FRAMINGHAM, Mass. – The Franklin boys hockey team might have had a little luck on its first goal, but the second two tallies were certainly earned.
After #2 Natick tied the game early in the third period and stole momentum, the 10th-seeded Panthers battled back to strike twice in the last five minutes to earn a 3-1 upset over the Redhawks.
With a little help from a deflection, Franklin picked up a 1-0 lead in the first period and it lasted until the third. Natick lit the lamp just over a minute into the final period to take control of the game but the Panthers weathered the wave on momentum.
Instead of the Redhawks capitalizing, the Panthers went back ahead with just under five minutes to play and added an insurance goal with just over a minute to go to secure the win.
“They kept their composure, we knew [Natick] was going to come out with everything they have,” said first-year Franklin head coach Anthony Sarno. “They are a physical team, a strong team, and they weren’t going to give up…they weren’t seeded No. 2 for nothing. We fought through the adversity, we kept our composure, and we believed in each other and we played for each other. I couldn’t be more proud of them, I couldn’t be more happy for them…this group has earned it from day one.”
A clearance attempt took a deflection and ended up bouncing in the left circle. Natick’s Matthew Haskell was the first to it and timed his shot perfectly on the bouncing puck, smashing a shot into the back of the net, leaving Franklin goalie Ray Ivers (19 saves) little chance.
Natick didn’t have any chances right after the goal, instead having to race back to break up a potential breakaway bid from Dylan Marchand, and a minute later, Franklin’s Kevin O’Rielly had a hard wrist shot knocked away with a blocker save.
The Redhawks did test Ivers just before the midway point of the period when a shot from Nick Haswell tossed a shot from the blue line that hit Ivers’ mask, but the Franklin goalie was quick to cover up the loose puck in front.
As the clock ticked under five minutes, Franklin junior defenseman Will Sheehan pinched up to deny a clearance attempt, keeping the puck in the Panthers’ offensive zone. Sheehan eventually got the puck back and fired a shot that was knocked down.
With both Shea Hurley and Shane McCaffrey digging at the puck down low, Natick goalie Luc Gagnon was forced to go low. The puck popped back into the slot and Colin Hedvig blasted into the back of the net to make it 2-1 with 4:53 to go.
“Will was out for a while with an injury but his confidence, his patience, his poise, and most important his instincts, his instincts are spot on,” Sarno said of Sheehan making the right read to pinch. “For a kid that age to be that composed and that poised to step up and make that play at the right time…that’s how this team is playing right now.
“Right now everyone is pulling in the right direction right now. I have a great coaching staff too that helps so much. This is what we hoped for, this is why our schedule is as tough as it was. Hopefully we can continue it.”
Franklin kept the pressure up, denying Natick a chance at the tying goal. Instead, the Panthers added an insurance tally. Junior Sean Connelly used a slick move to split a pair of defensemen in the attacking zone, feeding the puck back in front and classmate Conor O’Neil buried it for a 3-1 lead with 1:25 to go.
Chances were hard to come by through the first two periods of play. The Redhawks went on the power play with 8:44 to go in the first but a pair of clearances from Sheehan, plus a strong forecheck from Hedvig helped the Panthers limit Natick to just one shot on goal during the man advantage.
After killing the penalty, the Panthers found the back of the net. Junior Joe LeBlanc went to blast a shot from the blue line but a Natick player was able to get his stick on it right away. The puck popped high into the air and eluded Gagnon, dropping into the back of the net for a 1-0 lead with 5:34 left in the first.
“We got a little puck luck but to make those plays to make your own breaks,” Sarno said. “You have to create those opportunities, you have to get into the position. We’ll take it, you need the bounces too. The difference between a good team and a great team is good teams do just enough to get by, great teams do all the little things to make a difference at the end and that’s what we’ve got right now.”
Ivers came up with a nice glove save on a wrist shot from the circle from Natick’s Andrew Christileb. The Redhawks finished the period with 1:20 of a power play but a clearance from junior Paddy Dolan helped kill most of the man advantage.
Natick did have a shot off of Ivers back that caused a scrum in front but the Panther collapsed as a defense to prevent anything.
Franklin killed the remaining 39 seconds of the power play to start the second and then had to kill another just past the midway point. This time, O’Neil hustled to block a shot, Tom Tasker intercepted a pass and took the puck into the attacking zone and both JT Dwyer and Hedvig came up with clearances.
“We tried to forecheck them and cut off the middle of the ice. We knew they loved to clog the middle of the ice so we figured if we could step up at the blue line and force the dump in, our speed would prevail. They are working for it, and they got what they deserved, they earned this win.
The Panthers had their lone power play in the second with 3:28 to play but couldn’t muster up many chances. Hedvig had the best bid, skating past a defenseman but his backhand bid from in tight was denied.
Franklin boys hockey (11-7-4) will take on #14 Archbishop Williams in the D1 South Semifinals on Wednesday at Gallo at 5:30 Archies knocked off #3 Bridgewater-Raynham (2-1) and #11 Wellesley (2-1) to reach the semis.
Attleboro, 6 vs. Cardinal Spellman, 2 – Final – Attleboro senior Ryan Morry netted his first career hat trick and added another goal for good measure as the Bombardiers skated to a win over Spellman. Morry also had an assist, freshman Aidan Dryjowicz scored a pair of goals and had two assists while senior Liam McDonough recorded two helpers in the win.
Canton, 8 @ Taunton, 0 – Final
Foxboro, 6 @ Norton, 1 – Final
Franklin, 3 @ North Attleboro, 2 – Final – North Attleboro rallied to tie the game in the third period but Franklin scored the game-winner with just under three minutes to play to give the Panthers the win, clinching the Kelley-Rex division title for the ninth straight season. Shane McCaffrey (from Dylan Marchand) and Conor O’Neil scored in the opening period as the visitors built a 2-0 advantage. North sophomore Sam Clarke cut the deficit in half with a power play goal in the second and senior Jack Connolly scored early in the third period to level the game at 2-2. Marchand muscled a loose puck into the back of the net with three minutes left to put the Panthers ahead.
King Philip, 3 @ Oliver Ames, 2 – Final – King Philip built a 3-0 lead and had to hold off an Oliver Ames come back attempt to pick up the win. Senior Joe Boselli scored with six seconds left in the first period on an assist from classmate Chris Daniels to give the Warriors a 1-0 lead at the first intermission. Boselli (from Rocco Bianculli) needed just 1:32 in the second period to score his second of the game and David Lawler (from Conor Cooke) scored just 36 seconds later to put King Philip ahead 3-0. Ross Carroll (from Hunter Costello) and Duncan Pereira scored second period goals to get the Tigers within one but neither team scored in the third period.
