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.
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.”
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.
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, 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.
Attleboro, 6 @ Foxboro, 4 – Final – Attleboro’s Jake Parker netted a pair of goals while PJ Elliott, Cam Littig, Dylan Wallace and Ryan Morry each scored once as the Bombardiers opened the season with a non-league win over Foxboro.
Franklin, 5 @ Bridgewater-Raynham, 2 – Final – Juniors Luke Downie and Brendan O’Rielly each scored a pair of goals while classmate Jeremy Miller scored once. O’Reilly and senior James Kilroe each recorded two assists as the Panthers opened the season with a win.
King Philip, 1 @ Oliver Ames, 4 – Final – Junior Eric LeBlanc led Oliver Ames with two goals while sophomore Colin Bourne and senior Jack Maloney each found the back of the net once. OA goalie Zach Walsh made 20 saves. Cullen Gallagher and Rory Madden each had an assist.
Mansfield, 2 vs. Winthrop, 3 – Final – Mansfield led 1-0 after two periods but three straight goals from the visitors made all the difference. Matt Farragher and Tim Arnold each scored for the Hornets.
Taunton, 14 @ New Bedford, 0 – Final – Taunton freshman Mike Albert registered seven points, scoring once with six assists. Sophomore Jack Patneaude scored twice and had two assists and sophomore Jaden Weyant scored once and had two assists. Eighth grader Camden Faria scored his first career goal and also had an assist while senior Chris Gomes scored twice, including his first career goal.
Canton, 51 @ Oliver Ames, 27 – Final – Oliver Ames got wins from Liston Funai (138, pin), Eric Bernardi (152, pin), Sean Cosgrove (160, major) and Jay Fruci (195, pin).
Foxboro, 57 @ Milford, 18 – Final
Sharon, 15 @ Franklin, 52 – Final – Franklin’s Jordan Carlucci, Brian Farrell, Ian Bakalars, Dylan Maclean, Ed Cropper, Seamus Cogavin, Myles Polito, Kyler Colella, Jack Coughlin, and Brian Perry all won for the Panthers.
North Attleboro @ King Philip, 7:00
Mansfield, 58 @ Taunton, 18 – Final – Taunton’s Josh Grasso (126), Nuno Camara (182) and Elijah Simmons (195) each won via pin.
Canton, 103 @ Attleboro, 64 – Final
North Attleboro, 70 @ Franklin, 86 – Final
Canton, 86 @ Attleboro, 84 – Final
North Attleboro, 80 @ Franklin, 85 – Final – Junior Ashley Loomis was a double event winner, taking first in both the 200 and 500 freestyle. Franklin swept the 100 freestyle with senior Helen Huang taking first, senior Leah Benoit coming in second and junior Audrey Finn finishing third.
King Philip, 2 @ Canton, 3 – Final – Sophomore Maggie Malloy netted a pair of goals and classmate Lauren Fitzpatrick scored one – the game-winner in the third period – and added an assist.
Franklin, 6 vs. Leominster/St. Bernards, 3 – Final – Sophomore Reagan Paterson netted a hat trick to pace the Panthers in their first game of the season. Junior Jackie Connelly added two goals and an assist while Maddie Hinkley scored once.
2015-16 Record: 7-11-2 (1-8-1) 2015-16 Finish: Missed playoffs Head Coach: Mark Homer
Attleboro narrowly missed out on a playoff spot last season, losing in its final game against a Div. 3 opponent and this year’s team will be motivated to try and get back in the postseason under new head coach Mark Homer, who made the switch from Oliver Ames where he coached the past three years, and with a new home – moving from Aleixo Arena in Taunton to the new England Sports Village just a couple minutes from the school.
In what has become a common issue for the Bombardiers program, Attleboro will not have
a lot of depth to call on this winter with only 15 skaters and two goalies on the varsity roster, but there is some experience coming back. Senior P.J. Elliott is a talented skater and stick handler who will be counted on to provide the scoring punch along with Jake Parker and Dylan Weallac on the first line.
Sam McKenzie emerged last year as a physical presence and senior captain Eddie Noel will partner him on the top defensive pairing. Sophomore Evan Andrews and freshman Derek Rivet will battle it out for the starting goaltender position for the Bombardiers. There are several other underclassmen who could make immediate impacts, including sophomore forward Cam Littig.
