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Cape Elizabeth junior Hans Croft, left, freshman Philip Tarling and senior Tim Corsello celebrate a goal during the Capers’ 5-2 win over Brunswick in Tuesday evening’s Class B South quarterfinal. Cape Elizabeth advanced to meet Gardiner in the semifinals Friday in Lewiston.
Chris Lambert photos.
More photos below.
BRUNSWICK—Cape Elizabeth’s boys’ hockey team ended the regular season red-hot, beating the two best teams in the region, Gardiner and Yarmouth.
Tuesday evening, the sixth-ranked Capers carried that momentum into their Class B South quarterfinal round playoff game against No. 3 Brunswick at Sidney Watson Arena on the campus of Bowdoin College and produced a start that was beyond their wildest dreams.
Cape Elizabeth scored on its first shot, just nine seconds in, as junior Ben Ekedahl scored, and the Capers never looked back.
Later in the first period, sophomore Sean Agrodnia scored twice and Cape Elizabeth took a 3-0 lead into the first intermission.
Well aware that no lead is safe in the postseason, the Capers went out and played a strong second period as well, as senior Jeb Boechenstein and freshman Philip Tarling added goals to make it 5-0 and essentially lock up the victory.
The Dragons did get two goals from senior Nate Granholm in the third period, but it wasn’t enough and Cape Elizabeth went on to a 5-2 victory.
The Capers advanced to the semifinals for the fifth time in six seasons, improved to 8-9-2, ended Brunswick’s season at 9-9-1 and will play No. 2 Gardiner (14-4-1) Friday at 8 p.m. in the Class B South semifinals at the Colisee in Lewiston.
“We’ve said all along that it didn’t matter what we did in December or January,” said Cape Elizabeth coach Matthew Buotte. “You have to roll in February. Now we’ve just got to win a few in a row. We can compete with anybody.”
Both Brunswick and Cape Elizabeth had their moments during the regular season, including beating eventual top seed Yarmouth.
The Dragons finished 9-8-1, while the Capers closed strong with victories over Yarmouth and No. 2 Gardiner to wind up 7-9-2.
The teams met twice during the regular season. After playing to a 2-2 tie in Cape Elizabeth Dec. 28, the Capers won, 4-1, at Brunswick Jan. 9
The lone prior playoff meeting came way back in the 1994 Western B quarterfinals (a 2-1 Dragons’ triumph).
Tuesday, Cape Elizabeth got off to a dazzling start and seized control of the game in the first period.
Just nine seconds in, Ekedahl put the Capers on top to stay, as he got the puck from senior Matthew Riggle and fired it past Brunswick sophomore Riley Kirk.
“It was just a quick shot on net,” Ekedahl said. “It spun around and went in. It was kind of lucky shot. Our line has been playing really well the past couple games.”
“That was a huge boost,” Agrodnia said. “Anytime you get a quick goal, it basically gives you a goal in hand.”
“In a playoff game where it’s one and done, you have to go take it,” Buotte added. “If you’d asked me if I thought we’d score nine seconds in, I’d say probably not, but it was a huge boost. It was a great springboard and the guys picked up their play from there.”
Cape Elizabeth almost added a second goal a minute later, but on a rush, sophomore Alex Glidden was denied by Kirk and the rebound was cleared.
The Dragons’ first chance and best look in the first period came 95 seconds in, as senior Matthew Deveaux sent a backhanded shot on target, which Capers senior Grant Rusk had to stop with his blocker.
Cape Elizabeth returned to its scoring ways with 3:23 to go in the first. Sophomore Ethan Gillespie sent the puck on goal, sophomore Ryan Collins tipped it and it appeared to be going wide, but Agrodnia pounced on the puck and tucked it home for a 2-0 lead.
Agrodnia struck again with 40 seconds remaining in the first, finishing a feed from junior Gavin Spidle, and just like that, the Capers had a commanding three-goal lead after 15 minutes.
“Gavin set me up really nicely,” Agrodnia said. “I was just in the right place at the right time. Open goal and I just had to touch it in.”
“Sean’s been awesome for us,” Buotte said. “He’s reworked his game. He’s done the things we wanted. He scored two greasy goals there. I don’t think he would have scored those goals a year ago.”
Cape Elizabeth enjoyed a 9-5 shots advantage in the first period.
In the locker room between periods, a result from Monday was on the minds of many. In the Class A South quarterfinals, Cheverus fell behind Biddeford, 4-0, midway through the second period, but rallied for a stirring 6-5 overtime victory.
