travel to Aleixo Arena to play Taunton.

Hockey: 2016-2017 Kelley-Rex Division Preview

2016-2017 Kelley-Rex Hockey Preview
King Philip and Oliver Ames will be divisional opponents when the two teams tack to the ice this winter after the Tigers were moved from the Davenport. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)

By HockomockSports.com Staff

2016-2017 Kelley-Rex Hockey Preview

ATTLEBORO

2015-16 Record: 7-11-2 (1-8-1)
2015-16 Finish: Missed playoffs
Head Coach: Mark Homer

Attleboro narrowly missed out on a playoff spot last season, losing in its final game against a Div. 3 opponent and this year’s team will be motivated to try and get back in the postseason under new head coach Mark Homer, who made the switch from Oliver Ames where he coached the past three years, and with a new home – moving from Aleixo Arena in Taunton to the new England Sports Village just a couple minutes from the school.

In what has become a common issue for the Bombardiers program, Attleboro will not have
a lot of depth to call on this winter with only 15 skaters and two goalies on the varsity roster, but there is some experience coming back. Senior P.J. Elliott is a talented skater and stick handler who will be counted on to provide the scoring punch along with Jake Parker and Dylan Weallac on the first line.

Sam McKenzie emerged last year as a physical presence and senior captain Eddie Noel will partner him on the top defensive pairing. Sophomore Evan Andrews and freshman Derek Rivet will battle it out for the starting goaltender position for the Bombardiers. There are several other underclassmen who could make immediate impacts, including sophomore forward Cam Littig.

“With the new facility in Attleboro the hopes are that in the coming years, the roster will grow to include increasing depth to the program,” said Homer. “The goal of this years team is to stay healthy, work together as one unit on and off the ice, and get better each day. It’s a new day for Attleboro High School Hockey with a promising future.”

FRANKLIN

2015-16 Record: 18-4-5 (8-0-2)
2015-16 Finish: Won the Div. 1 State Championship
Head Coach: Chris Spillane

After being the first Hockomock League team selected for the prestigious Super 8 tournament in 2014-15 and then graduating 21 players, Franklin was supposed to need a year to rebuild, but the Panthers showed just how strong their program is by bringing home the Div. 1 state championship in a dramatic double overtime thriller against St. Mary’s at the TD Garden. It was the program’s first state title at any level since 1983.

The Panthers graduated another large class of 13 seniors from last year’s champions and lost promising freshman defenseman Kevin Mackay who transferred to Dexter. Still, expectations remain as high as ever for the Panthers, who have won four straight league titles. Much of that excitement comes from the potential in the offensive zone with Franklin returning last year’s title game hero Luke Downie, leading goal scorer Jeremy Miller, and Brendan O’Reilly and the top line of seniors Joey Blasie, Adam Assad, and James Kilroe. Sophomores Matt Holmes and Zach Falvey will add depth to the offense.

Defense is where the Panthers will have some new faces, although seniors Tom Sicchio and Stan Carter will add some experience to the back line. Juniors Jack McGrath and Connor Norton will make the jump up from the JV team to add to the defensive lines and freshman Collin Opet will also see playing time on the defense as well. For the third season in a row, Franklin will have a new No. 1 goalie with senior Cam Benhamand junior Owen Ginley will battle it out for the starting spot.

“For the Panthers to be successful this year it will be a result of a team defense concept,” said Franklin coach Chris Spillane. “The offense will take care of itself, we will be focusing on strong play in our zone.”

KING PHILIP

2015-16 Record: 9-8-4 (5-2-3)
2015-16 Finish: Reached the Div. 1 South playoffs
Head Coach: Paul Carlow

The Warriors made strides last winter under first-year head coach Paul Carlow, including a regular season tie with Franklin and reaching the postseason for the first time since the program was moved back up to Div. 1. This season, Carlow is hopeful for a return to the postseason and to challenge for KP’s first league title since 2007, despite losing 10 seniors from last year’s roster.

The offensive zone should be strong for the Warriors this season with several key returning players that put up solid totals last winter. Junior forward Collin Cooke is the main weapon after putting up 11 goals and 15 assists for a team-high 26 points to be named a league all-star. He is joined up front by senior Ritchie Lucente, who scored 10 goals and had nine assists last year, and senior Jacob Kelly, who finished with 11 goals and nine assists.

