THE PLAYOFFS Cheverus girls' hockey advances to regional final
Stags down Scarborough 3-1 to set up date with Biddeford
By Keith B. Wehmeyer
PORTLAND — Leading up to its semifinal matchup with Scarborough, the Cheverus girls' hockey team went back to basics – the power play and penalty kill.
Saturday night at Portland Ice Arena, it paid off. Two power-play goals were the difference, as the Stags defeated the Red Storm, 3-1.
"The last couple of weeks we were a little off on (special teams)," said Cheverus coach J. P. Lavoie. "We had given up a couple of short-handed goals. We thought it was time to go back to basics a bit and get the girls thinking a little more about defense on the penalty kill and a little more about playing the puck around in the offensive zone on the power play."
Cheverus was 2-for-6 on power-play chances while holding Scarborough without a special teams goal in five opportunities.
The Stags advance to play Biddeford in the West Region Final Wednesday at the Portland Ice Arena.
Against Scarborough, Cheverus jumped out to an early lead just one minute 28 seconds into the first period. Skating with a man advantage, Grace Fitzpatrick shot through traffic from the point, clanging the puck off the far post and into the netting. Maggie Grindatti was credited with an assist.
The quick goal could have led to a repeat performance of the teams' meeting a month earlier, a game which Cheverus won handily, 8-2. However, in the playoffs the Red Storm weren't going to go that easily. Less than a minute after the Stags went ahead, Abby Rutt stuffed home Spencer Shoebottom's rebound to even the score at one apiece.
"We could have folded," said Scarborough coach John Fortiguerra. "That goal showed our grit."
Scarborough poured on the offensive pressure in the first period, tallying 13 shots in the opening frame.
"I told the girls before the game that I thought Scarborough was going to come out flying and they did come out playing really well," said Lavoie. "They played a great game. They had us on our heels a little bit at first."
Unfortunately for the Red Storm, Cheverus goalie Saundrine Lanouette had an answer for every other shot thrown at her.
With eight minutes remaining in the opening period, Rutt single-handedly beat the Cheverus forecheck, skating the length of the ice before trying to beat Lanouette with a backhand.
Lanouette answered with a kick save, but the rebound trickled near the crease. With the Scarborough offense bearing down, the goalie dove with her stick extended, knocking the puck toward the corner and away from danger.
"She has always come up big for us in big games," said Lavoie. "She is a top-notch goalie, one of the better goalies in the state, and she was great tonight. When we needed her to come up big she did."
Lanouette kept the score tied until her teammate, Alyssa Audet, put the Stags ahead for good, pouncing on Emily Sawchuck's rebound and sending it past Scarborough goalie Felicia Mazzone with 1:17 remaining in the first period.
Each team killed a power play in the second before Sawchuck put Cheverus up, 3-1, with an extra-effort goal late in the period. Sawchuck brought the puck into the offensive zone on her own, going one on one with a Scarborough defender at the blue line. She had the puck knocked away, but skated around the defender, regained control and beat Mazzone on the backhand.
"She just skated through the Scarborough defense and wouldn't give up until she put the puck in the net," Lavoie said. "She stayed with the play and was able to put it in."
Mazzone did her best to keep the margin at just two goals, stopping Sage Witham on a breakaway 15 seconds into the final period. But her teammates couldn't crack the Cheverus defense, managing only five shots in the final two periods combined.
The Stags now turn their attention to Biddeford. Wednesday, Greely and Lewiston play at 5 p.m., in the East Region Final. Cheverus and Tigers drop the puck 15 minutes after that game's conclusion.
The Stags fell to the Tigers twice this season, both times by a one-goal margin and also lost to them in last year's Tier I championship game.
While Cheverus moves on, the Red Storm go home, but Fortiguerra hopes they do so with heads held high.
"This is the best game I have seen them play all year long," he said of his team. "This was the best and most intense game we played."