Mansfield, 1 @ Winthrop, 6 – Final
Stoughton, 0 vs. Dartmouth 7 – Final
Franklin, 4 @ King Philip, 1 – Final
Stoughton, 1 @ Canton, 10 – Final
Mansfield/Oliver Ames, 3 vs. Whitman-Hanson, 2 – Final – The line of Alex Ledin, Reese Pereira, and Ella Waryas combined for all three of MOA’s goals, including the game-winner with just over five minutes to play in the game. Ledin put the Warriors up 1-0 in the first period but Whitman-Hanson leveled the scoring before the end of the first, and grabbed the lead with the lone goal of the second. Ledin scored her scored of the game with a laser of a shot that snuck under the crossbar. On the power play, Pereira won a faceoff back to her sister Emma, who dished a pass back down to Reese below the goal. Reese Pereira’s pass out front found Waryas for the game-winner. Jess Widdop had a strong showing in net.
Hockomock Crossover Super-Quad (Canton, Foxboro, Mansfield, Stoughton, Oliver Ames), 9:00 (@ Stoughton)
Canton, 21 vs. Mansfield, 45 – Final
Canton, 21 vs. Oliver Ames, 51 – Final
Foxboro vs. Mansfield
Foxboro, 31 vs. Oliver Ames, 36 – Final
Stoughton vs. Mansfield
Stoughton, 42 vs. Oliver Ames, 36 – Final
Hockomock Crossover Super-Quad (Franklin, King Philip, Milford, North Attleboro, Taunton, Sharon), 9:00 (@ North Attleboro)
Franklin, 39 vs. Milford, 30 – Final
Franklin, 38 vs. North Attleboro, 30 – Final
Franklin, 39 vs. Sharon, 11 – Final
King Philip vs. Milford
King Philip, 33 vs. North Attleboro, 46 – Final
King Philip, 11 vs. Sharon, 42 – Final
Taunton, 24 vs. Milford, 45 – Final
Taunton, 23 vs. North Attleboro, 39 – Final
Taunton, 6 vs. Sharon, 57 – Final
Highlights: Sharon’s Adam Landstein (106), Ben Shockett (113), Cam Birnbaum (120), Aaron Cashton (138), and Tyler Freedman (170) all went undefeated on the day.
FRANKLIN, Mass. – Coming off a tie to Mansfield and a loss to Canton, and now trailing by a goal to King Philip with just a period left, the Franklin boys hockey was on the verge of letting its grasp of the Kelley-Rex division slip away.
But first-year Panther coach Anthony Sarno challenged his squad to rise to the occasion over the final 15 minutes, and the team delivered.
Franklin scored three goals in the third period, erasing a one-goal deficit and landing a 4-2 win over King Philip. With the win, the Panthers move into sole possession of first place in the division with 10 points with one game to go. The win also secures a playoff spot because Franklin can’t finish worse than second place in the Kelley-Rex.
“‘How bad do you want it?’” Sarno asked his players between the second and third periods. “It’s not the X’s and O’s, it’s the will to win, how bad do you want to push back? We’re tired of being slapped in mouth late in the games with all these ties. And against Canton last game, they the best team in the league no doubt, but we didn’t really challenge them the way we should have or could have.
“We have to take care of the puck and do all the little things, we have to do what we did in the third period tonight and we came out with the will to win.”
Franklin took the first lead of the game midway through the opening period but King Philip answered inside the final minute and took the lead with the only goal of the second period.
Despite not converting on a very early power play chance in the third period, the Panthers pounced on a chance just over four minutes in to level the scoring. Senior forward Kyle Hedvig fired a tough angle shot on goal that was knocked down by KP senior goalie Jesper Makudera (40 saves) but senior defenseman Colin Hedvig had pinched down in and lifted the rebound into the back of the net to make it 2-2.
King Philip nearly regained the lead past the midway point of the period but the play ended giving the Panthers the go-ahead strike. KP senior Joe Boselli intercepted a clearance attempt and skated into the slot before unleashing a hard wrist shot. Franklin senior goalie Ray Ivers (26 saves) got just enough of it with his shoulder to keep it out, the puck deflecting over the net and up the sideboards.
From there, Franklin raced into a 2-on-1 situation as Kyle Hedvig snuck a pass under the KP defenseman to an open Declan Lovett in front, and he buried his chance from in close to give the Panthers a 3-2 lead with 4:11 to play.
The momentum stayed with the Panthers for the remainder of the game, and Kyle Hedvig and Declan Lovett combined to set up the insurance goal for the hosts, finding Colin Hedvig wide open in the slot in front of goal and his one-timer made it 4-2 with 1:49 to play.
“It was nice to see the kids make the push to come back,” Sarno said. “I give them a lot of credit. Like I said from the beginning of the year I love these kids, they’ve been resilient and really fought through a lot of adversity, even if we created some of it on our own. But it takes a hell of a team to come back from that, now we just have to stop putting ourselves in those positions and start using our assets like our speed, moving the puck quickly, stick to stick, and I think if we do that, we’ll be a much more deadly team in these last seven games.”
King Philip had one other good chance in the third period, coming on the penalty kill. Boselli jumped onto a loose puck in the neutral zone and skated it towards goal before firing a shot that was denied by Ivers. The Warriors had 10 total shots in the third but didn’t threaten with a serious chance after falling behind.
The Warriors were also without their top defenseman in Kyle Gray (sick), who is also third on the team in points, but head coach Paul Carlow said that wasn’t an excuse.
”Kyle’s our anchor back there so we had a built-in excuse with him out but the boys didn’t take it, they rallied around each other,” Carlow said. “I felt like we gave everything we had, just ran out of gas. I felt like we needed some momentum so that first goal in the third was going to be huge. They got it and I think that kind of turned the tide. We played mostly two lines, four or five defensemen, I just think we ran out of legs.
“We had some breakdowns at the end and I think it was fatigue more than anything else. I don’t think it was their will, we just ran out of gas and [Franklin] is a good team.”
Both teams scored in a first period that was fast-paced and full of hard hits as both teams came out flying. The Panthers jumped ahead just moments after Makudera robbed them of the opening tally. Shane McCaffrey intercepted a clearance pass and made a nice move to find space to unleash a shot that Makudera saved, the rebound falling to Shea Hurley but a diving stop from the goalie kept it scoreless.
But on the ensuing faceoff from the right circle, the puck squirmed towards the slot with multiple sticks batting at it. The puck eventually found the stick of junior JT Dwyer and he turned and whipped a shot on target that found the back fo the net for a 1-0 lead with 6:11 to go in the first.
King Philip responded in the final minute. Senior defenseman Ethan McGuire ripped a low shot through traffic that hit the back of the net and came out, quick enough that the ref signaled for no goal. But the second official called the play dead, got together with the other ref, and ruled it had gone in making it 1-1 with 37 seconds left in the first.
