Cape Elizabeth celebrates junior Alex Glidden’s second period goal during Thursday night’s battle with Yarmouth. That goal tied the score, 3-3, and the Capers went on to win in overtime, 4-3.
Mike Strout photos.
More photos below.
PORTLAND—If you closed your eyes Thursday evening, it felt like 2002, 2003 or 2005 all over again.
Once upon a time, Cape Elizabeth and Yarmouth’s boys’ hockey teams did battle in February at Portland Ice Arena in a playoff setting, in front of a rabid, full house.
While the playoffs are no longer contested in the building, now known as Troubh Ice Arena, the Capers and Clippers produced a classic in a possible playoff preview which left all of hand collectively catching their breath when all was said and done.
Yarmouth, the defending Class B South champion, got off to a fast start, as junior standout Cooper May twice beat Cape Elizabeth sophomore backup goaltender Garrett Mello for a 2-0 lead.
The Capers roared right back, however, getting tallies from junior Alex Glidden and sophomore Phil Tarling to forge a 2-2 tie after one period.
In the second, the Clippers retook the lead, as senior Bill Jacobs scored on a rebound, but again, Cape Elizabeth answered, and made it 3-3 when Glidden sent a rocket past Yarmouth junior goalie Dan Latham.
Late in the second period, Latham made a sensational sprawling save to preserve the tie, but it would turn out to be merely the second best save of the night.
In the third period, both teams had chances and the Clippers even had a power play, but they couldn’t convert.
As time wound down in regulation, Yarmouth kept the pressure on and the puck came to senior Chris Romano in front, but his certain game-winner was some how, some way denied by a diving Mello and the game, fittingly, went to overtime.
There, it took all of 31 seconds for the Capers to end it.
Out of a scrum, Tarling managed to direct the puck into the net and Cape Elizabeth had its biggest victory to date this winter, 4-3.
The Capers improved to 8-4, dropping the Clippers to 6-6-1 and best of all, the teams will do it again in a couple weeks, with the possibility of a third encounter in the postseason looming as a distinct possibility.
“Wow!” said Cape Elizabeth coach Matt Buotte, who beamed after the game as if he’d won the state title. “This means the world for us. We had a point to prove tonight. To be the best, we had to beat the defending champs. Nobody has more heart than my guys. It doesn’t matter what 20 guys I dress. They showed up and didn’t quit. What more can you ask for as a coach?”
With Class B South wide open, the Capers and Clippers both believe they have what it takes to finish strong and take the whole thing this season.
Cape Elizabeth started with losses at Gorham (4-1) and at home to Falmouth (3-1) before beating visiting Maranacook (11-0). After falling at Kennebunk (3-2), the Capers came to life and beat host Brunswick (3-0), visiting Gorham (5-2), visiting Greely (2-0), visiting Camden Hills (8-3) and host St. Dom’s (3-1). Saturday, the Capers finally stumbled, blowing a three-goal lead in a 5-4 overtime loss to Cheverus, but Tuesday, they got back on track with a 9-0 win over South Portland.
The Clippers let a late lead slip away in a 2-2 home tie versus Brunswick in the opener, then won at Maranacook (8-0), lost at home to Falmouth (9-1) and at Waterville in a state game rematch (5-0) before closing 2016 with a 5-3 win at Gorham. Yarmouth started the new year with a 5-2 home loss to Gardiner, then won at Camden Hills (5-0), at home over Gorham (4-3, in overtime), at Portland/Deering (4-3) and at Greely (3-2, in overtime). After a 5-4 home overtime loss to Kennebunk, the Clippers lost a close one to visiting Cheverus Tuesday, 3-2.
Last year, each team won on the road, Yarmouth by a 7-1 margin in Portland and Cape Elizabeth 2-1 at Yarmouth.
Entering play Thursday, since the start of the 2001-02 season, Cape Elizabeth had won 22 of 29 meetings (see sidebar, below), while Yarmouth had six victories and another game ended in a tie (most of that disparity came between 2003-04 and 2011-12, when the Capers won 14 straight meetings).
This time around, Cape Elizabeth found a way to rally from a pair of deficits to prevail.
It took a mere 49 seconds for the Clippers to take the lead, as May beat Mello with Romano and senior Bennett Travers getting assists.
The Capers looked for the equalizer, but a rush from senior Peyton Weatherbie resulted in a shot saved by Latham, Glidden shot wide and senior Ben Ekedahl was denied by Latham.
With 9:40 to go in the period, Cape Elizabeth sophomore Jack Roy-Becker was sent to the penalty box for slashing and 42 seconds, Ekedahl joined him after being sent off for tripping.
Yarmouth took advantage of the 5-on-3, as May scored again with Romano and Jacobs getting assists.
While the Capers were on the ropes, they were well aware how precarious a two-goal lead can be after blowing a 4-1 advantage against Cheverus and bounced right back to tie the game by the end of the period.
