CANTON, Mass. – One team looked like it was hitting its stride at the right time of the year and looked like it was as comfortable playing on the playoff stage as it was at any point during the regular season. The other team looked like it was making its first playoff appearance in five seasons.
Franklin scored twice in the opening four minutes of Thursday night’s Div. 1 South first round contest at the Canton Ice House, including one just 36 seconds in, and never looked back, rolling to a 7-1 victory over King Philip in a battle of the top two finishers in the Kelley-Rex division.
“I thought we would’ve had more,” said KP coach Paul Carlow, admitting that Franklin played like a playoff-tested team on Thursday. “We were on our heels from the get-go and we never got out of the starting blocks really. I was worried all week about the game being too big for them and it was.”
Three minutes later, Franklin doubled its advantage on the power play. Kyle Hedvig sent a pass across the zone to Tasker at the point and the big defenseman blasted a shot that Makudera did well to get a pad to, but the rebound fell right to Colin Hedvig and he lifted a backhand past the sprawling goalie.
“He could stop a freight train with that shot,” Franklin coach Anthony Sarno said. “We showed up to play. The forecheck 5-on-5, we just took it to them. We started to create some space for ourselves cycling it down low.”
He added, “That team is a good team and the hardest thing to do is beat the same team twice. Paul is a great coach and they’ve got some really great players and we didn’t take them for granted. We knew they would come in with all the fight they had. We had to do all the little things, the intangibles you need to win.”
It took a while for the Warriors to get their legs under them. Nolan Feyler set up Rocco Bianculli for a shot from the left circle that Ray Ivers saved and Conor Cooke had a tip from in front knocked aside by the goalie as well. Ivers was forced to made a smart pad save on Chris Daniels from close range.
Despite those chances, KP was struggling to get anything consistent in the offensive zone. Franklin held a 13-9 edge in shots after one.
The Warriors did have a golden opportunity to try and get back into the game in the second period when they started with 1:28 of two-man advantage. KP didn’t manage a shot on goal during the power play.
“We came out in the second with the 5-on-3 and we still didn’t settle down,” said Carlow. “Our power play has been really good all year and it just looked like we were nervous. We had trouble controlling the puck and getting set up in the zone and as soon as they killed that off I felt like momentum swung back.”
Franklin continued to have good luck getting offense from its blue line corps. Tasker blocked a clearance against the far boards and then skated towards goal only for Makudera to stay square and make the stop. Justin Abely caused havoc with a shot from the point that was saved but that produced a rebound that sat untouched on the post with the goal gaping.
A third goal came with 5:20 left in the second. JT Dwyer sent a puck out in front that deflected off a KP skate and right to the stick of Sean Connelly in the slot. He took a touch to control and then ripped a shot over the goalie’s shoulder.
Declan Lovett came close to making it four with a steal in the offensive zone, but it was Colin Hedvig that would extend the lead. He was set up by Kevin O’Rielly and Kyle Hedvig, knocking in a pass through the crease at the back post.
The four-goal lead only lasted 30 seconds. Aidan Boulger finally was able to get behind the Franklin defense and he managed to squeeze his breakaway underneath Ivers to make it 4-1.
Joe LeBlanc nearly restored the lead near the end of the second but his shot from the point struck the post and stayed out. Dylan Marchand nearly got it back just 13 seconds into the third when Kyle Hedvig hit him with a perfect pass from the left to right circle but Makudera made the glove save.
“We told them to keep forcing the forecheck down their throat and keep playing the right way, sticks in the passing lane, bodies in the shooting lane, and make sure it stops,” Sarno said of the message before the third period.
Three minutes into the third, Franklin got the crucial fifth goal and in back-breaking fashion. Tasker hit Dwyer with a perfect tape-to-tape diagonal outlet pass from his own zone. Dwyer teed up a slap shot that went off the goalie’s blocker, straight up into the air, and then landed behind the goalie in the net.
Carlow said, “I thought the next goal was big. I thought if we could cut it to 4-2 then we could make a run at them there but that goal was obviously a big goal at that point.”
Marchand added a sixth a little more than a minute later. Going from left to right across the zone, Marchand roofed it over backup goalie Nate Ihley. Andrew Demerchant added a seventh in the final three minutes.
Sarno said, “It’s one win, four more to go, but we’ve just got to keep out composure and keep bringing it every night. We can’t take shifts off.”