“With the new facility in Attleboro the hopes are that in the coming years, the roster will grow to include increasing depth to the program,” said Homer. “The goal of this years team is to stay healthy, work together as one unit on and off the ice, and get better each day. It’s a new day for Attleboro High School Hockey with a promising future.”
2015-16 Record: 18-4-5 (8-0-2) 2015-16 Finish: Won the Div. 1 State Championship Head Coach: Chris Spillane
After being the first Hockomock League team selected for the prestigious Super 8 tournament in 2014-15 and then graduating 21 players, Franklin was supposed to need a year to rebuild, but the Panthers showed just how strong their program is by bringing home the Div. 1 state championship in a dramatic double overtime thriller against St. Mary’s at the TD Garden. It was the program’s first state title at any level since 1983.
The Panthers graduated another large class of 13 seniors from last year’s champions and lost promising freshman defenseman Kevin Mackay who transferred to Dexter. Still, expectations remain as high as ever for the Panthers, who have won four straight league titles. Much of that excitement comes from the potential in the offensive zone with Franklin returning last year’s title game hero Luke Downie, leading goal scorer Jeremy Miller, and Brendan O’Reilly and the top line of seniors Joey Blasie, Adam Assad, and James Kilroe. Sophomores Matt Holmes and Zach Falvey will add depth to the offense.
Defense is where the Panthers will have some new faces, although seniors Tom Sicchio and Stan Carter will add some experience to the back line. Juniors Jack McGrath and Connor Norton will make the jump up from the JV team to add to the defensive lines and freshman Collin Opet will also see playing time on the defense as well. For the third season in a row, Franklin will have a new No. 1 goalie with senior Cam Benhamand junior Owen Ginley will battle it out for the starting spot.
“For the Panthers to be successful this year it will be a result of a team defense concept,” said Franklin coach Chris Spillane. “The offense will take care of itself, we will be focusing on strong play in our zone.”
2015-16 Record: 9-8-4 (5-2-3) 2015-16 Finish: Reached the Div. 1 South playoffs Head Coach: Paul Carlow
The Warriors made strides last winter under first-year head coach Paul Carlow, including a regular season tie with Franklin and reaching the postseason for the first time since the program was moved back up to Div. 1. This season, Carlow is hopeful for a return to the postseason and to challenge for KP’s first league title since 2007, despite losing 10 seniors from last year’s roster.
The offensive zone should be strong for the Warriors this season with several key returning players that put up solid totals last winter. Junior forward Collin Cooke is the main weapon after putting up 11 goals and 15 assists for a team-high 26 points to be named a league all-star. He is joined up front by senior Ritchie Lucente, who scored 10 goals and had nine assists last year, and senior Jacob Kelly, who finished with 11 goals and nine assists.
KP will also return a few important pieces on the defensive side of the puck, including junior goalie Shane Frommer, who was 3-1-1 in his five starts last year. Frommer’s start to the hockey season will be slightly delayed after helping the football team win its first Super Bowl title. In front of the Frommer will be senior Jeremy Smith, who chipped in with three goals and four assists last season.
“We had some success last season qualifying for the D1 playoffs,” said Carlow. “We have our work cut out for us this season… We are a young team with only five seniors but I expect us to get back to the playoffs.”
2015-16 Record: 5-10-5 (4-4-2) 2015-16 Finish: Missed the playoffs Head Coach: Mike Balzarini
Last winter was atypical for the Hornets, who missed out on the playoffs and finished fourth in the Kelley-Rex division, but Mansfield is hoping for a quick turnaround under new head coach Mike Balzarini, who makes the move from Milford. The Hornets have a number of returning players, including several from club or other school programs to bolster the depth.
One of the returning players is Joe Olsen, who spent last year with a juniors program but will be a significant addition to the Hornets top attacking line alongside fellow seniors Matt Farragher and Chad Piotti, who both had solid years in 2015-16. Junior Cullen Anastasia is another forward to come back to the program and could step right in to make an impact. Freshman Chris Jenkins is going to be the center on the third line and classmate James Bezeau will also see playing time this year.
