Benham Saves the Day for Franklin Against Oliver Ames

Franklin hockey
Sophomore Matt Holmes (19) celebrates with Jack McGrath (15) after scoring the opening goal against Oliver Ames on Saturday night. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

Josh PerryFollowJoshPerry


FRANKLIN, Mass. – Former Franklin goalie Sean Bertoni (Class of 2002) made his first return to his alma mater as a head coach on Saturday night, leading Oliver Ames into Pirelli Veterans Arena with a chance to take control of the Kelley-Rex title race.

But it was current Panthers netminder Cam Benham that stole the headlines and the two points with a 40-save performance that helped Franklin claim a 4-1 victory and control of its own destiny as it seeks to clinch a sixth straight league championship.

“That’s the goaltender that we need every night,” said Franklin coach Chris Spillane. “We’re looking forward to Cam getting on a roll. He had a shutout the other night, played unbelievable for us tonight, made some really big saves, and kept us in the game.”

Benham needed to be ready right from the opening face-off because the Tigers came flying out of the gates with 18 shots in the opening period and used their speed to create host of great scoring chances.

Eric LeBlanc set up Cullen Gallagher in front just a couple minutes in only for the sophomore to fire wide. Five minutes into the game, Brett Williams found Korey Sweezey in front alone but Benham made a point-blank pad save to keep the game scoreless. Rory Madden got free for a shorthanded chance but again Benham was up to the challenge.

Franklin took advantage of those saves and of a four-minute major penalty to get the lead against the run of play. Tom Sicchio’s shot from the point was kicked aside by Zach Walsh (16 saves) but right to Matt Holmes and he knocked in the rebound.

“I knew they were going to [start quick] and they were all over us,” admitted Spillane. “We weathered the storm and we sort of had our opportunities and we found the back of the net.”

Right at the end of the first, Benham came through with a flurry of saves, batting aside five or six shots from the Tigers who were trying to head into the first intermission on even terms.

“The first period was probably our best period of the season,” said Bertoni. “I was saying to the coaches maybe if we were a little bit older because young guys in a big game, maybe they were a little tight on their stick.”

Franklin settled down after the break and started the second much stronger and finding ways to slow down the speedy Tigers.

Just a minute into the period, Adam Assad controlled the puck near his own blue line and took a hit to feed Sicchio pushing forward into the neutral zone. Sicchio drove into the attacking zone, dragged the puck past his defender and fired a shot into the bottom corner for a 2-0 lead.

“He has stick skills, which is nice because he can make those plays,” said Spillane of Sicchio. “He’s really the backbone of our defense right now.”

Three minutes later and the Tigers were stunned again, as a shot from the point by freshman Connor Opelt was redirected in front by Jeremy Miller and past the left pad of Walsh for a 3-0 lead.

When asked if his team had been disheartened by dominating the first period but trailing, Bertoni responded, “I don’t think so because we’ve been there before. They were so excited to start the second period especially because of how we ended the first. We must have had four shots in that scramble and just couldn’t bury one.”

Gallagher had a chance from the slot to get one back for OA but fired over the bar and Williams set up LeBlanc in front for a tip towards goal that was blocked by Benham.

The Tigers had the final seven shots of the second but trailed by three goals entering the third period. Within the first minute, Franklin had extended the lead to 4-0. Jack McGrath passed the puck across the blue line to Sicchio, who sent the puck towards net. Luke Downie redirected the shot from the slot and inside the post.

When asked if the Panthers had made any adjustments to try and combat OA’s speed, Spillane replied, “We’ve played fast teams before, we knew what we were in for and we just needed to pick up our tempo. Against a team like that, you have to play fast and move the puck.”

The Tigers finally got on the board on a power play goal with 1:32 remaining. Benham made two saves but the second rebound popped out to Williams, who knocked it into an open net. OA got some energy to finish with another flurry, totaling 14 shots in the third period, but Benham stood tall again to ensure that the Tigers only got one on the board.

“They played hard, just some of the penalties…I told them when we play 5-on-5 that we can skate with anyone,” said Bertoni. “We generate offense when we’re 5-on-5.”

Bertoni had previously returned as an assistant coach with the Tigers during the 2013-14 season and watched then Tigers goalie Jimmy Tierney make 40-plus saves for the win. He is now 1-1 coming back to his alma mater (where his father Bill Bertoni and his uncle Bruce Bertoni, who is still an assistant coach for the Panthers, are both members of the Franklin Hockey Hall of Fame).

He was asked how it felt to be back here and on the visiting bench and, with the hint of a smile, Bertoni said, “It felt good, it felt good…Man…I wanted to steal this one.”