The Warriors’ lone power play chance came early in the second period but Ivers denied chances from junior Conor Cooke and sophomore Nolan Feyler to keep the game tied.
Just over the midway point, the Warriors broke through to take their first lead of the game. A quick break from Chris Daniels led to a two-on-one opportunity and Daniels made the right decision, sliding a pass over to Aidan Bougler and the junior smashed his one-timer into the back of the net to make I 2-1 with 5:22 left in the third.
Franklin came close on a handful of chances in the final couple of minutes but Makudera made some terrific stops to keep the Warriors ahead. Senior Tom Tasker had a blast denied, Will Sheehan linked up with Kyle Hedvig right in front but Makudera made the point-blank stop, and then denied Lovett on the rebound.
KP nearly added to its lead on a break as Rocco Bianculli sent a chipped pass into the zone for Jack Coulter, but Ivers was up to the task.
On the other end, Sheehan tossed a shot on goal that was redirected by Sean Dunbar just over the net, and in the final seconds Colin Hedvig sent a cross-ice pass to McCaffrey who quickly delivered a pass in front to Dylan Marchand but his one-timer was blocked by Makudera and Hurley had his rebound bid stopped.
Franklin boys hockey (4-1-2 Hockomock, 6-4-3 overall). can clinch the Kelley-Rex division outright with a win over North Attleboro when they meet on Saturday at 7:30. A point can also clinch depending on the outcome of the Mansfield and Foxboro game. King Philip (3-2-2, 8-4-2) falls into third in the division but is still in contention for a division title, but would need help from Foxboro and North Attleboro, and would have to take care of Oliver Ames on Saturday at 6:10.
CANTON, Mass. – It was a championship theme inside the Canton Ice House on Saturday afternoon.
It started with a pregame ceremony honoring the 10th anniversary of Canton’s 2010 D2 State Championship squad and it ended with the 2020 Bulldogs clinching the program’s 10th straight Davenport division title with a 3-1 win over rival Franklin.
The Canton boys hockey team is the only program in the entire Hockomock League in any sport to win ten 10 straight division championships. The Bulldogs are the only team to win a Davenport title for boys hockey, winning every year of the decade since the league split into two divisions.
“It’s a great thing, we’re very lucky to be apart of something like this here in Canton,” said Bulldogs coach Brian Shuman, who quickly went from one rink to the other inside the Ice House, coaching a 6th/7th grade Canton youth team immediately following the Bulldogs’ win over Franklin. “All of these guys were watching our game before coming over here for their game, and all of our guys watched the teams before them.”
Canton erased a one-goal deficit after a period of play, scoring twice in a two-minute window in the second period and tacked on an insurance goal in the third period to secure the win. The Bulldogs went a perfect 4-for-4 on the penalty kill.
A pair of those kills came in the first period, including one just under three minutes into the contest. A tripping call put Canton down a man but an aggressive kill prevented the visiting Panthers from registering a serious chance on goal.
After Canton had a power play go without a goal shortly after, the Panthers once again had a man-advantage chance just past the midway point of the period. Again, the Bulldogs applied plenty of pressure, not allowing Franklin a good look in the offensive zone.
Instead, the best chance of that two-minute span fell to the Bulldogs. Senior Johnny Hagan pounced on a loose puck, slammed on the brakes as he crossed the blue line to shake a defenseman, dropped a pass to senior Chris Lavoie, who dished it back across to Hagan in front but the senior center couldn’t get his stick on the puck in time as the bid went just wide.
The Bulldogs knocked on the door against as the clock ticked under two minutes as Dylan Coyne connected with Donny McNeice but Franklin goalie Ray Ivers (18 saves) came up with the save and covered the rebound.
Although it was Canton who had the best chances for the majority of the period, it was Franklin that found the back of the net first. Junior Conor O’Neil connected with classmate Sean Connelly as the pair entered the offensive zone. Connelly worked his way past a defenseman and tossed the puck back in front and O’Neil completed a hard crash on net with the final touch into the back of the net.
Canton came out strong to start the second period, with Lavoie smashing a shot off the crossbar in the opening minute. The equalizer came just under four minutes into the period as sophomore Eamon Kelly drove hard behind the net, dishing the puck in front just before circling around. Hagan found the puck in the middle and dished it off to senior defenseman Jack Connolly, who deposited a shot into the top corner to make it 1-1 with 11:13 left in the second period.
The Bulldogs went on the power play shortly after and needed just seven seconds on the man advantage to go ahead. Lavoie dished it back to senior defenseman Owen Lehane after an offensive zone faceoff win and, after skating towards the center of the blue line, Lehane unleashed a wrist shot. With both Kelly and Hagan in front screening, Ivers had no chance as the puck found the back of the net for a 2-1 lead.
“Just a huge goal…when you think too much on the power play, you get in trouble,” Shuman said. “Our guys tonight, they really did a phenomenal job moving the puck. And when they had the opportunity, just rip it. If you wait a half second longer or think too much, you miss the chance. We want Owen to shoot more at the top and he just fired it, it was a huge goal.”
Franklin had a golden chance with five minutes left in the second as Connelly came up with a turnover in the attacking zone, firing a pass over to Shane McCaffrey in front but the senior forward couldn’t get all of it on his shot and it went just wide.
The Panthers went on a power play in the final minutes of the second but were unable to convert. Dylan Marchand had a shot denied by Canton goalie Joe Cammarata on one try, and Cammarata made a stop on a tip from Connelly on a shot from Joe LeBlanc.
“We gave them too much space,” said Franklin head coach Anthony Sarno. “We didn’t take good care of the puck…we have to be better in every facet of the game. We have to be committed to our game, stick to our game, we have to forecheck hard. We can’t give them that much space on the blue line…instead of forcing a dump in we were giving them 20 feet of room to maneuver. Against a good team like that, you have to minimize your mistakes.
“Special teams is going to make or break you in a game like that. They brought it and we didn’t. The first period was fine but after that, they wanted it more than we did.”
Coyne delivered the insurance goal for the Bulldogs. The junior forward whipped a low shot on goal as he crossed the blue line and the puck eluded Ivers and bounced into the back of the net for a 3-1 lead.
Franklin had a final power play chance to cut into the deficit but again without a goal. Tommy Tasker blasted a low shot but Cammarata read it the entire way without traffic in front. The Bulldogs went on to block two more shots and deflect another pair out of play to kill the penalty.
“We spend a lot of time on it, at least once a practice,” Shuman said. “And I think that was the best game we’ve had so far on the penalty kill. They were aggressive, and you have to be aggressive against [Franklin] because they are aggressive on their power play. You look at a kid like TJ McCabe, filling in for one of our best penalty killers in Tommy Ghostlaw, and he had a great game.
