BOSTON -- Wilmington junior forward Cam Owens has dreamed of playing in the state finals at the Garden since he was just a little kid.
On Sunday, Owens not only reached his long awaited goal, but he did so in impressive fashion. Owens earned himself a hat trick, scoring all three of the Wildcats' goals, to defeat South champion and first-seeded Franklin, 3-2 in the Div. 2 State Finals at the TD Garden.
“I can’t even describe the feeling right now,” Owens said. “We’ve all been playing together since we were little kids and we’ve been talking about making it to the Garden for a long time and we did it. It’s unreal. It’s something you’ll always remember for the rest of your life.”
Owens broke a 2-2 tie at 7:27 in the third period when line mate Luke Foley ripped a slap shot on net that bounced into the left corner. Junior forward Jake Rogers corralled the puck and found Owens set up in the slot and he fired a wrist shot to beat Franklin goaltender Mike Donadio (30 saves) to give Wilmington a 3-2 lead that they never lost.
“Owens was the show,” Wilmington head coach Steve Scanlon said. “He’s very talented offensively and he just has a knack for the net. He’s got a sixth sense when it comes to hockey. He’s elusive and has good skills. He was the man today on offense.”
Wilmington (16-4-5) jumped out of the gate appearing to be the more aggressive team, out shooting Franklin 13-3 in the first period. However, Donadio turned away several of the Wildcat’s early scoring chances to keep Franklin (19-3-3) in the game, holding the game scoreless after one.
Wilmington came out flying as they did in the first period, but found results this time around. Owens potted his first goal of the game at 3:10 when he ripped a shot through traffic from the high slot and beat Donadio to get Wilmington on the board.
Midway through the second period, Rogers carried the puck into the zone and threw a weak shot on net as he was losing balance. Owens trailed the play and crashed the net to scoop up the loose rebound and increased Wilmington’s lead to 2-0 at 8:02.
Franklin refused to go out quietly, however.
The Panthers responded to Owens’ back to back goals when freshman forward Justin Miller hit teammate Cam Curley in front of the net and he beat Wilmington goalie Drew Foley (19 saves) on a wrist shot to breathe life back into the deflated Franklin crowd.
Franklin capitalized on their momentum by netting another goal with 41 seconds left in the second period. Foley made a save on a long slap shot by Keith McKay and the puck flew up in the air and landed on the back of the net. Senior forward Evan Stawarz freed the puck off the net and shot it off Foley’s back to score and tie things up at 2 heading into the last period.
Owens showcased his playmaking ability in the third period when he flew to the net and connected on a pass from Rogers to score the game winning goal for Wilmington at 7:27.
The Wildcats buckled down on defense and denied the rest of Franklin’s scoring chances, including a last second slap shot by Franklin that was blocked by a diving crowd of Wilmington players.
For Franklin it was the second year in a row they had the state title slip through their fingers. After an overtime loss to Tewksbury last year at the Garden, the Panthers looked to right their wrong. But Franklin coach Chris Spillane acknowledged that they just couldn’t stop Wilmington’s high-powered offense.
“Our offense sputtered today and their offense was firing on all cylinders,” Spillane said. “Their first line just pretty much dominated that game and we didn’t have an answer for that. We just couldn’t slow them down.”