“I didn’t talk about it, but as I was walking out, one of the captains was screaming, ‘It happened to Biddeford yesterday, we don’t want it to happen to us,'” Buotte said.
The Capers ensured there would be no comeback as they extended their lead and put the game out of reach.
Early in the period, Brunswick pressured and tried to get back in the game, but Rusk denied Granholm and freshman Jacob Doring.
Then, with 9:11 to go in the period, Spidle sent the puck across the ice and Riggle one-timed it home for the backbreaking fourth goal.
After killing a Dragons’ power play (Rusk made a nice save on a shot from sophomore Andrew Eno and Deveaux’s rebound bid went high) Cape Elizabeth made it 5-0 with 2:27 left, as Tarling banged home a rebound. Senior Tim Corsello and freshman Alec Riggle were given assists.
In the second period, Cape Elizabeth enjoyed an 8-4 shots advantage.
Brunswick finally broke through in the third period, but it was far too little, too late.
After a Capers’ turnover, Granholm broke in on Rusk and fired the puck over Rusk’s shoulder to cut the deficit to 5-1 with 7:41 to play.
The Dragons tried to creep closer a minute later, but Cape Elizabeth senior Alex Narvaez, best known as the Capers boys’ lacrosse goalie, broke up a rush by Brunswick junior Alex Labbe.
Granholm broke free again with 1:11 to play and again finished, but that’s as close as the Dragons would get and Cape Elizabeth advanced with a 5-2 victory.
“We wanted to keep the pressure on and not let up and we did that,” Ekedahl said.
“We feel like no one has seen the best of us,” Agrodnia said. “The past three games have made a statement for what Cape hockey really is and we don’t plan on stopping. We did a nice job keeping our foot on the gas tonight. We never really took it off.”
“We’ve lost tight games, but that prepared us for the playoffs,” Buotte added. “Beating Gardiner and Yarmouth showed we can play with anybody. It seems like everything was going in tonight. Hopefully it keeps going that way.”
Cape Elizabeth wound up outshooting Brunswick, 21-14. Rusk made 12 saves.
“We believe we have the best group of defensemen in Class B,” Buotte said. “Any of those guys can jump out on the ice and play. We’re so deep. We’ve got good goaltending and this time of year, that’s incredibly important.”
The Dragons got 16 saves from Kirk.
“We knew Cape was probably the toughest matchup for us based on earlier results,” said Brunswick coach Bill Bodwell. “They’re deep, we’re not. We knew it would be a tough game. (The first goal was) not how we drew it up, but after that, we carried the next 10 minutes. We outshot them and had chances. The last few minutes were pretty rough. It was just one of those nights. We got no breaks.”
The Dragons put together a solid season and set the stage for future success.
“I think the big thing is the culture of hockey in Brunswick is slowly changing,” Bodwell said. “The boys have worked hard. I have guys who care about hockey now. We had a lot of sophomores out on the ice tonight. I think they gained a lot of experience.”
Cape Elizabeth downed visiting Gardiner, 3-1, Feb. 13. The teams met twice before in the playoffs, a long, long time ago. The Tigers won, 4-2, in the 1978 double elimination playoffs and the Capers returned the favor, 4-3, in overtime in the 1980 double elimination playoffs.
Friday, Cape Elizabeth likes its chances to keep the good times rolling and advance to the regional final for the first time since 2009.
“We’re as confident as we can be,” Agrodnia said. “Last year wasn’t the result we wanted. We know what we need to do. If we play the way we’ve played the last three games, we can go far.”
“The team is jelling,” Ekedahl said. “We have to stay focused on practice and look forward to the Colisee. Hopefully we’ll get a lot of fans.”
“We know (Gardiner’s) a very good team,” added Buotte. “I don’t know if we got their best last time. I know we’ll get it Friday and it will be an awesome game. Both teams feel like they can win. I believe we have as good a shot as anybody. It will be a fun game. We have awesome guys in the locker room. They’re loose and confident. They know no one has seen the best of us yet.”
Cape Elizabeth senior goalie Grant Rusk denies Brunswick sophomore Michael Deveaux.
Cape Elizabeth junior Ben Ekedahl fires a shot. Ekedahl scored the game’s first goal nine seconds in.
Cape Elizabeth junior Jeb Boechenstein carries the puck and looks for an open teammate.
Cape Elizabeth junior Gavin Spidle winds up for a shot.
Cape Elizabeth junior Ben Ekedahl carries the puck as Brunswick freshman Jacob Doring gives chase.
Cape Elizabeth senior Matthew Riggle is congratulated by junior Ben Ekedahl after a goal.