Cheverus drops instant classic to Biddeford in regional final

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Cheverus sophomore Jackson Wilson beats Biddeford senior goalie Owen Sullivan in the third period of Tuesday’s Class A South Final. The goal tied the game, 3-3. The contest would eventually be decided in double overtime, where the Tigers prevailed in a thriller, 6-5.

Joe Carpine / 365digitalphotography.com photos.

More photos below.

LEWISTON—There was ecstasy and there was agony.

There were great plays and fluky bounces and after nearly 60 minutes of palpitating hockey were in the books, one of the most memorable games in tournament history had flashed before our eyes.

Tuesday evening’s Class A South Final between top-ranked Cheverus and No. 3 Biddeford saw too many twists and turns to track as two evenly matched teams put on a show that no one in the Colisee stands will ever forget.

And ultimately, only one team could advance.

Things began calmly, as neither squad scored in the first period.

Then, the fun began.

Early in the second period, a shot from Tigers senior Liam Turner deflected off senior Ian Couture into the net to break the ice.

As would be the case all night, the Stags answered, as junior Colby Anton scored on a rebound on the power play.

After Couture gave Biddeford a 2-1 lead on a shot that Cheverus senior goalie Jason Halvorsen slowed but couldn’t stop, the Stags drew even again late in the period when junior Justin Ray banked home a rebound.

If the second period was dramatic, the third period was downright breathtaking.

Just two minutes, Couture completed his hat track, but with 7:05 remaining, after a turnover, sophomore Jackson Wilson finished to tie the score for a third time.

Again, the Tigers took the lead and took a big step toward the regional title when freshman Nick McSorley struck with 6:23 to go, but exactly two minutes later, the Stags wiped out a deficit for the fourth time, as senior Cam Dube did the honors.

Then, with 1:12 left, Dube scored again and it appeared that Cheverus was primed to come from behind and steal it.

But a mere 41 seconds later, senior Logan Magnant was in the right place at the right time to pull Biddeford even, 5-5.

The game would go to an eight-minute overtime, where both squads had chances, but neither could finish, so they had to come back out for a second OT.

It appeared the game might be heading for a third extra session, but with 1:35 to go, senior Curtis Petit fed his cousin, junior Colin Petit, and Colin Petit fired the puck past Halvorsen and into history and the Tigers survived and advanced, 6-5, in a game for the ages.

Biddeford improved to 15-6, ended Cheverus’ fine season at 14-5-1 and in the process, advanced to battle Lewiston (18-2) in the Class A state final Saturday at 6 p.m., at the Colisee.

“It was high school hockey at its best.” Stags coach Dan Lucas said. “Unfortunately, somebody had to take it on the chin and we did, but I’m proud of the guys. Both sides wanted it. It was a great goal that won it. Everybody got their money’s worth.”

Into the night

Cheverus had a solid regular season, going 13-4-1 to earn the top seed in Class A South (see sidebar, below, for previous stories). The Stags had a bye into the semifinals, where they eliminated fifth-ranked Thornton Academy, 5-1, Saturday.

Biddeford was 12-6 against a very tough slate in the regular season and after placing third in Class A South, pulled away from upset-minded No. 6 South Portland/Freeport/Waynflete for a 6-3 quarterfinal round victory, then edged No. 2 Falmouth, 5-4, in an overtime thriller in Saturday’s semifinals, on freshman Trevor Ouellette’s winner.

Cheverus beat Biddeford twice this winter, but it wasn’t easy. The Stags enjoyed a 4-2 home victory Dec. 21, then eked out a 4-3 overtime decision at the Tigers Feb. 10.

The specter of beating a good team three times hung over this one throughout.

Cheverus was 3-0 all-time against Biddeford in the playoffs, with a 6-5 overtime victory in the 2016 quarterfinals the most recent (see sidebar, below, for results).

Tuesday, the Tigers bucked the tide of history and on a night chock full of big plays, they made the last one to advance.

The Stags had a 7-4 shots advantage in a relatively tame first period.

There were a few chances, as Ray was denied by Biddeford senior goalie Owen Sullivan just 26 seconds in, Halvorsen saved bids from McSorley, junior Trenton Ouellette and Colin Petit and on the power play, Sullivan stymied senior Mike Hatch, Anton and junior Riley McCauley.

With 2:12 remaining, Sullivan robbed Stags senior Luke Church, the hero of the semifinals, and the game went to the first intermission tied, 0-0.