On defense, the Hornets will be led by senior Cullen Murphy, a physical presence at the back and one of the leaders on the ice. Juniors Tim Arnold, Ryan O’Hara, and Tyler Oakley will also be important pieces on the top defensive pairings. Freshman Joseph Troiano will also be on the defense after he decided against attending Xaverian this year. The defense will be protecting senior goalies Brendan McKenna and Tony Rullo, who will each see time.
“We’re a lot deeper,” said Balzarini, who said that the Hornets would be carrying four lines and four sets of defensemen and is excited about the potential on the team. “It’s been good having two weeks to prepare. They have to get used to our new system and adhering to the structures that we’re putting in place.”
2015-16 Record: 10-10-1 2015-16 Finish: Reached D2 South First Round Head Coach: Sean Bertoni
Oliver Ames will be looking to keep its postseason streak alive under new head coach Sean Bertoni – a former standout goalie for Franklin.
If the Tigers want to get back to the state tournament, they’ll need some help from their younger players; Oliver Ames has eight sophomores and four freshman on its roster this year. OA does have seven seniors and a group of experienced juniors that can help lead the way.
“The goals of the team are to progress from Day one to the end of the year,” Bertoni said. “We have to use our team speed and forecheck extremely hard. We will be a disciplined, hard working aggressive team.”
2015-16 Record: 13-10-0 (3-7-0) 2015-16 Finish: Reached the Div. 2 South playoffs Head Coach: Kris Metea
The Tigers got to experience what the state tournament is like last season for the first time since 2006-07 and only the second time in the past two decades. Taunton had the fourth most wins in a season in the 44-year history of the program and scored a remarkable 106 goals last season, which was the best in the Hock.
This year, Taunton will try to build on its historic season and make a quick return to the postseason. Leading scorer Tyler Pietrzyk has graduated but there is plenty of firepower returning for the Tigers this season, including senior forward Zack Albert who is coming off a 30-point campaign. He will be joined up from by classmate Jordan Hoey, who had 17 points last season and senior Cam Carnes, who had 10 points. Sophomore Cam Sneyd could be poised for a breakout year for the Tigers.
Defensively, Taunton can lean on three-time league all-star Nick Terry, who will man the top defensive pairing. Mike Volkmann may be listed as a defenseman on the roster but he can get forward into the attack with 29 points a season ago. Junior Cam Welby will be a new addition to the defense after playing juniors all of last season. Senior Justin Chappell returns in net.
“This year’s group of seniors are first class kids,” said head coach Kris Metea. “They exemplify leadership across the board…They had a chance to taste the tournament last year, and are focused on acquiring more than just a taste this time around.”
BOURNE, Mass. – A rebuilding year? Think again.
After graduating 21 seniors from a squad that made a historic run to the Super 8 tournament, there were plenty of questions surrounding this year’s Franklin hockey team.
But those questions have now been answered and this year’s group of Panthers made history themselves, beating Marshfield 3-1 in the D1 South Sectional Final. It marks the program’s first D1 sectional crown just in just its third season at that level.
“People were saying this was a rebuilding year but the guys in the locker room and me, we knew this wasn’t a rebuilding year,” junior forward Adam Assad said. “We were going to get out here and do our best and try to win it.”
Assad scored two goals in the game, including the game-winner late in the second period and an empty netter from his own blue line. Senior Sean Hedvig had the game-tying goal in the second period, just his second goal of the season.
“It’s all about playing hard and believing in themselves,” Franklin head coach Chris Spillane said. “We have a lot of character guys. We’re not going to beat teams by going 200 feet flash, but we’re going to work for every inch that they’re going to take from us. It was just a perfect game plan for us. We got up by a goal and we just played smart. We had two guys high, we didn’t want them to open the ice surface and go back and forth.
“We made them earn every inch of ice and it worked to our favor. It wasn’t pretty in the third period just dumping the puck in but the ultimate goal was to win the hockey game and I thought that was our best opportunity to get it done. Credit to the boys in the locker room, they did a fantastic job.”
Franklin faced a 1-0 deficit after the first period of play despite outshooting the Rams. Marshfield’s Aidan Connolly picked a pass out of the air in the Franklin defensive zone, passed it to Hunter McCauley, who walked in alone. He fanned on his first shot attempt which put Franklin goalie Nick Jasinkski out of position and McCauley slipped it in five hole.
