Cape Elizabeth junior Gavin Spidle winds up for a shot in front of his team’s bench during Friday’s Class B South semifinal versus Gardiner. Spidle scored twice, but it wasn’t enough as the Capers’ season ended with a 5-4 loss.
Chris Lambert photos.
More photos below.
LEWISTON—Cape Elizabeth’s boys’ hockey team saved its best for last this season, but ultimately, the Capers’ best effort in Friday evening’s Class B South semifinal wasn’t quite good enough.
Facing second-ranked Gardiner on the big stage of the Colisee, No. 6 Cape Elizabeth hoped to continue its late-season surge and reach the regional final for the first time in seven years, but the Capers dug a hole and despite a valiant comeback, couldn’t quite catch up.
The Tigers went up, 1-0, with 5:52 to go in the first period when junior Jake Folsom scored on a rebound and they pushed that lead to three thanks to tallies from Folsom and junior Tristan Hebert early in the second period.
Cape Elizabeth, which had a goal waved off earlier in the second, got on the board when junior Gavin Spidle scored with 5:06 remaining in the period, but just over a minute later, Hebert scored short-handed and Gardiner took a seemingly safe 4-1 lead to the final period.
There, the Capers got within a goal and ultimately just ran out of time.
A rebound goal from senior captain Tim Corsello pulled Cape Elizabeth within 4-2 with 12:04 left, but a mere 30 seconds later, the Tigers extended their lead back to three on a goal from junior Ryan Kelley.
It looked like it wouldn’t be the Capers’ night, but instead of folding, they roared back and made things very, very interesting.
With 5:48 left, junior Jeb Boechenstein scored on a rebound and this time, Cape Elizabeth didn’t allow Gardiner to answer.
With 1:04 to go in regulation, on the power play, the Capers made it a one-goal game when Spidle scored again, but despite some golden opportunities down the stretch, the tying goal proved elusive and the Tigers held on for dear life and prevailed, 5-4.
Gardiner improved to 15-4-1, advanced to meet top-ranked Yarmouth (15-4) in the Class B South Final Wednesday at 7 p.m. and ended Cape Elizabeth’s season with a misleading record of 8-10-2 in the process.
“In my opinion, the better team’s going home tonight,” said Capers coach Matt Buotte. “I don’t mean that with any disrespect to Gardiner. The puck was in their end all night. They made one more save than we did and that was the difference. I thought we controlled the play. We made a couple silly mistakes we don’t usually make and it cost us in a big way.”
Cape Elizabeth went just 7-9-2 in the regular season, but it concluded with wins over Gardiner and Yarmouth, the top two seeds in the region, and the gave the Capers plenty of incentive and confidence entering the playoffs.
Tuesday, Cape Elizabeth scored nine seconds in and held a 3-0 lead after one period en route to a 5-2 win at No. 3 Brunswick in the quarterfinals.
Gardiner had no trouble with No. 7 Gorham, the two-time defending regional champion, in its quarterfinal, winning, 4-0.
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, Gardiner led almost the whole way and avoided a scare at the end.
Cape Elizabeth had some early chances, but couldn’t capitalize.
The best came seven minutes in, when freshman Philip Tarling was denied in front by Gardiner junior goalie Michael Poirier.
With 5:52 to play in the first, Folsom broke free and had his shot stopped by Capers senior goalie Grant Rusk, but Folsom buried the rebound and the Tigers were up, 1-0.
Cape Elizabeth had an immediate chance to draw even, as junior Ben Ekedahl broke in free, but Poirier made the save to preserve the lead.
With 1:40 to go in the first, Ekedahl skated in and looked to set up a teammate, but a dive from Tigers sophomore defenseman Sloan Berthiaume broke it up.
Boechenstein then had a look to tie it, but shot high and Gardiner took a 1-0 lead to intermission.
In the second period, the hole got deeper for the Capers.
After sophomore Alex Glidden’s bid to tie the score was denied by Poirier, Folsom left Cape Elizabeth singing the blues again when he scored on a breakaway with 11:35 to go. Assists went freshman Tanner Hebert and Tristan Hebert.
A little over a minute later, the Capers appeared to get on the board, when they scored out of a scrum, but the whistle had blown first and the goal was waved off.
The Tigers pounced again with 9:55 left in the second.
On a 2-on-1 rush, Tristan Hebert got the puck to Folsom, whose shot was saved by Rusk, but Hebert buried the rebound and the lead was 3-0.
Buotte then replaced Rusk with sophomore Peter Haber in goal.
