Cheverus digs out of three-goal hole to edge Cape in OT

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Cheverus senior Sean Walsh celebrates a second period goal and is congratulated by juniors Mike Hatch, left, Marco Giancotti and Jesse Pierce. The Stags rallied from down three goals and edged Cape Elizabeth, 5-4, in overtime.

Mike Strout photos.

More photos below.

PORTLAND—No hockey team aspires to fall behind by multiple goals, but if anyone has demonstrated over the past couple seasons that no deficit is an object, it’s the Cheverus Stags.

Saturday evening against red-hot Cape Elizabeth at Troubh Ice Arena, the Stags struggled for 15 minutes, but that left 30 minutes to turn it around and that’s exactly what they did.

The Capers needed just 1 minute, 43 seconds to break the ice, as sophomore Phil Tarling beat Cheverus junior goalie Colby Benway.

Senior Evan Concannon (on the power play at 4:52) and junior Sean Agrodnia (on a rebound at 5:20) added goals and Cape Elizabeth had an apparently commanding 3-0 lead.

The Stags first showed some offensive life when junior Mike Hatch scored with 3:34 to play in the first period, but just 25 seconds later, Tarling scored his second goal and Cape Elizabeth had a three-goal advantage after one period.

Cheverus came out as the stronger, more determined team in the second period and just 49 seconds in, senior Sean Walsh cut the deficit to 4-2.

Momentum then shifted firmly into the Stags’ corner with 8:50 left, as sophomore Colby Anton blistered a shot past Capers junior goalie Peter Haber to make it 4-3, a score which held up into the third period.

There, Cheverus completed its comeback with 9:37 remaining, as Walsh scored for the second time and the score would remain deadlocked from there, forcing overtime.

After coming all the way back, the Stags went out and won it 1:41 into OT, as junior Jesse Pierce fed classmate David Woodford for a goal and a dramatic 5-4 victory.

Cheverus won its fifth game in a row, improved to 7-3 and handed Cape Elizabeth its first loss in six outings and dropped the Capers to 6-4 in the process.

“We knew it would take a team effort and our mentality all year is to take it period by period and to win the next period,” said Woodford. “We knew what we had to do to come back. It’s a good team win.”

Something had to give

Both squads have been on fire since the calendar flipped.

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).

Cheverus opened with a 5-3 home loss to defending Class A champion Lewiston. After a 4-2 win at Thornton Academy, Cheverus fell at Biddeford, 3-2. A 6-1 home victory over St. Dom’s was followed by a 3-0 loss at Scarborough and a 5-2 win over Portland/Deering. After a 10-0 win at South Portland, the Stags traveled to Chicago and upon their return, they beat host Gorham, 3-0 and Thursday, they downed Portland/Deering, 5-3

Last year, Cheverus beat Cape Elizabeth, 3-0.

Saturday, the Capers were seeking their first victory over Cheverus since Jan. 5, 2012 (5-3), but the Stags got up off the deck and won their fifth in a row in the series.

Cape Elizabeth gave its large and vocal crowd a reason to roar at 1:43, as Tarling finished a feed from junior Alex Glidden for a 1-0 lead. Junior Ethan Gillespie also was credited with an assist.

The Capers went man-up at 4:45 and it took all of seven seconds for them to double their lead, as Concannon knocked home a rebound of senior Ben Ekedahl’s shot to make it 2-0.

Just as that goal was being announced, Cape Elizabeth struck for a third time, as Agrodnia scored on a rebound (Ekedahl and Gillespie were given assists) and the Capers had a three-goal advantage.

Cape Elizabeth went on the power play again seconds later, but this time, couldn’t convert and eventually, Cheverus settled down.

With 3:34 left in the first, the Stags tickled the twine for the first time, as Hatch rebounded junior Marco Giancotti’s shot past Haber.

But the Capers got the goal right back 25 seconds later, as senior Gavin Spidle set up Tarling for his second goal, a rocket past Benway, which made the score 4-1.

After killing a penalty late in the first, Cape Elizabeth went to the first intermission apparently in command.

“If I said we drew the first period up that way, I’d be lying,” said Capers coach Matt Buotte. “We started fast and played our game.”

Cheverus then dominated the second period and got right back in the game.

Just 39 seconds in, a penalty on the Capers put the Stags on the power play and with 14:11 to go in the period, Walsh (from Giancotti) scored to pull Cheverus within two.

After Benway made a huge stop, denying Cape Elizabeth senior Peyton Weatherbie, Cheverus crept even closer, as with 8:50 to go in the second, Hatch fed Anton for a rocket which Haber couldn’t stop and the score was 4-3.

