FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - It had not been his strongest game of the season, but in the final minute with his team leading by just a single goal, Franklin senior goalie Devon Maloof made the play that saved the game. His instant reaction allowed him to get a toe to a blast from the point and preserve the Franklin lead.
“He had a huge save at the end,” said Mansfield head coach Rick Anastos about Maloof. “That kick-out save…that was a goal from where we were.”
The save helped Franklin (7-4-1, 5-0-1) hold on for a 3-2 victory over the Hornets (9-2-1, 6-1-1) on Wednesday night in front of a packed house at the Foxboro Sports Center.
The win propels the Panthers to the top of the Kelley-Rex division and a step closer to another Hockomock League title.
Franklin head coach Chris Spillane reflected, “That’s what we expected for it to be -- a rough, physical game that’s back-and-forth. I’m glad to get this one behind us. It’s Mansfield-Franklin, that’s a typical game.”
He added, “You hate to say that it’s the one that you mark at the beginning of the season but we’ve been looking at it for a while and we’re glad to have it behind us and that it ended up in our favor.
The Panthers looked shaky in the opening couple of shifts, but Mansfield penalties allowed Franklin to settle down on the power play and led to dominating first period in which Franklin outshot the Hornets 15-4.
Senior Vince Geromini opened the scoring for Franklin with 7:28 remaining in the first period. He was on hand to follow up after Troy Donahue drove to the net and had his shot saved by Mansfield goalie Dan Moyer. Nearly two minutes later, Franklin scored again and this time on the power play (Mansfield took four first period penalties). Junior Alec Borkowski buried the shot that doubled the lead.
“The first couple of shifts were pretty shaky, but the rest of the first period we pretty much dominated and I think it was our speed causing them to take penalties,” said Spillane.
Anastos could only shake his head at the penalties that allowed Franklin to gain momentum in the first period.
“Penalties kill us,” he insisted. “You can’t give them power plays; you can’t give a good team the opportunity to score. They only scored one power play goal, but you can’t give them that many chances.”
In the second period, Anastos got the reaction that he was looking for from his team. The Hornets bounced back and started hitting in the second and gained the momentum. Junior defenseman Evan Kershaw made it a game again with a blast from the point that eluded Maloof and made it 2-1. Sophomore Pat Graham tied it with 2:59 left in the period on a low shot to the near post on a two on one.
“I think we got a little comfortable with a two-goal lead coming out in the second period and they jumped on it,” explained Spillane. “They were aggressive, they had a two-man forecheck, and they were throwing pucks at the net and they went in.”
The Hornets were not level for long though as a minute after Graham’s goal, Franklin broke for a three-on-one, odd-man rush. Geromini turned provider with a perfectly placed pass across the crease for Donahue to tap in for what turned out to be the game-winner.
Anastos noted, “We let up a three on one just a minute after tying the game and that killed us. It was a sinker. They won the first period, we won the second period, and it was a tie in the third period -- they just got one more goal.”
Spillane praised his senior leadership for coming up big in a huge rivalry game, especially after Mansfield seemed on the verge of taking control.
“[Mansfield was] building on it and they had all the momentum so it was good,” he said. “Our seniors stepped up today. Vince Geromini had a goal and an assist and then Troy [Donahue] had a nice goal. We need those guys.”
The second and third periods were evenly matched and both goalies came up with big saves. Moyer stuffed Franklin’s leading scorer Ryan Spillane from point-blank range and then just a minute later Maloof did the same to Billy Grant. Then with a minute to go, Maloof pulled off his kick save and set off celebrations on the Franklin bench.
Unfortunately, the celebrations turned into more with both teams coming together against the far boards after the final whistle and having to be separated by coaches and officials. The referees pushed both teams off the ice and scrapped the traditional postgame handshake to avoid further trouble.