FALMOUTH — Ping …
The sound of Cape Elizabeth senior Sam St. Germain’s vicious slapper from the high slot deflecting off the crowd-side post and out of play with four minutes left in overtime representing the one or two inches between certain victory and agonizing defeat.
Fittingly enough, St. Germain’s post-job serves to perfectly illustrate the remarkably slim divide between the Capers boys’ hockey charges this year and the Rangers from Greely High.
For the second time this season, three periods of hockey just weren’t enough to pick apart how closely these Western B rivals match up and for the second straight time the Rangers prevailed by the very same score, 5-4, in sudden-death overtime with a standing room only crowd all worked up Saturday night at Family Ice Center.
When Greely junior winger Justin Murphy torched a belt-high slapper by Cape Elizabeth senior goalie Phil Jordan to end 53 minutes and 32 seconds of hard-hitting hockey, the Rangers rejoiced in a huddled mass while the Capers were left to rinse around the bitter taste of losing and ponder the game, possibly the season – that somehow slipped away.
“This is a game that we’ll all remember,” said St. Germain. “Somehow we let them back in the game and that should be a lesson for all of us. We hate losing, but hopefully we can use this as motivation to get better and come back ready for the playoffs. They pulled that one but we definitely want to play them again. This isn’t the end of us and Greely.”
Cape Elizabeth (5-8) built a 1-0 lead on a power-play goal from St. Germain in the first period and took a 3-1 advantage into the third after junior Vinny Del’ Aquila tucked one home in a pile of bodies out front and a hustling senior Zack Labbe beat Greely junior goalie Matt Labbe on a short-handed wrister with 6:28 left in the second.
But three minutes into the supposed final period, Greely sophomore Pete Stauber turned in the hockey play of the season to zap new life into his mates when he dove headfirst to separate the puck from a Cape Elizabeth defender, hopped to his skates and proceeded to beat Jordan to his stick side with a well-placed flip to pull the Rangers within a score at 3-2 with 12 minutes still left to pull even.
It didn’t take that long, as two-and-a-half minutes after Stauber recharged the arena with a brilliant individual effort, freshmen Erik Rost netted his second goal of the game on a clever wrist shot through a puck-sized window between Jordan and his near post to knot this one up at 3-3 with 9:22 left.
Things went from bad to worse for the Capers, when Stauber did it again, this time without leaving his blades, intercepting the puck in almost the same spot near the blue line and breaking in all by his lonesome to score his second goal of the third period. Stauber collected the loose puck, passed it to himself between the skates of a Capers defender and then did the same to Jordan, five-holing a weak trickler to snap the game’s first tie and give the Rangers a 4-3 advantage with only 4:33 left for Cape Elizabeth to answer.
Somehow, the Capers did. When Stauber put the Rangers on top for the first time all game, Murphy earned a two-minutes rest for unsportsmanlike conduct.
And while the Capers didn’t score on the advantage despite peppering Labbe (30 saves), they may have tuckered him out just enough for sophomore Nick Breed to redirect another missile from St. Germain into the back of the net with just 2:05 left in regulation.
But in a recurring theme, junior Wilson Laprade was ushered to the box for precisely the same reason as Murphy was after Greely took the lead.
Behind one spectacular glove save by Jordan (38 saves) and several other kick saves, the Capers managed to fight off the penalty and earn the right to play the extra period once again as they did way back on Dec. 5 in a season-opening loss to these same Rangers (7-5-1).
It took more than eight minutes to finally decide, but Murphy collected a loose puck that kicked off the side boards and teed up a slapper that beat Jordan to his stick side and earned the Rangers the 5-4 win.
“The kids played hard,” said Coach Jason Tremblay. “I think us having to play Biddeford the day before (an 8-3 loss) might have helped (Greely) a little bit. You could see us getting a little tired out there. It didn’t help that we spent most of the second period shorthanded. We need to work harder in the defensive zone. That being said, we gave up a lead but battled back to tie the game. It’s a tough loss but we still control our own destiny. We want to play Greely again.”
Cape Elizabeth hosted Westbrook on Monday night, hosted Yarmouth in a pivotal game Thursday and will close out the regular season with three highly important contest that will ultimately decide if they’ll get the chance to skate in the Western B playoffs with top-ranked York (away), Leavitt (away) and a tough Camden Hills team at home in the regular season finale on Feb. 13.