KP will also return a few important pieces on the defensive side of the puck, including junior goalie Shane Frommer, who was 3-1-1 in his five starts last year. Frommer’s start to the hockey season will be slightly delayed after helping the football team win its first Super Bowl title. In front of the Frommer will be senior Jeremy Smith, who chipped in with three goals and four assists last season.

“We had some success last season qualifying for the D1 playoffs,” said Carlow. “We have our work cut out for us this season… We are a young team with only five seniors but I expect us to get back to the playoffs.”

MANSFIELD

2015-16 Record: 5-10-5 (4-4-2)
2015-16 Finish: Missed the playoffs
Head Coach: Mike Balzarini

Last winter was atypical for the Hornets, who missed out on the playoffs and finished fourth in the Kelley-Rex division, but Mansfield is hoping for a quick turnaround under new head coach Mike Balzarini, who makes the move from Milford. The Hornets have a number of returning players, including several from club or other school programs to bolster the depth.

One of the returning players is Joe Olsen, who spent last year with a juniors program but will be a significant addition to the Hornets top attacking line alongside fellow seniors Matt Farragher and Chad Piotti, who both had solid years in 2015-16. Junior Cullen Anastasia is another forward to come back to the program and could step right in to make an impact. Freshman Chris Jenkins is going to be the center on the third line and classmate James Bezeau will also see playing time this year.

On defense, the Hornets will be led by senior Cullen Murphy, a physical presence at the back and one of the leaders on the ice. Juniors Tim Arnold, Ryan O’Hara, and Tyler Oakley will also be important pieces on the top defensive pairings. Freshman Joseph Troiano will also be on the defense after he decided against attending Xaverian this year. The defense will be protecting senior goalies Brendan McKenna and Tony Rullo, who will each see time.

“We’re a lot deeper,” said Balzarini, who said that the Hornets would be carrying four lines and four sets of defensemen and is excited about the potential on the team. “It’s been good having two weeks to prepare. They have to get used to our new system and adhering to the structures that we’re putting in place.”

Oliver Ames

2015-16 Record: 10-10-1
2015-16 Finish: Reached D2 South First Round
Head Coach: Sean Bertoni

Oliver Ames will be looking to keep its postseason streak alive under new head coach Sean Bertoni – a former standout goalie for Franklin.

If the Tigers want to get back to the state tournament, they’ll need some help from their younger players; Oliver Ames has eight sophomores and four freshman on its roster this year. OA does have seven seniors and a group of experienced juniors that can help lead the way.

Owen Gallagher (26 points), who led the team in scoring a year ago, is back along with Eric LeBlanc (18 points), Cullen Gallagher (13 points) and Max Ward (12 points). Junior Rory Madden also returns this season after a year away; Madden registered 14 points his freshman year. Defensively, seniors Jack Maloney and Jared Costello bring a lot of experience to the blue line. Zach Walsh will be back between the pipes after a strong junior season.

“The goals of the team are to progress from Day one to the end of the year,” Bertoni said. “We have to use our team speed and forecheck extremely hard. We will be a disciplined, hard working aggressive team.”

TAUNTON

2015-16 Record: 13-10-0 (3-7-0)
2015-16 Finish: Reached the Div. 2 South playoffs
Head Coach: Kris Metea

The Tigers got to experience what the state tournament is like last season for the first time since 2006-07 and only the second time in the past two decades. Taunton had the fourth most wins in a season in the 44-year history of the program and scored a remarkable 106 goals last season, which was the best in the Hock.

This year, Taunton will try to build on its historic season and make a quick return to the postseason. Leading scorer Tyler Pietrzyk has graduated but there is plenty of firepower returning for the Tigers this season, including senior forward Zack Albert who is coming off a 30-point campaign. He will be joined up from by classmate Jordan Hoey, who had 17 points last season and senior Cam Carnes, who had 10 points. Sophomore Cam Sneyd could be poised for a breakout year for the Tigers.

Defensively, Taunton can lean on three-time league all-star Nick Terry, who will man the top defensive pairing. Mike Volkmann may be listed as a defenseman on the roster but he can get forward into the attack with 29 points a season ago. Junior Cam Welby will be a new addition to the defense after playing juniors all of last season. Senior Justin Chappell returns in net.

“This year’s group of seniors are first class kids,” said head coach Kris Metea. “They exemplify leadership across the board…They had a chance to taste the tournament last year, and are focused on acquiring more than just a taste this time around.”

Franklin Wins First D1 State Championship in 2OT

Franklin hockey
Franklin hockey celebrates its first ever D1 State Championship. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)

ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
BOSTON, Mass. – A Cinderella run from the Franklin Panthers ended with a true storybook ending.

