Canton Beats Franklin In Clash Of Division Champs

Canton boys hockey
Canton sophomore Declan Pfeffer looks to play the puck while being pursued by Franklin’s Kenny Demerchant. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
 
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CANTON, Mass. – Holding a 2-1 lead with under five minutes to go, the Canton boys hockey team was whistled for too many men on the ice.

It was just the second penalty of the game for the Dogs, but the visiting Panthers of Franklin High needed just 20 seconds in the second period on their first chance of the man advantage to cash in.

With the game on the line, Canton’s penalty showed it had learned its lesson from earlier on, coming up with a near perfect kill. The Bulldogs went on to score just over a minute after killing the penalty, and again with the net empty, to earn a 4-1 win in a clash of Davenport and Kelley-Rex division champions.

“That was a great kill,” said Canton head coach Brian Shuman. “Bubba [McNeice] had a great game with the two goals but he was great on the kill. Jack Goyetch, Johnny [Hagan], Ryan [Nolte]…they all had a big kill. They learned their lesson from the first one around. They played very smart on that second kill, that was a huge part of the game.”

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Franklin needed just seconds on its first power play of the game with senior Brendan O’Rielly finding classmate Luke Downie at the back door for a simple one-timer. The goal had tied the game at 1-1 early in the second period.

“I was happy with our effort in the first period and a half,” said Franklin head coach Chris Spillane. “I thought we competed with them, skated with them, and even had some stretches where we controlled the play. But the second half of the game, they just outplayed us. All three zones, they wanted it much more than us and it showed.”

This time around, Canton didn’t even let the Panthers have a sniff at a scoring chance. Matt Casamento blocked an early chance, leading to a clear from Hagan. When Franklin attempted to bring it back in, Casamento forced the puck loose with a hit and Charlie Malloy came in and made the clear.

“I thought the defense was ready,” Shuman said. “I thought Matt Casamento played the best game I’ve ever seen him play, he was exceptional. Talk about a guy that played every other shift for us. Losing Brad Murphy put a little strain on the defense but Matt has stepped up like I’ve not seen a defenseman step up before. He played at a whole new level tonight, big hits, big plays. Charlie Malloy played well as well too. The defense stepped up and played well.”

Franklin had its lone shot of the power play up next but Quinn Gibbs (20 saves) made the save right into his chest. From there, McNeice had a pair of clearance, the latter helped along by a nice stick lift from Nick Allen.

Shortly after the penalty was killed, Canton’s Timmy Kelleher linked up with Nolte, but his backhand attempt was just wide. Nolte then returned the favor, finding the sophomore in front for a one-timer but Franklin goalie Owen Ginley (31 saves) made a point-blank save.

With Franklin pushing numbers trying to find an equalizer, Canton was able to take advantage of a mistake in the neutral zone. McNeice jumped on a loose puck a Franklin defenseman couldn’t handle, skated in on a breakaway and roofed his shot to make it 3-1 with 1:19 to play.

McNeice added an empty-net goal in the final seconds to put an exclamation point on the win.

“The line of Bubba, Mike Dadasis and Jack Goyetch…they thrive in that type of game,” Shuman said. “They’re all about getting pucks to the net, playing hard, playing in tight spaces…they love a game like that. They aren’t flashy, they might not have the flashiness of some of the other guys but they get their nose dirty, they play hard. I thought they were probably our one consistent line and we built on that going forward.”

While Canton had the strong finish to the game, Franklin was the team that came out on the front foot. The Panthers’ speed caused problems for the Bulldogs and the visitors had a lead in shots until the final few minutes.

Franklin’s best chance of the opening period came when senior Kenny Demerchant took a pass against the grain, catching the defense going the opposite way. That allowed him to skate in alone but Gibbs came up with the pad save on Demerchant’s tough angle bid.

Canton picked up some momentum at the end of the period when Franklin was called for tripping with 1:09 left. Ginley stopped a shot from Allen, and then a follow-up chance from McNeice. And then Owen Lehane had his shot stopped and Dadasis saw his rebound chance blocked.

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The power play carried over into the second period, and the Bulldogs needed just 13 seconds to convert. After winning the opening faceoff, Kelleher linked up with Hagan in front of goal, and the sophomore used his backhand to go upstairs to beat Ginley for a 1-0 lead.

Franklin tied the game exactly four minutes later, just 20 seconds into their first power play chance.

With the rest of the period playing out equally, Canton grabbed the momentum back with four minutes to go. Nolte had a chance at the right post but went just wide. On the ensuing scrum in front, Kelleher was able to get his stick onto the puck and into the back of the net to make it 2-1.