Franklin (9-4-0, 4-1-0) has jumped to the top of the league standings at the midway point of the league campaign. Next up for the Panthers is King Philip at Pirelli on Wednesday, while Oliver Ames (7-4-1, 3-2-1) will travel to Foxboro.

Franklin Falls Short In Rematch of State Title Game

Franklin hockey
Franklin senior James Kilroe (7) scored a third period goal in the loss to St. Mary’s (Lynn) in a rematch of last year’s state final. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

Josh PerryFollowJoshPerry


FRANKLIN, Mass. – The last time that Franklin and St. Mary’s (Lynn) met on the ice, it was an instant classic. The Panthers and Spartans wowed the crowd at the Boston Garden in a dramatic, double overtime thriller that Franklin won to claim its first state championship in three decades.

On Saturday night, the teams met again, this time in the smaller confines of Pirelli Veterans Arena, and the game played out very differently.

Franklin got off to a great start, taking a lead just 1:23 into the first period, but for the majority of the next 43 minutes the game was dominated by the visitors. St. Mary’s took the lead by the end of the first and never looked back, pulling out a 7-3 victory and exacting a measure of revenge for last season’s title game defeat.

“I thought we played well for the first 10 minutes,” said Franklin coach Chris Spillane. “I thought we had a jump in our step, we forechecked well, we were physical, and then right after that you could see it start to derail. That’s sort of been our season. We haven’t played a full 45 [minutes].”

The Panthers got off to the perfect start to the game. Jeremy Miller burst into the zone and had a shot from the right side kicked aside by St. Mary’s goalie Andrew LoRusso, but Adam Assad was following up the play and he knocked the loose puck into the open net.

Shortly after the goal, the Spartans would be given a four-minute power play of which the first 90 seconds would be a two-man advantage. Thanks to a couple of solid kick saves by goalie Owen Ginley and strong defense that kept the visitors on the edges, Franklin managed to clear it off and gain even more energy.

Unfortunately for the Panthers, the strong start could not be sustained.

Colin Reddy tied the game with 3:18 left in the first when he tapped in Jason Loeser’s pass that slipped through the skates of a Franklin defenseman. Two minutes later, Kyle Ouellette flipped a pass towards goal that was knocked down into the slot by Mike Zampanti and knocked in by Anthony Bono.

Ginley came through with a huge save on Bono after a mix up by the Franklin defense in the final seconds of the first, but he picked up an injury in the process and would be taken out for Cam Benham in the second.

Spillane said, “We had all the momentum. It was great and then right after that we just lost it. Our starting goaltender got hurt at the end of the first period and then we had to switch goalies, got a cold goalie coming in…and it just kept rolling.”

Franklin got off to a decent start to the second period with Miller setting up Zac Falvey only for LoRusso to deny him. Benham made a big save on Bono after a slip by the Franklin defense gave the St. Mary’s forward a breakaway, but was unable to stop a wraparound by Damon Maribito that made it 3-1.

Benham stopped Maribito four minutes later on another breakaway and the Panthers nearly had an answer when James Kilroe was set up Noah Nasuti, but the shot was off-target. Twenty-four seconds after that chance a puck up the boards bounced between a pair Panthers and started a 2-on-1 break for the Spartans. Reddy scored his second off an assist by Mike Desmond.

“One bad bounce and that’s it,” said Spillane. “We sort of hung our heads…We have capabilities, we have good hockey players, but we’re not consistent right now. Against a team like this, you can’t play inconsistent.”

The fourth goal seemed to open the floodgates for St. Mary’s with Bono scoring on a blast off a face-off win to make it 5-1. Assad struck the post before the end of the second, but just three minutes into the third period Loeser flicked a wrist shot from the high slot through traffic that snuck inside the post.

The Panthers showed some life in the final period helped out by several power play opportunities. Brendan O’Reilly set up Luke Downie (the hero from last March’s final at the TD Garden) but LoRusso again made the stop. T.J. Durkin had a goal disallowed a minute later when he knocked in Assad’s pass only for the officials to rule that the net was dislodged first.

With 8:34 left to play, Kilroe followed up a rebound from Jack McGrath’s shot from the point to cut the lead to four with a power play goal. Dan Sheehan stopped a breakaway to keep it 6-2 and Cam Trask had a chance saved before Franklin added a third. Tom Sicchio drove to the red line and cut a pass across the crease that was tipped on net by Matt Holmes and tapped in by Downie.

St. Mary’s sealed the win in the final minutes with a shot through traffic by Marc Zampanti. Despite the defeat, Spillane saw positives for his team from playing that level of competition.