At 11:44, Glidden took a pass from Tarling and finished on the breakaway to cut the deficit in half.
With 57.3 seconds left, Tarling tied the score (with junior Gus Frankwicz getting the assist) and it was a brand new game, tied, 2-2, heading to the second period.
“I was pleased with how we came out and played aggressively,” said Yarmouth coach Dave St. Pierre. “But we had a couple mental mistakes at the end of the period and that cost us.”
A mere seven seconds into the second period, Yarmouth went back on the power play, but couldn’t convert.
Mello settled down and stopped Romano and after Latham robbed Glidden, the Clippers went back on the power play, but again, couldn’t score.
“I found out in warmups,” said Mello. “(Starting goalie junior Peter) Haber wasn’t feeling well. He went to the bench and I found out I was starting. I was shaky in the first period, but everyone on the team had my back. Knowing they had my back helped me get through it.”
Cape Elizabeth then got a 5-on-3 opportunity, as Yarmouth senior Tyler Veilleux was sent off for hooking and Caleb Morrison was sent to the penalty box for cross-checking.
The Clippers held tight, however, as Latham denied seniors Andrew Pellechia and Gavin Spidle.
Yarmouth then went back on top with 4:35 to go in the second period, as May’s shot was saved by Mello, but Jacobs buried the rebound (Romano was also given an assist) to make it 3-2.
This time it took all of 48 seconds for the Capers to answer, as junior Derek Allen passed to Glidden on the left wing and Glidden whistled a blast past Latham to make it 3-3.
Cape Elizabeth then had a chance to go ahead when it went on the power play at 11:36 after Yarmouth senior Owen Ramsay was called for contact to the head, but after Latham denied Weatherbie, senior Jeb Boechenstein had an open net to bury the rebound only to see Latham dive and make a sensational stop.
“Dan was amazing tonight,” said Buotte.
Moments later, Latham denied an Ekedahl shot and Boechenstein again had a chance to put the Capers ahead, but he whiffed on the rebound and the game went to the second intermission still tied, 3-3.
Both teams had chances in the third period, but couldn’t put the puck in the net.
Early in the third, both Ekedahl and Tarling were denied by Latham.
With 9:25 left, Latham stopped another Ekedahl shot and the rebound was cleared.
Yarmouth’s first good scoring chance in the third period came midway through, when junior Joe Truesdale had a shot saved by Mello and Mello denied Truesdale’s rebound as well.
After Latham denied junior Sean Agrodnia and senior Evan Concannon, the Clippers went on the power play with 3:50 to go, as Frankwicz went off for tripping.
Romano immediately sent a promising wrister on net, but Mello made the save.
After a short-handed rush by Tarling was denied by Latham, May had a look at the lead, but again, Mello made the stop.
In the final minute, Tarling shot wide and a May rush was broken up by Ekedahl.
Yarmouth kept possession and as time wound down, May sent the puck across the goal mouth where Romano collected it and with less than a second to go, he fired a shot which appeared primed to end the game, but as Latham did a period earlier, Mello gave up his body, went for broke and dove and somehow kept the puck out of the net to force overtime.
“I don’t even know what happened,” said Mello. “I just tried my best and good things happened. I just dove for it.”
Cape Elizabeth didn’t protract the drama in the eight-minute OT, ending the game quickly.
Just 31 seconds in, after junior Ryan Collins got the puck to Glidden and Glidden put a shot on net, the rebound sat free and Tarling was there to fire the puck into the net to give the Capers a 4-3 victory.
“It was kind of scrum and Glidden put a shot on,” Tarling said. “I just put the rebound on net. It feels great. It’s amazing to beat Yarmouth. It was really exciting. It’s always a great time playing against Yarmouth. They’re good every year. It feels good to get the win.
“We learned from Cheverus definitely. We knew we had to work hard to get back in it. We never gave up. We work so hard in practice every day and in games. Going into overtime, Peyton said we couldn’t do what we did against Cheverus. We had to dig deep and work hard.”
“We had confidence going into overtime,” said Mello. “We knew we were going to win. I saw Phil put it in and I couldn’t be happier. It’s the greatest day of my life.”
“I wasn’t going to be upset from the Cheverus loss if we learned from it and we did learn from it,” Buotte added. “We didn’t wait around and put it away on the first shift. If you wait for a chance, it won’t come. You have to take it.
“Last year, they came in here and smoked us. They beat us by six goals. They’re the defending champions. Yarmouth has the bulls-eye. Everyone is coming for them.We came into the game separated by less than a (Heal) point. Both teams knew what was at stake. It was a full house. Two rivals who have played amazing games over the years. This one lived up to the hype. We’ll see them again in a couple weeks and I imagine it’ll be the same thing times 10. They’re a great team.”
After the game, Cape Elizabeth’s coaches and players raved about Mello’s effort.
“It was great to see Garrett get the start tonight,” Tarling said. “He saved us a few times.”