“That was a great goal, [Franklin] has a great power play,” Shuman said. “It was well drawn up by the coaches…nice shot, nice goal. Couldn’t do much about it. But getting one back was big, we had to respond. In the past, they’ve gone up or they’ve scored and we haven’t responded, and that was a time we had a good response.”

“It took a little wind out of our sails but we still had a whole 15 more minutes to come out and play hockey,” Spillane said of Canton’s late second-period tally. “We had a power play late in the third and had nothing to show for it. We looked like a tired team out there, they looked fresh. They are a great hockey team and they just wanted it more than us. I don’t think the players that we lean on played to their capabilities.”

A win for Canton boys hockey (8-0-0 Hockomock, 11-1-4 overall) meant avenging its lone loss in regulation this season. The Bulldogs fell to Franklin earlier this season in the second game of the season in a non-league clash. Not only was it their lone loss in regulation, it was just one of three games they had allowed two or more goals in three periods of play.

That, on top of senior, with bragging rights between division champs on the line, resulted in a spirited effort from the home side.

“We sometimes talk about having the best record in the Hockomock,” admitted Shuman, but added that there wasn’t much talk about the first meeting. “These guys have done a pretty good job of looking forward. There’s so much of a difference between the first week of December and February. We don’t really look back, we didn’t even watch that film to get ready for it. We watched some more recent film because its two different teams from then and now. It was a good hockey game, Quinn made some save, their guy made some saves. It could have gone either way, but just a good hockey team between two good teams.”

Franklin (12-3-3) dropped its second straight game after falling to Hingham 6-2 earlier this week.

“We’re in a good position but you want to be playing your best hockey in the last week or two of the season, and we’re having a hard time finding that again,” Spillane said. “I think our locker room has to do some soul-searching. The 22 guys that suit up and ultimately have a say in the game, they just aren’t performing the way they should.”

Canton is back in action on Saturday when it takes on Oliver Ames at Warrior Ice Arena at 8:00 while Franklin returns to action on Valentine’s Day for a date with St. John’s Shrewsbury at 6:00.

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Mansfield, Franklin Trade Third Period Goals In Tie

Mansfield boys hockey
Mansfield’s Sean McCafferty made 24 saves to help the Hornets earn a point against Franklin. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
 
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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.

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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.

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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.

Franklin had one final chance in the period when Matt Holmes made a nifty pass with his skate to set up CJ Spillane but his shot from in close was smothered by McCafferty.

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.

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Franklin Falls to Fairfield Prep in Double OT Thriller

Franklin hockey
Franklin senior forward Brendan O’Rielly scored a pair of goals in regulation, but Fairfield Prep (Conn.) scored with three minutes left in the second overtime to win the championship at the MSC Holiday Face-Off. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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WOONSOCKET, R.I. – For the second time in three seasons, Franklin reached the championship game of the Mount St. Charles Holiday Face-Off at the venerable Adelard Arena and for the second time the Panthers were unable to come up with a third win in three days to claim the first place trophy.

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Joe Mancini of Fairfield Prep (Conn.) scored his second goal of the game with 3:37 remaining in the second overtime to give the Jesuits the 3-2 victory in a game that featured non-stop, end-to-end action right from the opening face-off.

“I’m happy with the effort for sure,” said Franklin coach Chris Spillane, whose team does take home a point, as the game will be officially recorded as a 2-2 tie for MIAA purposes. “Three games in three days and all three were sort of like this; nothing was easy here.

“So, at the end of the day we were happy with what we got. Sure, it’s a nice moral boost to get the victory, but we sort of ran out of gas. You could see that three days of hockey took its toll.”

The Panthers came out flying in the first period, dictating play, winning battles in the corners on both ends of the ice, out-skating Prep, and creating a host of scoring opportunities. Franklin held a 13-7 edge in shots after the first and had each of its first three lines contribute.

Junior Matt Holmes had Franklin’s first chance just two minutes into the game with a shot from the slot off a pass by T.J. Durkin that was saved by Prep goalie Jack McGee. Dan Magazu had a chance just seconds later off a Luke Downie feed but McGee gloved the shot to keep it scoreless.

The Panthers broke the deadlock with 5:08 left in the first. Durkin dug out the puck from the corner and slipped it from behind the net out in front to senior Brendan O’Rielly, who pulled it across the crease to his backhand and buried the shot high to the glove side.

Despite Franklin’s dominance, the Jesuits managed to create one great scoring chance with a minute to go in the period and pounced. A turnover in the attacking zone turned into a quick break and an odd-man rush for Prep, which Mancini finished off to tie the game at 1-1.

“We had one breakdown and they capitalized on it,” said Spillane. “We left a few goals on the table and that would’ve been a huge boost for us to score a couple of goals, but that’s the way the puck bounces.”

