BOURNE, Mass. -- There aren’t a lot of second chances in life, but the Franklin boys’ ice hockey team assured themselves of a big one.
After losing in the Division 2 state championship game a year ago at the TD Garden, the Panthers assured themselves of another shot at the title with a 5-2 win over Mansfield Sunday at Gallo Ice Arena.
The top-seeded Panthers jumped out to a 3-0 lead and then held back a late Hornets charge, popping a pair of empty netters in the final seconds. Franklin is now 19-2-3 for the season and can’t wait to try to secure their 20th victory next Sunday.
“I think that the kids that were there last year understood what it took to get here, and hopefully they now they understand what it takes to win that hockey game,” said a pleased Franklin head coach Chris Spillane following his team’s second straight Division 2 south title. “You don’t want to end your season on a losing note. You want to be the team that wins the last hockey game.”
A big reason that the Panthers were the last winning team in the south was that they were able to catch lightning in a bottle right out of the gate. Franklin scored twice in the first 5:53 of the game as they assaulted the Mansfield net with vigor.
Nick Bertoni opened the scoring with a pretty individual effort, wrapping one around from behind the goal and beating Rich Shipman to the far side post just 2:44 into the game. Three minutes later Franklin struck again. Ryan Garland used the defense as a screen and whistled an arrow past the keeper’s right ear to give the Panthers a 2-0 advantage at 5:53.
“We got the first two goals and set the tone right there,” Spillane said. “If we didn’t get those first two goals I don’t know where this game would have went because we were tired at the end.”
Mansfield head coach Rick Anastos, whose team rallied back from a 3-1 deficit in the third period in the semifinals to beat North Quincy, said that the first period has been a bugaboo for the Hornets all season.
“You can’t make mistakes. We turned the puck over, they scored. You just can’t make mistakes against a good team like Franklin.”
Each team popped one in the second period to keep it a 2-goal game going to the third. Franklin opened up a 3-0 lead at 5:44 on a pretty play by Adam Hall, who got a pass up the left wing from Nick Bertoni and put on burst of speed. He lifted a wrister from 8-feet out to the upper far corner.
Things were unraveling for the Hornets, but a good job of selling a penalty by Erik Foley led to a power play for Mansfield at 6:53. Four seconds later the Hornets were finally on the scoreboard as Brendan Murphy got the puck off the draw, slid from the left hashes to the slot and sneaked a wrister behind Mike Danadio.
Mansfield made it really interesting in the third, pulling to within one just 58 seconds into the third period. Foley, a very talented freshman, scored a goal-scorer’s goal to cut the deficit to one as he flew up the right wing and sniped one inside the nearside corner on the top shelf.
The Hornets continued to get after for the rest of the period, but Franklin goalie Mike Donadio was up to the task. The sophomore made a number of big saves in the third. With 8 minutes remaining he got piece of a chip by Steve Folan from the doorstep. With just under three minutes to go Donadio gobbled up a backdoor tip by Cam Neary, who was set up brilliantly by Kevin Flynn from the left wing wall, to preserve the lead.
“I thought we might have a little magic left, it was close,” Anastos said.
Mansfield pulled Shipman for the extra attacker with 80 seconds remaining. Franklin cleared the zone and could finally breathe a sigh of relief when Hall chipped one from the red line into the vacant goal to make it 4-2. With seven seconds left, Farnklin got another empty-net goal from Aidan Isberg, who hit the post and then buried his own rebound to make it 5-2.
Despite his team ending the night on the wrong end of the scoreboard, Anastos was quite upbeat about his club, one that featured 7 freshman playing roles on it. “I couldn’t be any prouder of the way these kids played and battled,” he said. “They did a great job. I mean, they’re playing Franklin and Franklin is such a great team.”