Cheverus girls come to life late to down Portland/Deering

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Cheverus’ girls’ hockey team celebrates a goal during Thursday’s 6-3 win over Portland/Deering in the “City Cup.”

Chris Lambert photos.

More photos below.

PORTLAND—Down two goals, outshot by a wide margin, not having won a game in over three weeks and playing without their injured senior standout, Jill Hannigan, Cheverus’ girls’ hockey team could have easily buckled Thursday evening at Troubh Ice Arena.

But there was an awfully big prize on the line in the annual “City Cup” against rival Portland/Deering and the Stags made sure this one had a happy ending.

Portland/Deering enjoyed a 20-3 shots advantage in the first period and got goals from Lauren McIntyre and Raven Bradenday, but they could have had even more and that loomed large in the second period when Cheverus, which also includes players from Kennebunk and Old Orchard Beach this winter, pulled even behind goals from freshman Terryn MacDonald and junior Eryca Leclerc.

Early in the third period, the Stags went ahead for the first time, when junior Lilly Wolff scored, but Portland/Deering tied it back up, 3-3, on a goal from McIntyre.

The eventual winner was one that those on hand won’t soon forget, as with 3:41 to play, Cheverus’ freshman Sophia Pompeo broke free and finished after a terrific move. Wolff and Pompeo then put it away with goals in the waning moments and the Stags prevailed, 6-3.

Cheverus improved to 10-5, won the “City Cup” for the third year in a row and dropped Portland/Deering to 4-11 in the process.

“We just regrouped,” said Stags first-year coach Kent Hulst. “It’s a game of emotion and luckily, we came out on top. We’re dealing with a major loss to our team. The girls are finding themselves and are learning they have to pick it up and win for each other to continue our strong season.”

Challenges

Cheverus opened with wins at York (7-2) and over visiting Biddeford (5-0). After losing at St. Dom’s (10-2) and at home to Falmouth (5-2), the Stags rattled off seven successive wins, downing visiting Winslow (8-3), Gorham (6-0) and Cape Elizabeth/Waynflete/South Portland (3-1), host Brunswick (4-1) and Gorham/Bonny Eagle (8-2) visiting Mt. Ararat/Morse (4-2) and host Portland/Deering (4-0), before having their streak snapped at Scarborough, 6-0. After a 2-1 home loss to Scarborough, Cheverus lost at Biddeford (1-0). Prior to that game, Hannigan suffered a likely season-ending shoulder injury in practice, leaving her teammates in a difficult spot.

Portland/Deering, meanwhile, started with losses at Scarborough (8-1) and at home to Biddeford (6-0), then beat visiting Winslow (5-3) and Mt. Ararat/Morse (3-1) to match last year’s win total. After a 10-0 loss at Falmouth, Portland/Deering was defeated by host Cape Elizabeth/Waynflete/South Portland (5-1), visiting St. Dom’s (11-1) visiting Scarborough (6-0) and visiting Cheverus (4-0). After a 7-2 home victory over Gorham/Bonny Eagle, Portland/Deering lost at Brunswick (8-3), at home against Falmouth (8-0) and at York (4-3, in overtime) before bouncing back Monday to down host Gorham/Bonny Eagle (7-2).

Entering play Thursday, Cheverus had won five straight meetings, including a 4-0 triumph Dec. 30 when Hannigan, Sophia Giancotti, Victoria Lemieux and Caroline Ray all scored.

This time around, Portland/Deering was seeking its first win over the Stags since Dec. 22, 2012, but Cheverus got back in the win column for the first time this calendar year and took the “City Cup” for the third year in a row.

Early on, it sure didn’t look like the Stags would be victorious.

Just 2 minutes, 50 seconds, McIntyre took a pass from Maeve LeClair and beat Stags senior goalie Taylor Courtois to the far side just inside the post for a 1-0 lead.

A minute later, Courtois had to leave the game after being hit by the puck. Sophomore Anna Smith came on in relief and with 10:25 to go in the first period, a McIntyre blast was redirected by Bradenday and Portland/Deering had a 2-0 lead.

And back came Courtois.

“A puck hit my collarbone and I had a hard time breathing,” Courtois said. “I planned on going back in. I saw (Smith) was nervous. It was just a matter of catching my breath.”

Portland/Deering threatened to extend the lead even further, but Courtois robbed Kaylyn Madore in front and the Stags killed a penalty.

Cheverus almost got on the board with just over a minute to play in the first period, but Pompeo, after stealing the puck, was robbed by Portland/Deering goalie Anna Freund.

Portland/Deering had a 20-3 advantage in shots in the first period, but the game was still in the balance.