The offensive floodgates then opened in the second period, as goals were scored in all different ways.

After junior Alex Brewer and Wilson each missed shots for Cheverus, Biddeford went on the power play at 2:11 and 34 seconds later, the game’s first goal came off a crazy bounce, as Turner appeared to shoot wide of the mark, but the puck hit Couture and ricocheted past Halvorsen into the net.

Sullivan preserved the lead by robbing Anton, but at 5:09, the Stags went on the power play and after Sullivan denied Ray on the doorstep, Cheverus kept on the attack and after Sullivan saved a shot from senior Marco Giancotti, Anton finally managed to steer the puck into the cage to make it 1-1 with 8:33 left in the second period.

The Tigers would answer and retake the lead with 6:26 to go, as Couture fired a shot which Halvorsen managed to slow but not stop (Curtis Petit and Trenton Ouellette were given assists).

Biddeford had a chance to extend its advantage when it went on the power play at 9:45, but McSorley shot high and Turner was denied by Halvorsen.

With 2:41 left in the period, Cheverus got another power play opportunity and again, the Stags capitalized, as with 1:53 to go, Ray banged home a rebound after Giancotti’s shot had been saved and after Sullivan made late saves on Ray and Anton, the game went to the second intermission still deadlocked, 2-2.

The dizzying back-and-forth continued in a third period which resolved absolutely nothing.

Two minutes into the third, Colin Petit stole the puck behind the Stags’ goal and fed it to a wide open Couture in front, who beat Halvorsen to complete his hat trick.

The lead held for nearly six minutes, as Sullivan denied Brewer, Wilson shot wide and Sullivan saved bids from Dube, Hatch, Wilson and Ray.

Then, with 7:05 remaining, Wilson stole the puck, raced in and beat Sullivan far side to tie it for the third time.

For the fourth time, Biddeford answered and retook the lead.

After Trevor Ouellette (from McSorley) was denied by Halvorsen, the puck popped up in the air, Magnant snared it, placed it down for McSorley to shoot and score and the Tigers were on top, 4-3, with 6:23 remaining.

It didn’t hold.

After Sullivan denied Dube with his glove, Brewer passed the puck to Wilson, who sent a no-look pass in front to Dube, who finished with 4:23 to play and the game’s fourth tie had been forged.

After Biddeford failed four times to preserve a lead, Cheverus got its chance.

With 1:12 left, Brewer set up Dube with a nice pass and Dube rifled a shot past Sullivan and into the goal to seemingly send the Stags on to the state finale.

But the Tigers proved every bit as adept as Cheverus in coming from behind and after pulling Sullivan, Biddeford put the pressure on and was rewarded.

With 31.9 seconds left in regulation, after senior Colin Lavigne shot from just inside the blue line, the puck bounced off a defender, then hit Magnant and went in to the net to make it 5-5.

“We practiced 6-on-5 yesterday at the end of practice and we scored on the same type of play,” said Biddeford coach Jason Tremblay. “You can’t practice enough situations right now. You look good as a coach when that happens and you don’t if it goes in an empty net.”

“We knew 6-on-5, they’d flood the front of the net,” Lucas said. “It went off a leg, hit a guy in the chest and went in the net.”

After a late shot from Trevor Ouellette went wide, regulation came to an end with no winner to be found.

The first eight-minute, “sudden victory” overtime session didn’t produce a winner, but Biddeford certainly had its chances.

Just nine seconds in, Trevor Ouellette tested Halvorsen, who made a save with his pad.

After Curtis Petit set up Couture for a shot, Halvorsen snared the puck with his glove.

Halvorsen then denied Trevor Ouellette and Magnant.

The Stags’ first shot of overtime came from Dube, but it resulted in an easy save for Sullivan.

With 3:16 to go in OT, Anton looked to end it with a shot off a faceoff and the puck squirted free in front, but Sullivan dove on it.

Late in overtime, Halvorsen twice denied Trenton Ouellette and Lavigne missed just wide.

The ice was resurfaced before the teams began the second extra session and after more close calls, Biddeford finally got the highly desired game-winner.

This time, Cheverus produced early pressure, culminated by a shot from Ray which Sullivan saved.

The Tigers then returned to the attack and were eventually rewarded.

First, Halvorsen denied McSorley, senior Evan Paquette and Trenton Ouellette.

The game then came to a sudden end with 1:35 remaining in the second overtime.