There is no break in between periods, as Adelard Arena only cleans the ice in the second intermission. The teams barely had a chance to get water let alone talk things over and the new period started. Spillane admitted that it was something the Panthers had to be concerned with.

He said, “It’s hard. We’re used to getting on a fresh sheet of ice and, if speed is our game, then we want a fresh sheet of ice. We’ve been down here long enough that we adapted, we expect it.”

The old ice worked just fine for the Jesuits. Having scored with a minute left in the first period, Prep took its first lead just a minute into the second. Franklin’s defense was caught pinching in at the blue line and Fairfield got another two-on-one break that Kevin Oricoli took advantage of with a snipe under the bar.

The Panthers nearly tied the game three minutes later when junior Joe Lizzotte stole the puck in the neutral zone on the penalty kill and skated in for a shorthanded breakaway, but McGee was able to deny the forward at full stretch.

At nearly the same time as the goal he scored in the first period, O’Rielly popped up with his second of the night to level things up. Downie was credited with the assist, although it appeared to be Magazu that was crashing the goal, when his shot was parried by McGee right to O’Rielly, who did not miss the chance.

“They were solid,” Spillane remarked about the Panthers top scoring line. “Bubba (O’Rielly) had two goals and I think Luke had two goals the night before that. It’s a nice balance and the third and fourth line is starting to feel its confidence growing.”

Franklin nearly grabbed the lead back early in the third period. Junior Zac Falvey skated into the high slot, nearly uncovered, and uncorked a wicked slap shot that hit the inside of the junction between post and crossbar, fell to the ice, and skidded straight across the mouth of the goal with McGee stranded.

Connor Norton had a shot from the point saved just a few minutes later and the rebound fell to Falvey, but this time the junior’s flicked backhand somehow looped narrowly above the bar.

After being just an inch away from the lead, the Panthers started to fade and Prep started to take control of play. The Jesuits held a 10-5 edge in shots in the third and put increasing pressure on Franklin goalie Owen Ginley (36 saves). The senior netminder came through with a series of solid stops including a glove save to rob Mancini with a few minutes left.

Prep continued the momentum into overtime and Ginley was called on for another spectacular stop with just three seconds left, going post-to-post to get a pad on a Ryan Eckert shot after a saucer pass across the crease by Mancini.

It was Mancini that knocked in the winner during the 4-on-4 second overtime. The Panthers lost the puck in the defensive zone and the puck was played across the goal to Mancini and he scored with a one-time to win the title.

“That last goal, it was a nice smart play by their forward to give it to the open guy, they caught us in a change, and we were gassed,” Spillane explained.

Franklin beat LaSalle College (Pa.) and Bishop Guertin (R.I.) to reach the final game. A lot has been made of the Panthers being the lone public school program in the eight-team field, but Spillane played down the importance of representing public school hockey.

He said, “You could say it’s a feather in our cap but at the end of the day they’re all 16-, 17-, 18-year-old kids playing a sport they love. It was great competition and we fit right in. That tells me that we’re a pretty good program consistently and we’ve been doing it year-in, year-out.”

Spillane added, “We’ve been here long enough, now we’ve just got to get that third win.”

Franklin (5-1-1) will get a week break before getting back on the ice to open Hockomock League play against Stoughton on Jan. 6.

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Franklin Shuts Out Canton in Non-League Matchup

Franklin hockey
Franklin senior forward Brendan O’Rielly celebrates the second goal of the game in the Panthers 2-0 victory over Canton. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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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.

2017-2018 Hockomock Boys and Girls Hockey Preview

2017-2018 Hockomock Boys and Girls Hockey Preview
Canton and North Attleboro will once again battle for the Davenport division crown this winter, as Hockomock League hockey kicks off a new season. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)

By HockomockSports.com Staff

2017-2018 Hockomock Boys Hockey Preview

Attleboro

2016-2017 Record: 6-12-2
2016-2017 Finish: Missed Postseason.
Coach: Mark Homer

Attleboro struggled in its closing games of 2016-17 and narrowly missed out on a place in the state tournament via the Sullivan rule. This year’s Bombardiers are hoping that a mix of youth and experience will be enough to get the team over the hump and back in the playoff mix.

The main scoring threat for Attleboro this season is senior forward Jake Parker, a HockomockSports.com Second Team selection last winter who led the team with 20 goals despite facing regular double teams and playing loads of minutes. Parker will be joined up front by sophomore Ryan Morry, who is coming off a solid rookie campaign and will try to take advantage of the opportunities Parker creates near the net.

