FRANKLIN, Mass. – Sometimes goal-scoring is about being in the right place at the right time and for the second time this season Franklin’s Amanda Lewandowski found herself in the right spot to score a game-winning goal against Mansfield/Oliver Ames.
Lewandowski was left alone on the far post to tap in the game-winning, power play goal with just under six minutes remaining in Saturday evening’s league encounter at Pirelli Veterans Arena. Franklin added an empty net goal in the final minute to beat the Warriors 3-1, sweeping the season series, and in the process clinching at least second place in the league and a postseason berth.
“She’s that player that’s always on,” said Franklin coach Margie Burke about Lewandowski. “Every game this season has been tough and always against this team. They always come to play.”
Both meetings between the Warriors and Panthers have been tight, low-scoring, and evenly-matched. In games like that, one lapse can prove decisive and that is what happened to the Warriors on Saturday.
MOA coach Roy Bain said, “To have the game fall on a third period power play when it was 1-1 kind of stinks, but you go on the power play then it’s our job to defend the net and they were able to put it away.”
He added, “When you play Hockomock foes, it’s going to be a tight game, only a goal or two is going to separate the teams, but when you leave Lewandowski unattended…you can’t do that.”
Franklin came out in the first and was the aggressor. The Panthers dominated zone time and the shot total for the majority of the period. Lewandowski had the game’s first good look and many in the rink thought she had the first goal. She split a pair of defenders and fired a wrist shot that MOA goalie Jess Widdop was able to get a piece of and keep it out.
Maggie McCaffrey had the next good chance when she got space in the left circle on a two-on-one and forced a save out of Widdop. The MOA goalie had to come up big 90 seconds later when Lewandowski collected a pass from Lyndsey Atkinson and put a backhand shot on net. McCaffrey then teed up Atkinson but Widdop stopped the first show and Lewandowski’s rebound.
The Warriors picked up the pace as the period wore on and had a couple of chances in the closing minutes. The best chance came with two minutes left when Emma Pereira fired a diagonal pass to Emma Garland at the far post but Gabby Colace was in the right place to make the stop.
After Franklin held the 9-4 lead in shots in the first, MOA came out stronger in the second. Atkinson nearly got the breakthrough when she split a pair of defenders but the puck slid just wide of the net and Pereira had a good scoring chance at the other end, forcing a pad save from from Colace.
Lewandowski opened the scoring with seven minutes left in the second. She crossed the zone from right to left and showed great patience before lifting a backhand shot over the glove hand. However, the lead lasted less than a minute. Melissa Shanteler answered right back for the Warriors on a shot that rang in off the bar.
Franklin continued to put the puck on net, something that Burke said was a priority after the first meeting. Molly Hurley got free of the defense and then deked past Widdop but was unable to put a shot on the open net. After Gianna Cameron kept the puck in at the blue line, McCaffrey got a shot off from the slot and then Lewandowski set up Libby Carter for a one-timer that drew a save out of Widdop.
The game remained tied well into the third period when the Panthers were given their first power play chance. Franklin needed only 14 seconds to make the advantage count. Tina Pisano fired a shot from the point that was deflected in front of goal and fell right to the stick of Lewandowski on the post and she was able to stuff in what turned out to be the game-winner.
“Get the puck on net and get the traffic in front of the net,” said Burke about the message after the first game against MOA. “That’s one thing that I feel we need to remind them every game. It’s the traffic. They don’t have to be pretty, it all counts the same.”
MOA sprung into life almost immediately after falling behind. Kylie O’Keefe fired a shot from the left circle that snuck through Colace’s armpit but trickled wide of the post. Pereira got free in the slot for a golden opportunity but was denied by a sliding block from Gina Vignone. With 3:40 left Pereira drove down the right side and nearly set up O’Keefe at the back post but her tip went just wide.
“No one was going to quit and they all knew what was at stake,” said Bain. “We know that we’re going to get their best for 45 minutes, no doubt about it. We knew we had to bring 45 minutes of continuous checking and we brought, I don’t know, 43? They played their hearts out, they did exactly what we wanted them to do.”
After scoring twice to put Franklin in front, Lewandowski missed a chance to wrap up the points when she sent it wide of the empty net, but the Panthers would finally seal the win when Jordan Dwyer picked out Atkinson in front to make it 3-1 inside the final minute.
“We’ve been in every game even against the big teams,” said Burke. “We could go into tournament and win a couple games and do alright, you know? Even though we’re squeaking in there, we’ll see.”
Franklin (6-8-4, 5-1-1) will have a shot at sharing the league title when it hosts Canton on Wednesday night. Mansfield/Oliver Ames (6-8-1, 3-4-0) will start its final playoff push when it travels to Stoughton.