FRANKLIN, Mass. -- Mansfield moved to the top of the Hockomock League standings with a 4-1 win over Franklin at Sgt. Pirelli Veterans Memorial Rink on Sunday night.
The Hornets (11-1-1, 8-1-0) used three goals in the third period to hand the Panthers (9-2-0, 7-1-0) their first league loss of the season, but it might have been Mansfield’s defensive work in the first two periods that ultimately decided this one.
The penalty-killing unit for the Hornets staved off five of the six power plays it faced in the first two periods, and sophomore goaltender Rich Shipman stood tall with 23 saves on the night.
“We are aggressive as can be, but we stress team defense bringing guys back up the middle,” Hornets head coach Rick Anastos said. “There was never an odd-man rush. We had three guys back on every play, and we were still aggressive in the offensive zone.”
The Hornets' aggressiveness put them down a man four times in the first period, but other than Evan Stawarz’ wrist shot that clanged off the post, the opportunities on the man-advantages for the Panthers were few and far between.
That changed in the second period when Mark Teehan banged in a loose puck past Shipman on the doorstep for a power play goal at 2:34.
The Panthers outshot the Hornets, 11-4, in the period and just when it looked like all the minutes killing off penalties and playing a man down was causing the Hornets to be a step slow, Mike Blackman tipped home a Connor McGowan blast from the right point with 3:27 remaining in the second to notch it up at 1.
Brendan Murphy would tack on another one just over a minute later for the Hornets, but his goal was called off due to a delayed penalty call.
Anastos doesn’t have a problem with his team taking aggressive penalties just as long as the team sticks to their game plan on the defensive end.
“We just did our thing,” said Anastos. “We played defense.”
Anastos’ aggressive philosophy also calls for his team to be able to switch from that defensive mindset right into an offensive assault at the drop of a hat, and that’s exactly what his team did in the third period.
The Hornets were awarded four power plays in the third period and capitalized on their second try. Jason Collins notched the game winner at 5:50 with a wrist shot from the top of the left circle that found the tiniest amount of daylight to beat Ryan Geary.
Colin Yanovitch, who had to substitute for Murphy after he was dinged up on the previous play, sent a shot wide of the net from the right side, but the puck caromed off the back boards to the left side where Tom Hurley was waiting for a back breaking 3-1 lead.
Blackman’s empty-netter with 2.1 seconds ended the scoring.
Shipman waited patiently on the bench last season as a freshman, but the first-year starter is showing the year of learning paid off. Minus the one hiccup in the second period, the sophomore was brilliant as he showed good positioning with his pads and a quick glove to match.
“He’s worked really, really hard,” Anastos said of his goalie. “Last year he didn’t see much time, but he’s been in every camp you can possibly think of. He is really committed and dedicated to playing goal.
“You can really see it,” he added. “Technique-wise he is really sharp.”
Shipman made several sprawling saves, and even made two big stops in the third period from the seat of his pants to keep the Panthers off the board.
I’ve learned what I can accomplish if I use the people around me,” said Shipman.