“That was a tough turnover, the kid picked it out of the air. Then the other kid fans on the first shot and Nick’s going with it and it opened up five hole and he made a nice shot,” Spillane said. “You’re going to have those in games so credit to Marshfield. But we definitely we minimized their opportunities and we didn’t have many mistakes as probably they wanted. I thought we played great hockey, we definitely minimized our own mistakes.”
But from then on, Franklin seemed to be in control. It look the Panthers less than three minutes in the second period to tie the game, and they did it via their third line.
Sophomore Brendan O’Rielly dug a puck out of the corner and found junior James Kilroe. Kilroe immediately turned and dished a pass right in front and Hedvig hammered home the oner timer to tie the game.
“You need guys to step up,” Spillane said of the third line. “Sean Hedvig stepped up and a nice pass from James Kilroe. I think they might be Sean’s second or third goal all year. We couldn’t skate two lines from start to finish against a team like this, we would have been gassed. So we found the opportunity to match our line with their third line and we liked that. I thought they did a great job. They carried the play mostly in the offensive zone. If we can get a breather and get them out there and still be in the offensive zone, that’s good hockey for Franklin.”
“It’s freaking awesome,” Assad added of the third line contributions. “I just love when the coach calls third line because they get out there and they bust their (butts) and they got a goal. It was well deserved.”
Later in the second, a big hit from sophomore Jeremy Miller in the offensive zone forced a loose puck to squirt out to Alec Gilliatt. Gilliatt skated to the middle of the offensive zone, passed it back to Miller – who spun to collect it and dished a backhand pass almost all in one motion to find Assad. Assad’s backhander in the crease was initially stopped by Marshfield goalie Nick Young but the junior kept with it and put home the rebound chance.
“He stoned me on the first one and I just kept on fighting and just put it in,” Assad said, noting he wasn’t really expecting the pass from Miller. “I’m surprised I caught [the pass].”
The third period was scoreless for nearly the entire 15 minutes but there was plenty of drama.
Inside the first 30 seconds, Assad nearly had himself a second goal when he broke past a fall defender but his wrist shot sailed wide as he came across the goal.
Just over midway through the period, Marshfield’s Chris Sullivan’s bomb rang off the crossbar but Franklin was able to deal with the rebound.
With just over a minute to go, a slap shot from the Rams’ super sophomore Neil Shea was batted down by Jasinski but right into the middle to Andrew Fithian. The puck trickled to the goal line and Franklin senior Joe Corsi launched himself into the net as freshman Kevin MacKay took possession right on the red line and cleared it out.
Marshfield pulled its goalie and called a timeout but the Panthers were able to hold on for the final minute. After a shot went wide in the offensive zone, Assad picked off a pass, skated to his own blue line and fired it the length of the rink while falling down to ice the game.
“This is amazing, a dream come true,” Assad said. “No one thought we were gonna do this and it’s nice to prove people wrong.”
Franklin now improves to 17-4-5 overall and has scored nine goals in four playoff games with just two allowed. The Panthers return to the TD Garden for the fourth time in six years after having a three year run while in Division 2.
When asked if this was the most unexpected run he’s had to the Garden, Spillane said, “Yeah and no. I think when you look back at teams I’ve had, I’ve had some really outstanding hockey teams that should have been in the Garden but didn’t get there because they just didn’t have that intangible, that intestinal fortitude to go out and play. This team just has that. To win with the schedule we had, to end up with only four losses is such a credit to them.
“Initially I’d say this has been surprising but at the end of the day it really isn’t because you have to take into account the character of those 22 kids in that locker room. It’s a credit to our program. We were in the Super 8 last year and everyone else said this was a rebuilding year. But our kids were like ‘No, this is our year.’ And they’ve made it one hell of a year for us.”
The Panthers will look to turn their fortune around when they play the North champion at the TD Garden on Sunday, March 20th. The time is still to be determined. St. Mary’s (20-5) and Arlington Catholic (11-7-4) square off in the North title came on Monday night. Ryan Lanigan can be contacted at RyanLanigan@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @R_Lanigan.
FRANKLIN, Mass. – The biggest difference between Franklin and Walpole might not have even been something that happened on the ice on Saturday night.