“It’s about being smart in those situations. You have to recognize what’s around you when you have the puck and make the right decisions, and we had some chances tonight. They put some forwards on the point [on the power play] so they aren’t used to playing defense so you can kind of take advantage of that.”
Canton boys hockey (6-0-0 Hockomock, 11-0-2 overall) is back in action on Wednesday when it hosts North Attleboro. Franklin (3-1-2, 5-4-3) will host King Philip on Wednesday in a battle of the top two teams tied atop the Kelley-Rex division.
FRANKLIN, Mass. – Last season, the Kelley-Rex division title wasn’t decided until the final game of the league campaign and this season is shaping up to be just as close. Coming into Thursday night’s showdown with Mansfield, Franklin was in a first place tie with King Philip, both sitting on seven points in the league, with the Hornets just two points back.
After a thrilling 5-5 shootout at Pirelli Veterans Arena, in which it twice battled back from two goals down, Franklin moved back into first place by itself, but by only the slimmest of margins. The tie sets up another exciting finish to decide the league champ, as all three teams have three games remaining.
“I’m proud of the fact that they came back and battled through adversity,” said Franklin coach Anthony Sarno. “They didn’t quit. To lead up to that point, we didn’t really help ourselves, but it takes a hell of a team to fight through adversity two or three times in a game and pull even.”
Mansfield missed an opportunity on Thursday to create a three-way tie atop the division, after twice leading by two goals, including a 5-3 lead with 8:02 remaining in the game.
The Panthers celebrated senior night before the game and came out flying once the puck dropped. Franklin held a 14-4 advantage in shots on goal at the end of the first and had a series of scoring opportunities denied by Mansfield goalie Sean McCafferty (33 saves).
Liam Anastasia had the game’s first good chance when he intercepted a pass in the Franklin zone, but the defense recovered on the back-check and Ray Ivers (17 saves) was able to make the pad stop. Just seconds later, Dylan Marchand forced a glove save out of McCafferty on the other end.
Defenseman Joe LeBlanc put another shot on target, sneaking his effort through a crowd and forcing a pad stop. On the power play, Declan Lovett had two great chances to put the hosts in front. He cut across the crease and had a chance at the post, but McCafferty went post-to-post to make the kick save and then scrambled to get big and stop Lovett’s rebound effort.
The game remained scoreless until the final three minutes of the period. Tom Tasker showed patience on the puck at the blue line, hesitating to find a shooting lane and firing a wrister inside the post.
Franklin went into the locker room with confidence, but it was the Hornets that were buzzing when they came back onto the ice. In just 1:24, Mansfield turned a one-goal deficit into a 3-1 lead.
“Starting is something we continue to battle, but we kept our composure in between periods,” said Mansfield coach Mike Balzarini. “We knew they were a quick team and we knew that we had to jump on them early. We knew that we had to get pucks to the net and just crash the net and that’s what we did.”
Chris Jenkins set up the first goal when he forced a pad save from the right circle. Jake Lund crashed the far post and smashed the rebound in to tie it after 28 seconds. Just 22 seconds later and the Hornets grabbed the lead when Jenkins had a shot from the near boards go off Ivers’ stick and glove and into the back of the net.
The momentum was with the visitors and they took advantage on the power play to extend the lead to two. A mishit shot from the right face-off dot slid wide of the net and Cam Page was in the right place to knock it home.
“We didn’t help ourselves at all,” Sarno admitted. “We didn’t take care of the puck, especially in our own zone, and we turned it over in our zone at crucial times and it cost us goals. We were fighting it and instead of playing disciplined we were chasing it.”
It only took two minutes and a power play opportunity to get Franklin back into the game. Seniors Colin and Kyle Hedvig nearly combined on a great passing play only to have McCafferty make the stop. The duo stuck with the play and Kyle Hedvig got free in the left circle, going top shelf to make it 3-2.
Franklin nearly tied it right after the goal when a shot rang off the bar and Marchand and Kevin O’Rielly both had good looks that were saved. Mansfield went close after a great passing move from Jenkins to Page to Kevin Belanger, but Ivers was in the way. Kyle Hedvig had a shorthanded effort go over the bar and then Lovett got behind the defense only for Ryan Doherty’s back-check and McCafferty’s save to keep the Hornets in front heading into the second intermission.
As wild, fast-paced, and end-to-end the first two periods were, things went to another level in the third.
The Panthers wasted no time getting level, as Shea Hurley got on the end of Marchand’s pass at the back post just 18 seconds into the period. Twenty-two seconds later, the Hornets regained the lead. Lund was left alone in the slot and fired in a one-timer.
“My guys knew it,” said Balzarini about Franklin coming out hard to start the third. “A two-goal lead is probably the hardest thing to keep in hockey and we knew that they might try to stretch us early and we had to be prepared for it.”
Franklin kept pushing and had several good looks. JT Dwyer had an effort from the high slot snagged by McCafferty, LeBlanc smacked the post with a shot from the point, and then LeBlanc forced a pad stop that was followed up by Hedvig only for the rebound to slide wide of the post.
As the hosts pushed forward, Mansfield hit them on the break. Jenkins snuck behind the defense and made no mistake on the breakaway, rifling a shot in off the post and seemingly sealing a victory for the Hornets.
It only seemed like the game was over. Franklin came storming right back with O’Rielly knocking in a rebound from the edge of the crease to give the Panthers a lifeline with 6:33 to play. Less than two minutes later, it was 5-5. Pat Dolan’s pass out of defense found Shane McCaffrey streaking down the middle and he lifted his backhand to beat the goalie.
“I think we were a little more complacent when we had a 5-3 lead,” said Balzarini. “It was late and I think we did take a couple of shifts off. We didn’t win a couple of puck battles, but I thought we continued to play well in the neutral zone and in the offensive zone.”
There was even time for one more chance for the Panthers, as Sean Connelly teed up Conor O’Neil, but McCafferty made the stop to preserve a point apiece.
“We need them,” Sarno said about getting a point. “We need them all. We’ve got a tough stretch. There are no easy nights. Everyone is going to bring their best game against us, so we need to have our best game and even if we do we have to limit our mistakes.”
Franklin (5-3-3, 3-0-2) leads the Kelley-Rex by a point heading into a difficult closing stretch of games that begins with a trip to Canton on Saturday. Mansfield (4-4-3, 2-2-1) will travel to second place King Philip on Saturday for another critical divisional game.
King Philip, 43 @ Needham, 69 – Final
Canton, 1 @ Attleboro, 0 – Final
Foxboro, 0 @ King Philip, 4 – Final – King Philip’s offense delivered three goals in the middle period, building on its lead from the first period to notch a league win over Foxboro. KP took a 1-0 lead in the first on a goal from Nolan Feyler with Joe Boselli and Rocco Bianculli earning assists. In the second, Boselli scored twice and Jack Coulter added a third to build the big advantage. Chris Daniels and Kyle Gray set Boselli up for his first goal while Bianculli grabbed his second assist on KP’s third goal. Conor Cooke and Aidan Boulger had assists on Coulter’s goal. Jesper Makudera made 18 saves in net to earn the shutout for KP.
