THE PLAYOFFS Hockey postseason arrives
Scarborough, South Portland play prelims Saturday; Cape Elizabeth faces long break
By Michael Hoffer
The puck will drop on the 2009 boys' hockey playoffs Saturday.
In Western Class A, No. 5-seeded Scarborough (11-6-1) will host No. 12 Bonny Eagle (5-12-1) in a preliminary round game at 7:30 p.m. at the University of Southern Maine's Ice Arena in Gorham.
No. 6 South Portland (14-3-1) hosts No. 11 Noble (11-7) in a prelim Saturday at 1:45 p.m. at the Portland Ice Arena.
In Western Class B, Cape Elizabeth went 12-6 to earn the No. 2 seed. The Capers don't play until Feb. 28 when they meet No. 3 Leavitt (9-9) in the semifinal round.
The Red Storm have had an interesting season. Coach Jay Mazur was joined on the bench by legend Norm Gagne. They saw their team get off to a 5-1 start before losing four in a row (including a pair in overtime). Since then, Scarborough has gone 6-1-1, a stretch which includes a pair of victories over No. 3 Falmouth, a win over No. 2 Thornton Academy and a victory and a tie against two-time defending state champion Biddeford.
Tuesday, the Red Storm got two goals from senior Jake Rutt in a 5-2 home win over the Tigers to give them an 11-6-1 mark and the No. 4 seed.
"I think the season's been what we expected," said Mazur. "We had a hiccup early-on, but it was a beneficial time for our team. It brought our team closer together. The coaching staff reinforced the game plan and our system. As a tribute to the players, it's come out the way we expected.
"Having Norm has been unbelievable, a blessing. I've always made a point of surrounding myself with good people who have good ideas. He has 35 years of coaching experience and has won six championships. He's a great asset."
Scarborough beat host Bonny Eagle 8-4 way back on Dec. 15 and won 8-1 in the quarterfinals last year in the only other postseason meeting.
"In a one-game situation, anything can happen," Mazur said. "We've been in the situation before where we weren't considered a top team and won. Bonny Eagle's improved since December."
If the Red Storm triumph, they'll set up a delicious quarterfinal round showdown (one worthy of a regional final) Tuesday at No. 4 St. Dom's (12-6). The Saints beat Scarborough twice in overtime this year (5-4 in Lewiston Jan. 12 and 4-3 in Gorham Feb. 7). The teams met just once prior in the postseason (an 8-1 semifinal round win for St. Dom's in 2005).
"If it happens, I'd look very forward to it," said Mazur. "It couldn't be a better situation. It would be at their home rink, but all the games will be at the Colisee from here on out. We might as well get used to it. We had leads in both previous games and lost in OT. Those are over. We'll be ready."
SUBHEAD-Red Riots rolling
South Portland tied the 2003-04 squad for most regular season victories in program history. The Red Riots came of age quicker than expected and have been one of the feel-good stories of the year.
"We've had a pretty good season," said South Portland coach Joe Robinson. "We really didn't know what to expect goalkeeping-wise, but that worked out great for us. We took Cheverus and Portland right off the bat and I thought we could go 17-1. Unfortunately, we had a couple other losses and a tie, but it was beyond what we thought."
South Portland beat Noble twice this year: 5-1 at home Dec. 18 and 4-2 on the road Feb. 4. The teams have no prior playoff history. The Red Riots are seeking just their second postseason win ever.
"I feel good," Robinson said. "I like where we ended up. Noble's a good team. They have really good goal tending. We'll have to earn goals. We can't take them for granted."
If South Portland can advance, it would play at No. 3 Falmouth (12-6) Tuesday in the quarterfinals. The teams didn't meet this year and have no playoff history.
"It would be nice to face Falmouth," Robinson said. "It's a step in the right direction for the program."
Cape Elizabeth has been right in the middle of several exciting games this winter. The Capers stumbled late in the year, losing at Greely and York, but still wound up second in Western B with a 12-6 mark.
"I'm pleased with our regular season," said coach Jason Tremblay. "We had a great month of January. We struggled down the stretch. The loss to York might be a blessing in disguise."
Cape Elizabeth will go two weeks between games, but Tremblay plans plenty to keep his charges busy.
"We're just getting back to basics," he said. "Working on power play and game situations. With this much time off, we can break things down and try to keep it loose."
We'll have more on the Capers semifinal round matchup with Leavitt next week.
Looking ahead, the Western A semifinals will be held Saturday, Feb. 28 at the Colisee in Lewiston with games at 6 and 8 p.m. The Western A Final is Tuesday, March 3 at the Colisee. The Class A state final is also in Lewiston, Saturday, March 7, beginning at 6 p.m.
The Western B Final is Wednesday, March 4 in Lewiston. The Class B state game is Saturday, March 7 in Lewiston. The puck drops at 1 p.m.
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org