Cape Elizabeth senior goalie Grant Rusk kicks aside Cheverus freshman Colby Anton’s shot during the teams’ interclass showdown Thursday night. Rusk made 31 saves, but the Stags prevailed, 3-0.
Mike Strout photos.
More photos below.
PORTLAND—In one of the fastest games you’ll ever see (a brisk 85 minutes from start to finish), it took a veritable eternity for the struggling Cheverus boys’ hockey team to tickle the twine in its interclass showdown against Cape Elizabeth Thursday evening at Troubh Ice Arena.
But once the Stags finally solved Capers senior goalie Grant Rusk, they tacked on two more goals and for the first time since Dec. 14, got in the win column.
Cheverus had nothing to show for its 21 shots on goal in the first two periods, but a strong defensive effort kept Cape Elizabeth at bay and finally, with 7:12 remaining, sophomore Cam Dube redirected classmate Mike Hatch’s shot to break the ice.
A little over a minute later, senior Jesse Cyr-Brophy doubled the lead and a late empty net tally from junior Sean Walsh put the finishing touches on the Stags’ 3-0 victory.
Cheverus snapped a four-game skid, improved to 3-5 and dropped the Capers to 3-4-2 in the process.
“Obviously the result was good,” said Stags coach Dan Lucas. “The best thing about this game was that we skated a whole game for a change. It’s been awhile.”
Neither team was satisfied with its record coming into play Thursday, but both have the pieces in place to turn things around.
Cheverus enjoyed a 5-4 home win over Falmouth in the opener, then lost at Scarborough (5-0) and beat host Brunswick, 7-1, before running into a rough stretch, closing 2015 with losses at home to Yarmouth (4-3), at Falmouth (5-1), at Biddeford (5-3) and at St. Dom’s (4-2).
Cape Elizabeth opened with home victories over Maranacook (11-0) and Leavitt (3-1), then tied host Kennebunk, 2-2, and lost at Edward Little, 3-2, and at home to Yarmouth (7-1). After a 5-1 win at Gorham, the Capers settled for a 2-2 home tie with Brunswick, then lost at York, 2-1.
Last year, Cheverus prevailed, 5-2.
Thursday, the Capers were seeking their first victory over Cheverus since Jan. 5, 2012 (5-3), but the Stags won their fourth in a row in the series and got back on track.
The tone was set in the first period, which flew by in 18 real time minutes, as the Stags enjoyed an 11-4 shots advantage, but couldn’t put a single one past Rusk.
Early in the period, Rusk denied junior Ryan McSorley, sophomore Lucas Church, senior Phil Hawley and senior Chris Vallee.
Cape Elizabeth’s first bid saw junior Eli Babcock just miss.
After just one play stoppage in the first 10 minutes, 19 seconds, things slowed down slightly, but Cheverus continued to get good looks.
After Rusk saved shots from junior Kieran Conley, McSorley, sophomore Marco Giancotti, Dube and sophomore Jesse Pierce, the Capers hoped to go ahead in the final minute, but a shot from senior Tim Corsello was denied by Stags sophomore goalie Jason Halvorsen.
“We should have been ahead after the first period, but (Rusk) made a lot of saves and we made him look good,” Lucas said.
The pace wasn’t quite as fast in the second period, but it too flew by (21 minutes) and also ended with the score still 0-0.
Rusk continued to be true to the task, saving shots from Vallee, Pierce, Cyr-Brophy and Vallee again.
Cape Elizabeth then earned the game’s lone power play and had some chances, but Halvorsen stopped bids from junior Ben Ekedahl, sophomore Alex Glidden, junior Carter Brock and Ekedahl again.
Late in the second period, Rusk denied Walsh, freshman Philip Tarling had a shot for the Capers which Halvorsen stopped with his blocker and Cape Elizabeth freshman Jackson Woods sent a back-handed shot wide.
During intermission before the third period, Lucas preached continuing to attack and eventually, the Stags were rewarded.
After Halvorsen denied Ekedahl and Rusk stopped Hatch, Pierce and freshman Justin Ray, Hatch fired a shot from just inside the blue line which Dube redirected past Rusk and into the goal for a 1-0 lead with 7:12 remaining (Walsh was also credited with an assist).
Not surprisingly, one goal quickly led to a second.
After Rusk stopped Pierce in close, Cheverus kept possession and Cyr-Brophy finished unassisted to make it 2-0 with 6 minutes left.
“I just shot the puck and it trickled in,” Cyr-Brophy said. “That first goal got us more in the game.”
“I told them not to stop and keep their foot on the gas and keep working,” Lucas said. “I knew once we got a goal, they’d back off a little bit. We got a few breaks and got a few to go in.”
Capers coach Matt Buotte called timeout to try and inspire a rally, but it never happened.
Corsello and senior Matt Riggle did have good looks at the goal, but Halvorsen saved both shots and with 35.5 seconds showing, Walsh chased down a loose puck and tucked it into the empty net to slam the door on a 3-0 victory.
“It’s nice to get back in the win column again,” said Cyr-Brophy. “We should play better from now on. We outshot them the whole game, we just couldn’t finish. We were in their zone most of the game and skated around. Coach told us to keep pressuring, get on the puck and outwork them. Our defense really helped us. They did well beating their forwards to the puck.”
Cheverus enjoyed a 34-15 shots advantage and got 15 saves from Halvorsen. The Stags didn’t have a power play.
Cape Elizabeth got 31 saves from Rusk and failed on its one power play chance.
“Grant played phenomenal,” Buotte said. “When you play top teams like this, you need your goalie to make saves to win. Grant made big saves all night. He kept us in it all night. Unfortunately, we couldn’t put one in.
“That was a phenomenal hockey game between teams with big ambitions and we pushed them right to the end. I don’t like moral victories, but to push a great team like Cheverus to the end, what more can I ask for? We were unlucky not to score. We might have been outshot, but many of their shots we kept from the outside, which as a coach, I’m happy about. We had some glorious shots that we just kind of let go.”
Cape Elizabeth (now fifth in the Class B South Heal Points standings) looks to get back in the win column Saturday when it goes to Brunswick. The Capers then sit idle for two weeks before hosting rival Greely.
“Guys are starting to trust each other and work harder,” Buotte said. “We’ve had injuries. We’ve had guys in and out of the lineup. We’re trying to build consistency. We want to play 45 minutes every night. We know if we do, we’ll win more than we lose.”
Cheverus (fourth in Class A South) hopes to keep the good times rolling Saturday when Bangor pays a visit. The Stags are then idle for a week before welcoming Portland/Deering. After another week off, they play host to Scarborough.
“We have to keep outworking other teams,” Cyr-Brophy said. “We have to practice harder.”
“It’ll be a grind to the end,” Lucas said. “Now we have something to build on. I’m hoping we can carry it forward.”
Cape Elizabeth sophomore Alex Glidden races up the ice with the puck.
Cape Elizabeth sophomore Ethan Gillespie tries to block the shot of Cheverus junior Ryan McSorley.
Cheverus sophomore Mike Hatch gets the puck past Cape Elizabeth freshman Brady Eavenson.
Cape Elizabeth junior Ben Ekedahl waits to pull the trigger on a shot.
Cape Elizabeth freshman Philip Tarling handles the puck.
Cheverus sophomore goalie Jason Halvorsen protects the cage. Halvorsen made 15 saves in a shutout effort.