Franklin, 4 @ Oliver Ames, 1 – Final – Click here for a photo gallery from this game. – Franklin cashed in for a pair of goals in the first period behind a strong start and tacked on two more in the third period to skate past OA in league action. The Panthers peppered the net in the opening minutes with Colin Hedvig scoring unassisted just 59 seconds into the game. Shane McCaffrey added a goal on a wrist shot with 4:05 to go in the opening frame. After a scoreless second, Franklin extended its league with a shorthanded goal as Tom Tasker finished off a pass from Kyle Hedvig on an odd-man rush. OA’s Jake Gottwald redirected a shot from Zach Manganaro to get the Tigers on the board but McCaffrey sealed the game with an empty netter. OA goalie Owen Connor had 36 saves in net.
Mansfield, 1 @ Shrewsbury, 4 – Final
North Attleboro, 4 @ Taunton, 2 – Final – Click here for a photo gallery from this game. – North Attleboro built a four goal lead before holding off a late surge from Taunton to pick up a league win. The Rocketeers struck just over two minutes into the game as sophomore Sam Clarke capitalized in front after some hard work from Brady Sarro. Clarke added his second on a redirect on a shot from Charlie Connolly with under a minute to go in the first period. Dennis Morehouse made it 3-0 with a nice finish in front in the second period and Sarro tipped in a shot early in the third to make it 3-0. Taunton’s Brady Nichols scored with five minutes to go and then help set up a goal from freshman Colton Scheralis.
Stoughton, 6 vs. Durfee, 1 – Final – Junior Dante Massaro paced the offense with a three goal hat trick performance, helping Stoughton/Brockton earn its second straight win. Colin Alessi added a pair of goals in the win while junior Jack Mahoney scored once.
Stoughton, 6 vs. Quincy/North Quincy, 6 – Final – Stoughton stormed back, scoring five times in the final period to earn a tie with Quincy/North Quincy. Morgan Lessa had a hand in all six of the goals. She recorded a hat trick and assisted on the other three. Zoey Bangs added two goals and Haley Nelson had the sixth. Nelson also had three assists. Sam Sherman had an assist for Stoughton as well.
2018-2019 Record: 10-10-2 2018-2019 Finish: Reached Div. 3 South Preliminary Round Coach: Mark Homer
The Bombardiers will be looking to stretch their postseason streak to three years this season. It showed how deep the Kelley-Rex division was last year that the Bombardiers, who did not fare well in league games, made it to the state tournament.
One reason that Attleboro is hopeful for a spot in the state tournament is the addition of a couple of transfers to the program. Jake Ward joined the program and will apart of the Bombardiers top line alongside senior captain Ryan Morry and junior Aidan Diggin. Both Morry and Diggin have a plethora of experience at the varsity level so expect Attleboro’s top line to be a dangerous one in the offensive zone. Attleboro picked up some needed depth with the addition of junior Owen Dryjowicz and freshman Aidan Dryjowicz, who will join sophomore Nate Parker on the second line.
The third line could see some rotation but will mostly feature junior Austin Blais at the center spot, and senior Liam McDonough, junior Owen Graney, and senior Kyle Miniati on the wings. The Bombardiers will have some experience on the blue line with senior Sam Flynn and junior Zach Pierce holding down two of the top spots, with sophomore Sean Marshall also in the mix. The fourth spot between the top two defensive pairs is still up for grabs in the early going. Sophomores Nick Piazza and Michael Dutremble are battling for minutes in net.
“We hope to improve our record from last year through commitment and hard work collectively, and gain entry to the state tournament,” said Attleboro head coach Mark Homer.
2018-2019 Record: 25-0-1 2018-2019 Finish: D2 State Champions Coach: Brian Shuman
Having won nine straight Davenport division titles, Canton is used to having a target on its back as the rest of the Hockomock League tries to knock the Bulldogs from the top. But this year, that target is even bigger than before.
Fresh off one of the best seasons in both program and league history that ended with a D2 State Championship, the Bulldogs will be getting everyone’s best game in and game out. And while Canton certainly graduated some key pieces, like two-time HockomockSports.com Player of the Year Ryan Nolte, the Bulldogs enter this season as not only the favorite for a 10th straight division crown but will certainly be in the mix when it comes to the 2020 D2 State title.
While replacing Nolte will be tough, the Bulldogs have several key forwards back from last year’s championship team. It will all start with senior Johnny Hagan, who was named HockomockSports.com Underclassman of the Year as a sophomore and racked up 51 points with 21 goals and 31 assists on the season. Hagan will have a lot of experience to work with in senior Timmy Kelleher (seven goals, seven assists last regular season), senior Tommy Ghostlaw (five goals, six assists), and senior Chris Lavoie (13 goals, 12 assists). Lavoie could be poised for a breakout year, scoring twice in the season-opening win over Franklin.
Canton also brings back top players along the blue line with Jack Connolly and HockomockSports.com Second Team selection Owen Lehane. Both seniors, Connolly and Lehane not only are among the best defensive players in the league but play a big part of the Canton offense with their shooting. Seniors Ronan O’Mahony and Declan Pfeffer are also experienced defensemen that will see increased roles this year. Canton turns to senior Joe Cammarata to start in between the pipes with junior Liam Polles impressing early on and could push for starting minutes.
“We have a lot of experience returning, but that’s true for a lot of teams across the state,” said Canton coach Brian Shuman. If our preseason was any indication, there are a lot of outstanding, talented teams this year that improved greatly in the offseason. We will have our work cut out for us in the Hock and with a tough non-league schedule.”
2018-2019 Record: 12-7-3 2018-2019 Finish: Reached Div. 3 South First Round Coach: Mark Cedorchuk
Foxboro built upon its 10-season win two years ago with its best season in program history last year, picking up 12 wins including one in the postseason. After posting back-to-back successful seasons, the Warriors are hoping that trend continues.
With a good amount of returners back this year, the Warriors will be in good position to compete in the Hockomock League and will be aiming to make a deeper run into the state tournament behind a beefed-up schedule. One strength for Foxboro this year will be its offense with its two top regular season point producers back in junior Kirk Leach (15 goals, 20 assists) and senior Ronnie MacLellan (14 goals, 20 assists). That duo provided the Warriors with a lot of its offense last season and will be one of the top returning duos this season. Senior Sebastian Ricketts brings a vast amount of experience to the offense while sophomore Jack Watts (10 goals, four assists) will be looking to build on an impressive freshman year. Brady Daly, Eoin Reager, Josh Bertuman, Ryan Jacobs and Ben Ricketts will provide needed depth offensively.
