Such was the case on Wednesday evening, as King Philip scored just over two minutes into the game but the Mansfield boys hockey team responded in impressive fashion, eventually skating away with a 6-3 decision on the back of four power play goals.
King Philip capitalized on a soft turnover early on to take the lead but the goal only seemed to spark Mansfield as the Hornets tacked on three goals over the final eight minutes of the period to seize a 3-1 lead, an advantage it never surrendered.
“I thought the first goal woke us up, absolutely,” said Mansfield head coach Mike Balzarini said. “We’ve been in that situation before against Taunton and responded well. It’s been taking us a little bit to get going in the first but I’m proud of the way we battled back.
“We started off a little flat footed but I thought we battled back and had a tremendous finish to the first period. The second period was not conducive of how we want to play. We won the third period but the penalties kind of took away from the win, not enough discipline.”
KP sophomore Paul McDonald ended up with the puck on his stick after the turnover, carried towards goal and slid a pass across where sophomore Conor Cooke just beat the defenseman’s stick to one-time it into the goal for a 1-0 Warrior lead 2:08 into the game.
From there, the period belonged to the Hornets. On the second power play chance of the frame, the Hornets cashed in. Sophomore Matty Copponi did the majority of the work down low before his shot hit the bottom of the crossbar and stayed out. However, senior Coleman O’Brien was right there to bang the loose puck in to tie it 1-1.
The momentum stayed with Mansfield and the home team cashed in just a minute later. This time, senior Jack Garland won possession behind the net and tossed the puck in front to a wide open Jake Lund, and the senior bored it for a 2-1 advantage.
The teams traded genuine scoring chances over the next two minutes with Mansfield senior Chris Copponi being turned away from KP goalie James Lewis (28 saves) and KP junior Ethan McGuire taking a pass from Luke D’Amico, but the shot was just over the net.
Mansfield added to its advantage with 3:40 left in the period as Brad Grant drew a defenseman to the sideboards, took a hit while finding Garland in the slot for a one-timer and a 3-1 lead.
KP had two good chances in the final minute on a power play but both Rocco Bianculli (slap shot) and Brendan Shandley (wrist shot) were turned away by Mansfield junior goalie Sean McCafferty (24 saves).
After killing an early Hornet power play in the second, King Philip went on a 5-on-4 for five minutes. While having a couple of chances with the man-advantage, mainly Shandley’s low shot hitting off the post, the Warriors really took control when the Hornets were whistled for another penalty.
On the 5-on-3, Bianculli delivered a perfectly weighted pass as he stepped in from the point across the ice to an open Ryan Fitzpatrick for a one-timer, bringing KP within a goal at 3-2.
But the Warriors were done in by another penalty, this time an interference call while in possession in the attacking end. Mansfield needed just 20 seconds to cash in for its second power play goal, as Matty Copponi worked his way from the corner to in front of goal and got just enough on his backhand for the puck to cross and Mansfield took a 4-2 lead into the second intermission.
“It’s one of the things we’ve struggled with but we’ve been working on [the power play] lately in practice,” Balzarini said. “The guys are keeping it simple which is good. The results are there. If we just stick to what the game plan is, we’ll get what we want. We were four for six on the power play so that was good, and our penalty kill was pretty good too.”
A penalty-filled third period saw three goals, the first two adding onto Mansfield’s lead. After KP couldn’t convert on a man-advantage opportunity early on, the Warriors were whistled for a cross check with 5:53 to go. A minute into the power play. KP was hit with another penalty, and the Hornets went on a 5-on-3 power play.
Mansfield quick cashed in with Grant firing a hard wrist shot from a tight angle into the back of the net. Just before his shot, KP was hit with another penalty so Mansfield’s two-man advantage continued after the goal. Just before one penalty expired, Garland took a feed from Kevin Belanger to make it 6-2.
“We can’t stay out of the penalty box, no discipline,” said King Philip head coach Paul Carlow. “The same thing happened against North too. Playing at full strength, I thought we were every bit as good as [Mansfield]. At the end of the day, playing down a man, playing 5-on-3, you can’t win hockey games like that. Until we get it figured out, and play five-on-five….the league is too tough. If you take too many penalties, you won’t win.
“I thought the first half of the first period was good hockey for both teams. Then it just turned into a mess, no one wants to play that type of hockey.”
Mansfield was hit with three penalties in the final five minutes, and the Warriors cashed in on a 5-on-3 chance with under a minute to go. Fitzpatrick connected with junior Joe Boselli with a nice pass, and Boselli hammered it in with a one-timer.
Mansfield boys hockey (5-1-1 Hockomock, 11-2-1 overall) move into first place in the Kelley-Rex with the win, holding a one-point lead over Franklin with two games to go. The Hornets travel to Asiaf Arena on Saturday for a big clash with Oliver Ames, who is just two points out of first place. King Philip (3-3-0, 7-6-0) is home with a 7:20 tilt against the Panthers.