Instead, one extra day of rest might have been enough to push Franklin to a 1-0 win over the Rebels and into the D1 South Semifinal. Franklin beat Wellesley on Wednesday night and Walpole picked up a shootout win over Archies on Thursday to meet one another in the quarterfinals.
“It was a good physical game and from here on out that’s what you’re going to get,” Franklin head coach Chris Spillane said. “Walpole just came off a really physical, exhausting game on Thursday night. I think us having that extra day of rest, being able to go watch them play, and have two practices and sort of going easy in them knowing this would be a tough game, I think that was a little bit of a benefit for us. They were sort of gassing out there, the schedule definitely worked to our benefit.”
To be fair to the Panthers, they were dominant in almost every area of the game except for the scoreboard. Sophomore Luke Downie scored the lone goal on a power play in the second period and Nick Jasinski made 17 saves for the shutout.
The Rebels had the better start to the game with a couple of early shots, even going up a man less than three minutes in because of a tripping call. Yet Walpole was unable to muster up a serious scoring chance in the period. The best chance of the first period fell to the stick of senior Jake Downie. Downie blocked an attempted clearance and skated in alone on goal. He fired a low wrist shot but Walpole goalie James Corcoran was able to get his glove in the way for a huge save.
The play was just the start of the momentum swing as the Panthers slowly took control of the game. At nearly the same exact time in the second period, another penalty was whistle but this one a hooking call that put the Panthers on the power play. 40 seconds in, Luke Downie was able to corral a loose puck off a rebound that forced Corcoran out of his crease and wrap it around the other end, bouncing it off the goalie and just over the line.
“It was a power play opportunity and it was sort of a busted play,” Spillane said. “Luke Downie sort of wrapped it around and bounced it off their goaltender. It doesn’t matter how it goes in, it goes in and it’s still one on the board. I’ve said Luke has to be one of our better players for us to have success. He’s playing through an injury and he played very well for us.”
Shortly after the goal, the Rebels went on the man advantage but once again, Franklin’s defense stood tall and didn’t allow a serious chance against Jasinski. In the period, Franklin only allowed four shots on goal for Walpole.
“This was a good one to be in,” Spillane said of it being close throughout. “I don’t think at anytime I was saying we’re not playing good hockey. We played really sound forechecking and we eliminated all of their opportunities. I think the shots were two to one [ratio]. We threw a lot of pucks at [their goalie], he had a lot of work. But our goal was to forecheck and sort of eliminate the up and down hockey and I think we did a really nice job of that for three periods.”
The Panthers continued to roll three lines all game and it proved to be a big help in the third period. Franklin dominated the final frame with a 14-5 advantage in shots.
“We realized we wouldn’t be able to run two [lines] as much as we wanted to but that third line played great,” Spillane said. “They came out, forechecked, worked hard and were in the offensive zone. If you’re putting a third line out there and they are in the offensive zone, they’re doing something right. It was a good team effort. I think that was our best game for 45 minutes this year. The scoreboard doesn’t indicate it but I thought we played 45 minutes of hockey and we really didn’t give them too many quality opportunities.”
Just after an early power play concluded, Franklin nearly doubled its lead with 12 minutes to play in the third. Adam Assad saw his backhand attempt go just wide after a rebound off a good shot from senior Joe Corsi fell to his stick. The Panthers nearly put in a second with just two minutes to play when James Kilroe tipped a shot from Jack Chaffee but Corcoran was able to get a piece. 30 seconds after that, Assad had another chance kicked aside.
On the other end, Walpole’s best chances came in the final minute. Charles Harrington picked off a pass at the blue line and ripped a shot but Jasinski made the glove save. After a timeout and with the goalie pulled, Owen Hunter found himself in some space and fired a backhand that Jasinski just got a piece of. The puck trickled on the ice with an open goal but Franklin freshman Kevin McKay got to it first and clear it away, taking a hit into the post right after.
“Kevin overcompensated for his mistake, he was sort of creeping up into the high slot and that guy was wide open behind him,” Spillane said. “I’d rather the two defensemen be the last guys out of the zone but he’s a good skater and he was able to get back and make a great play for us.”
Franklin (14-3-5) advances to the D1 South Semifinals against Newton North at Gallo Arena in Bourne. At the time this article was published, the time and date are still to be determined. Ryan Lanigan can be contacted at RyanLanigan@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @R_Lanigan.