GORHAM—Brad McMains pushed South Portland/Freeport/Waynflete ahead of Bonny Eagle/Massabesic/Old Orchard Beach late in the first period on Saturday evening, Dec. 6, and though the MOB’s Ajay Cates gave his boys a fighting chance, scoring early in the third, the Riots quickly regrouped to the tune of two more and, ultimately, a 4-1 victory.
Riots head coach Joe Robinson wasn’t entirely pleased with his boys’ performance, however. “This rink is pretty hard to play on, if you don’t consistently play here, because it’s just much bigger,” he said. “We had the last two days off because of weather, so we haven’t skated since Wednesday…No, I didn’t think [the team looked good to start] at all; we’re a much better team than we showed in the beginning…Flat, just flat.”
“I haven’t seen them play this year,” MOB head coach Loren Blair said of the Riots. “I’m good friends with their coach. I’ve coached with Joe for a couple years, and we talk quite a bit, so we knew we it would be a good matchup against each other. This year, the middle to the bottom is any night, whoever shows up.”
McMains’s strike came with 1:28 to play in the first: McMains and teammate Mitch Adams broke away from the mass of the pack and raced side-by-side up the ice to put MOB keeper Bryson Pomerleau in an ugly spot. Adams carried the puck – but dished at the last second across to McMains, who redirected the go-ahead goal past Pomerleau on the left side. The Riots then padded their lead with another notch midway through the second period. Caleb Rowland did the honors, assisted by Gus Lappin.
Still, despite his boys’ two-goal advantage, Robinson saw a lot of lackluster work from them. “In the second period, we came out flat, and kind of stayed flat the whole way through,” he said. “It was just one of those games where we really weren’t up for it.”
“But in the end,” Robinson said, “we battled – we didn’t quit; I’ll give the guys that.”
The MOB scrapped hard, early in the third, and successfully slashed their deficit in half. Cates converted the tally, which came off a Tyler Ouellette assist. Blair described the play: “We had a two-on-one down low,” he said. “[Tyler] passed it out front in the slot, and [Ajay] was able to get one by [Riots’ goalie Liam McGibbon]. That’s what we’ve got to do.”
Now the MOB had hope. Plenty of time remained for them to score again – but they needed to thwart the Riots’ attack as well. Could they?
No doubt the MOB had come into the game believing it was winnable: The team had compiled a 1-4 record to that point, but they play hard and move the puck reasonably well, and two of their four losses – frustratingly – had been one-goal losses. Moreover, on paper they matched up respectably against the Riots, who’d so far gone 2-3, but who also show regular flashes of real skill and smarts.
In the end, the day went the Riots’ way. Devan Hannan rang a shot off Pomerleau’s crossbar midway through the third, boding ill for the MOB. Then, barely more than two minutes on, Rowland struck again: Owen Patrick, curling behind Pomerleau’s net, dropped the puck to Rowland, hot on his heels. Rowland one-timed a hard wrister past Pomerleau for 3-1. The second assist belonged to Willets Meyer.
It was a pretty goal, and Robinson applauded it. “We’re a talented team,” he said, “even though we’ve got a young crop. We’ve got a few seniors who are still kind of young, in a way.”
“Third period, guys started moving the puck,” Robinson said. “That’s the key. I try to tell my guys, ‘Let the puck do the work. Don’t try to skate it, do everything yourself; move the puck.’ In the third, we did, and that started opening things up, and that’s where the goals started coming from.”
Perhaps the fight drained out of the MOB – or perhaps the Riots simply went full loot-and-plunder – because the latter scored again just 21 seconds later. Hannan buried the biscuit, assisted by Austin Gross, completing the 4-1 final.
Pomerleau faced 25 shots, saving 21. McGibbon faced 27 shots, saving 26. Neither team scored on the powerplay: The MOB went 0-6 and the Riots 0-7.
Robinson was quick to praise his netminder. “Liam did great,” he said. “He’s come up big for us. He’s only a sophomore.”
“Most everyone played well,” Blair said. “Just, eliminating turnovers. We were rolling all three lines, we moved a bunch of people around, put some forwards back on d, d up on forward, just mixing it up. [Bryce is] playing well. They played hard; first period was excellent. We’ve just got to execute, and move the puck better.”
Bonny Eagle/Massabesic/OOB dropped to 1-5 on the loss. The chief obstacle keeping them from hashing further Ws seems to be an inability to finish: They can advance the puck up ice, they just can’t get it in the net.
Blair observed as much: “We’re having problems scoring,” he said. “All season. Putting up 20, 25-plus shots in a game, and getting no goals, or one goal, is not going to win it. We had two breakaways tonight, a bunch of three-on-twos, two-on-ones; you’ve got to capitalize.”
“We’ve got to get the goalie to move,” Blair said. “You can’t shoot ‘em at the chest, hit him in the chest. We also – a lot of shots, grade-A shots, were missing the net, hitting the glass. We’re crashing the net, getting the rebound, we’re just a little too late on our passing, or our passing’s not there yet.”
The No. 9 MOB got their next crack at a second W on Monday they 8th, when they traveled to No. 8 Marshwood/Traip/Sanford, winning 8-2. They visit No. 7 Scarborough on Friday the 12th.
South Portland/Freeport/Waynflete, meanwhile, moved to 3-3. The Riots dropped in on Brunswick on Monday, winning 5-2, then visited Mt. Ararat/Lisbon/Morse on Tuesday, winning big once again – 6-2 this time. They line up against Biddeford on Monday the 15th.
Adam Birt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @CurrentSportsME.
Gus Lapping fires off a pass.
Austin Gross scoots away from a MOB opponent.
MOBster Dylan Tozier and Riot Max Winson clash along the boards.
Dylan Houle keeps open in the neutral zone.
Owen Patrick poke checks vs. a MOB opponent.
Mitchell Adams crosses the blue line for South Portland/Freeport/Waynflete.
MOBster Brady Cormier takes a hack at Riot Mitchell Adams.
Caleb Rowland attacks in the Riots’ win over the MOB on Saturday.