Sophomore Luke Downie, who celebrated his 16th birthday on Sunday, scored on a wrist shot six minutes into the second overtime to give Franklin a 4-3 win over St. Mary’s Lynn and the program its first MIAA Division 1 State Championship.

Senior Tyler Oakes connected on a pass from his own zone to senior and Jake Downie (Luke’s cousin) along the boards in the neutral, who then dropped the puck back to Luke after crossing the blue line. Luke fired a wrist shot that deflected off the the leg of a St. Mary’s defenseman and found its way over the goalie’s pad short side for the game winner.

“This is awesome,” Luke Downie said postgame. “This is the best birthday present you could ask for.”

Franklin – who had been shutout three straight years in the D2 State Final from 2011-2013 —got off to an ideal start with a pair of first period goals and took that same lead into the final period. But two goals in the first five minutes of the final period from St. Mary’s knotted the game 3-3.

The final 10 minutes remained scoreless, sending the game into a sudden death overtime period. Neither team could find the back of the net in that period either, sending the teams to the locker room for the ice to be cleaned for a second overtime period.

With exactly nine minutes to go in the second overtime period, Downie scored the game winner.

“I think that the problem was we were playing in the wrong division the other times,” Franklin head coach Chris Spillane joked. Franklin moved up to Division 1 at the start of the 2013 season. “This has just been one of those Cinderella years. To follow up last year with a new crop of kids and have them commit to something from day one, and to see them enjoy this success, that’s what high school sports are all about.”

Senior captain and defenseman Joe Corsi scored just his third goal of the season to give Franklin the lead midway through the first period. Sophomore Brendan O’Rielly relayed a perfect outlet pass to senior Sean Hedvig in alone on goal but St. Mary’s goalie Andrew LoRusso got a pad to it.

The puck bounced around and as a St. Mary’s defenseman tried to chip it out, Corsi had pinched in and jumped off the ice to grab the puck, put it on the ice and fired it into the back of the net with 8:26 left in the first period.

“They tried to chip it out and I caught it and just put it down,” Corsi said. “Coach always tells me to roll my wrist and I had to roll it on that one. It was just surreal. I haven’t scored a goal like that before.

“This a dream come true. No one believed we could do this at the beginning of the year, except us, all the guys in the locker room. Each in every day we grinding it out, it’s just a dream.”

Just three minutes later, Franklin doubled its lead. Senior Matt Pleshaw fired a wrist shot from inside the blue line that was blocked down. Before LoRusso could smother the puck, junior Joey Blasie poked it in to make it 2-0 with 5:14 left in the period.


Video courtesy of Gavin Mealey

The Spartans cut the deficit in half just 11 seconds into the second period when Eric Pedro knocked in rebound of shot by Dante Maribito.

But Franklin had an answer just minutes later as Alec Gilliatt found sophomore Jeremy Miller behind the net. Miller skated around and found a perfect passing lane between the post and a defenseman to feed freshman Kevin Mackay. Mackay took a step in and sniped one top shelf to make it 3-1 with just over 12 minutes to play in the second period.

Franklin took a 3-1 lead into the final period but once again St. Mary’s found early period success. Less than a minute in, Conor Foley batted in rebound for powerplay goal to make it 3-2. Just three minutes later, Maribito found the back of the net for his third point of the net to tie the game 3-3.

“Huge momentum swings,” Spillane said. “They started to carry the play and their offensive kids started to open up the ice. Nick did a great job making the saves he needed to make. We talked about team defense, keeping them high on the forecheck and the defensive guys winning the battles and chipping the puck out.

“That was a great hockey team we played tonight, it was back and forth and both teams had chances to win. I’m proud of my kids, they responded.”

The Panthers nearly had the winner at the end of the third period but LoRusso went post to post to deny Jake Downie with 1:11 to go.

Neither side produced a clear scoring chance in the 12 minute overtime period but Franklin goalie Nick Jasinski came up with a huge kick save off a redirection in the opening minutes of the second overtime. Just two minutes later, the Panthers had the game winner.

Like it has been all season, the Panthers got contributions from all three lines — and four different goal scorers.

