ATTLEBORO, Mass. – Two days after suffering its first loss to King Philip in more than 20 years, and giving up five goals in the process, Franklin coach Anthony Sarno asked for a reaction from his team when they traveled to the New England Sports Village for a non-league matchup with North Attleboro.
Sarno got his wish, as the Panthers scored inside a minute, doubled the lead in the final minute of the second period, and tacked on two more in the third, while also keeping the Rocketeers off the board, skating away with a 4-0 victory.
“We told them on the bus ride home from that KP loss, you guys got outworked and it’s never going to happen again,” Sarno said. “I give them credit, they stepped up. They played the body, they moved the puck pretty well…all-in-all I thought we bounced back in a positive way.”
The Rocketeers were happy to be back on the ice for something other than a practice. North had a nine-day break between its season-opening win against Oliver Ames and Friday night’s game.
“Our start, you could see that we really haven’t played many games and there was a lot of rust in that first 10 minutes,” said North coach Ben McManama. “Unfortunately, we were in the right position but we kept fumbling pucks and not being sure on our sticks.”
Franklin needed only 55 seconds before breaking the deadlock with what turned out to be the game-winner. Pat Dolan took a shot from the left point that slipped under the pad of North goalie Jimmy Burtchh. As the puck trickled behind Burtch, Ben Jarosz was in the right place to slam the puck across the line.
It was a quick start for the Panthers and they tried to add to the lead. Conor O’Neil had a shot from between the circles saved and then Burtch (27 saves) recovered to stop Domenic Lampasona’s rebound effort. Dylan Marchand flew down the far boards and cut a pass back to Jarosz in front, but his backhander was stopped.
North had a few chances in the first, mostly from stepping up at the blue line and causing turnovers as Franklin tried to exit its zone. The best chance came with nine minutes left in the first, when Nik Kojoian picked off an outlet pass to give Tyler Sarro a good look at goal, but Franklin goalie Gary Mandia (17 saves) got his blocker to it.
Although Franklin would hold a significant edge in shots on goal (31-17 for the game), the Panthers didn’t feel like they had the game totally in control. Burtch came up with a pad stop on a Declan Lovett one-timer early in the second, but North had a couple chances to try and even things up.
Kojoian forced another turnover and this time set up Brady Sarro for a chance, but Mandia stopped the slap shot. A minute later, Gavin Arabian had a shot from the point that knuckled on its way to goal, but was casually blockered aside by Mandia.
O’Neil had a snap shot on the turn gloved and then Justin Abely broke up a North shorthanded rush and quickly turned it into a break the other way. Justin Magazu picked out Jarosz, but again Burtch showed a quick glove to keep the deficit at one.
“He did a good job,” McManama said of Burtch. “We didn’t do the little things to help him out. I thought our ‘D’ zone was okay, but we were giving too many odd-man rushes and the neutral zone we didn’t do a very good job with.”
With less than a minute remaining in the second, North was unable to clear its zone and Franklin turned it into a second goal. Sean Connelly with a perfect cross-ice pass to Lovett, who took a touch to settle the puck before sniping the far corner.
The momentum appeared to carry over into the third period because the Panthers came out flying and looking to put the game away. Jarosz nearly turned provider, setting up Ryan Sicchio right in front but the goalie was able to cover.
Sarno said, “When we’re at our best, we’re focused, we’re locked in, and our forecheck is working and we’re forcing teams back into their own net. We need to learn how to control our shots and our shot selection and location needs to be better.”
The Panthers dominated the opening four minutes of the period until a major penalty gave North life.
Anthony Westcott had North’s first shot of the third after more than five minutes and it sparked the Rocketeers into a little flurry that nearly produced a goal. Mandia came up with a couple big stops as North tried to cram the puck in at the post and then Charlie Connolly got free in the right circle and smashed a shot off the post and out.
A penalty against North would cut the power play short by two minutes and the hosts missed a golden opportunity to get back into the game.
“It was a good opportunity for us,” explained McManama. “I think they came with a lot of pressure and we weren’t used to it. We do it, but we’re not used to teams pressuring us in-zone as we’re breaking out. We’ve just got to practice that and be sure that we’re ready to go against an aggressive penalty kill.”
Franklin turned on the pressure again and put the game out of reach. Connelly was positioned perfectly to redirect Lovett’s shot from the point to make it 3-0 with 5:14 to play. Three minutes later, the Panthers nearly had a highlight-reel goal after a nice passing sequence between Jarosz, Siccio, and JT Dwyer only for Burtch to somehow get his heel on the backhand shot.
The Panthers only needed to wait 30 seconds longer to tack on a fourth. Magazu drove into the zone and flicked a pass to Marchand, who opened his body up and went high to the blocker side and into the side of the net.
Sarno said, “I think that kill gave us a lot of confidence and more momentum and from there it was just, okay we got this and let’s play good hockey now.”