Defensively it all starts with senior goalie Espen Reager, the defending Hockomock League MVP back after a strong junior season between the pipes for the Warriors. Reager has the ability to keep his team in teams, and he showed last year that he can help steal a game like he did against Mansfield. In front of Reager, senior Kyle McGinnis is one of the more experienced defensemen in the league and will be the anchor of the blue line group for Foxboro. Freshman Alex Coviello has impressed early on and will be a key piece of the defense.
“Our strength on offense this season will be our depth and overall team speed,” said Foxboro head coach Mark Cedorchuk. “We have more depth on offense than we’ve ever had. We’re looking forward to this season, with a lot of depth up front, excellent team speed and a great goalie we feel we can compete with any team on our schedule.”
2018-2019 Record: 12-10-4 2018-2019 Finish: Reached Div. 1 South Final Coach: Anthony Sarno
A new chapter begins in Franklin boys hockey with Anthony Sarno taking over on the bench after longtime Panther coach Chris Spillane stepped down following last season. While the Panthers might have a bit of a new look, expectations are still high inside Pirelli for the defending Kelley-Rex champs.
Sarno is hoping that momentum will carry over from the Panthers’ impressive playoff run from a year ago when Franklin upset Mansfield in overtime and knocked off Catholic Memorial in the semifinals. But there won’t be any nights off for Franklin with a loaded schedule that features Malden Catholic, Pope Francis, and a loaded Mt. Hope tournament — and that’s just December.
“It will be a work in progress and we will look to develop a solid team chemistry with a relentless work ethic, staying true to consistency, and discipline in an environment where effort and attitude is paramount, and not up for discussion,” Sarno said.
Up front, the Panthers will be leaning on seniors Shane McCaffrey, Kevin O’Rielly, and Shea Hurley to lead the way. McCaffrey is the team’s top scorer returning from a year ago so it will be vital for new players to step up and contribute. Juniors Conor O’Neil and Declan Lovett are also going to be important pieces to the Panthers’ offense. Senior Ray Ivers returns between the pipes are stepping in last season and playing well. In front of Ivers, Franklin will have two of the best defensemen in the league with senior Tom Tasker, a HockomockSports.com First Team selection last year, and junior Joe LeBlanc, who had a breakout sophomore campaign.
2018-2019 Record: 10-11-0 2018-2019 Finish: Missed postseason Coach: Paul Carlow
After missing out on the state tournament in back-to-back seasons, the Warriors have a chance to end that drought in 2020 behind an experienced group of players after losing just five players to graduation.
Head coach Paul Carlow says this is the most experienced group he’s had at his disposal since taking over behind the Warriors’ bench in 2015. There are nine seniors back this year and eight juniors so King Philip certainly boasts a lot of depth, and players that have played plenty of minutes at the varsity level. It starts with senior captain Chris Daniels, senior assistant captain Joe Boselli, and senior assistant captain Jack Coulter. All three have skated plenty of minutes for Carlow over the past couple of years and will be relied upon for their leadership.
Daniels is a crafty forward that scored five goals and had six assists while Coulter is the top returning scorer back this year after scoring six goals and recording nine assists a year ago. Seniors Bryan Lucente and Noah Ray will also be in the mix offensively alongside Daniels, Coulter, and Boselli. The Warriors will also rely on a handful of juniors to chip in offensively including forward Conor Cooke. Cooke had a terrific season with 10 goals and four assists and could be poised for a breakout year.
Defensively, there is a lot of veterans along the blue line for King Philip. Seniors Kyle Gray and Ethan McGuire are joined by junior Rocco Bianculli, a Hockomock League All Star and a HocomockSports.com All Underclassman selection a year ago. Gray is a three-year player that provides physicality while Bianculli is one of the top scoring defensemen in the entire league, scoring seven goals and adding seven assists during his sophomore season. Seniors Nate Ihley and Jesper Makudera will battle for minutes in net.
“I’m really looking forward to this season,” Carlow said. “On top of the seniors and juniors, we also have a strong sophomore class competing for spots. We have speed up front, we’re strong on the back end, and we have two good goalies. I’m looking forward to working with this group and fully expect them to make the tournament.”
2018-2019 Record: 14-6-3 2018-2019 Finish: Reached Div. 1 South First Round Coach: Mike Balzarini
Mansfield head coach Mike Balzarini was a little concerned about his team’s depth coming into the season after graduating nine players and losing two top players to prep school. But after tryouts and a strong preseason, Balzarini believes this year’s squad will be just as deep as last year’ 14-win squad.
Losing a talented senior class hurts, and with Matt Copponi (eight goals, 28 assists, 2019 HockomockSports.com Underclassman of the Year) and Brian Grant (HockomockSports.com All Underclassmen Team) off to prep schools, the Hornets will need new faces to step up and contribute on both ends of the ice. But Balzarini and the Hornets have something that none of the other Hockomock teams have and that’s senior goalie Sean McCafferty. Now in his fourth year starting, McCafferty is a game-changer. Even if the Hornets aren’t having their best games, they’ll still likely have a chance to win because of McCafferty.
In front of McCafferty, the Hornets will turn to senior Joseph Troiano to anchor the defensive unit. He will be joined by Jack Gormley and Conor Benoit, both of whom picked up valuable minutes last season and should help Mansfield be one of the stingiest defensive groups. Offensively, the Hornets do get a boost with the return of senior forward Chris Jenkins. Jenkins was named to the HockomockSports.com All Underclassmen Team in 2017 after he had 11 goals and 10 assists as a freshman. He will join veterans Jake Lund and Kevin Belanger to form a talented first line for the Hornets. Cam Paige, Liam Anastasia, and Ben Ierardo will team up on Mansfield’s second line.
“We have a little bit of a sour taste after how last year ended,” Balzarini said. “We want to get over that hurdle of the first round of the playoffs. This group really plays well together, they play as a team. They’ve gelled nicely since the first day of tryouts.”
2018-2019 Record: 11-9-2 2018-2019 Finish: Reached Div. 2 South Quarterfinals Coach: Ben McManama
North Attleboro will be leaning on its defense in order to get back to the tournament again this season. With the defending state champs in Canton as well as an improved Foxboro squad, the Rocketeers have their hands full with a difficult three-team Davenport division.
Seniors Jake McNeany, Will Yeomans, Jeff Baker, and junior Charlie Connolly are all back this season to give North Attleboro a veteran defensive group. With a handful of experienced players leading the way defensively, it should make the transition from four-year starting goalie Ryan Warren a bit smoother. Another reason that transition should go smoothly is senior goalie Nick Digiacomo, who has been impressive in the preseason so far this year.