Curtis Petit, on the right flank, skated past the Stags’ blue line. He passed the puck over to Colin Petit, who made a nice move to elude one defender before producing the shot of his young life, a blast that beat Halvorsen just inside the far post and at 8:37 p.m., after 2 hours and 22 minutes of riveting hockey, Biddeford got to celebrate its 6-5 double-overtime victory.

“We got a good bounce on the blue line and Curtis made a good pass,” said Colin Petit. “We’ve played together since (my) freshman year. We work well together. I wanted to go far side. (Halvorsen’s) good with his glove. I wanted to get it back post. It was an unreal celebration. It means everything to me.”

“Colin’s very effective in that situation,” said Tremblay. “He scores a lot of goals off the rush. We talked about getting it to the upper third and he did. It was jubilation.”

The Tigers were outshot, 7-4, in the first period, 12-7 in the second and 12-10 in the third, but they held a 15-4 advantage in the two overtimes and closed the gap to 36-35 by game’s end. Sullivan made 31 saves.

“The resiliency in this group is uncanny and they showed it again tonight,” said Tremblay. “We went to the (penalty) box more than we’d like, but we made some adjustments. These guys mean business. This team doesn’t get down. Giving up leads was demoralizing, but it didn’t matter. We kept coming.

“After we tied it, I think Cheverus had an uphill battle. Momentum swung. You could see their defense was getting tired. They’re a great team. We know each other so well. It was a chess match and both teams battled. It’s one of the best high school games I’ve ever been a part of.”

Biddeford lost twice to Lewiston this season: 5-4 in overtime at home Dec. 30 and 5-2 at Lewiston in the regular season finale Feb. 21.

The Tigers are living a charmed life and they’d love nothing more than to cap off a memorable run and win their first state title since 2010.

“We have to have a good week of practice,” Colin Petit said. “We’re playing well. We’ll bring it Saturday and leave it all on the ice.”

“To grow up in Biddeford and come back and do this as a coach with these young men means a lot to me,” said Tremblay, the one-time Tigers player who won two Class B state titles as Cape Elizabeth’s coach last decade. “The guys can celebrate tonight, but there’s one more. You don’t get a lot of chances at this. I watched Cape (in the Class B South Final) before our game and it brought back a lot of memories for me. This means so much. It’s surreal right now.”

Pain

Cheverus got 29 saves from Halvorsen in his swan song and showed tremendous heart, but its quest to reach the state final for the first time since 2006 fell just short.

“We had our chances, but at the end of the day, the scoreboard tells the story,” Lucas lamented. “I want to wish Biddeford well. They didn’t quit.

“I tried to stay as calm as I could. That’s probably more my demeanor. I just tried to get the kids to focus. It’s fun to see them give their all. There was no lack of that on our bench. You always wonder how they’ll respond in tough moments, but their heart and their will and their character, they weren’t going to go easily. We get them for an hour a day. We got to work them harder than any teacher they have and they responded.

“We wanted to be the little engine that could. We come from a school with under 400 students. We tried to get as much as we could from the guys and they gave that to us.”

The Stags lose eight seniors, including Hatch, a semifinalist for the Travis Roy Award, Church, Dube, Giancotti and Halvorsen, but don’t be surprised if next year’s team finished what this one started.

“We lose a few good ones and they know they gave their all,” said Lucas. “The underclassmen know that there’s something to play for.”

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

Cheverus junior Colby Anton sizes up Biddeford senior goalie Owen Sullivan.

Cheverus junior Alex Brewer and Biddeford freshman Trevor Ouellette fight for the puck.

Cheverus senior Marco Giancotti prepares to shoot the puck.

Cheverus senior goalie Jason Halvorsen denies Biddeford freshman Trevor Ouellette.

Cheverus sophomore Jackson Wilson exults after tying the score in the third period.

Biddeford players leap off the bench to rush the ice following the winner.

Biddeford celebrates its winning goal with its fan section.

Cheverus had a strong turnout from its student section.

Previous Cheverus stories

Season Preview 

Cheverus 5 Cape Elizabeth 1

Cheverus 5 Thornton Academy 1

Previous Biddeford story

Biddeford 5 Falmouth 4 (OT)

Previous Cheverus-Biddeford playoff results

2016 Class A South quarterfinal
Cheverus 6 Biddeford 5 (OT)

2002 Western A semifinal
Cheverus 3 Biddeford 2

2001 Western A quarterfinal
Cheverus 10 Biddeford 1

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