Taunton, Mass. – Winning and losing in the postseason is a matter of fine margins. On Wednesday night at Alexio Arena in Taunton, Mansfield won by the width of goalie Rich Shipman’s shoulder.
Trailing by a goal with 1:30 remaining, King Philip senior forward Gavin Macintyre, who had already scored once on the night, found space in the left circle and skated towards goal. His shot seemed destined for the top corner, but the Hornets goalie stayed tall and was able to get just enough on it to send it over the net.
The save and two goals from Kevin Flynn helped the Hornets pull out a 3-2 win in a game that went back and forth and will send Mansfield (13-5-3) into the second round to face the winner of Sandwich and North Quincy.
Heading into the second period it seemed unlikely that this would be a close game. Mansfield scored twice in the opening period. Adam Blackman tallied first with a shorthanded goal that was a result of a turnover in KP’s defensive zone. Flynn made it 2-0 four minutes later with a pinpoint shot off a great feed from linemate Brendan Murphy.
KP got on the board 3:07 into the second period. Senior Ryan Boselli scored on the power play, assisted by McIntyre to get the Warriors back into the game despite being outshot 28-12 through two periods.
A tying goal seemed unlikely in the third as KP did not get a shot on goal until more than six minutes into the frame, but seconds after the first shot came the equalizer. McIntyre was on hand to prod home a rebound and make it 2-2.
After allowing a two-goal lead to slip, Mansfield could have been forgiven for letting heads drop and allowing KP to grab the momentum. Instead, the Hornets went back to creating chances and with five mutes left to play they found the third goal. Flynn collected a shot from Murphy, spun onto his forehand at the corner of the net, and flipped his shot through Dylan Unger’s five-hole.
“It’s the playoffs baby, nobody’s going to lay down,” said Mansfield head coach Rick Anastos. “Our thought process coming into the game was to be aggressive and try to wear them down.”
With the game tied 2-2, Anastos said his message to the team was simple. “Bear down. This is what it’s all about, just keep playing our game.”
Despite being outshot 38-17, KP head coach Mark Homer was impressed by his team’s effort and its ability to stay with Mansfield.
“One shot, one bounce away and we can’t control that,” he explained. “The only thing we can control is to work hard. The kids gave everything they got.”
He added, “Don’t get me wrong, I’m disappointed that we didn’t get an opportunity to go a little farther, but it was an exciting game.”
Flynn pointed to the experience of having made it to the sectional finals a year ago as helping calm the Hornets down after relinquishing the lead.
“We actually had a pasta dinner last night and we were watching the North Quincy game where we came back from 3-1 so that was big having that experience from last year,” Flynn remarked. “You’ve got to expect this kind of intensity coming in and we knew what it was like but we have a lot of freshmen on the team so it’s good exposure for them.”
Mansfield will play in the quarterfinals on Saturday at Asiaf Arena in Brockton.