(Ed. Note: For the complete Cheverus-Lake Region/Fryeburg/Oxford Hills game story, see theforecaster.net)
The boys’ hockey playoffs were over quickly for one city team last week, but another managed to go somewhere it hadn’t been in nine seasons.
Cheverus, after a strong 11-5-2 regular season, earned the No. 2 seed in Western A and last Wednesday, hosted No. 7 Lake Region/Fryeburg/Oxford Hills in the quarterfinals where it made an immediate statement.
It took just 24 seconds for the Stags to take the lead for good on a goal from captain James Kane and that opened the floodgates. By the time the first period was over, the lead was 5-0, thanks to subsequent goals from Quintin Farr, Chris Vallee, Alex Libby and Nick Noyes.
Little changed in the second period, as Cheverus took advantage of a major penalty on the Ice Cats and added four more goals, including a natural hat trick from captain James Hannigan, and a tally from Matthew Dilios.
A rebound goal from captain Keegan Thomas five minutes into the third period induced a running clock and while the Ice Cats did get on the board with 5:36 to play, the Stags added two more goals, as Jean Claude Lemieux and Kieran Conley did the honors, and Cheverus went on to a 12-1 victory.
Ten different Stags tickled the twine, with Hannigan leading the way with three goals.
“We had to treat it like it was Scarborough or Biddeford,” Kane said. “We knew we were done if we lost. We’re very deep. All 12 players on all four lines can score.”
“I didn’t think we’d have a letdown tonight,” Hannigan said. “We’re a very confident team. It’s so awesome to see how much better we are now than we were at the beginning of the season. At the beginning, there was really only one line scoring, but we made some changes. The other guys have gotten more confidence. Everyone is scoring. The chemistry has progressed through the year. I believe in these guys to the end.”
“I was nervous before the game,” added Stags coach Dan Lucas. “You never know what might happen. Getting a goal right off the bat sometimes isn’t a good thing. You have to play your game and carry play. We took advantage of our opportunities and didn’t let up.”
Saturday, Cheverus had a chance to avenge last year’s painful playoff ouster when it went to Lewiston to meet third-ranked Noble/Wells in the semifinals.
Thomas scored twice in the first period for a 2-0 lead. Libby added a goal in the second. In the third, Luke Trickey made it 4-0. After Noble/Wells got on the board, Matt O’Leary and Thomas tickled the twine to account for the 6-1 victory.
Thomas had a hat trick.
“We were fired up all season to play Noble,” Thomas said. “They knocked us out last year in a good game. We didn’ t play well and they knocked us out. We were looking forward to this game for a long time. We came out with the right mentality, the right attitude. From the time we walked in, we came to play.”
“It’s something you keep working toward each year,” Lucas said. “We’ve got eight or nine seniors on this team. There’s nothing left to save it for. Everybody’s playing with a purpose now and the team’s pretty tight. I think we can be a dangerous hockey team.”
The Stags (13-5-2) returned to Lewiston Tuesday evening to battle No. 4 Scarborough (12-5-3) in the Western A Final, Cheverus’ first appearance in that round since winning the second of back-to-back Class A championships in 2006.
The teams played two down-to-the-wire games this season, settling for a 1-1 tie Feb. 7 at Scarborough and the Stags winning, 1-0, at home Feb. 19. The Red Storm won three of the previous four playoff meetings, including a 4-2 victory in the 2013 semifinals. Cheverus’ only win was the most memorable encounter, a 3-2, double OT triumph in the 2006 Western A Final.
“We get Cheverus’ name in the conversation again,” Lucas said. “It’s good to hear other coaches throw your name in the mix again. There’s a lot of excitement left.”
If the Stags advanced, they will play either St. Dom’s (16-2-1) or Lewiston (14-5-1) in the Class A state final Saturday at 6 p.m., in Lewiston. During the regular season, Cheverus opened with a 3-2 overtime home win over the Blue Devils Dec. 6 and fell at home to the Saints, 5-2, Jan. 17.
Portland/Deering, the eighth seed, wasn’t as fortunate.
Portland/Deering had to face No. 1 Falmouth, the two-time defending state champion, in the quarterfinal round last week. The Yachtsmen won both regular season meetings, 11-0 and 12-0.
Portland/Deering hung tough this time behind goals from Dominic Tocci and Brett Rickett, but Falmouth went on to a 10-2 victory to end Portland/Deering’s season at 7-12.
Sun Journal staff writer Mike Kraft contributed to this story.