Attleboro’s experience is on the defensive side of the ice. Seniors Eddie Noel and Sam MacKenzie and junior Kyle McCabe provide size, physicality, and reading of the game to protect the Bombardiers goal. Attleboro coach Mark Homer, in his second season with the team, is expecting the defensemen to be aggressive in the zone and be more prepared to clear the puck. The Bombardiers are also experienced in goal with junior Evan Andrews and sophomore Derrik Rivet offering a solid one-two between the pipes.

“As a team, we are working on becoming more competitive in our games at all phases of the game, said Homer. “We will strive to be better today than we were yesterday but not as good as we will be tomorrow. Our success will be measured by how hard we work and not by our wins and losses.”

Canton

2016-2017 Record: 16-5-3
2016-2017 Finish: Reached Div. 2 South Semifinal.
Coach: Brian Shuman

After another league title in 2016-17 and a run to the Div. 2 South semifinal, Canton has started this season with a win and a draw (that turned into an overtime win in the final of the Gormley Cup) and the expectations remain as high as ever for one of the teams to beat in D2.

Last season, Canton was by far the league’s best defensive team, allowing only 32 goals in 24 games. The next best defense allowed 48 goals. But, the Bulldogs will need to rebuild the blue line this season after the graduation of HockomockSports.com Player of the Year Jackson Maffeo and Third Team selection C.J. Martin. Defensemen Brad Murphy and Nick Allen have experience and will be counted on to step up to bigger roles this year.

The key for the Canton defense, which has allowed only one goal in two games so far this season, will be junior goalie Quinn Gibbs. He was a HockomockSports.com First Team choice last year with a league-best 0.924 save percentage and there is hope he can get even better with a year of experience. Offensively, the Bulldogs bring back most of the goals from last year with Ryan Nolte, Johnny Hagan, Bubba McNeice, and Jack Goyetch all returning this season and all having scored big goals in big moments for Canton during last season’s tournament run.

“I think the most important determinant of our success will be whether we can find some depth at forward and defense,” said Canton coach Brian Shuman. “Teams need more than two lines and four ‘D’ to make a deep run, so we need some guys to compete for those remaining spots.”

Foxboro

2016-2017 Record: 6-12-2
2016-2017 Finish: Reached Div. 3 First Round.
Coach: Mark Cedorchuk

Foxboro saw improvement last year, increasing its win total, goals for, and allowed fewer goals than the season before. Head coach Mark Cedarchuk is hoping that trend continues this season as the Warriors look to try and compete for the spot in the postseason.

The Warriors will be relying on a mix of experience as well as youth to try and compete in the Hockomock League this year. Senior captain Aidan Sullivan (two goals, six assists) has been an anchor of the team’s blue line unit over the past couple of seasons and will be relied upon to lead the way again this year. Senior captain Taylor Sharfman is another defenseman that gives the Warriors two capable and reliable options in the back. Junior Tanner Kennedy is also back after a solid sophomore year and Warriors added junior Brendan Tully to the defensive unit.

On offense, Foxboro graduated its top three goal scorers but sophomore Ronnie MacLellan (four goals, seven assists) is back after a strong sophomore year. He will be joined up front by senior Sam Garrabrant and sophomore Sebastian Ricketts, who had four goals and two assists last year.

Foxboro will have to find a replacement for goalie John Cronin, a multi-year starter in between the pipes for the Warriors. Foxboro has three goalies – freshman Jack Spinney, sophomore Espen Reager, and freshman Connor Callahan – listed on the roster.

“With a combination of experienced upperclassman and talented underclassman, we’re looking forward to an exciting and competitive season,” Cedarchuk said.

Franklin

2016-2017 Record: 14-9-1
2016-2017 Finish: Reached Div. 1 South Quarterfinal.
Coach: Chris Spillane

Although last winter was atypical for the Panthers, losing two games in the league for the first time in several years, Franklin won another league title and with 20 players back for this season the expectation is that a seventh straight league crown is a distinct possibility – not to mention making a run in the state tournament.

Experience will be the key for the Panthers. Most of the forwards were members of the team that won the state championship two years ago and know what it takes to get goals against top competition. Leading scorer Brendan O’Rielly is back after scoring 20 goals and recording 11 assists last season. He should have plenty of help up front with classmates Luke Downie, Jeremy Miller, T.J. Durkin, and Ken Demerchant, who are all three-year varsity players for the Panthers.

Defensively, Franklin has lost several talented young defensemen to other programs in recent seasons, but still boasts a strong defensive corps heading into this winter. Jack McGrath, Matt Crane, Connor Norton, Cam Cassella, and sophomore Tom Tasker will all contribute to the defensive pairings this season and that depth will be important over a long season. The goalie position is a battle between three seniors, including returning netminders Owen Ginley and Dan Sheehan, who both saw time last year.

