FRAMINGHAM, Mass. -- It is not an uncommon occurrence for one person's performance to lift an entire team.
Framingham goaltender Al Lynch proved it Friday night. The senior put forth a grand performance between the pipes, stopping 41 of 42 shots in leading the Flyers to a stunning 2-1 triumph over No. 6 Catholic Memorial in the opening round of the Silverback Hockey Classic inside Loring Arena.
With the victory, Framingham (2-2-0) will face St. John's (Shrewsbury) in the title game Saturday night beginning at 7:50 p.m. The Knights will play in the consolation game (5:50 p.m.) versus Marshfield.
"It all starts with our forwards to our defense then all the way back to me," Lynch said. "When your team is feeling it, it's easy to play well behind them."
You had an inkling that Lynch's evening would be special after he turned aside 17 CM shots in the opening period to keep the game scoreless. Often times, Framingham, playing without last year's top-scorer Corey Gorovitz (who is expected back for the title game), found itself limited once it was able to move the puck beyond the blue line. As is their nature, the Knights defense collapsed on any Flyer with the puck on his respective stick once inside their own zone. The Flyers mustered just one shot in the opening frame.
But because of Lynch's play, they remained upbeat.
"When it's a 0-0 game after one period and the goalie is feeling it then I think it's easy for the rest of the team to feel it as well and rally around him," said Lynch. "It was nice to get out of that first period feeling good. Once you get that first 15 minutes in, then the rest of the night the pucks begin to look like beach balls. Having everyone work their tails off all game, I think it proves something to us as a team as well as anyone watching."
Framingham's positive demeanor carried into the second period and was raised even highter after Chris McGinty's rebound goal at 4:25 to give the Flyers a 1-0 lead.
CM's frustration was evident. Numerous quality chances on net were swatted away by Lynch. Knight players could be seen often skating to their bench shaking their heads in dismay. With time ticking down in the period, CM, albeit briefly, was finally able to prove that Lynch was human afterall. Gunnar McKenzie, a sophomore forward, managed to direct a rebound shot by Eion Hurley past Lynch stick side at 13:13 to send the Knights into the second intermission tied 1-1.
The goal served as a much-needed lift for CM who believed it had out-played Framingham at both ends of the ice yet only had the one goal to show for it.
Any momentum gained following McKenzie's tally was diminished to begin the third. Just 13 seconds in, defenseman Joey Gilbert had the puck on his stick following a face off. Standing 20 feet to the left of CM goalie Brandon Collett (13 saves), the sophomore was able to skate in alone several feet before firing s shot into the upper left corner of the net, giving the Flyers a 2-1 advantage.
"For the most part I thought we played disciplined," Flyers head coach Paul Spear said. "You don't get to beat a team like that very often so tonight was very exciting. Our goaltender is outstanding and we feel he is a Division 1 prospect. He just played his heart out tonight. We've got to come back and play St. John's next but I told our kids we should be proud and happy but when we wake up in the morning lets put our focus on St. John's and try to win our own tournament."
Having regained the lead back, Framingham was consistent with its defensive effort. The Flyers played much tighter, allowing little space for the Knights to work in.
They also got a little more physical, pushing CM off its routes in its attempt to notch the tying score. With Lynch still working his magic, things got a bit more interesting after Framingham was called for a pair of penalties with under three minutes to go. However, both times the Flyers penalty unit did its job. Although the Knights (2-1) still managed to fire 14 shots at Lynch in the period, all were stopped giving Framingham one of its biggest victories in school history.
"We had a lot of scoring opportunities but their goaltender was up to the task," said CM head coach Bill Hanson. "But when we go back to watch this game, the little one-on-one battles especially in the last 1:15 their kids did a helluva’ job. We didn't have any open man situations or 2-on-1s and 3-on-2s. Our kids never let up and played hard throughout.
“There was no pity party inside our locker room. There is disappointment. But I still think we'll be a very good team. Paul [Spear] does a great job over there. He doesn't get enough credit being a real good X's and O's guy."