Senior Dennis Morehouse is back after a breakout junior campaign and will be in the mix as one of the top players in the Hockomock League this season. Morehouse was second on the team in points last year with 15 goals and four assists and is the top returning scorer back for the Rocketeers. Senior Jack Connolly is another experienced forward that will be a key piece of the offense while junior Tyler Sarro will look to build upon a solid sophomore season.
“For us to be successful, we need to be discipline and get scoring from our second and third lines,” said North Attleboro coach Ben McManama. “We are not as big as we were in years past so we need to play tough and physical.”
2018-2019 Record: 14-9-1 2018-2019 Finish: Reached Div. 2 South Quarterfinal Coach: Mike Zucarelli
There is a new face at the helm of the Tigers this season, but its a familiar one. Mike Zucarelli takes over after serving as an assistant coach and is optimistic about the upcoming season.
Replacing one of the league’s top forwards in Brett Williams won’t be easy, but the Tigers boast experienced returners at every position on the ice. Senior Owen Connor is back for his third year in between the pipes. He took a big jump from his sophomore to junior year and that Zucarelli expects that trend to continue for the 2019-2020 season. In front of Connor, OA returns senior defensemen Ryan Gottwald and Matt Nosalek. Gottwald, one of the team’s two captains, had an impressive junior year and will be the leader of the defensive group this season.
Offensively, there will be some familiar faces including senior captain Hunter Costello. Costello, who scored nine goals and had 15 assists in the regular season a year ago, is joined by fellow returners Jake Gottwald, Duncan Pereira, and Brad Powers. All four of those seniors will be vital in the attack while juniors Ross Carroll and Matt Nigro should see expanded roles this year.
“We are going to be a gritty, hardworking team this year,” Zucarelli said, citing a preseason scrimmage with Milton. “We held our own during the first as Milton took it to us. We came out flying in the second, tied up the game and took the momentum into the third period with a huge penalty kill. The overall play of the team after one week was great to see.”
The Tigers enter the season with a relatively young squad but the goal is to integrate all of the youth with the returners and make a push for the state tournament by the end of the season.
Junior Mike Albert will be the main guy on the offensive end. Albert, who scored 10 goals and added 19 assists last season, was the leading scorer for the Tigers as a sophomore and is looking to take the next step this year. Junior Steve Roderick and sophomores Jack DeMoura and Michael Lucier are all new to the program and should be in the mix right away to help bolster the Taunton attack.
Head coach Kris Metea is also counting on some of the younger players to have breakout seasons, including sophomores Nathan Fernandes, Loren Corcoran, and Evan Perreira. On the defensive side, junior Brady Nichols will anchor the blue line unit. Although just a junior, Nichols has a wealth of varsity experience and the Tigers will lean on him to guide a young defensive core. Senior Andrew Gomes and junior Sean Bunker will battle for minutes in net.
“We have a group of young players that we will look to continue to develop over the course of the season,” Metea said. “The key to our success will be the meshing of the new players with the development of young players. The sky’s the limit for this group with continued commitment.”
FRANKLIN, Mass. – Canton was on its heels for large portions of Saturday night’s season opener at Pirelli Veterans Arena, struggling with the speed of the Franklin forwards and struggling to find the outlet passes that would send the Bulldogs racing forward into the offensive zone.
Still, the Bulldogs know how to find ways to win games. Senior forward Shane Marshall took advantage of a fortuitous bounce off a skate to score a power play goal with 11:27 to play and it turned out to be the difference in a 3-2 victory that extends Canton’s unbeaten run to 27 games and makes it four straight wins against the Panthers.
“It was probably not as tightly played as we’re used to, but that’s a really good team,” Canton coach Brian Shuman said. “They’re a very skilled, high-flying team this year. They were doing some stuff that we hadn’t seen them do in the past. I was very impressed with them, they played very well, and they took it to us.”
He added, “We got a lucky bounce on the power play goal to go up and then we just kind of hung on.”
The first period was relatively even, the teams putting nine shots on goal apiece. Owen Lehane had the first good chance for the Bulldogs, pushing forward from defense, splitting a pair of Franklin players, but having the puck roll off the blade at the last second. A face-off win set Shea Hurley up for a chance that was saved by Canton’s Joe Cammarata and the rebound was tipped over the glass.
Chris Lavoie got into the act with a pair of chances off a Canton attacking zone face-off win, but was unable to beat Franklin goalie Ray Ivers at the near post.
With 6:34 left in the first, just after a power play had ended, Lavoie would put the Bulldogs in front. Johnny Hagan weaved his way behind the Franklin net and sent a pass right on the tape for Lavoie, who was left open in the slot, to one-time past Ivers.
Canton cleared off a two-man advantage but sophomore Dylan Marchand nearly tied the game before the end of the period when another face-off win set him up for a look from the slot. Declan Lovett dangled past the Canton defense on the left wing and forced another save from Cammarata, as the Panthers turned up the pressure.
It didn’t take long after the first intermission for Franklin to even the score. Sean Connelly was able to push past the first defenseman and then laid off a perfect pass across the crease to Shane McCaffrey, who smashed a one-timer into an open net less than a minute into the period.
The Panthers almost grabbed the lead when Marchand stole an outlet pass in the neutral zone and sped past the retreating Canton players. Cammarata stayed big and was able to stop the breakaway and then also recover to stop JT Dwyer’s follow-up effort.
Lavoie gave the Bulldogs back the lead on the power play. He corralled a loose puck in the slot, spun quickly onto his forehand, and fired a wrister just under the bar to make it 2-1.
Tom Tasker nearly set up a tying goal with a perfect angled pass from the right point to the far post, but Hurley was unable to knock it into the empty net. It was one of several good looks that the Panthers failed to capitalize on, as they outshot Canton 10-5 in the second. Franklin was also 0-for-5 with the man advantage in the first two periods.
“We had our chances, but I felt like we left a little on the table there and didn’t pull the trigger when we had to,” said first-year Franklin coach Anthony Sarno. “We were trying to be a little bit too polished and a little bit too cute and sometimes you just have to get the puck to the net.”
Just like in the second period, Franklin wasted no time to tie the game in the third. With 14:17 to play, Tasker stepped up to a loose puck on the near boards and let fly with a rocket of a slap shot blocker side, which gave Cammarata no chance.
Sarno said, “He’s got a shot like I’ve never seen before. He’s a big, strong kid and that goal he scored to tie the game was incredible. We need more of that. We need everybody to step up and contribute. We have to be committed.”
Also just like the second period, Canton wasted little time grabbing the lead back thanks to its dangerous power play (2-for-6 on Saturday). Ronan O’Mahony stepped up from the blue line to fire a shot on goal, which hit a skate in front and deflected directly to the stick of Marshall, who was stepping in from the left face-off dot. He didn’t need a second touch to knock it past the dive of Ivers.