“I will be looking to our leading goal scorer from last year Brendan O’Rielly to once again lead the offensive charge,” said Franklin coach Chris Spillane. “From a small practice sample (one skate) I was impressed with our team speed.”

King Philip

2016-2017 Record: 4-16-0
2016-2017 Finish: Missed Postseason.
Coach: Paul Carlow

King Philip finished just below .500 in the league last season, and just five points out of second place in the Kelley-Rex division, but struggled in the non-league schedule, losing all 11 games outside of the Hock. The Warriors will look to improve that considerably this year with an experienced roster that wants to challenge for a league title.

KP returns 13 players from last year’s squad and that experience will be vital to allow the Warriors to compete not only in the league but against a schedule that has been bolstered because of the program’s move up to Div. 1 several seasons ago. Offensively, the attention will be on senior forward Collin Cooke, who chipped in with 10 goals and seven assists and has been drawing the focus of opposing defenses for several years. Senior Gavin Maxwell had nine goals and eight assists last season and will again be a solid counterpoint to take some of the pressure off Cooke in the attacking zone.

On the defensive side of the ice, KP continues to be a physical team that likes to be aggressive attacking the puck. Senior defensemen Will Connor will get some help at the back with the return of senior Mike Curtin from juniors, who head coach Paul Carlow said could be an “anchor” on defense. Senior Shane Frommer, fresh off a stellar football season and another Super Bowl title, will quickly transition from the gridiron to be the team’s starting goalie, after posting a 2.66 goals against average in 2016-17.

“Our strength is that we have a total of 13 returning players from last years team,” said Carlow. “We have experience up front and on the back end. We should see some team chemistry with this many returning players.”

Mansfield

2016-2017 Record: 12-8-2
2016-2017 Finish: Reached Div. 1 South First Round.
Coach: Mike Balazarini

In last year’s state tournament, Mansfield held its own against perennial power Xaverian before losing 2-1 in the opening round and that defeat is spurring the Hornets on this season, as the team has built a deep roster that believes it can challenge for the Kelley-Rex crown.

Team speed is going to be a strength for the Hornets this season, even without several key pieces from last winter, including breakout freshman Chris Jenkins, lost to graduation or to juniors. Senior forward Dylan Tivnan and Cullin Anastasia will be back to man the top scoring line along with freshman Coleman Jenkins. The second line will feature a lot of youth with sophomore Jake Lund and freshman Matt Copponi alongside junior Chris Copponi.

Seniors Tyler Oakley and Tim Arnold will be the leaders on the defensive side this year, while senior Ryan O’Hara and juniors Nick Levine and Austin Ricker will give the Hornets depth in the defensive unit. That depth should make things easier for sophomore Sean McCafferty, who will be stepping between the pipes for Mansfield this season.

“I think everyone wants to pick up where he left off last year,” said Mansfield coach Mike Balzarini. “We’ve had a good mindset early on this season. We have some new faces and everyone has gelled so far. We can’t take everyone lightly, we have to play every shift as its out last.”

North Attleboro

2016-2017 Record: 14-4-4
2016-2017 Finish: Reached Div. 2 South Quarterfinal.
Coach: Ben McManama

North Attleboro is coming off its most successful season in program history, and will be starting a new chapter with new head coach Ben McManama.

The Rocketeers will be tasked with finding replacements for some of the top players in the league from a season ago. Someone will need to step up in order to fill the void left by Zach McGowan (19 goals, 13 assists for 32 points – third most in the Hockomock) as well as Hunter Sarro’s 22 points and Erik Clements’ 20 points.

Senior Jason McNeany is a key piece back for the Rocketeers, fresh off a terrific football season. He scored 13 goals last season and added 13 assists, and has been a big piece of the offense for many years now. He will be counted on to be a leader this season, both in the locker room and on the ice.

Oliver Ames

2016-2017 Record: 14-7-1
2016-2017 Finish: Reached Div. 2 South Quarterfinal.
Coach: Sean Bertoni

Under first-year head coach Sean Bertoni, Oliver Ames proved to be a strong skating team that could cause a number of problems with its dangerous attack. That speed up front will be put to the test again this year, as the Tigers look to jump from second in the Kelley-Rex division to the top of the standings.

The Tigers have a number of talented forwards returning from last season’s team, which reached the Div. 2 South tournament and beat Nauset only to run into state finalist Scituate in the second round. That loss will provide motivation for junior forward Brett Williams, who was on the HockomockSports.com Second Team with 12 goals and eight assists last year, and the rest of the OA forwards. Williams will be joined up front by seniors Eric LeBlanc and Rory Madden and junior Max Ward.

