FRANKLIN, Mass. – The FOGO (“face-off, get-off”) position can sometimes be overlooked, as the players may only be on the field for a few minutes and many times are on the bench or heading back to the box when the ball finds the back of the net. But when a FOGO dominates a game, those few minutes of playing time can play a critical role in the final result.
Freshman Jake Alexander has come in this season and provided a spark for Franklin and on Monday night his domination of the face-off ‘X’ (winning all but three face-offs) provided a platform for the Panthers to break away in the second half and get one step closer to a fourth straight league title.
Franklin turned a two-goal lead at halftime into as much as a 10-goal lead in the fourth quarter and rolled to a 13-6 victory over the Warriors at Pisini Field, leaving games against Oliver Ames and MIlford between the Panthers and a perfect league record.
“It’s such a key position and a key role,” said Franklin coach Lou Verrochi of the FOGO. Of Alexander, Verrochi added, “He’s been awesome…awesome. For a kid his size to be as good as he is…and not only that he’s so quick and he’s got good stick skills.”
KP coach Jacob Kravitz was effusive in his praise for Alexander. He said, “They’re face-off guy deserves a lot of attention…If it’s a 50-50 situation, I think we have as much talent as them…but when they get 90 percent of the possessions then their talented players get the ball.”
Kravitz added, “When you’re that good against everybody, you deserve to be mentioned in the MVP conversation.”
When Alexander wins the Panthers the ball it allows attackers like Eric Civetti and Austin Kent go to work and the pair combined for seven goals, despite another stellar performance from KP goalie Paul Macrina, who made 12 saves and kept the Warriors in the game into the second half.
“Paul had a great game,” said Kravitz. “People look at his size and think, he’s just a big kid in net, but his footwork is phenomenal, he does a real good job getting lateral, and he sees the ball really well.”
After junior Tim Watson put KP ahead in the opening minutes, Franklin responded with Civetti’s first on a trademark move on the edge of the crease capped off by a low angle shot to the top corner from just a few feet from goal. Kent then fed sophomore Luke Downie for a rip from straightaway to make it 2-1 after one.
In the second quarter, Chase Tanner fired in a man-up goal off a Civetti assist but KP responded a minute later with the first of Sam Agricola’s two goals. It stayed 3-2 until the final 30 seconds of the half, but Franklin added a fourth on Kent’s first following a pump fake and a few steps to get a better angle.
Kent’s second early in the third quarter was a laser to the top corner, which no goalie would have been able to save. KP hit the post on a quick break and Macrina made six saves in the quarter but Franklin scored two goals in quick succession to break things open. Ninit Chaudhury started it with a quick burst on a face dodge to blow by his man and pick the corner then Civetti stole a clearance and finished from close range to make it 7-2.
“When you’ve got snipers like Civetti and Kent, Chase Tanner,” Verrochi explained, “we told them that [Macrina] was stopping everything down low, so let’s go high on him and they did. Then we got some nice bounce shots on him, so yeah it was a good effort.”
Kent completed his hat trick 45 seconds into the fourth and Alexander won the ensuing face-off clean and raced straight down the middle for a goal just seven seconds later. Thirty-two seconds after that junior Brian Vieten rifled in a goal as well and it was 10-2.
With eight minutes left, KP received a locked in penalty and Franklin tacked on two more. Kent again found the corner with a powerful shot and then just 16 seconds later he found Tanner in space for another rip just under the bar that made it 12-2.
“They have some good shooters,” said Kravitz. “I think you have to respect the talent, especially of Kent and Civetti, and when you pay too much attention to those guys they have enough other guys that can make you pay.”
The Franklin defense was also coming through with experienced players like Sean Lockhart, Matt Pleshaw and Wyatt Arsenault leading the way alongside freshman Patrick Morrison. Morrison drew praise from his coach after the game.
Verrochi said, “He’s going to be a stud. I think he’s a DI prospect and he’s one of the best poles we’ve had in a few years.”
Agricola scored off a feed from Harry Fallon to get one back and Zach D’Amico found the top corner to beat Connor O’Rourke (11 saves), but Civetti answered with his third. Freshman LSM Wesley Bishop scored just his second goal of the season (taking on four Franklin defenders) with 1:09 left and then D’Amico scored a second with three seconds remaining.
Kravitz said, “I think our guys came in here knowing how important the game was and maybe once the pressure was off they were playing a little loose. We play best that way. Fight to the end and that is a good mentality to have.”
After seeing his underclassmen shine in a big pressure game, Verrochi was excited about the direction that the program is headed.
He said, “Luke Downie, Chase, Eric naturally…it’s a talented group and we have some kids down in JV that can play too. I’m looking forward to it.”
Franklin (11-4, 8-0) will clinch at least a share of the title when it takes on Oliver Ames on Wednesday. KP (9-5, 6-2) will try to end a two-game skid against North Attleboro.
Josh Perry can be contacted at JoshPerry@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @Josh_Perry10.