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Saturday, March 10, 2012
D2 South: Mansfield 5, North Quincy 3

By ESPNBoston.com

BOURNE, Mass. -- Freshman Erik Foley scored the three biggest goals of his young high school career to help lead his Mansfield Hornets to a thrilling 5-3 come-from-behind win over North Quincy (13-6-4) Friday night in the MIAA Division II south semifinals at Gallo Ice Arena in Bourne.

Mansfield (15-4-3), which scored three times over the final 3:26 of the game to erase a 3-2 deficit, stunned the Raiders to move on to the sectional championship game where they will get one last shot to defeat Hockomock League rival Franklin, a team that they have a loss and a tie against so far this year.

The deck seemed stacked against Mansfield in the third period, but the Hornets found a way to turn a losing hand into a winning one with some unorthodox happenings late. After killing off a pair of mid-period penalties, the Hornets netted the tying goal on a crazy play from behind the North Quincy net as Foley – who was set up behind the cage – threw one at the cage that hit off of James Dunn’s pads and ricocheted over the goal line to knot things up. The goal came just seconds after the North Quincy goalie had robbed Bryan Hurley with a superb lunging glove snare to keep his team ahead by one.

Foley’s fluky go-ahead goal led to the Raiders’ unraveling.

“When we tied the game up, [Dunn] was really dejected. You could see it. I felt bad for him,” Mansfield head coach Rick Anastos said. “After that they called a timeout and we told our kids to just throw it at the net.”

North Quincy head coach Matt Gibbons said that the momentum certainly had turned against his team when the Hornets knotted things up. “Once you see that go in, the way that they can score goals, when they score that one it’s a back-breaker.”

The true back-breaker was yet to come, though, and it was one that drew some controversy. With just 82 seconds to go in regulation senior co-captain Steve Folan set up shop south of the hash marks and redirected a shot by Jason Collins, who flung it towards the net from the left wing wall. Folan’s stick seemed to be a bit high, but the referees conferred and allowed the goal, putting Mansfield up 4-3.

While the referees’ talked things over the Red Raiders’ faithful that packed the stands prayed that the call would be reversed and jeered the decision vehemently.

Gibbons said that he deferred to the referees’ decision, noting that they had a better view of the play than he did. “I thought it [was a high stick], but there’s no point [arguing]. It was a goal,” he said.

North pulled Dunn for an extra attacker with about 50 seconds left and was able to get the puck down low, but Rich Shipman held the fort. With 25 seconds to go the Raiders tried to work the blue line but Foley read a pass perfectly that was intended for the high slot, skated onto it and deposited it into the empty goal from just inside the red line to put an exclamation mark on his team’s riotous reversal of fortune.

“I felt like they were back on their heels (in the third period) and it was our goal to take it to them,” Anastos said.

North Quincy was the team taking it to Mansfield early in the game. North Quincy scored the game’s first two goals over a span of 15 seconds late in the first to seemingly take control. Nick McGaughey opened the scoring at 13:36 when he walked off the left wing wall and beat Shipman to the near side. NQ won the ensuing draw, took it down and got a shot off that Shipman deflected, but the keeper was unable to stop the follow-up by Andrew Currie.

Mansfield trimmed the lead to 2-1 early in the second when Kevin Flynn flew down the middle of the ice, but lost the handle as he was about to snap a shot off. Rather than panic, he collected the puck and fed trailer Brendan Murphy, who snapped one off to get his team on the board just 72 seconds into the middle frame.

North Quincy got that one right back on a shot from between the hash marks by Pat Verhault. With chaos all around him, Shipman went down early and Verhault waited an extra heartbeat before sniping one stick side.

Foley rallied his team to within one with 1:02 to go in the third. With the Hornets on a power play, Collins made a brilliant diagonal pass from the top of the right wing circle to a wide-open Foley on the bottom of the left wing circle. Foley quickly let one rip to the wide-open near side to make it a one-goal game heading to the third.

That set up the crazy comeback in the third by the Hornets, who will now point their stingers in the direction of the Franklin, Saturday at 5:45 p.m. back at Gallo.

Franklin advanced in the early game with a 4-1 win over another Hockomock rival, Oliver Ames.

Anastos said that he could not have asked for a better foe for his team to face as the hive feels like it has unfinished business.

“We owe them one big time,” the coach said. “I’m so glad that we get a chance to get them. They’re a great team, it’s going to be tough, but I’m so happy we have that opportunity.”