CANTON, Mass. -- The finish was a thing of beauty, but it only told half the story.
Frankin senior captain Mark Robbins gained the blue line, put a move on the defense and cut back toward center ice. He got Canton goaltender Richard Nee shifting to cut down the angle and, when he did so, Robbins unleashed a wrister stick-side.
Robbins’ goal, breaking a third-period stalemate, provided the No. 21 Panthers with what would prove to be the game-winning goal in a 3-2 decision over their Hockomock League rivals in a Martin Luther King Day matinee at Metropolis Rink.
His only regret was that he couldn’t split the puck in two.
“That was an unbelievable pass,” Robbins said of the assist he received from junior forward Adam Hall on a perfect tape-to-tape pass. “That was half his goal, too, not just me. It’s just as much the assist as it is the goal.”
Franklin (6-1-0, 5-0-0) withstood the Bulldogs’ onslaught in the third period, when they were badly out-shot. However, the Panthers’ defense, led by goaltender Ryan Geary (25 saves) stood tall.
“I felt comfortable with our guys and their conditioning,” Franklin head coach Chris Spillane said, discussing the Panthers’ mindset as Canton pulled is goaltender in the final moments. “I wasn’t going to give them a chance to rest his top line. We just told our guys to play smart hockey, chip the puck in deep and don’t make mistakes, don’t turn it over. It comes down to heart.”
For the heart the Panthers showed in the third, they came into the game a little flat. Franklin was out-shot 8-3 in the first period and were behind on the scoreboard, 1-0, after 15 minutes of play. Canton’s J.C. Marcone tapped home a rebound past Geary on Nick O’Connor shot, with a second assist from Greg Boyd.
The pace was fast and furious in the second period, as both teams skated up and down with plenty of good scoring chances to go around.
Mark Teehan put Franklin on the board 57 seconds into the second with assists from James Marchand and Robbins.
The Panthers kept the pressure going and struck for a 2-1 lead one minute later. Hall chipped one past Nee from the goalmouth with an assist from Matt DiRossario, who fed Hall after the puck had taken a strange carom off the backside boards.
The lead didn’t last long as Canton (5-1-1, 3-1-0) responded 3:39 into the second when Pat Ward scored with an assist to Tom Delsignore.
The teams went to the room tied 2-2 after two and that’s where the heroics of Hall and Robbins came in.
“It was a great, great open-ice pass,” Spillane said. “For a high school player to make that tape-to-tape pass is outstanding. But for our player to cut to the middle, Mark Robbins saw open space, cut to the center and finish with that shot — it’s nice.
“I can’t say that I told him to do that, or that he practiced that, but that’s just a good hockey play.”
CLEARING OUT THE CREASE
Unfortunately for local hockey fans, the Panthers will not be squaring off with the Bulldogs for a second round this season with the Hockomock’s new two division alignment. But that didn’t diminish what Monday’s game meant. The teams met in the postseason last year as well. Canton bounced Franklin in the South semifinals in a 2-1 thriller before going on to a Division 2 state title. “It doesn’t matter where we are in the standings, every game is like that,” Spillane said of the rivalry. “It’s just a good rivalry and a good hockey game every time we play them.”
After shutting down a Canton power-play chance later in the third period, Brian Shuman pulled Nee in favor of an extra attacker. On the next stoppage, Shuman took a timeout to set up his troops for an attack zone face-off. Despite a couple of later stoppages, Spillane held on to his timeout, favoring not giving the Bulldogs’ legs a breather. “I know he [Canton head coach Brian Shuman] was running two lines,” Spillane said, “so I didn’t want to use a timeout in the last minute and a half.”