- Scott Barboza, ESPN Staff Writer
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WOONSOCKET, R.I. – As Franklin traveled to play Rhode Island power LaSalle Academy, Thursday, as part of Mount St. Charles’ 18th annual Holiday Faceoff tournament, the Panthers were looking for a bounce-back to a sizeable loss to Malden Catholic (an exclusion game) and a penalty-kill collapse against Lincoln-Sudbury.
But as Franklin was shutout, 1-0, after a 29-save performance from Rams junior goaltender Taylor Walsh at Adelard Arena, the Panthers were left kicking themselves again.
“He won the game, he flat out stole the game from the other team,” Rams head coach Mike Gaffney said. “Many, many of his saves were the kind preventing a certain goal. Sometimes goaltenders, the shot hits them, they’re in the right position. That’s hard enough to do. But he stole it away from them.”
This time, the Panthers (1-3-0) had more than plenty chances of their own on the power play, including a pair of sandwiched 5-on-3 chances to end the second period, but LaSalle (2-2-0) withstood it all.
The Rams tallied the lone goal of the game at 9:08 of the first, as junior forward Joe Manown tapped home a loose puck from the goalmouth, amidst a logjam of traffic in front of senior goaltender Mike Donadio (21 saves).
Still, with eight power-play opportunities to their credit, the Panthers had no one to blame but themselves.
“We have some really nice set-ups, getting into the zone and setting up what we wanted to, but the passes were in the skates, and on the power play, if you want to get a shot, you can’t do that,” Franklin head coach Chris Spillane said. “When we did put it on guys’ sticks, we weren’t ready or we didn’t handle it well.”
The Panthers were advantaged with a string of five straight power plays, elapsing over the final 10-and-a-half minutes of the second. During that span, Franklin was given a 5-on-3 opportunity for 38 seconds, which would carry over into the third. To make matters worse for LaSalle, a cross-checking call was also assessed as time ran out in the second, meaning Franklin would start the third period with piggy-backing power plays.
“That’s scary because they get to set up the opportunity exactly as they want it to out of the break,” Gaffney said.
Yet, the Panthers were able to muster just two shots in more than two minutes of 5-on-3 play.
“We’ve been at it a good month now, but I confessed to our team that we haven’t really done a lot of work on [the penalty kill],” Gaffney said. “But we have the right guys out there, the four defensemen, [Ben] Aldrich, [Nick] Altieri, [Ryan] Kelly and [Matt] Manown. I thought [forward Ryan] Tracy did a terrific job, too, when it was 5-on-3, up top.”
Yet, the Panthers seemed to find their stride midway through the third, as part of a 10-shot assault on Walsh in the period.
But Franklin was subject to a little more self-sabotage, as the Panthers got themselves into penalty trouble and a 5-on-3 situation, which LaSalle held in the latter stretches of the third.
“We finally had some serious momentum and then we give up the 5-on-3 and it gets taken away,” Spillane said. “It was all mental mistakes. They were all behind the play, not one of them needed to happen.”
Franklin must bounce back quickly as it prepares to face reigning Connecticut state champion Fairfield Prep tomorrow (2 p.m.) in the second round, while LaSalle hopes to keep the momentum rolling against RIIL rival Bishop Hendricken (6 p.m.)