Despite their record, which earned them the lowest seed in the D1 South tournament, there aren’t many teams that are as battled tested as the Panthers.
The gauntlet of a regular season, which featured wins over inaugural Super 8 selections Marshfield and St. Mary’s, paid off for Franklin in its first postseason game of the year, earning a 1-0 win over #6 Falmouth in a game that wasn’t as close as the score might indicate.
The Panthers pounded the Clippers with chance after chance, registering 38 shots on goals while limiting the hosts few quality chances. But despite the dominance, missed chances left the door open for the Clippers and Franklin had to hold in the final seconds to preserve the win.
“We talked about our schedule, our last four or five games were against quality opponents and not only did we hold our own, we beat most of them,” said Franklin head coach Chris Spillane. “Falmouth wasn’t that physical tonight, we had a good scout on them based on the film we saw and I thought our kids responded well to what we wanted to do.”
Franklin came out flying in the opening period, applying a lot of pressure in the offensive zone that resulted in early scoring chances. Five minutes in, senior Brendan Sicchio found classmate CJ Spillane but his backhand chance was turned away.
While Magazu had his chance taken away, the Panthers were able to capitalize on the faceoff that it earned. First it was senior Scott Elliott that blasted a shot that was turned aside. The rebound found its way out to junior Tom Tasker, who blasted a shot through traffic. Duarte again made the save, but the rebound popped out to senior Joey Lizotte.
Lizotte had the chance to try and put a shot on goal from in close but instead made a terrific unselfish play, sliding the puck across to junior Kyle Hedvig for an easy tap in to make it 1-0.
While that was Franklin’s lone goal of the game, it was far from the last chance for the Panthers.
Four minutes after the goal, Elliot came flying in but his wrist shot hit off the crossbar and stayed out. Franklin earned a power play opportunity with under a minute in the first, and took 1:38 of the man-up chance into the second, but couldn’t convert.
The Panthers were whistled for a slash three minutes into the second period but the defense prevented the Clippers from any dangerous chances. First it was Elliot coming up with an early clear, and then Falvey made a nice play near the blue line that forced a turnover and led to a clear.
Franklin junior goalie Ray Ivers (21 saves) made two stops on the power play to preserve the lead.
A crosscheck call put Franklin back on the power play with 7:40 left in the second, and the Panthers went on a 5-on-3 opportunity for 28 seconds after an interference cal, but the Panthers were unable to get a good look on goal.
The best chance of the period came at the end of the second penalty when junior Colin Hedvig passed up on a shot to deliver a pass through traffic but Duarte was able to get his pad to the puck just before Elliot could connect.
In the final couple of minutes of the second, Colin Hedvig found Shane McCaffrey but his bid hit off the post, and Kyle Hedvig’s follow up chance was somehow stopped by Duarte. In the final minute, Cam Cassella blasted a slap shot that handcuffed Duarte but the senior goalie was able to keep the puck out.
“A whole lot of missed opportunities by the Panthers, had a couple of open nets we missed on,” Spillane said. “I thought we did very well with our forecheck, but the story of our season is lack of finishing. We had some beautiful tick-tack passing just didn’t find. But the effort was there, they were grinding hard so that’s something we can definitely build on. Overall a good team win for the kids.”
Chances were sparse in the final period, with Casella getting a shot through traffic with Kyle Hedvig and McCaffrey in front trying to bat in the rebound. With just under three minutes to go, Spillane used a self pass to beat the defense but Duarte came flying out of goal and made a diving poke check to thwart the chance.
Franklin came within inches of scoring an empty net goal when the Clippers pulled Duarte in favor of an extra attacker in the final two minutes, but shots from their own defensive zone ended up as icing. After matching minors, the Falmouth bench was called for a misconduct and Franklin finished the final 40 seconds on the power play.
The Panthers will now renew acquaintances with league rival Mansfield, the third seed in the D1 South tournament, Franklin boys hockey will play the Hornets on Saturday at 3:30 at Gallo Arena. The teams skated to a 2-2 tie on January 21st.
“We’re capable, but we haven’t put together a big run,” Spillane said. “The last four or five games, it’s been consistently there for us and we’re building on that. Anytime you get the first win the tournament, that builds a whole lot of confidence. All of a sudden, everyone is a believer and the game is election. Now playing Mansfield, it’s a devil we know. It’s going to be a lot more physical compared to this one, there won’t be much time and space. We’re going to have to match their grit and grind. It will be a fun game.”
TAUNTON, Mass. – Defense has been the strength for Foxboro all season long (with only 11 goals allowed in the first 21 games), helping the Warriors win the Davenport division title and then reach the program’s first sectional final on Saturday afternoon at Taunton’s Tiger Aleixo Stadium.