“For the most part, for the first game we have a lot to learn,” said Sarno. “We need to take better care of the puck in our own zone. I thought we gave up a little too much space, especially on the initial rush. We need gap up a little better, take away their speed coming in, and force them to dump it in.”
Hagan nearly got his second assist when he set up Timmy Kelleher in front but Ivers was able to stay with the partially deflected shot and push it aside. The Bulldogs had an opportunity to put the game away after a major penalty was assessed to the Panthers, but Franklin managed to clear it off and also create a couple of chances to tie it in the final 1:15.
Lovett had the first chance with a shot from a face-off win, but it was stopped at the near post. Seconds later, Marchand had a slap shot that was sticked aside. Despite the Franklin pressure (the Panthers held a 29-21 advantage in shots for the game), and Canton looking shaky in its own zone, the Bulldogs managed to hang on.
“Our guys who have been around struggled tonight,” Shuman admitted. “Usually our strength is in the ‘D’ zone and breaking out and the guys who’ve been around really struggled. Hopefully it’s just first game jitters.”
They are now 26-0-1 in their last 27 games dating back to the start of last season, although Shuman is quick to turn the page on last year’s state championship.
“We rarely talk about last season, unless we’re asked about it and even then we kind of dismiss it,” he explained. “Based on scrimmages, based on this game, other teams got a heck of a lot better and we’re still figuring out how much better we got it. We had some magic last season and this season is going to be totally different.”
Canton (1-0) will host Shrewsbury in another tough non-league contest on Wednesday. Franklin (0-1) will host perennial power Malden Catholic on Tuesday night.
Below are the official 2019 Hockomock League Boys Hockey All Stars, selected by the coaches in the league.
Hockomock League MVP
Espen Reager, Foxboro
Hockomock League All Stars
Ryan Morry, Attleboro
Sam Larkin, Attleboro
Ryan Nolte, Canton
Michael Staffiere, Canton
John Hagan, Canton
Owen Lehane, Canton
Espen Reager, Foxboro
Brendan Tully, Foxboro
Joseph Lizotte, Franklin
Thomas Tasker, Franklin
Shane McCaffrey, Franklin
Brendan Shandley, King Philip
Rocco Bianculli, King Philip
Jack Garland, Mansfield
Brad Grant, Mansfield
Ryan Warren, North Attleboro
Anthony Zammiello, North Attleboro
Brendan McHugh, North Attleboro
Max Ward, Oliver Ames
Brett Williams, Oliver Ames
Matthew McCormack, Oliver Ames
Sean Doherty, Stoughton
Andrew Carter, Taunton
Kyle McCabe, Attleboro
Jack Connolly, Canton
Ronnie MacLellan, Foxboro
Cam Cassella, Franklin
Ryan Fitzpatrick, King Philip
Chris Copponi, Mansfield
Dennis Morehouse, North Attleboro
Bryan Kearns, Oliver Ames
Carter Gerome, Stoughton
Cameron Sneyd, Taunton
BUZZARDS BAY, Mass. – In the last game of the league campaign, Franklin had a chance to clinch the Kelley-Rex division title with a win against North Attleboro, but the Rocketeers pulled out the victory leaving the Panthers worried that not only would the league title be lost, but also its playoff hopes.
A few hours later, thanks to results at other rinks, Franklin had its title in hand and a place in the state tournament.
Fast forward a little more than a month and the Panthers, who entered the playoffs as the lowest seed in Div. 1 South and with a below .500 record, took on top seed Duxbury in Sunday evening’s sectional final with a chance to return to the TD Garden.
Unfortunately for Franklin (12-10-4), its improbable tournament run ended at Gallo Arena with a 3-0 loss to the Dragons.
“We left the rink saying we’re not going and then an hour later alright we have second place and then an hour and 15 minutes later we have first place,” said Franklin coach Chris Spillane about the turnaround that the Panthers experienced that night against North. “It was crazy. We made the most of it.”
The top seed got off to a great start, scoring within the opening two minutes and setting the tone with its speed and physicality. Todd Jones put the Panthers on the back foot right away when he split a pair of defensemen and then flicked a shot over the shoulder of Franklin goalie Ray Ivers.
Spillane said, “They were good. They came out fast, they were physical, we just couldn’t match their energy. We had six kids who couldn’t practice the last five days with the bug. It’s part of hockey and you have to fight through it, but it was obvious tonight that we didn’t have our legs to keep up with a team like that.”
Ivers was forced to make a couple of stops from close-range just a couple minutes after the opening goal, while the Panthers tried to get a foothold in the game. Franklin’s first good scoring chance came with seven minutes left in the first after Joey Lizotte stole an outlet pass and set up Shane McCaffrey in the slot but his shot was saved by Steve Pisani.
Brendan Sicchio followed up a rebound off a shot from outside the blue line and nearly stuffed it past Pisani. Sicchio then set up C.J. Spillane for a backhand chance in front that was stopped. Colin Hedvig nearly got the Panthers on the board at the end of the first when he dangled past a defender and forced a save.
Franklin carried that momentum into the second period and had a good start with three quick shots, but then Duxbury struck again. Ben Cheney fired an inch-perfect stretch pass to Tanner Smith and he sniped the top corner to make it 2-0.
“That’s a credit to that team because every time they had an opportunity to score, they scored,” Spillane remarked. “We were outshooting them…but they’ve got some snipers.”
Hedvig gloved an attempted clearance and forced a blocker save and Cam Cassella forced a kick save from the left-wing circle after he stole a pass at the blue line. Tom Tasker had a shot from the point redirected in front by Dan Magazu, but it went off Pisani’s mask and stayed out.
In the final minute of the period, Kyle Hedvig got a good look right in front but Pisani was able to smother. The Panthers turned over the puck off the rebound and almost instantly Duxbury was back on the attack. James Lawlor got loose on the quick break out and he beat Ivers (21 saves) to make it 3-0. It was a deflating goal for the Panthers to give up.
“When you playing at not-100 percent, the safe play is to chip it out and that’s what we were doing,” said Spillane. “We didn’t carry the puck, we didn’t make plays or passes, it was all chip, chip, chip, chip and we just didn’t have it.”
Franklin came out of the locker room for the third period with the intent of putting together a comeback, but the lack of healthy bodies took its toll and the Panthers never got going. Kyle Hedvig had a decent chance with a tip in front but Pisani got his blocker to it. Ivers made a good stop after Zack Stewart weaved through the defense.
The Dragons neutralized the Panthers in the third, limiting them to only six shots, and closed out the game to book its place in next weekend’s state championship.
“I thought we were going to get one early in the third and it might change the energy on the bench, give them something to fight for, but it just didn’t happen,” said Spillane.
He added, “It was a good ride. They showed a lot of heart and character. We knew what we had in the locker room. Our record may not have been indicative of that, but we knew we played some good hockey teams and we competed and we knew that we could run with anyone.”