FOXBORO, Mass. – Every game in the Hockomock League is a grind. Games are tight, chances are at a premium, and sometimes it takes the right bounces or the puck ending up on the right stick at the right time to find the back of the net.
Twice in Wednesday night’s game at the Foxboro Sports Center, the puck bounced to the stick of sophomore Lindsay Atkinson and she buried a pair of rebounds to lift Franklin to a 2-1 victory against Mansfield/Oliver Ames in what was another even matchup between these two teams.
Following the game, both coaches talked about how happy they were to be back on the ice. Franklin had not played since Jan. 23 and had been off the ice for a week and was without its assistant coaches due to COVID protocols. MOA was missing four players on Wednesday and hadn’t played since Jan. 18.
“It’s been a very interesting year,” said Franklin coach Margie Burke. “We’re a small league and we all know each other and we’ve all been around for a long time. We can all appreciate everyone’s situation and we all get it.”
MOA coach Roy Bain added, “Everyone in the Hockomock League has been in this boat at one point or another. At the end of the day, we played a hockey game tonight at a time when a lot of people thought they wouldn’t. Everyone that plays wins this season.”
As is usually the case when these teams square off, scoring chances were few an far between at the start of the game.
Five minutes in, freshman Maeve Anastasia fired a pass from behind the net to Reese Pereira out in front but the sophomore wasn’t able to knock it in. Melissa Shanteler had a good look from the right wing circle, but Franklin goalie Gabby Colace (12 saves) made the stop.
Midway through the first, Franklin had its first nice passing exchange in the offensive zone. Katie Leblanc played it ahead to Avery Greco who fed it on to Dana Stott, but MOA goalie Jess Widdop (12 saves) was at her post to make the save.
The best chance of the first period fell to Ciera Doherty, as the Warriors forward pounced on a loose puck in the neutral zone and flew towards goal. Her first shot was saved and Sammy Ledin’s rebound effort was blocked in front before Colace covered up.
Stott had an early chance in the second period but Widdop kept the pads down to block the close-range effort. Atkinson nearly got on the board with a shorthanded break, but Emma Pereira chased her down and got a solid stick in the way of the shot.
Molly Hurley drew a save with a wrister from the circle and Shanteler had another try from just inside the blue line, as both teams started to be more aggressive getting pucks to the net. MOA came the closest to sneaking a shot through when Emma Garland wrist shot struck the inside of the post and somehow slid along the goal line but not across it.
The Warriors would get a golden opportunity with 3:19 left in the period when a second Franklin penalty gave them 1:34 of five-on-three. The Panthers held firm, not allowing a shot on target while down two skaters. Two minutes later, they grabbed the lead.
Katelyn Brown got behind the MOA defense for a breakaway, but Widdop stood tall to get a shoulder on the shot. The puck caromed off the goalie’s pads then her glove and kicked out to Atkinson who flicked a backhand shot into the back of the net to make it 1-0.
The lead lasted six minutes into the third period. Reese Pereira, who was the source of the bulk of MOA’s attacking threat, entered the zone with speed, cut inside the right wing circle and fired a shot off Colace and in at the near post, tying the game at 1-1.
“Reese Pereira set the tone with the first shift and didn’t stop,” Bain said. “She played half of the game with no letdown. That’s the best game I’ve ever seen her play. She busted her butt tonight and did it for her teammates.”
Emma Pereira forced Colace into a save with a shot from the blue line and seconds later Atkinson had a shot blocked aside by Widdop. Reese Pereira set up Doherty for a chance in front that was blocked and the puck bounced right back to Pereira but Colace covered the post to keep the rebound out.
“Sometimes, in some situations, I’m very comfortable with that because I’m very confident we’re going to finish and win,” Burke said about trying to grind out a close win, “but tonight with a team like Mansfield/OA going into the third period up 1-0 and that’s nerve-wracking. Our league is so competitive, you never know.”
With 2:31 to play, Franklin snagged the winner. Good pressure in the zone forced Widdop into a save and a scramble right on the edge of the crease. On the third attempt, the puck bounced to Atkinson and she lifted a shot over the prone goalie, putting the Panthers in front.
There was still time for one more chance and unsurprisingly for MOA it fell to Reese Pereira. On a two-on-one, she got the puck on her forehand in the left circle and fired a shot that looked headed for the back of the net only for Colace to flash a quick glove and preserve the win.
“Huge save,” Burke raved. “Gabby is a great goalie. We all know that, she’s done it for years.”
Bain said, “Any of the games in the Hockomock League can go either way and it didn’t go our way tonight. The girls didn’t quit and we just didn’t get a couple bounces and they did.”