When King Philip was dealt a 6-1 road setback to perennial Hockomock League power Franklin on Jan. 11, it might have been difficult for some to envision just what kind of historic turnaround was coming 48 hours later.
But Warriors coach Paul Carlow knew what kind of team he has this season, saying that performance “just didn’t look like us. We felt we were better than that.”
King Philip proved it in the ensuing rematch on their home ice at the Foxboro Sports Center, holding on for a 5-4 victory over the Panthers last Wednesday. It certainly was a long time coming for the team’s seniors, who had never tasted success against Franklin.
Just how long? Try 21 years. According to research by the Globe and Hockomocksports.com, KP’s last win in the series was Feb. 16, 2000, a 4-3 decision in Franklin.
“We didn’t really know how long it had been,” said Carlow, in his sixth season as head coach after serving as an assistant for two years under Jim Lehan.
What Carlow did know is that the Warriors had been close in several recent matchups, including a 1-1 tie in his first season in 2015-16. One exception came last February, when King Philip entered the Division 1 South tournament as the No. 7 seed, only to be routed by No. 10 Franklin, 7-1, in a first-round game.
KP also entered this season with what Carlow calls “the deepest team we’ve had since I’ve been coaching.” That includes a group of eight seniors led by defenseman Rocco Bianculli and forward Conor Cooke — who have been four-year varsity players — as well as forwards Aiden Boulger, Paul McDonald, and Justin Yatsuhashi, and defensemen Geoffrey Bowes, Shea Cunningham and David Lawler.
After opening the season with a pair of wins over Mansfield, King Philip was poised for its first meeting with Franklin on Jan. 11 on the road. The Warriors gave up a pair of goals late in the first half — unlike most Hockomock games this season, the game was played in halves rather than three periods — and they never recovered in an eventual 6-1 loss.
In some ways, the Warriors were happy to be able to get back on the ice against Franklin two days later.
“We had a great talk after the game, and a great practice [last Tuesday],” Carlow said. “We knew we’d be a better team the second night.”
Tied 2-2 late in the second period, King Philip took the lead for good on Cooke’s goal just before the buzzer, then got key goals from junior Shaun Fitzpatrick and Cooke again in the third to hold Franklin at bay. McDonald and junior Ian Hill had the other goals.
After sweeping a pair of games against Oliver Ames, King Philip entered Tuesday at 5-1-0 overall.
While senior leadership has been the key, King Philip has been sparked by Brad Guden (5-8-13), whom Carlow calls “the best freshman I’ve ever had.” Bianculli (4-5-9), Boulger (2-6-8), Cooke (4-3-7) and McDonald (2-5-7) follow on the balanced stat sheet, along with sophomore James Boldy (3-3-6), Fitzpatrick (4-1-5), Lawler (2-3-5), freshman Max Robison (1-4-5), and junior Sean Crowther (1-3-4). Sophomore Kyle Abbott (2.00 GAA) has stepped in as the starter in goal.
“We’re getting scoring from all the lines . . . 100 percent, everyone’s been pitching in,” Carlow said.
He admits there is a certain level of frustration that he will not be able to see how this King Philip team, and group of seniors, would fare in the postseason. Carlow had beefed up his original nonleague slate of opponents before COVID-19 limited it to a 10-game slate against only Hockomock opponents, with no MIAA playoffs.
“We felt like going into this year we had a strong Division 1 team,” Carlow said. “We wanted to be ready for the tournament.”
Instead, the Warriors’ goals include making history in other ways. Aside from Mansfield winning the Kelley-Rex Division 10 years ago, the Hockomock has been dominated by either Franklin and Canton. King Philip shared the league title with Franklin in 2005-06, but even in that season the Warriors lost both head-to-head meetings. They swept Canton, which also had one other tie, making King Philip and Franklin co-champions.
In addition to the game five years ago, King Philip and Franklin tied twice in 2008 and 2001. But wins in the series have been rare for the Warriors. According to Franklin’s hockey website, King Philip also won once in 1999, then there was another long drought back to a Warriors victory in 1987, their only win that decade, as well.
Among the players on that 1987 team: Carlow, as well as assistant coaches Rob Mills and Eddie Movsessian, all of whom were juniors at the time. So the Warriors’ coach was happy to see this group of King Philip players also finally be able to break the ice.
“I was just challenging them because they hadn’t beaten [Franklin] yet,” Carlow said. “This is a box they’ve been wanting to check since they got to high school.”
▪ Stoneham is another team that hasn’t had much success against a powerful league rival — in this case, Burlington. The Spartans split the two Middlesex Freedom matchups in 2017-18, but that had been the only win in the series in at least 15 years, until they came back from a pause of nearly two weeks to beat the Red Devils, 3-1, on Monday.
Brandon Stewart’s power-play goal with 1:11 left was the winner for Stoneham, which also received goals from Gavin Doherty and James Malonson. Stoneham’s only other game this season was a 4-4 tie with Melrose on Jan. 3, a game the Spartans led until the final minute.
▪ Marshfield also came back from pause Monday and captured the Green Cup in its annual series with neighboring rival Duxbury. The game officially ended in a 2-2 tie, but the Rams (1-0-2) prevailed in a shootout as Brady Clark netted the winner, Nick Souretis also scored and Aidan Healey stopped four Green Dragon attempts.
Jim Clark can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.