“Four different goal scorers and that’s kind of been the key to our success,” Spillane said. “You can’t really one focus on that one player. I said in the locker room after overtime, someone in this room is going to be a hero. Who wants to be that hero tonight? Luke’s been playing great hockey for us, midseason he just turned it on. As a sophomore it’s great to see him be that hero. Also, Kevin Mackay scored his first high school goal tonight. That’s quite a team to score your first goal of the year. That’s the type of team we are. There are no one or two superstars, it’s 22 kids out there having the same belief, working hard and just grinding it out.”

“To win championships, you have to have depth and that’s what we have,” Corsi added. “Everyone believed and look at where we are now.”
The Panthers were somewhat of an unknown coming into season after graduating 21 seniors from a squad that made a historic run to the Super 8 last season. Now this year’s team has created its own place in history.

“I think it gives us a little validity as a program that we can do that, anytime you graduate that many seniors it’s a challenge,” Spillane said. “It just tells us what our junior varsity and youth programs are like. We have a lot of kids that want to wear that jersey and they’re going to wait around until they get that opportunity. We have 13 seniors this year and very few of them skated last year, if any. They waited four years to put that jersey on and they made the most of it.

“It feels good but it’s not about the coaching staff. Yeah we’re excited but it’s about seeing the faces on these kids in that locker room, how excited they are and how committed they were to win the hockey game. I know a lot of people said it’s a rebuilding year but I guess they thought different.”

Franklin hockey finished the season with an 18-4-5 record.
Ryan Lanigan can be contacted at RyanLanigan@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @R_Lanigan.

Franklin Claims D1 South Title, Advances To State Final

Franklin hockey
Franklin junior Adam Assad scored a pair of goals against Marshfield in the D1 South Final. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)

ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
BOURNE, Mass. – A rebuilding year? Think again.
After graduating 21 seniors from a squad that made a historic run to the Super 8 tournament, there were plenty of questions surrounding this year’s Franklin hockey team.
But those questions have now been answered and this year’s group of Panthers made history themselves, beating Marshfield 3-1 in the D1 South Sectional Final. It marks the program’s first D1 sectional crown just in just its third season at that level.
“People were saying this was a rebuilding year but the guys in the locker room and me, we knew this wasn’t a rebuilding year,” junior forward Adam Assad said. “We were going to get out here and do our best and try to win it.”
Assad scored two goals in the game, including the game-winner late in the second period and an empty netter from his own blue line. Senior Sean Hedvig had the game-tying goal in the second period, just his second goal of the season.
“It’s all about playing hard and believing in themselves,” Franklin head coach Chris Spillane said. “We have a lot of character guys. We’re not going to beat teams by going 200 feet flash, but we’re going to work for every inch that they’re going to take from us. It was just a perfect game plan for us. We got up by a goal and we just played smart. We had two guys high, we didn’t want them to open the ice surface and go back and forth.
“We made them earn every inch of ice and it worked to our favor. It wasn’t pretty in the third period just dumping the puck in but the ultimate goal was to win the hockey game and I thought that was our best opportunity to get it done. Credit to the boys in the locker room, they did a fantastic job.”
Franklin faced a 1-0 deficit after the first period of play despite outshooting the Rams. Marshfield’s Aidan Connolly picked a pass out of the air in the Franklin defensive zone, passed it to Hunter McCauley, who walked in alone. He fanned on his first shot attempt which put Franklin goalie Nick Jasinkski out of position and McCauley slipped it in five hole.
“That was a tough turnover, the kid picked it out of the air. Then the other kid fans on the first shot and Nick’s going with it and it opened up five hole and he made a nice shot,” Spillane said. “You’re going to have those in games so credit to Marshfield. But we definitely we minimized their opportunities and we didn’t have many mistakes as probably they wanted. I thought we played great hockey, we definitely minimized our own mistakes.”
But from then on, Franklin seemed to be in control. It look the Panthers less than three minutes in the second period to tie the game, and they did it via their third line.
Sophomore Brendan O’Rielly dug a puck out of the corner and found junior James Kilroe. Kilroe immediately turned and dished a pass right in front and Hedvig hammered home the oner timer to tie the game.
“You need guys to step up,” Spillane said of the third line. “Sean Hedvig stepped up and a nice pass from James Kilroe. I think they might be Sean’s second or third goal all year. We couldn’t skate two lines from start to finish against a team like this, we would have been gassed. So we found the opportunity to match our line with their third line and we liked that. I thought they did a great job. They carried the play mostly in the offensive zone. If we can get a breather and get them out there and still be in the offensive zone, that’s good hockey for Franklin.”
“It’s freaking awesome,” Assad added of the third line contributions. “I just love when the coach calls third line because they get out there and they bust their (butts) and they got a goal. It was well deserved.”
Later in the second, a big hit from sophomore Jeremy Miller in the offensive zone forced a loose puck to squirt out to Alec Gilliatt. Gilliatt skated to the middle of the offensive zone, passed it back to Miller – who spun to collect it and dished a backhand pass almost all in one motion to find Assad. Assad’s backhander in the crease was initially stopped by Marshfield goalie Nick Young but the junior kept with it and put home the rebound chance.
“He stoned me on the first one and I just kept on fighting and just put it in,” Assad said, noting he wasn’t really expecting the pass from Miller. “I’m surprised I caught [the pass].”
The third period was scoreless for nearly the entire 15 minutes but there was plenty of drama.
Inside the first 30 seconds, Assad nearly had himself a second goal when he broke past a fall defender but his wrist shot sailed wide as he came across the goal.
Just over midway through the period, Marshfield’s Chris Sullivan’s bomb rang off the crossbar but Franklin was able to deal with the rebound.
With just over a minute to go, a slap shot from the Rams’ super sophomore Neil Shea was batted down by Jasinski but right into the middle to Andrew Fithian. The puck trickled to the goal line and Franklin senior Joe Corsi launched himself into the net as freshman Kevin MacKay took possession right on the red line and cleared it out.
Marshfield pulled its goalie and called a timeout but the Panthers were able to hold on for the final minute. After a shot went wide in the offensive zone, Assad picked off a pass, skated to his own blue line and fired it the length of the rink while falling down to ice the game.
“This is amazing, a dream come true,” Assad said. “No one thought we were gonna do this and it’s nice to prove people wrong.”
Franklin now improves to 17-4-5 overall and has scored nine goals in four playoff games with just two allowed. The Panthers return to the TD Garden for the fourth time in six years after having a three year run while in Division 2.
When asked if this was the most unexpected run he’s had to the Garden, Spillane said, “Yeah and no. I think when you look back at teams I’ve had, I’ve had some really outstanding hockey teams that should have been in the Garden but didn’t get there because they just didn’t have that intangible, that intestinal fortitude to go out and play. This team just has that. To win with the schedule we had, to end up with only four losses is such a credit to them.
“Initially I’d say this has been surprising but at the end of the day it really isn’t because you have to take into account the character of those 22 kids in that locker room. It’s a credit to our program. We were in the Super 8 last year and everyone else said this was a rebuilding year. But our kids were like ‘No, this is our year.’ And they’ve made it one hell of a year for us.”
The Panthers will look to turn their fortune around when they play the North champion at the TD Garden on Sunday, March 20th. The time is still to be determined. St. Mary’s (20-5) and Arlington Catholic (11-7-4) square off in the North title came on Monday night.
Ryan Lanigan can be contacted at RyanLanigan@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @R_Lanigan.