In the Div. 2 South final, the defense stood tall again, led by seniors Kelly Fisher and Angela Vandenboom, limiting Falmouth to only one corner and one shot over 60 minutes. Thanks to the defensive effort in front of her, junior goalie Kelli McCarthy was not forced to make a single save, as Foxboro pulled out a 2-0 victory to win the program’s first ever Div. 2 South championship.
“We stepped up defensively big time,” said Foxboro coach Melissa Bordieri. “We made adjustments based on the aerials, but we’ve seen aerials all season. Defense has been our strength and it’s kept us in a lot of games.”
While Falmouth did not get a shot on target, the Clippers did have possession in the attacking zone for stretches of the game. The Warriors stayed compact around the circle and kept everything to the outside. In addition to the defenders, Foxboro midfielders Meghan Curran, Catherine Luciano, Jaclyn Brion, and Allison Curran were always on hand to close down potential scoring chances.
“They had a lot of opportunities,” Bordieri said. “No. 7 [Ericka Meissner] is really fast, so we knew if they were to get inside the 25 they would be dangerous. We knew that to close them down in the middle and keep them to the outside would be huge.”
Foxboro was also dangerous in the attack in the first half, creating a number of chances, including four corners.
The first opportunity came in the sixth minute when Sophia DiCenso had two shots a few yards from goal but the first was cleared by Falmouth goalie Molly Duff-Still and the second bounced off the foot of Lily Daly at the back post. It started from a quick transition, Meredith Cronin hitting Emma Daly with an outlet pass to spring the attack.
A few minutes later, another quick break had Foxboro racing forward with Meghan Curran hitting Daly on the run but her shot was kicked off the line by Duff-Still before it could trickle across.
The opening goal felt imminent and in the 16th minute the Warriors made the breakthrough. Fisher’s shot off a corner was blocked but the ball caromed right back to her stick. She sent in a second shot that was settled by DiCenso right in front of goal. The sophomore turned and slid the ball past the goalie for a 1-0 lead.
Falmouth had yet to give up a goal in the playoffs, so Bordieri knew that the first score on Saturday could be decisive. She said, “We had to put a ball in the net as fast as we could. From everything I heard, they’ve scored in the first five minutes of a lot of their games so we knew that was going to be a huge opportunity for us.”
Cronin admitted that there were a few nerves for Foxboro players at the start of the game but that the opening goal calmed everyone down. She said, “It was very good. We knew we had to come out fast.”
In the 25th minute, Foxboro had a chance to double the lead. Caroline Wheatley started the break with a pass to Luciano, who fed the ball to Jenna Stamatov and on to Lily Daly one-on-one with the goalie, but Duff-Still came up with her fourth save of the first half.
With just under two minutes left in the half, Foxboro did get a second. Again it came off a corner and a hit by Fisher from the edge of the circle. Wheatley was stationed in front and cleverly lifted the ball up over the pads of the goalie for a 2-0 advantage that felt like game over to many, but not to Bordieri.
“I want to call it an insurance goal but not in the playoffs,” she said. “I know that Falmouth can score and they’ve got fast forward who have good sticks. I wasn’t super comfortable with two goals until maybe five minutes left.”
In the second half, Foxboro went into a defensive shell, keeping Falmouth to the edges of the attacking zone and it led to very few scoring opportunities for either team. The lone clear chance fell to Daly just four minutes after the break when she tipped a Cronin shot at close range but Falmouth’s Chloe Crago was able to get across and clear it off the line.
With five minutes remaining, Falmouth finally got a decent look at goal, but the shot went off the side of the net. The final minutes ticked off the clock and the Warriors stormed onto the field to celebrate their first title.
“Good, really good,” said Cronin about the feeling at the final whistle. When asked if it felt like the culmination of all the work the team has put in this year, she added, “Kind of, but we’re not done yet. We need to keep pushing through.”
Bordieri is in her 15th year in charge of the program and was clearly savoring the moment of winning a trophy.
“Fifteen years…it’s been a long time coming,” she said. “We’ve come close to doing great things for a long time, so to have this is just an amazing feeling.
“It’s such a team thing for us. This whole season has been ‘All In’ and we really mean it. It’s been everybody on the team who’s had a role, played it well and gotten us here.”
Foxboro (19-2-1) will advance to the Div. 2 state semifinal on Tuesday at Reading High and will face undefeated North champion Watertown, which is riding a national record win streak of 182 games over the past eight seasons.
BROCKTON, Mass. – Oliver Ames coach Laney Clement-Holbrook had been on this stage many times before, but none of her players had ever been to a sectional semifinal before, many had never even won a playoff game until this season.