He said, “At the end of the day, it’s good for our kids in the long run. They’re a good team and we’re going to see teams just like this down the road, so we’ve got to be ready.

Spillane added, “I think we have the players to compete, it’s just got to be 45 minutes night in, night out. Now we go into our league play and I’m going to demand we play 45 minutes every night or you’ll be on the bench. We’ve got a lot of kids that want to play.”

Franklin (6-3) will return to Hockomock play on Wednesday when the Panthers travel to Aleixo Arena to play Taunton.

Hockey: 2016-2017 Kelley-Rex Division Preview

2016-2017 Kelley-Rex Hockey Preview
King Philip and Oliver Ames will be divisional opponents when the two teams tack to the ice this winter after the Tigers were moved from the Davenport. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)

By HockomockSports.com Staff

2016-2017 Kelley-Rex Hockey Preview

ATTLEBORO

2015-16 Record: 7-11-2 (1-8-1)
2015-16 Finish: Missed playoffs
Head Coach: Mark Homer

Attleboro narrowly missed out on a playoff spot last season, losing in its final game against a Div. 3 opponent and this year’s team will be motivated to try and get back in the postseason under new head coach Mark Homer, who made the switch from Oliver Ames where he coached the past three years, and with a new home – moving from Aleixo Arena in Taunton to the new England Sports Village just a couple minutes from the school.

In what has become a common issue for the Bombardiers program, Attleboro will not have
a lot of depth to call on this winter with only 15 skaters and two goalies on the varsity roster, but there is some experience coming back. Senior P.J. Elliott is a talented skater and stick handler who will be counted on to provide the scoring punch along with Jake Parker and Dylan Weallac on the first line.

Sam McKenzie emerged last year as a physical presence and senior captain Eddie Noel will partner him on the top defensive pairing. Sophomore Evan Andrews and freshman Derek Rivet will battle it out for the starting goaltender position for the Bombardiers. There are several other underclassmen who could make immediate impacts, including sophomore forward Cam Littig.

“With the new facility in Attleboro the hopes are that in the coming years, the roster will grow to include increasing depth to the program,” said Homer. “The goal of this years team is to stay healthy, work together as one unit on and off the ice, and get better each day. It’s a new day for Attleboro High School Hockey with a promising future.”

FRANKLIN

2015-16 Record: 18-4-5 (8-0-2)
2015-16 Finish: Won the Div. 1 State Championship
Head Coach: Chris Spillane

After being the first Hockomock League team selected for the prestigious Super 8 tournament in 2014-15 and then graduating 21 players, Franklin was supposed to need a year to rebuild, but the Panthers showed just how strong their program is by bringing home the Div. 1 state championship in a dramatic double overtime thriller against St. Mary’s at the TD Garden. It was the program’s first state title at any level since 1983.

The Panthers graduated another large class of 13 seniors from last year’s champions and lost promising freshman defenseman Kevin Mackay who transferred to Dexter. Still, expectations remain as high as ever for the Panthers, who have won four straight league titles. Much of that excitement comes from the potential in the offensive zone with Franklin returning last year’s title game hero Luke Downie, leading goal scorer Jeremy Miller, and Brendan O’Reilly and the top line of seniors Joey Blasie, Adam Assad, and James Kilroe. Sophomores Matt Holmes and Zach Falvey will add depth to the offense.

Defense is where the Panthers will have some new faces, although seniors Tom Sicchio and Stan Carter will add some experience to the back line. Juniors Jack McGrath and Connor Norton will make the jump up from the JV team to add to the defensive lines and freshman Collin Opet will also see playing time on the defense as well. For the third season in a row, Franklin will have a new No. 1 goalie with senior Cam Benhamand junior Owen Ginley will battle it out for the starting spot.

“For the Panthers to be successful this year it will be a result of a team defense concept,” said Franklin coach Chris Spillane. “The offense will take care of itself, we will be focusing on strong play in our zone.”

KING PHILIP

2015-16 Record: 9-8-4 (5-2-3)
2015-16 Finish: Reached the Div. 1 South playoffs
Head Coach: Paul Carlow

The Warriors made strides last winter under first-year head coach Paul Carlow, including a regular season tie with Franklin and reaching the postseason for the first time since the program was moved back up to Div. 1. This season, Carlow is hopeful for a return to the postseason and to challenge for KP’s first league title since 2007, despite losing 10 seniors from last year’s roster.

The offensive zone should be strong for the Warriors this season with several key returning players that put up solid totals last winter. Junior forward Collin Cooke is the main weapon after putting up 11 goals and 15 assists for a team-high 26 points to be named a league all-star. He is joined up front by senior Ritchie Lucente, who scored 10 goals and had nine assists last year, and senior Jacob Kelly, who finished with 11 goals and nine assists.