On defense, junior Matt McCormick returns to be one of the top four along with senior Mike Nikiciuk. Both players will provide leadership for a defensive unit that promises to be aggressive in both zones, as Bertoni continues to implement his system at OA. Sophomore goalie Owen Connor will be the new goalie for the Tigers.

“We will continue to use our team speed and play an aggressive style offensively and defensively,” said Bertoni. “We hope to compete at a high level in all three zones. If we bring an aggressive forecheck we can create turnovers which should result in production.”

Stoughton

2016-2017 Record: 7-12-2
2016-2017 Finish: Missed Postseason.
Coach: Dan Mark

Numbers are a bit down for the Stoughton High hockey team this season, so the Knights will be relying on their most experienced players to lead the way, especially early on.

On offense, the Knights boast senior Brendan Campbell at center and junior Sean Doherty at wing. Campbell had a team-high in points last season, finishing second with 11 goals while recording a team-best 15 assists for 26 points. Doherty was third on the team, tying for the team lead with 12 goals and finishing with 25 points.

Senior Cam Nelson and junior Josh Hough will be the leaders of the Knights’ defensive unit. Hough is a captain along with Campbell and Doherty and has the most experience on the blue line. Nelson also saw plenty of time last season, recording an assist.

“We are an inexperienced team that will improve as the season goes on,” said Stoughton head coach Dan Mark.

Taunton

2016-2017 Record: 12-9-2
2016-2017 Finish: Reached Div. 2 South First Round.
Coach: Kris Metea

Taunton has grown by leaps and bounds over the past couple of seasons, setting new program bests for wins and making the state tournament two seasons in a row. This year’s team features only three seniors, so the Tigers will be hoping recent success will continue with a youthful lineup.

Senior forward Will Walsh has returned from junior hockey and will provide a boost to the front line, which head coach Kris Metea has high hopes for this season. Senior Jake Roberts is also back for the Tigers after scoring 18 points last year and junior Cam Sneyd is back after a 16-point season last winter. Metea is counting on high energy from the offensive unit and believes that the roster is capable of creating loads of scoring opportunities.

Sophomore Sean Bunker will be in net for the Tigers and the defensive unit is fairly inexperienced, although the coach believes that by working together Taunton will be able to put together a solid back line. The hope is that defense will become a strength of the Tigers by the end of the season.

“The players enjoy wearing the orange and black and look forward to coming to the rink every day,” said Metea. “The coaching staff has preached about enjoying the journey of a season and the developmental process. These players strive to work hard and get better every day. They will be fun to watch grow throughout the season.”

2017-2018 Hockomock Girls Hockey Preview
Colleen Kelleher and Canton will be one of the favorites to win the inaugural Hockomock League girls’ hockey season, which begins this winter. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

2017-2018 Hockomock Girls Hockey Preview

Canton

2016-2017 Record: 14-5-6
2016-2017 Finish: Reached Div. 2 State Final
Coach: Dennis Aldrich

Canton is coming off a remarkable state tournament run that took the No. 14 seed all the way to the TD Garden and the program’s first state title game appearance since 2006. After years of competing in the SEMGHL Coastal division, the Bulldogs are excited for the first Hockomock League girls’ hockey season and enter the new season as favorites to bring home the first Hock title.

A number of key players are back from the team that battled Notre Dame Academy (Hingham) in the state championship game last March and will be counted on to put together another solid defensive effort that made the Bulldogs so tough to play against during the tournament run. Spearheading that defensive unit is senior goalie Colleen Kelleher, who was stellar throughout the state tournament with clutch saves in key situations.

On offense, Canton returns plenty of firepower. Juniors Maggie Malloy and Lauren Fitzpatrick emerged as big time scorers last year and came through with important goals to help the Bulldogs make a run to the Garden. Senior forwards Melissa Devane, Kendra Farrelly, and Andrea McNeil give Canton a loaded attacking unit that always seemed to pop up with goals when the team needed it most.

“The strength of the Bulldogs will continue to be a tenacious, smothering team defense, strong goaltending, and balanced, opportunistic scoring,” said Canton coach Dennis Aldrich. “We are proud to have our roster filled with 11 Canton team captains amongst our 22 rostered players.”

Franklin

2016-2017 Record: 4-15-1
2016-2017 Finish: Missed Postseason.
Coach: Marjorie Burke

Franklin enters the first Hockomock League girls’ hockey season with a young roster, but one that is expected to compete with the other four teams and have a shot at bringing home the inaugural title.

Junior Regan Paterson and senior Jackie Connelly will be expected to provide leadership and create scoring opportunities for a roster that is loaded with underclassmen. Both players provide speed and playmaking ability in the attacking zone and the Panthers will be counting on their experience to make the difference.

