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Cheverus senior Garrett Dion (10) and sophomore Jesse Pierce exult after a goal during the Stags’ stirring 6-5, come-from-behind overtime victory over Biddeford in Monday’s Class A South quarterfinal. Cheverus will play the Scarborough-Massabesic/Bonny Eagle/Old Orchard Beach winner in Saturday’s semifinals.
Chris Lambert photos.
More photos below.
PORTLAND—February 22nd is a day of hockey miracles and while there were no Morrows, Silks, Craigs or Eruziones on the Troubh Arena ice Monday afternoon, the Cheverus Stags, 36 years after the original, produced a magical “Miracle on Ice” of their own.
Hosting Biddeford in a Class A South quarterfinal round thriller, the fourth-ranked Stags dug an early 2-0 deficit when the fifth-seeded Tigers got goals from junior Ricky Ruck and sophomore Curtis Petit in the first five-plus minutes.
When Biddeford added two more goals in the second period, the first from senior Mike Reissfelder unassisted, and the second by Petit off a rebound, many started penning Cheverus’ postmortem, but this one was far from over.
Seconds after Stags coach Dan Lucas made a change in goal, Cheverus got some life when senior Chris Vallee scored. That spark turned into a conflagration, as sophomore Jesse Pierce and Vallee answered soon after to make things very interesting and pull the Stags within a mere goal, 4-3, after two periods.
Cheverus completed the comeback 10 seconds into the third, when sophomore Mike Hatch found the net, but with 10:19 to play, Biddeford threatened to make the comeback moot when senior Joe Anders scored for a 5-4 lead.
After overcoming a four-goal deficit, being down by a mere goal was no obstacle for the Stags and with 8:28 to play, junior Sean Walsh tied the game again.
After Cheverus sophomore goalie Colby Benway turned aside several good Tigers’ chances, the game would go to “sudden victory” overtime, where the Stags completed their comeback for the ages.
On the power play, 98 seconds into the extra session, Hatch played the hero and Cheverus survived and advanced with a most improbable 6-5 triumph.
Hatch and Vallee both had two goals and four different players scored as the Stags evened their record at 9-9-1, ended Biddeford’s season at 8-11 and advanced to Saturday’s Class A South semifinals in Lewiston where they will meet either top-ranked, defending state champion Scarborough (13-2-3) or No. 8 Massabesic/Bonny Eagle/OOB (9-9).
“It’s unbelievable,” said Hatch. “It was a great comeback. We got the right bounce of the puck. We have a lot of experience and we never gave up.”
The Stags made it to the regional final a year ago, but have been up and down this winter.
Biddeford went 8-10, but was very competitive and its record was misleading.
The teams split this year, as the Stags lost at Biddeford, 5-3, two days before Christmas and beat the visiting Tigers, 3-2, Jan. 30.
The teams played twice previously in the playoffs, but it had been awhile. Cheverus took the 2001 quarterfinals, 10-1, and won again in the 2002 semifinals, 3-2.
Monday, the Stags appeared destined for an early exit, but stormed back and stayed alive to play another day.
Biddeford had far more energy early and it resulted in a quick lead.
With 13:05 to go in the first period, Ruck beat Cheverus sophomore goalie Jason Halvorsen (sophomore Logan Magnant g0t the assist) and the Tigers had the jump.
After the Stags failed to capitalize on the power play and Halvorsen denied Ruck on a short-handed breakaway, Biddeford doubled its lead with 9:17 left in the first, as sophomore Colin Lavigne set up Petit, who found the back of the net to make it 2-0.
Cheverus’ best scoring chance in the first period came with just under a minute to go, but the Stags couldn’t redirect the puck during a scrum in front and the Tigers took a two-goal advantage to the locker room.
Cheverus looked to get back in the game early in the second period, but a near-miss led to Biddeford extending its advantage even further.
With 10:22 to go in the second, Stags forward Cam Dube took a long lead pass and went one-on-one with Tigers senior goalie Tom Green, but Green stopped him cold and play transitioned the other way where Reissfelder finished for his first varsity goal and a 3-0 lead.
With 8:23 left in the period, Petit rebounded Mangant’s shot into the goal and Cheverus’ season appeared lost as it trailed, 4-0.
Lucas then replaced Halvorsen with Benway.
“(Jason’s) played great for us all year,” Lucas said. “He just had a bit of an off day. I figured I’d do it now and get the team to figure there was a still a chance.”
For some reason, that change produced a spark for the Stags, whose offense suddenly roared to life.
The comeback began with 7:25 to go in the second, as Vallee sent the puck past Green (Pierce and sophomore Garrett Dion assisted).
“Once we got a goal, we were buzzing and ready to go,” Hatch said. “We never give up, the coaches never give up.”
“The team was struggling a little bit and I knew I had to make a couple saves to get us going,” Benway said. “I made a few and we started scoring. I had a lot of adrenaline. I just reacted. I wanted to give the team the best chance I could. At 4-1, I saw the team perk up and we just kept going. We’d come back before and we had to keep pushing. We knew we’d break them down eventually.”
After Petit was sent to the penalty box for boarding, Pierce beat Green (senior Matt Dilios got the assist) and just like that, with 5:38 remaining, the deficit was back to two, 4-2.