“Grant has been phenomenal,” Buotte said. “He played four years. We didn’t make plays in front of him. It wasn’t his fault, but we had to do something to jump-start the team. If we’d pulled it out, we’d have gone right back to Grant Wednesday. In my opinion, he’s the best goalie in the state. I can’t say enough good things about him. He’s a special kid.”
Cape Elizabeth got its chance with just over five minutes to play in the period, when it went on a 5-on-3 power play and with 5:06 left, Spidle sent a shot from the blue line that appeared to redirect off a Gardiner defender past Poirier to cut the deficit to 3-1.
The Capers had a chance to creep even further as they remained on a 5-on-4 power play, but after sophomore Ryan Collins had a shot saved by Poirier, the Tigers turned momentum as Folsom had a shot stopped by Rusk, but Tristan Hebert scored on a rebound again and Gardiner was up, 4-1.
Cape Elizabeth started the third period on the power play, but Poirier stopped Glidden in close and the Capers couldn’t dent the deficit.
They managed to make it 4-2 with 12:04 remaining, as Corsello rammed home a loose puck (Tarling got the assist).
Cape Elizabeth couldn’t sustain the momentum, as again the Tigers answered.
With 11:34 to play, sophomore Sloan Berthiaume got the puck to Kelley, who beat Haber up top for a 5-2 advantage.
“We’ve built a foundation of phenomenal defense,” Buotte said. “I think we had the best defense in Class B. Tonight, we got all the goals we wanted, but we didn’t get the defense.”
All signs suggested that the Capers were cooked, but someone forget to tell them.
After Poirier turned aside shots from Riggle, junior Eli Babcock and Glidden, Cape Elizabeth went on the power play.
After Riggle was robbed on the doorstep, Boechenstein scored on a rebound with 5:48 left (Ekedahl and Riggle got assists) and the door was open a crack.
Poirier kept the lead at two by denying Riggle, Boechenstein and Riggle again.
Finally, with 1:04 remaining and the Capers on the power play, Haber was pulled for an extra attacker and Spidle took the puck from Babcock then beat Poirier top shelf to make the score 5-4.
Cape Elizabeth remained on the power play and had looks to complete the comeback, but Spidle hit the post, Riggle sent a backhanded shot just wide and Boechenstein was just off the mark.
As time wound down, Ekedahl had a final chance to extend the game, but Poirier made the save and the clock ran out as Gardiner survived and advanced, 5-4.
“It’s a disappointing loss,” Buotte said. “We left everything out there. We outshot them, 32-14, what more can you say? We poured everything into it, we just couldn’t get the game tied. I truly felt we’d win. You could feel it coming. If there were another 30 seconds, we would have won it in regulation. It would have been easy to fold up the tent, but those kids fought all the way until the end. My heart really hurts, but we’ll hold our heads high.”
Haber made five saves and Rusk stopped four shots in his limited time. The Capers went 3 of 7 on the power play.
“Our power play has been our Achilles’ heel all year, but we scored three tonight,” Buotte said.
The Tigers didn’t have a power play. They got 28 saves from Poirier.
Cape Elizabeth had some frustrating losses during the course of the season and it ended in agony, but the Capers also produced some inspirational victories and gave their followers no shortage of thrills.
“I think we saved our best for last,” Buotte said. “We knew all along we had a good team. We were 7-4-2 against Class B South teams. We thought we could come out of this region. The kids gave me every single thing they had every single day. I can’t say enough good things about them. They worked hard. There are a lot of tears in the locker room. Some strong bonds were built. They deserved better.”
Cape Elizabeth loses Corsello, Riggle and Rusk, along with Brett Eubanks and Alex Narvaez, but returns everyone else, suggesting that next winter, the Capers might get past the semifinal round and perhaps go all the way.
“There’s something about this round we can’t seem to get past, but the future is very bright,” Buotte said. “We have great hockey players here and more coming. I’m excited about the next few years. I feel like we have a window. I think we’ll come back even stronger next year. I know the kids will use tonight as fuel and go on a redemption tour.”
Cape Elizabeth junior Hans Croft plays the puck as Gardiner sophomore Sloan Berthiaume defends.
Cape Elizabeth senior captain Matt Riggle is robbed point blank by Gardiner junior goalie Michael Poirier.
Cape Elizabeth sophomore Alex Glidden battles Gardiner junior Alex Porter for the puck.
Cape Elizabeth junior Ben Ekedahl fires a shot.
Cape Elizabeth sophomore Ryan Collins tries to skate around Gardiner senior Logan Peacock.
Cape Elizabeth junior Jeb Boechenstein shoots the puck as Gardiner sophomore Sloan Berthiaume dives to try and stop him.