“I got a little hot with them after the first period and told them the game was a long way from over,” said Stags coach Dan Lucas. “We had to push the puck and play in their end. We had to go after the puck. They responded.”

Late in the period, Woodford was sent to the penalty box, but the Capers couldn’t take advantage and it remained a one-goal game heading for the third period.

“We were sure we had them on their heels, but the work we did in the second meant nothing if we didn’t finish it in the third,” Woodford said. “We knew there was still work to be done.”

“We didn’t lose in overtime,” Buotte said. “We lost it coming out slow in the second period. We let them dictate the play.” 

The Capers killed a penalty early in the third period, but with 9:37 to go in regulation, Walsh struck, finishing a feed from junior Luke Church, to make it 4-4.

“On the goal that tied the game, Luke and Sean made a great play,” Lucas said. “That was a beautiful goal.”

Late in regulation, Benway denied Glidden and Tarling and the game went to overtime.

In Maine high school regular season hockey, teams play an eight-minute, “sudden victory” OT to determine a winner.

And that would be Cheverus.

The winning goal came on a rush and was set up by Pierce, who brought the puck into the zone, drew a defender, then fed Woodford at the far post and Woodford steered the puck into the goal to win it 1:41 into overtime.

“We’ve preached ‘stick on the ice’ all year,” Woodford said. “Jesse’s probably our best playmaker and he has been all year. He made a great pass and I just had to be there. It’s been a dream of mine. It was a lot of fun.”

“Woodford has had a couple like that this year,” Lucas said. “He’ll hang around the net and the puck will be there. He’s got quick hands and he had half the net. He didn’t waste it. We want to go as far as we can and against good teams, we can’t put ourselves in a hole like that, but teams know we won’t quit.”

Cheverus finished with a 34-25 edge in shots on goal. Benway made 21 saves, overcoming a tough start to help the Stags pull out the victory.

“I was thinking a little bit (about going to junior Jason Halvorsen after the first period), but (Colby) came back and made some big saves,” said Lucas. “I still think we have the two best goalies in the state as a tandem.”

Cape Elizabeth got 29 saves from Haber, but still suffered its toughest loss to date.

“They’re a top five team in the state and that’s something we aspire to be,” Buotte said. “We learned a lesson tonight. We have to play a full 45 minutes. Hockey’s a game of momentum. When we had it, we were unstoppable. Then we made mental mistakes. Getting momentum back is a collective effort. It has to be consistent. By the time we got it back, it was too late. Still, it could have gone either way.”

Lots at stake

Both teams are still trying to move up in their respective regions.

Cape Elizabeth (fifth at press time in the Class B South Heal Points standings) is back in action Tuesday at South Portland. The Capers then have a home showdown versus defending regional champion Yarmouth Thursday.

“We’ll come back Tuesday and hopefully start a new win streak,” Buotte said. “We have an opportunity to do that. We have very high aspirations. This stings, but I hope it puts a fire in (the guys’) bellies. Beating a team like Cheverus would have done wonders in the standings, but at the end of the day, we’re not fighting them for a state championship. We’re playing some of those teams soon and we have to learn from this. Every time I look at the standings, someone else is in first. It’s extremely competitive. A lot of teams feel like they have a legitimate chance to win it and we’re one of them. We feel like our game translates well to the kind of hockey we’ll need to play in the playoffs.” 

Cheverus (now second in Class A South) is back in action Tuesday when it plays a makeup game at Yarmouth. The Stags also host Brunswick for a makeup game Thursday. The Stags also have showdowns remaining against regional rivals Scarborough, Falmouth, Thornton Academy, Biddeford and Falmouth.

“Coach has preached that this is the best time of the year to come together and get momentum going into the playoffs,” Woodford said. “There’s always room for improvement and a chance to get better. We’re excited to see what the future’s going to bring.”

“Yarmouth’s going to be tough on Tuesday,” Lucas said. “We can’t take our feet off the gas pedal. We know now we have to get up from the get-go. We can’t get behind against good teams.”

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

Cheverus sophomore Alex Brewer shoots the puck.

Cape Elizabeth junior Gus Frankwicz skates past Cheverus sophomore Colby Anton.

Cape Elizabeth junior goalie Peter Haber makes a save.

Cheverus sophomore Riley McCauley battles Cape Elizabeth senior Jeb Boechenstein for the puck.

Cheverus junior Colby Benway denies Cape Elizabeth junior Ryan Collins.

Cheverus junior Mike Hatch scores the Stags’ first goal.

Cape Elizabeth senior Ben Ekedahl celebrates a goal with seniors Evan Concannon and Peyton Weatherbie.

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Sports Editor of The Forecaster since 2001. Find detailed game stories at theforecaster.net. I tweet prodigiously at @foresports.