PORTLAND — The Cape Elizabeth boys’ hockey team piled over the boards in a hurried scramble to mob senior goalie Phil Jordan, sticks-high in recognition of his sensational play between the pipes and an upset victory with potential to change how the stars align for this serial Western B contender.
Jordan refused 24 of the 26 shots sent his way by a speedy, highly-skilled fleet of Scarborough Red Storm wingers and the Capers capitalized with a pair of power play goals just 43 seconds apart in the third period to disintegrate a tie, then survived a frantic late push from its Western A neighbor to collect a 3-2 win they so desperately needed Saturday night at Portland Ice Arena.
Cape Elizabeth sophomore Nick Breed scored his second goal on a beautifully deceptive leave pass from senior Sam St. Germain on the power play to begin the third and not one minute later, junior defensemen Wilson Laprade gathered a loose puck off the far end, crowd-side boards, drifted toward center ice and tucked a cleverly-placed wrister low and to the glove side of Red Storm goalie Brett Mayo to post a 3-1 lead for the Capers with 11:44 still left to play.
Scarborough escaped another pair of penalties over the middle parts of the final period, including over a minute down two skaters, eventually getting within a score when junior Brett Leighton snuck one home out front from senior Trevor Hoxsie to make it 3-2 with two minutes still left to get even.
The Red Storm pulled Mayo (20 saves) in favor of an extra skater, setting off a frantic final succession of near-misses that Jordan either deflected or sailed just wide. Cape Elizabeth skated to dry land clutching a 3-2 decision, all tuned-up to face a bumpy stretch of schedule where they could just as easily fade from view or resurface in prime position to make a late run.
“The defense did a great job and I had a clear view of almost every shot,” said Jordan. “They kept their wingers on the outside and everybody worked hard on every shift. That’s what it takes. Tonight we proved we’re coming back.”
In his first meeting with Norm Gagne in charge of the Red Storm, Cape Elizabeth coach Jason Tremblay improved to 5-0 all-time against the veteran coach. The timing could not have been better, as the Capers moved to 4-6 on the brink of a decisive seven-game span where opportunity equally confronts the potential for disaster. But Tremblay knows the best way out is always through and a win here or a win there and the Capers are right back in the mix. It certainly won’t be easy, with Biddeford, Greely, York and Camden Hills still on the menu.
“Hard work pays off,” said Tremblay. “Take pride in doing the little things on the ice. That’s what I saw my team just do. They got tough. We had guys lying out on the ice to block shots. We got great goaltending and we played hard for three periods. As a coach, to see it pay off with a win is very rewarding. I’m proud of my team. We got a tough schedule coming up, but that’s OK. I think we’ve finally turned the corner.”
Scarborough was led by senior forward Andrew Nigro and his almost surreal ability to carry the puck and create chances to score. Had Jordan not been completely red-hot, Nigro may have netted as many as five goals against the Capers. Despite several breakaways and point-blank opportunities, Nigro never did light the lamp in this one.
The Red Storm’s two goals came on the power-play, the first one from Hoxsie after Nigro got dragged down in open ice as he approached Jordan with 8:07 left in the first period. Scarborough’s first line jumped the boards with a minute left on the man-advantage and Leighton retrieved a hard blast by Nigro in the center of the ice and slid a pass to his right where Hoxsie had set camp on the far post. In a flash, Hoxsie one-timed a rocket behind Jordan inching forward to cut down Leighton’s angle and it was 1-0 Scarborough with 6:32 left in the second period.
But less than 90 seconds later, the Capers answered when Breed scored his first goal in a crowd of skaters on Mayo’s doorstep. Cape Elizabeth senior Zack Labbe won a draw in the Red Storm zone and directed the puck toward the crease where Breed lifted it over Mayo’s stick-side shoulder to tie the game at 1-1 with 5:03 remaining in the second.
“Tonight was all about hard work,” said Breed. “This was a huge win for us. Really a must-win. Hopefully we can get some momentum going.”
Scarborough was called for five penalties in the game, four in the third period alone, when the Capers converted on back-to-back chances to take a 3-1 lead and control of the game. Leighton was called for tripping at the blue line, and Cape Elizabeth scored when St. Germain rushed into the zone, drew the Red Storm defender and left a pass dangling for Breed to pick up and once again beat Mayo top shelf for a 2-1 lead with 12:27 left in the final period.
Less than one-minute later, Scarborough’s Joe Cronin lost control and tackled Cape Elizabeth junior Vinny Dell’Aquilla in no man’s land at center ice. The Red Storm paid for his transgression when 43 seconds after Breed’s second goal Laprade scored from the point to give the Capers a 3-1 lead with 11:44 remaining in the third.
“There were two teams out there on the ice,” said Gagne. “For two periods it was a great hockey game and then the officials starting calling everything against one team. It’s a travesty not to let the kids play the game and decide who wins. It’s uncalled for and I’m disappointed for our kids.
“Besides that, we couldn’t put the puck in the net. We had every opportunity to win this game but we couldn’t finish. The kids battled tonight and it’s unfortunate we couldn’t get a win. Cape’s goalie kept them in the game and that was difference. He came up big for them. Give them credit, they took advantage when they could and we didn’t.”
The Red Storm survived two more penalties in the third, including a full 1:12 down a pair of skaters when senior Nate Tolman moved over to make room for Hoxsie in the box with 6:30 left in the game.
Scarborough fought off the two penalties and regrouped, still with a chance to tie the game and play for overtime when Leighton scored on the fringe of the crease from Hoxsie on the power-play with two-minutes to pull within a score, 3-2.
The Red Storm peppered Jordan the rest of the way but couldn’t get the tying goal they needed, losing their second-straight game and falling to 4-5-2 (fifth in the latest Western Class A Heal Points standings) with six games left in the regular season. Scarborough looked to rebound Tuesday at Gorham and will travel to face St. Dom’s Friday night.
Cape Elizabeth played Westbrook Wednesday, travels to take on Biddeford, the top-ranked team in Western A on Friday, then turns around and hits the road again to face Greely in a pivotal showdown Saturday night in Falmouth (the puck drops at 7:40 p.m.).
Cape Elizabeth senior goalie Phil Jordan and junior defender Wilson Laprade make a wall to stymie the shot attempt of Scarborough senior Trevor Hoxsie during the teams’ showdown Saturday night.
After holding on for a 3-2 win, the Capers celebrate the end of a two-game losing streak.