She admitted to being concerned about how the Tigers would react under the bright lights at Massasoit Community College and with a trip to the sectional final within their grasp.
As it turned out, Clement-Holbrook had no reason to worry. OA jumped out to an early lead, knocked down eight three-pointers and pulled away in the third quarter to beat Falmouth 56-40 and reach the program’s first sectional final since its last state championship season in 2010.
“Some of these kids have never been in a situation like this before,” said Clement-Holbrook. “When you think about all these kids who have never had this experience before, I’m just so proud of their personal growth because this can be a scary scenario and they didn’t lose their composure.”
The Tigers got off to the perfect start. Francesca Calabraro knocked down a jumper and then Kayla Raymond stepped outside for a straightaway three. Raymond added a pair from the line and a basket off an offensive rebound, scoring seven of her 12 points in the first and also grabbing five of her nine rebounds.
Calabraro scored a layup off a steal and Abby Reardon got a transition bucket after a long pass ahead by Hannah Carroll, who then added a three off a Raymond offensive board and kick-out pass. After all that, OA led 16-4.
“It gets them a little more settled when those early twos and threes happen,” said Clement-Holbrook about the hot shooting in the first. “We didn’t shoot well in the last game, so it was nice to come here and have that return because I think from a confidence standpoint that was really important.”
Falmouth cut into the lead, but OA responded with a layup by Niyera Mitchell and a three by Sam Bamford (eight points) to close out the quarter leading 21-9. Falmouth’s stars, point guard Jennifer Rose DiCecco (21 points) and center Taylor Miller (14 points, 11 rebounds) tried to keep the Clippers in the game, combining for all 13 of Falmouth’s points in the second.
“She’s the engine that makes the run, so to keep the ball away from Miller you have to control her,” said Clement-Holbrook of defending DiCecco.
“We got got caught up a couple of times; there was a double screen in the corner that we didn’t fight through to get over the top and same things happened at the top, so once we got that squared away that the post stepped out and gave a little interference I think that helped us.”
OA continued to respond to each basket by Falmouth. Carroll (seven points) chased down a rebound of her own missed free throw and then stepped out and buried a corner three to make it 25-14. On the next possession, Kaitlyn McCarthy swung the ball to her fellow captain and Bamford hit her second triple of the game.
It felt like OA had dominated the first half, but at the start of the third quarter it was only a 10-point lead (32-22). Any hope of a Falmouth comeback was erased by Calabraro. The junior guard scored 10 of her team-high 16 points in the third to extend the lead to as many as 21 and put the Clippers away.
She started the quarter with a corner three off another assist by Carroll, then followed a McCarthy layup with another trey from the corner that made it 42-23. She buried a jumper to give OA its biggest lead of the game and then ended a 7-0 Clippers run with a steal and layup.
“We need to take care of business because this team can creep back on you in a heartbeat,” said Clement-Holbrook about the message to her team as the second half got underway.
When asked about the team’s three-point shooting, she said, “Honestly I would say that has been our biggest improvement from an offensive standpoint is that we’re able to make shots from the perimeter and it’s not just one person it’s somebody different every time.”
The Tigers have relied on the defense for large stretches of the season and the combination of Raymond and Mitchell with McCarthy on the weak side limited Miller, who scored her 1,000th career point against Foxboro in the previous round, from getting touches in dangerous areas.
But it was on the offensive end that the Tigers really impressed with 15 assists as a team and several impressive passing sequences, such as McCarthy to Raymond to Mitchell across the lane for a layup to give OA a 48-30 lead heading to the fourth.
“It was exceptional,” said Clement-Holbrook about the passing. I think the fact that this is a big floor and there’s a lot of space…once we kind of got our spacing squared away I think that it actually helped us to spread them because I think we’re a little bit quicker.”
Miller scored six in the fourth and DiCecco added four but Falmouth’s remaining players only contributed five points on the night. Meanwhile, the OA offense was spread around with Bamford getting a layup off a diagonal pass from McCarthy (seven points) who followed it with a steal and layup.
After being challenged by North Attleboro and Notre Dame in the opening two rounds, OA was ready for the test it faced on Tuesday night and passed with flying colors.
“It’s been a little while,” said Clement-Holbrook. “It’s a good feeling.”
“It’s not something that we necessarily planned on but as the season went on I kind of had it in the back of my mind that if this defense can carry this club there’s no guessing as to where we can go.”
OA (20-3) will face No. 4 seed Hingham, which upset top seed Westwood in the second semifinal, at Durfee High on Saturday at 12 p.m.
Josh Perry can be contacted at JoshPerry@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @Josh_Perry10.