Cheverus wasn’t done, as 23 seconds later, after a Tigers’ turnover, junior Ryan McSorley set up Vallee and with the score, 4-3, the Stags’ cheering section roared to life.
“I wasn’t kind to them after the first period,” Lucas said. “I told them to win the second period. It took a little while to get the first one. We had the same type of game earlier in the year against Portland (rallying from a 6-2 third period deficit to win, 7-6, in overtime). We just had to keep going.”
After giving up three goals in 2 minutes, 10 seconds, Biddeford coach Richard Reissfelder called timeout, but Cheverus continued to pressure.
With 3:13 left, Green robbed Stags senior Jesse Cyr-Brophy and Pierce sent the rebound wide.
Late in the period, Cheverus had a chance to equalize on a scrum in front, but couldn’t get a stick on the puck.
With 20.9 seconds to go, Benway preserved the one-goal deficit by denying Ruck in close and the Stags went to the locker room only down, 4-3.
The fun was just beginning.
Cheverus won possession to start the third period and Vallee got the puck to Hatch, who fired a shot past Green and just like that, 10 seconds into the period, the comeback was complete.
The Stags couldn’t go ahead, however, and after Tigers senior Zach Thompson was denied by Benway, the visitors broke through, as Ruck set up Anders with 10:19 remaining for a 5-4 advantage.
“I just had to keep my head up,” Benway said. “It was a tough goal to stop. I knew if I made the next save, we’d keep going.”
This time, Cheverus promptly answered, as after Green robbed junior Walsh and Hatch sent the rebound wide, Vallee fed Walsh and this time, Walsh didn’t miss, tying the score, 5-5, with 8:28 to go.
Neither team would score the rest of regulation, although both had chances.
Benway had to stand tall to deny junior Dylan Demers, sophomore Colin Lavigne and Ruck.
With 2:39 showing, Walsh shot just wide.
In the final minute, Petit’s bid from the blue line was saved by Benway and the rebound was cleared.
With 24.1 seconds remaining, Petit was sent off for hooking and while the game went to overtime, the Stags had momentum and a man-advantage when overtime commenced.
And plenty of confidence to boot.
Just 17 seconds into the first eight-minute “sudden victory” OT, Cheverus senior Luke Trickey shot wide. Hatch then tried to end it, but his bid was tipped wide.
As the Biddeford penalty expired, Demers crushed Trickey into the boards and with 6:27 left in overtime, received a five-minute major penalty as a result.
It took Trickey several minutes to get off the ice and make his way to the bench, but it took his teammates a mere five seconds to put a cherry on the comeback sundae.
The puck went from Vallee to Pierce and then to Hatch on the left side at the blue line. With Green screened, Hatch fired a shot that flew into history, tickled the twine and unleashed the type of celebration normally reserved for a championship.
Cheverus 6 Biddeford 5.
“The puck came to the blue line and Sean screened the goalie in front of the net and it was an easy goal,” Hatch said.
“Going into overtime, the mood on the bench was that we would get it right away,” Benway said. “I was so excited for us. I’m so happy we came back. We have a lot of mental toughness. We’ve battled back. Our ability to come back is really good.”
“That was a great wrist shot,” Lucas added. “This was probably one of (Hatch’s) best games. If you get an opportunity, you want to win the game and we made the most of it. We didn’t quit and we kept trying. I started with four lines and started to shorten it up a little bit and I think as the game went on, we wore them down and got the puck deeper.”
The Stags finished with a 26-24 shots advantage. They got seven saves from Halvorsen and a dozen from Benway, who was huge in relief.
“Colby was outstanding,” Hatch said. “I’ve played with him my entire life. He’s just a great goalie.”
“Colby seems to play better when he doesn’t know he’s going in net,” said Lucas. “He overthinks it sometimes. He’s a reactionary goalie and he stepped it up.”
Cheverus converted on 2 of 6 power play opportunities.
The Tigers got 20 saves from Green and failed to score on two power plays.
Cheverus takes momentum and house money to Lewiston Saturday to play in the semifinals.
All signs suggest that the Stags will meet Scarborough.
Cheverus lost, 5-0, Dec. 8 in Scarborough and played the visiting Red Storm to a 2-2 tie Jan. 23.
The Red Storm won four of the previous five playoff encounters, with a 5-2 victory in last year’s regional final the most recent.
The Stags did not face Massabesic/Bonny Eagle/OOB. The teams have no playoff history.
“We believe,” Hatch said. “We feel confident. We want Scarborough after they tied us with 13 seconds left in the game. We’ll be ready to go.”
“We have a lot of confidence,” Benway said. “We have to keep skating and shooting the puck like we did. We’ve had some big wins this year and we’ll have that in the back of our heads.”
“It’s on to the next one,” Lucas added. “(Scarborough coach) Norm (Gagne) will have his team ready, if that’s who we wind up playing. We have an extra day of rest. We hope to keep the emotion going until Saturday.”
Cheverus sophomore Cam Dube fires a shot.
Cheverus senior Luke Trickey knocks a Biddeford defender off the puck.
Cheverus senior Garrett Dion skates in on goal.
Cheverus senior Jesse Cyr-Brophy is denied by Biddeford senior goalie Tom Green.
Cheverus sophomore Jesse Pierce shoots out of a scrum.
Cheverus celebrates a goal in front of its cheering section.