Franklin Edges Walpole To Advance To D1 South Semis

Franklin hockey
(Ryan Lanigan/Photo)

ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
 
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.

After Strong Start, Panthers Hang On For Win

Franklin hockey
Franklin held on for a 2-1 victory over Wellesley in the Div. 1 South first round at Loring Arena. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

Josh PerryFollowJoshPerry

FRAMINGHAM, Mass. – With Franklin leading 2-0 in the second period, sophomore Jeremy Miller skated past three Wellesley defensemen in the zone and unleashed a rocket that appeared to hit the bar in the back of the net and ricocheted out.

Wellesley fans at that end of the ice were waiting for the officials to stop play for the goal, but instead it was ruled that the shot hit the crossbar and the Panthers’ lead stayed at two goals.

Just seconds later that lead was cut in half and for the final 23 minutes of the game Wellesley became the aggressor and put Franklin back on its heels. Despite the Raiders’ pressure, Franklin held on, thanks in part to 20 saves from senior goalie Nick Jasinski, for a 2-1 victory in the Div. 1 South opener at Loring Ice Arena in Framingham.

“We’ve just got to learn how to put teams away,” said a relieved Franklin coach Chris Spillane after the game. “We seem to have a problem; we keep teams around all the time and I can’t take many more of these games.”

In the first period, it seemed as though Franklin could run away with a comfortable win. The Panthers carried play for the majority of the first, outshooting Wellesley 14-4, and with 3:20 left in the period Adam Assad took an outlet pass from Joe Corsi and beat goalie Andrew Johnston five-hole to make it 1-0.