KP will also return a few important pieces on the defensive side of the puck, including junior goalie Shane Frommer, who was 3-1-1 in his five starts last year. Frommer’s start to the hockey season will be slightly delayed after helping the football team win its first Super Bowl title. In front of the Frommer will be senior Jeremy Smith, who chipped in with three goals and four assists last season.

“We had some success last season qualifying for the D1 playoffs,” said Carlow. “We have our work cut out for us this season… We are a young team with only five seniors but I expect us to get back to the playoffs.”

MANSFIELD

2015-16 Record: 5-10-5 (4-4-2)
2015-16 Finish: Missed the playoffs
Head Coach: Mike Balzarini

Last winter was atypical for the Hornets, who missed out on the playoffs and finished fourth in the Kelley-Rex division, but Mansfield is hoping for a quick turnaround under new head coach Mike Balzarini, who makes the move from Milford. The Hornets have a number of returning players, including several from club or other school programs to bolster the depth.

One of the returning players is Joe Olsen, who spent last year with a juniors program but will be a significant addition to the Hornets top attacking line alongside fellow seniors Matt Farragher and Chad Piotti, who both had solid years in 2015-16. Junior Cullen Anastasia is another forward to come back to the program and could step right in to make an impact. Freshman Chris Jenkins is going to be the center on the third line and classmate James Bezeau will also see playing time this year.

On defense, the Hornets will be led by senior Cullen Murphy, a physical presence at the back and one of the leaders on the ice. Juniors Tim Arnold, Ryan O’Hara, and Tyler Oakley will also be important pieces on the top defensive pairings. Freshman Joseph Troiano will also be on the defense after he decided against attending Xaverian this year. The defense will be protecting senior goalies Brendan McKenna and Tony Rullo, who will each see time.

“We’re a lot deeper,” said Balzarini, who said that the Hornets would be carrying four lines and four sets of defensemen and is excited about the potential on the team. “It’s been good having two weeks to prepare. They have to get used to our new system and adhering to the structures that we’re putting in place.”

Oliver Ames

2015-16 Record: 10-10-1
2015-16 Finish: Reached D2 South First Round
Head Coach: Sean Bertoni

Oliver Ames will be looking to keep its postseason streak alive under new head coach Sean Bertoni – a former standout goalie for Franklin.

If the Tigers want to get back to the state tournament, they’ll need some help from their younger players; Oliver Ames has eight sophomores and four freshman on its roster this year. OA does have seven seniors and a group of experienced juniors that can help lead the way.

Owen Gallagher (26 points), who led the team in scoring a year ago, is back along with Eric LeBlanc (18 points), Cullen Gallagher (13 points) and Max Ward (12 points). Junior Rory Madden also returns this season after a year away; Madden registered 14 points his freshman year. Defensively, seniors Jack Maloney and Jared Costello bring a lot of experience to the blue line. Zach Walsh will be back between the pipes after a strong junior season.

“The goals of the team are to progress from Day one to the end of the year,” Bertoni said. “We have to use our team speed and forecheck extremely hard. We will be a disciplined, hard working aggressive team.”

TAUNTON

2015-16 Record: 13-10-0 (3-7-0)
2015-16 Finish: Reached the Div. 2 South playoffs
Head Coach: Kris Metea

The Tigers got to experience what the state tournament is like last season for the first time since 2006-07 and only the second time in the past two decades. Taunton had the fourth most wins in a season in the 44-year history of the program and scored a remarkable 106 goals last season, which was the best in the Hock.

This year, Taunton will try to build on its historic season and make a quick return to the postseason. Leading scorer Tyler Pietrzyk has graduated but there is plenty of firepower returning for the Tigers this season, including senior forward Zack Albert who is coming off a 30-point campaign. He will be joined up from by classmate Jordan Hoey, who had 17 points last season and senior Cam Carnes, who had 10 points. Sophomore Cam Sneyd could be poised for a breakout year for the Tigers.

Defensively, Taunton can lean on three-time league all-star Nick Terry, who will man the top defensive pairing. Mike Volkmann may be listed as a defenseman on the roster but he can get forward into the attack with 29 points a season ago. Junior Cam Welby will be a new addition to the defense after playing juniors all of last season. Senior Justin Chappell returns in net.

“This year’s group of seniors are first class kids,” said head coach Kris Metea. “They exemplify leadership across the board…They had a chance to taste the tournament last year, and are focused on acquiring more than just a taste this time around.”