Cheverus senior Sean Walsh is congratulated by his teammates after scoring a goal Thursday night. The Stags beat Portland/Deering, 5-3.
Mike Strout photos.
More photos below.
PORTLAND—Since it traveled to a Jesuit tournament in Chicago earlier this month to take part against top-notch, out-of-state competition, Cheverus’ boys’ hockey team has had its way with every foe back home in Maine.
Including one of its fiercest rivals.
Thursday evening at the Troubh Ice Arena, the Stags showed how explosive they can be, as they erupted for three goals in 61 seconds to take a quick lead over Portland/Deering.
After junior Luke Church got Cheverus on the board, senior Sean Walsh scored twice for a 3-0 lead after one period.
The Stags kept the pressure on early in the second period, as senior Ryan McSorley made it 4-0.
Portland/Deering finally came to life in the third, but it was too little, too late.
Portland/Deering got on the board 35 seconds into the final stanza on a goal from Miki Silva, but junior Jesse Pierce got the goal right back for Cheverus. Later in the third, Dom Tocci and Donnie Tocci scored for Portland/Deering, but the Stags were able to hold on, 5-3, and sweep the season series.
Cheverus improved to 6-3, won its fourth game in a row and dropped Portland/Deering to 6-4, handing it its third straight loss in the process.
“I’ve played these guys for four years and this game always means a little more,” McSorley said. “A lot of the guys are from Portland and it’s always a special game.”
The rivals squared off back on the second day of the new year in the “City Cup” and behind goals from five different players, Cheverus prevailed.
Both teams have had their moments this season.
Stags 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.
“That trip was awesome,” said McSorley. “The competition was tough, but that helped us once we got back here. It was good team bonding.”
“The trip was good,” said Cheverus coach Dan Lucas. “We played some really good teams out there. Coming back, we haven’t lost our edge.”
Tuesday’s scheduled game at Yarmouth was postponed by bad weather.
Portland/Deering got off to a hot start, beating visiting Cony, 5-4, in overtime, Windham, 6-4, and Marshwood, 11-0. After suffering a 5-2 loss to Cheverus, Portland/Deering beat South Portland (2-1), won at Bangor (5-3) and upset visiting Scarborough, 1-0, before falling at York by a 6-3 margin and at home to defending Class B South champion Yarmouth (4-3) in its last outing.
The teams split last year and Portland/Deering was hoping that would be the case again, but instead, Cheverus prevailed to sweep the regular season series for the first time in three years.
The Stags got the jump at the 6 minute, 10 second mark of the first period, as Church scored with junior Marco Giancotti getting an assist.
It took only 47 seconds for the next goal, as Walsh got his first score, assisted by sophomore Alex Brewer at 9:37.
A mere 14 seconds later Walsh struck again, this one set up by Giancotti and sophomore Justin Ray, and just like that Cheverus had a commanding 3-0 advantage.
“We knew they wanted to beat us, but we wanted to come out stronger than they did,” McSorley said. “It was quick. We like to score early and often and we did that.”
“We had to carry the play and play smart,” said Lucas. “We have to play as a unit.”
The all-important first goal of the second period also went to the Stags, as McSorley beat Portland/Deering goalie Sam Segal. Sophomore Colby Anton was credited with an assist.
“Between periods, we talked about coming out strong,” said McSorley. “We knew they’d try to get something going. We got lucky. Colby passed it to me and I made it 4-0.”
Portland/Deering was far more successful in the third period, but couldn’t erase the deficit.
Just 35 seconds into the period, playing 4-on-4, Portland/Deering pulled within 4-1 when Silva scored.
Cheverus pounced and got the goal right back with 13:42 to play, as Pierce scored, with junior Mike Hatch assisting, for a 5-1 lead.
Portland/Deering cut the deficit to 5-2 at 2:13 of the third, as Jake Luce set up Dom Tocci, who beat Stags junior goalie Jason Halvorsen.
Portland/Deering then crept even closer when Donnie Tocci scored unassisted with 3:08 to play, but that’s as close as it would get.
Down the stretch, Halvorsen denied a bid off the stick of Mason Martel and Cam King shot just wide and Cheverus went on to a 5-3 victory.
“We tried to play good defense,” McSorley said. “We didn’t worry about scoring more goals. We wanted to get the puck out and get it deep as often as we could.”
“They weren’t going to give up,” Lucas said. “We gave up the middle of the ice near the end. We kind of backed off on the forecheck and that opened it up for them. For the most part, we played a pretty good game. Our goalie made some big saves.”
The Stags had a 22-19 edge in shots and got 16 saves from Halvorsen.
Portland/Deering got 17 saves from Segal.
“It took us awhile to settle down,” said Portland/Deering coach Jeff Beaney. “(Falling behind 3-0) was kind of the game. We’ve had some awful first periods lately. Their goals were scored in front and we’ve worked on that. They were preventable. It’s a little frustrating.
“We played with emotion in the third period and played the way we’re capable. We can build on that. We scored some five-on-five goals in the third period which we haven’t been doing. To not get a power play until eight minutes left in the game was tough because our power play is pretty tough. The guys have improved. We didn’t implode like last year. We’ve worked on playing with emotion without crossing the line. We played hard until the end.”
The regular season has less than four weeks to go and all games going forward will be critical to playoff positioning.
Portland/Deering (now fourth in the Class A South Heal Points standings) is back in action Saturday at Massabesic. After going to Thornton Academy Saturday, the squad hosts Massabesic and Noble next week.
“I think a win would jump-start things,” Beaney said. “It’s human nature to question or press and guys try to do more than they’re capable of. This was the first of five games in 10 days. We’ll figure it out.”
Cheverus (third in Class A South) has a tough test at Class B South contender Cape Elizabeth Saturday.
“We want to keep playing our best game and keep getting better,” McSorley said. “We want to play our best hockey at the end of the season.”
“There’s a lot of good hockey left,” Lucas said. “A lot of good teams left. It’ll be fun. We want to get to the rink every day. We have to have everybody playing hard. We have to battle for every goal we get. We have to be a team from the defense to the forward end and back. We can’t take a shift off.”
Portland/Deering’s Cam King skates with the puck as Cheverus senior Ryan McSorley gives chase.
Cheverus junior Mike Hatch shoots the puck.
Portland/Deering’s Peter Barry brings the puck up ice.
Portland/Deering goalie Sam Segal denies Cheverus senior Ryan McSorley.
Portland/Deering’s Jake Luce knocks the puck away from Cheverus sophomore Riley McCauley.
Cheverus senior Kieran Conley shoots the puck.
Cheverus sophomore Colby Anton and Portland/Deering’s Peter Barry do battle.
Cheverus junior Luke Church, is congratulated by senior Kieran Conley and juniors Jesse Pierce and Marco Giancotti after scoring the game’s first goal.