Leadership is going to be critical for this year’s team and head coach Marjorie Burke is looking to her senior class to provide direction for the youthful lineup on both ends of the ice. Among the seniors that Burke is looking to this season are Bella Trask, Caroline Hedvig, Maddie Hinkley, Jillian McGlaughlin, and Connelly.

“We are excited about the upcoming season,” said Burke. “We are young but look to be competitive.”

King Philip

2016-2017 Record: 11-10-2
2016-2017 Finish: Reached Div. 2 First Round.
Coach:

Three years ago, King Philip was the top seed in Div. 2 and after two more playoff appearance, the Warriors now have the opportunity to bring their recent success into the first ever Hockomock League girls’ hockey season and hope that an experienced lineup could make them the first Hock champs.

Junior Nicole Connor is off to a strong start this season and has the potential, according to KP coach Jack Unger, to be one of the top players in the Hockomock League this year. Connor will play both at forward and along the blue line, crucial versatility that makes her an important piece for KP. The Warriors return five seniors who will be the “backbone” of the squad, said Unger. Kyleigh Remmes, Olivia McCarthy, Jessica Daniels, Katie Crowther, and Talia Quinn give the Warriors depth all over the ice.

Lilly Potts returns for her third year in between the pipes, while sophomore Cristina Coleman will be the backup netminder. Freshmen Avari Maxwell and Jordyn Remmes will be instant contributors on offense, while classmate Marin Cormier will step in on defense. Sophomores Abby Carr and Sammy Robison are also expected to step in at forward this season.

“[The roster is] rounded out by a number of talented juniors who should be able to spread out the scoring amongst the three starting forward lines,” said Unger.

Mansfield/Oliver Ames

2016-2017 Record: 14-6-1
2016-2017 Finish: Reached Div. 2 First Round.
Coach: Mike Dalton

Mansfield, Oliver Ames, and Foxboro have joined forces since the 2014-15 season and have reached the postseason each of the past two winters, suffering an overtime loss to Walpole in the first round of the state tournament last year, and have started this season with an impressive win in the opener.

The Warriors will be led by Foxboro’s Catherine Luciano. The senior was the team’s leading scorer last year and scored a hat trick in the season opener to get off to another strong start. Joining Luciano on the top line will be Mackenzie Fraser and Isabelle Shanteller. Other contributors in the offensive zone include senior Kayla Dalton, Kristina O’Connell, and Lindsey Corning.

While the Warriors are expected to create a number of scoring opportunities, defense will be just as important if Mansfield/OA (MOA) is going to make it a third straight playoff appearance. Denea Reager, Ali Delano, and Emily Bubencick will all be critical components of the Warriors defensive unit. Senior Kerren Holmes will be back in goal this year to stifle the opposition, while freshman Cate Gallegher will be the backup netminder.

“A strong freshman class will assist the team with help on both offense and defense,” said MOA coach Mike Dalton. “The team looks to compete for a top position in the Hockomock League and secure a spot in the tournament.”

Stoughton

2016-2017 Record: 1-19-1
2016-2017 Finish: Missed Postseason.
Coach: Richard Grasso

The newest of the programs in the inaugural season of Hockomock League girls’ hockey, Stoughton is in only its third season of varsity play, but the Black Knights are counting on last year’s experience and the growth in the program to make them a team to watch out for this winter.

Two-time all-star Julia Russell will be one of the key defenders for the Black Knights, but also brings an offensive punch with her speed forcing opponents to worry about her carrying the puck through the neutral zone. Senior Sarah Widrow will join Russell at the blue line and provides consistency in the defensive zone. Both will be expected to provide leadership for the less experienced players on the roster and try to make Stoughton a team that is tough to play against.

The offense will be sparked by a pair of freshmen. Hailey Nelson and Morgan Lesso made an instant impact on their debuts, helping Stoughton start the season with a 6-5 win at Framingham in the season opener. Lesso recorded a hat trick against the Flyers to set a high standard in her first varsity action.

“Stoughton will be a much stronger team this year than last,” said Black Knights coach Richard Grasso. “However, this will be a great challenge for our program. We have a lot of respect for the teams in the Hockomock League. There’s a lot of talent out there and each team is well-coached.”

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.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

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.”

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

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.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

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.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

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.

Franklin Edges Canton In Non-League Clash

Franklin hockey
Franklin’s Brendan O’Rielly and Canton’s Jack Goyetch battle for possession. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
 
CANTON, Mass. – Head coaches Chris Spillane and Brian Shuman shared a similar sentiment following Saturday night’s game at the brand new Canton Ice House: more offense.

While the Panthers came away a 2-1 non-league win over the Bulldogs, Spillane has a handful of experienced forwards that were only able to register 15 shots in the game.