“One of our captains has told Garrett all year not to underestimate his role on the team,” Buotte said. “He’s at practice every day working his butt off. We hadn’t gone to him much, but he’s worked hard at the JV level. The moment wasn’t too big for him. He was ready. It means the world for us to do this for Garrett. He didn’t want to let us down and we didn’t want to let him down. He saved our butts. We had to win it for him.”
Yarmouth played a solid game all around, but in an all-too-familiar result of late, had no victory to show for it in its fifth overtime game of the season.
“That’s three tough losses in a row for us,” said St. Pierre. “We’re playing better, but we’re not getting that last little push that we need. We have to figure that out. It was a playoff atmosphere. The crowd was into it. I remember back in the days when the playoffs were here. It was an amazing atmosphere. It’s such a shame to have lost that.
“We’ve been in enough overtime games that we knew what we needed to do. Overtime hockey is all about getting a bounce and a break and unfortunately for us, they got it. I thought we had good position there on that goal, but they outworked us. To their credit, they earned the victory.”
Cape Elizabeth and Yarmouth meet again Feb. 21 in Yarmouth. Both teams will be tested on several occasions in the interim.
The Clippers (now fifth in the Class B South Heal Points standings) play at top-ranked Gardiner Saturday. After hosting Class A North power St. Dom’s Tuesday of next week, Yarmouth goes to York, hosts Greely, then closes versus the Capers.
“It’s such a competitive league,” St. Pierre said. “Every night, we’re in for a battle. We have to keep plugging away and moving forward. We’ll get ready for our next opponent. It’s going to be an exciting playoffs. Every game will be a battle. It’ll be fun to be a part of that.”
Cape Elizabeth (fourth in the region) returns to action Wednesday at Maranacook. After visiting Bangor, the Capers host Gardiner and Kennebunk, then close with games at Yarmouth and York.
“We have to keep working hard like we did tonight,” Tarling said. “Every game is a must win now.”
“We’re only as good as our next game,” Buotte said. “Tonight’s all fine and good. It’s a great win obviously, but if we turn around and lose our next one, what good is this? Now we have a two-game win streak and we have to keep it going. We have to get better every day. These guys are hungry. No one wants it more than them. They want to be better than the day before. We’re all peeking at the schedule and standings. We know what’s at stake. We’ll be prepared for it.”
Yarmouth freshman Spencer King dives to knock the puck away from Cape Elizabeth junior Alex Glidden as Clippers junior goalie Dan Latham looks on.
Yarmouth senior Chris Romano defends Cape Elizabeth senior Gavin Spidle.
Cape Elizabeth senior Evan Concannon reacts in frustration after missing an open net.
Cape Elizabeth senior Peyton Weatherbie eludes Yarmouth senior Chris Romano.
Yarmouth junior Joe Truesdale slows Cape Elizabeth sophomore Phil Tarling.
Yarmouth senior Bill Jacobs rebounds a puck past Cape Elizabeth sophomore goalie Garrett Mello for the Clippers’ third goal.
Cape Elizabeth senior Jeb Boechenstein lunges for the puck as Yarmouth sophomore Sam Marjerison defends.
Boechenstein’s shot (and sure goal) is then denied by a diving Latham.
Yarmouth 7 @ Cape Elizabeth 1
Cape Elizabeth 2 @ Yarmouth 1
Cape Elizabeth 2 @ Yarmouth 0
@ Cape Elizabeth 5 Yarmouth 4
@ Cape Elizabeth 2 Yarmouth 2 (tie)
@ Yarmouth 2 Cape Elizabeth 0
Western B quarterfinals
Cape Elizabeth 4 Yarmouth 3
@ Cape Elizabeth 6 Yarmouth 2
@ Yarmouth 4 Cape Elizabeth 1
@ Cape Elizabeth 7 Yarmouth 3
@ Cape Elizabeth 5 Yarmouth 3
Cape Elizabeth 3 @ Yarmouth 0
@ Cape Elizabeth 5 Yarmouth 0
@ Cape Elizabeth 8 Yarmouth 0
Cape Elizabeth 9 @ Yarmouth 1
@ Cape Elizabeth 6 Yarmouth 5
Cape Elizabeth 8 @ Yarmouth 2
@ Cape Elizabeth 2 Yarmouth 1
@ Cape Elizabeth 4 Yarmouth 0
Cape Elizabeth 6 Yarmouth 0
Western B semifinals
Cape Elizabeth 5 Yarmouth 2
Yarmouth 3 @ Cape Elizabeth 2
Cape Elizabeth 3 @ Yarmouth 1
Yarmouth 1 @ Cape Elizabeth 0
Cape Elizabeth 7 @ Yarmouth 1
Western B semifinals
Cape Elizabeth 6 Yarmouth 2
@ Cape Elizabeth 4 Yarmouth 3 (OT)
Cape Elizabeth 2 @ Yarmouth 1 (OT)
Western B semifinals
Yarmouth 4 Cape Elizabeth 3