“Shots are deceiving,” Hulst said. “We missed some shots on net. They had a couple ‘Grade A’ chances. Taylor had to make some saves to keep us close.”

After the teams switched sides, it was clear the Stags were a different team and they were soon rewarded for their improved effort.

After Freund denied Giancotti, Ray, Wolff and Giancotti again (with a terrific pad save), Cheverus finally broke through with 4:13 to play in the period, as Ray set up MacDonald for a wrister to make it 2-1.

With 3:26 left, Portland/Deering’s Inez Braceras took a penalty and just six seconds later, Leclerc made them pay, beating Freund (freshman Caitlin Wolff was given an assist) and the game was deadlocked, 2-2.

The Stags had a 13-6 shots advantage in the second period.

Portland/Deering almost went on top early in the third period, but Courtois denied Sinead Scott on the power play, saved a McIntyre shot, then off the ensuing faceoff, she robbed Braceras.

Cheverus then went on top for the first time when the Wolffs converted with 10:25 to go, as Caitlin Wolff set up Lilly Wolff in transition to make it 3-2 Stags.

That lead held up until 5:55 remained, when playing four-on-four, McIntyre one-timed a loose puck past Courtois and into the net to tie the game, 3-3. Frager Kerry Wells were given assists.

After Freund stopped Ray on a rush and prevented Ray from scoring on the power play, Pompeo put Cheverus ahead to stay.

With 3:41 to play, Pompeo got the puck on the left side, blew past a defender, then went one-on-one with Freund and finished for a 4-3 advantage, thrilling the Stags’ cheering section in the process.

“Just like in field hockey, I don’t even know what I was doing,” said Pompeo, who was a standout this fall in field hockey for Cheverus, which got to the regional final. “I just brought the puck down and it went in.”

“Sophia works hard,” Hulst said. “She can skate. She asks questions. She wants to win for her teammates.”

The game was far from over and Portland/Deering had one look to tie it up, but senior Mia Thurston shot just wide.

Then, with 2:29 to go, Caitlin Wolff set up Lilly Wolff, who finished for a 5-3 lead.

After Courtois stopped three bids from Braceras and another from McIntyre, Pompeo scored an empty net goal with 39.4 seconds to play (Lilly Wolff and Caitlin Wolff were both given assists) and Cheverus closed out its 6-3 victory.

“We knew it would be hard to come back, but we put our heart in it,” said Courtois (34 saves). “We really wanted this game. We’d won the past two years. A lot of people came out and we wanted to win it for them. I hope this will get us back on track.”

“It was awesome,” Pompeo said. “It was my first “City Cup.” It was a big deal. I loved it.”

Pompeo and Lilly Wolff both scored twice, while Leclerc and MacDonald added one goal apiece. Caitlin Wolff had four assists. Ray and Lilly Wolff both had one. The Stags went 2 for 4 on the power play.

Portland/Deering, which had a 38-25 shots advantage, was led by McIntyre’s two goals.

“My seniors did their best,” said Portland/Deering coach Tim Murphy. “Lauren and Mia are the heart and soul of the team. They got the girls up for the game.”

Bradenday had the other goal. Frager, LeClair, McIntyre and Wells all had assists. Freund made 19 saves.

Portland/Deering failed on its four power plays.

“It was a great one to watch,” Murphy said. “I enjoyed it. We just didn’t have an answer for a couple of their players. I thought my girls played one of their best games the entire season. We were pumped for this. Take nothing away from Cheverus, they did a great job. Kent’s a great coach.”

Playoffs

Portland/Deering (ranked seventh in the South Region Heal Points standings) likely has to win out to make the playoffs (only six teams make the cut). After going to Biddeford Saturday, Portland/Deering hosts Cape Elizabeth/Waynflete/South Portland Wednesday and closes with a home game versus York Jan. 30.

“I hope to make a run at the playoffs,” Murphy said. “We have some games that if we win, it would help us.”

Cheverus (likely locked into the No. 3 spot in the South) is at Cape Elizabeth/Waynflete/South Portland Saturday, hosts York Thursday of next week, then closes at Falmouth Jan. 30.

“This gets us back on track,” Hulst said. “Hopefully we’ll get geared up for the playoffs.”

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

Portland/Deering senior Lauren McIntyre splits Cheverus freshmen Terryn MacDonald, left, and Sophia Pompeo. McIntyre scored twice in the loss.

Portland/Deering’s Lillian Frager shoots as Cheverus junior Elizabeth Cain defends.

Cheverus senior goalie Taylor Courtois makes a glove save.

Cheverus freshman Sophia Pompeo and Portland/Deering senior Mia Thurston battle for possession.

Cheverus junior Eryca Leclerc fires a shot.

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