By Josh Perry, Managing Editor
FRANKLIN, Mass. – The Panthers have been on a roll in Hockomock League play. Franklin came into Sunday night’s game with King Philip at Pirelli Veterans Memorial Rink having won 14 straight games in the league, including a perfect 10-0 last year and the first three games of this season’s league schedule.
But as the clock was winding down in the third period, the Warriors looked poised to end that remarkable win streak. With 6:23 left to play, Joey Blasie pounced on a rebound to knock the puck home and finish one of Franklin’s numerous scoring opportunities. The goal canceled out Sam Ross’ first period goal and sent both teams home with a point.
“Evan kept us in it; kept us with the lead,” said KP coach Paul Carlow. “This is probably one of the best public school programs in the state year in, year out, so anytime that you can get a point against them you’ll take it.”
Franklin coach Chris Spillane was blunt in his assessment of the game. He explained, “Our boys learned real quick that you don’t win games just by showing up. King Philip showed up and worked their a—s off and we didn’t.”
The Panthers came out sluggish in the first period. Passing was erratic, the skating was slow, and the hosts struggled at times to control the puck. KP took advantage.
Jeremy Smith sent the first warning shot with a blast from the point that rang the post off a face-off win by Nick Connor. Two minutes later, Matt Smith slid a pass across the crease to a wide open Jacob Kelly but the junior forward’s shot from point-blank range was chipped over the bar.
With 8:05 left in the period, KP made the Panthers pay for the slow start. As Blasie raced from the box back into play, Ross found himself with the puck on his stick on the right side of goal and flicked his shot on net. The puck slipped through a screen and under Nick Jasinski’s pads for the opening goal; the first of the season for the senior.
“No bigger time than to get one against Franklin, right?” asked Carlow. He added, “I think when you get power plays, you have to take advantage. We’ve been working on it and the boys got one.”
Franklin had its chances as well. Remmes made 36 saves on the night and he was increasingly put under pressure as the game wore on. He made a quick reaction kick save to rob Thomas Sicchio in the first and then somehow managed to get a piece of a Jake Downie shot from the edge of the crease; sitting on the puck and keeping it out.
In the third period, just a minute before Franklin tied it, Remmes kept KP in front by getting a toe on a chance for Jeremy Miller who was left all alone by a great pass across the front of goal by Adam Assad.
“He played outstanding,” said Carlow. “You get that out of seniors in a big game. He played well against Canton and he played well tonight.”
In addition to the play of the KP goaltender, Franklin also missed a series of good chances. Brendan O’Rielly had a chance on an open net after Remmes stopped Tyler Oakes’s shot from the point in the first but smashed his shot off the bar. Luke Downie had a similar opportunity in the second on a rebound, again from an Oakes shot, but his effort bounced away off the far post.
“We had plenty of chances to score goals and guys don’t bear down to finish the easy goals and it’s frustrating to watch,” said Spillane. “We missed a lot of open nets, a lot of rebounds, a lot of shots were right at the goaltender when we had open ice.”
The Panthers outshot KP 16-4 in the second period, but the Warriors still created chances. Matt Smith skated in alone but his shot missed the net at the short side. As the period wound down, he had another good opportunity, this time from the right circle, and again went for Jasinski’s blocker side but again it went wide. In the opening 30 seconds of the third, Smith set up Ross in the slot but Jasinski (16 saves) was positioned well to clock the shot.
The pressure would eventually tell for the Panthers. Luke Downie collected the puck behind Remmes and tried to skate in front and score but the goalie kicked it away. Unfortunately for KP, the rebound went straight to Blasie and finally Franklin had someone finish.
Spillane said, “I give them a little credit that they worked hard to grab a point and we battled, but these are games that they have to come out and play 45 minutes. If they don’t play 45 minutes then this is the result against any team in our league.
With 3:20 left, Franklin nearly won the game when O’Reilly’s shot slipped past Remmes and sat right on the line. Cory Lombardo saved his goalie and his team by clearing the puck away. Franklin’s momentum was stymied as twice in the final 5:30 the Panthers were forced to go on the penalty kill.
“They were just unnecessary penalties that put you on the kill and then you’re wasting guys legs as the clock is ticking down,” Spillane said.
The Warriors scored five unanswered goals in the third period on Wednesday to come from behind and beat Taunton. Carlow believes that energy and confidence carried over and helped the Warriors grab a point at Franklin.
“I think that third period against Taunton coming back from a four-goal deficit, a period like that can turn your season,” said Carlow. “I think the guys came out tonight and played off that and gave us three good periods.”
Spillane was clearly disappointed with his team’s performance. After so much success in recent seasons, this may be a wake-up call for an atypically inexperienced roster. When Spillane was asked about it, he chuckled.
“Tomorrow morning they have a wake up call at 7 a.m., I can tell you that,” he said. “We will have a good skate.”
On Wednesday, Franklin (5-3-2, 3-0-1) will play host to divisional rival North Attleboro in a huge game in the Kelley-Rex standings. King Philip (5-4-1, 3-1-1) will travel to Aleixo Arena to face Attleboro.
Josh Perry can be contacted at JoshPerry@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @Josh_Perry10.