For Shuman, his Bulldogs created plenty of scoring chances, putting 23 shots on net but an inexperienced offensive unit was only able to convert once.

The bright side for both teams is that it’s just the first week and both Spillane and Shuman expect their respective teams – and one another’s – to improve in the coming weeks.

“We had it in little bits and spurts but nothing sustained at all,” Spillane said. “That was not one of our better hockey games, from the back end to the front end. I think we had only like 13 shots total which is insane for us. We have most of our returning offensive players back, we should be scoring four goals a game. It just wasn’t offensive game, nor a good defense game.”

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Franklin scored the game-winning goal less than a minute into the final period. The Panthers started the final period tied 1-1 and on the penalty kill, but junior Brendan O’Rielly powered through into a breakaway, forcing a tripping penalty by Canton.

“We got ourselves in trouble sometimes,” Shuman said. “A little bit too much angst and energy, especially there in the third period. We didn’t know the clock and we had a guy pinch and cause on four on one – just didn’t make smart decisions. I think the guys were just too amped up at times and there were some unfortunate penalties. But overall, we had our chances. We made maybe a few mistakes and they capitalized but we had a boatload of chances and I know their goalie was looking back several times we just couldn’t tap it in.”

After playing four on four for a short time, Franklin went on the power play. O’Rielly had his wrist shot ring off the post but the puck eventually found its way to the blue line. Junior Jack McGrath ripped a shot through traffic and found the back of the net to put the Panthers up 2-1.

“We’ll take that. In games like that, you’ll take any goals you can get,” Spillane said. “That was a nice shot from Jack McGrath. But overall we missed the net a lot. We hit the glass, we were shooting right into players. Their one goal we shot it right into the guy blocking the shot – beautiful job by him but you have to have some hockey awareness and find the lanes.”

It was a back and forth opening period with neither side grabbing the majority of play. Franklin had the pressure early on but couldn’t sustain any attacking zone time. Canton picked up the play in the second half of the period, with Tommy Kilduff forcing a turnover and finding Joe Robinson but Franklin goalie Cam Benham (22 saves) made the kick save.

The Bulldogs kept the pressure up as two minutes later, Bubba McNeice carried possession into the attacking zone but his shot whistled wide. With a power play for the final 1:22 of the period, the Bulldogs nearly cashed in but McNeice’s shot through traffic was pushed aside.

Canton had to overcome an early penalty in the second period but the Bulldogs were able to carry over some momentum from the end of the first. Junior Matt Casamento blocked a Franklin shot at the blue line and raced his way past the defense. He went in alone on goal and potted his wrist shot in with 12:30 to play in the second to put Canton up 1-0.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

“Matt Casamento was like a ninth defensemen for us last year and we moved him up to forward this year and he’s probably been one of the most pleasant surprises of the preseason and he played a hell of a game in his first varsity action,” Shuman said.

“We need guys like that to step up. We had guys in the top six that got a lot of playing time tonight that didn’t have as many chances as some of the guys that had just a few opportunities. We really have to figure some things out and get the guys in there that earned some more time.”

Canton couldn’t tack onto its lead even with power plays with 7:38 to play and again with 4:48 to go in the second period. The second power play was cut short for a holding call on the Bulldogs.

Franklin nearly tied the game when Colin Oppelt tossed a shot and Joey Blasie had a chance on the rebound but his shot slid just wide. Benham kept Canton from doubling its lead with an impressive kick save on a shot through traffic from Michael Pigeon.

The Panthers cashed in 30 seconds later when Matt Crane unleashed a shot from the blue line and the rebound fell to O’Rielly for the tap in with 1:15 to go in the period.

Canton, on another power play, had a chance in the final seconds but freshman John Hagan saw his shot clank off the crossbar and stay out.

“I thought Canton played very well, they had a good jump in their step and I think they just had the yips, they missed about three or four open nets,” Spillane admitted. “If they convert there, we would have been down. Even on the last shift they had a lot of opportunities. It’s early in the season, I know both teams will get better as the season goes on we just need to make some big steps.”

“It’s just the first game though. Franklin had a lot of guys back, a lot of guys with experience from a state championship team,” Shuman said. “We had a lot of guys in our locker room playing their first varsity game, let alone their first game against Franklin. It was a good game, good hockey game with a lot of chances. We just have to move on and get ready for Westwood.”

Canton (0-1) will try to earn its first win when they play Westwood at the Canton Ice House.

“Two wins is what you want,” Spillane said. “We have a tough stretch coming up with Pope Francis on Thursday, Newburyport on Friday and then we go to Mount – so we have five games against really good teams. So we need to get better fast if we want to compete in those games.”

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.