The lead was doubled just 1:42 into the second period and on Franklin’s first shot after intermission. Sophomore Luke Downie made a move past his man to the right circle and snuck his shot past Johnston into the far corner.

“It was a big goal,” said Downie. “I got a pass in the middle from Jake Downie (Luke’s cousin) and I made a move to beat the kid wide and shot it falling down and it went in.”

Spillane added, “Luke’s been a great player for us…as the year has progressed, he’s simplified his game a little bit, and become a north-south player. It’s good to see him play like that tonight.”

Miller thought that he had given the Panthers a three-goal cushion five minutes later, but with 7:52 left in the second Wellesley got on the board on Zach Doughty’s shot through a screen. 

The goal turned the momentum of the game and for the final eight minutes of the second it was one-way traffic towards the Franklin goal. While Wellesley was not racking up a ton of shots (just seven total in the second period), the pressure was mounting and the buzzer sounded during a flurry in front of Jasinski.

The buzzer felt like a reprieve for Franklin, as it seemed only a matter of time before Wellesley scored.

“It was coming,” said Spillane, “and maybe our guys were a little gassed, but it was wasted energy. I thought we were chasing the puck around too much instead of playing good, sound positional hockey.”

“They took it to us for two periods. I thought we had a good first period but after that they dictated the pace of the game.”

Early in the third, there was another scramble in front of Jasinski after he knocked down a shot from the outside but was unable to cover the rebound. Asad nearly wrapped up the win with a chance with 2:45 left but Johnston made a big save while on his back.

As the clock was winding down to the final minute, Jasinski had to come through several times to preserve the lead. He made a solid kick save and managed to get his stick on a shot when he seemed to be out of position. It was a scramble at times, but he managed to hold the lead.

“They were getting a lot of shots on me, but we just kept fighting them off getting it out of the zone as best we could,” Jasinski said. “I just focus on keeping my head and not thinking about giving up a goal but just stopping the next shot. It helps me out and makes me less nervous.”

Spillane said, “In tournament you need your best player to be your goaltender…I can’t knock Nick at all. He’s been there for us all season and we need him to step up next round.”

Finally the buzzer sounded and the Panthers could celebrate a victory and a chance to play in the quarterfinal against the winner of Archbishop Williams and Walpole.

Downie admitted, “When I looked at the clock, I didn’t realize there were zero seconds left. I thought there was a lot of time left so I was excited about that.”

“It was a grind,” he added. “We had to work really hard to keep the one-goal lead. They were coming strong and we had to keep fighting, but we pulled off the win.”

Josh Perry can be contacted at JoshPerry@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @Josh_Perry10.

Wednesday’s Schedule & Scoreboard – 02/03/16

Today’s games are listed below.
Girls Basketball
Franklin, 51 @ Holy Name, 48 – Final – Franklin battled back and took its first lead inside the final three minutes. Kristen Donaghy had 11 points to lead the Panthers and also had three steals in the final 90 seconds of play. Carli Koffinke scored nine points and both Olivia Adiletto and Aubrie Kutil scored eight points. Kutil scored the final four points for Franklin, which swept the season series with Holy Name.
Hockey
North Attleboro, 7 @ Foxboro, 0 – Final
Franklin, 6 @ Stoughton, 2 – Final – James Aldred, Jake Downie, Joe Corsi, Jack Cameron, Adam Assad and Jeremy Miller each scored for the Panthers. Mark Sheehan and Nick Hardy each had a goal for the Black Knights.
King Philip, 7 @ Milford, 0 – Final
Taunton, 7 @ Durfee, 1 – FinalTaunton qualified for the postseason for the first time since 2007. 
Wrestling
Taunton, 0 @ North Attleboro, 62 – Final – North Attleboro clinched the Kelley-Rex title outright with the win. Mike Burns (106), Jake Direnzo (113) Joe Alexander (120), Steven Abusherry (145) Adam Eberle (160), Jack Donahue (170), Abhishek Ram (195) and Yaseen Abdalla (220) all had pins for the Rocketeers.
Taunton @ Mansfield, 6:00
Girls Swimming
Stoughton, 65 @ Canton, 87 – Final – With the win, Canton clinched a share of the Davenport division for the second straight season. 
Girls Hockey
Franklin, 0 vs. Medfield, 6 – Final
King Philip, 5 vs. Dover-Sherborn/Hopkinton, 0 – Final
Mansfield/Oliver Ames, 6 @ Medway/Ashland, 6 – Final