Defending champion Scarborough stays perfect at Cape's expense

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Scarborough senior goalie Ross LeBlond is congratulated by his teammates following the Red Storm’s 5-2 win at Cape Elizabeth Thursday. Defending Class A state champion Scarborough stayed undefeated on the season.

Mike Strout photos.

More photos below.

PORTLAND—The beat goes on for the defending Class A state champion Scarborough boys’ hockey team, even on a day when the Red Storm were far from their best.

Thursday afternoon at Troubh Ice Arena, five days after the emotional high of giving coach Norm Gagne his 700th career victory, Scarborough struggled much of the way against host Cape Elizabeth, a Class B foe with a sub-.500 record, but with the game on the line, the Red Storm dug deep into their reservoir of championship heart and pride and got out of town with a victory.

Midway through the first half, senior standout Matt Caron gave Scarborough a 1-0 lead, but the Capers answered on a goal from junior Eli Babcock. The Red Storm went right back on top, 2-1, when junior Brian Brady tipped home classmate Kyle Jacques’ shot for his first varsity goal.

While Scarborough carried play in the first period, Cape Elizabeth was far more aggressive in the second and after the Red Storm went up, 3-1, on a goal from junior Cam Smith early in the period, the Capers spent a great deal of time in Scarborough’s zone before a fluky bounce allowed the hosts to make it a one-goal game when sophomore Alex Glidden scored in the waning seconds of the second period.

But the Red Storm are nothing if not a premier third period team and that was the case again.

With 9:11 remaining in regulation, on the power play, junior Skylar Pettingill scored to give Scarborough some breathing room and with just over a minute to play, junior Justin Perry’s empty net tally allowed the Red Storm to go on to a 5-2 victory.

Scarborough, as it does so often, had a balanced attack, as five different players scored, and the Red Storm improved to 13-0-1 and dropped Cape Elizabeth to 4-8-2 in the process.

“We got sloppy tonight, but when we needed to come back and answer, we did,” Gagne said. “I think we had a letdown from the last game. That’s a little disappointing. We were running around. We had guys wanting to score, stretching the zone and we didn’t have possession of the puck. Bad habits. We’ll have to work on that.”

Winding down

Scarborough began its title defense with a 3-1 win at St. Dom’s. After blanking visiting Cheverus (5-0), the Red Storm edged visiting Biddeford in overtime (3-2), downed visiting Edward Little (4-1), survived host Thornton Academy in overtime (6-5), then won at Kennebunk (7-0) and at home over Noble/Wells (4-1) and Gorham (4-1) and at Falmouth (2-1). The Red Storm’s lone blemish came with a 2-2 tie at Cheverus, but they bounced back to beat host Biddeford (3-2) and visiting Thornton Academy (3-0), then gave Gagne his landmark 700th win Saturday, 6-1, at Portland. 

Cape Elizabeth opened with home victories over Maranacook (11-0) and Leavitt (3-1), then tied host Kennebunk, 2-2, and lost at Edward Little, 3-2, and at home to Yarmouth (7-1). After a 5-1 win at Gorham, the Capers settled for a 2-2 home tie with Brunswick, then lost at York, 2-1, and at home against Cheverus, 3-0. After beating host Brunswick (4-1), the Capers lost at home to Greely (2-1), at home to Kennebunk (4-2) and at Camden Hills (3-0).

“We had a lull coming out of Christmas,” said Cape Elizabeth coach Matt Buotte. “Things were disjointed. We hit rock bottom a couple weeks ago with a tough loss to Greely, but I like the way we’re playing.”

In last year’s meeting, Scarborough won at home in overtime, 2-1.

Thursday, Cape Elizabeth hoped to beat the Red Storm for the first time since Jan. 23, 2010 (3-2 at home), but Scarborough improved to 4-0-1 over the last five meetings with another impressive victory.

The Red Storm controlled play early and peppered Cape Elizabeth senior goalie Grant Rusk, but couldn’t break through until they had a man advantage.

After Babcock was called for tripping and sent off, Caron put Scarborough ahead with an unassisted goal, skating around the cage, then beating Rusk for a 1-0 lead.

After Rusk denied Red Storm junior Cam Smith on a rush, the Capers drew even at 9:55 of the first period, when Babcock rebounded home a shot from junior Jeb Boechenstein. 

The deadlock lasted all of 37 seconds, as with 4:28 to play in the first, Jacques sent a shot on net that was tipped in by Brady for a 2-1 lead which lasted until the end of the period.

In the second, Cape Elizabeth carried play much of the way and was rewarded late to keep the game close.

Scarborough pushed its lead to 3-1 when Smith (from Perry and senior Cam Nigro) scored at 2:28, but for the balance of the period, the Capers kept the puck in the Red Storm’s zone.

They were rewarded as time wound down.

After Scarborough tried to clear the puck, only to have it hit a referee’s skate and stop cold, sophomore Sean Agrondia pounced on it and hit a cutting Glidden in front. Glidden’s shot eluded Red Storm senior goalie Ross LeBlond and just like that, Cape Elizabeth trailed by only one goal, 3-2, and took momentum to the third period.

Where Scarborough reverted to championship form and put it away.

After LeBlond preserved the tie by denying a low shot from Capers junior Ben Ekedahl with 10:20 left, the Red Storm went on the power play and with 9:19 remaining, got some breathing room, as Pettingill got some space up top and beat Rusk, with Callahan getting the assist.

Scarborough’s defense slammed the door from there and with 1:12 to go, Perry’s empty netter made it 5-2.

“It was nice to see the empty net,” Perry said. “I hit the post with an empty net in the Falmouth game. It was a relief that it went in this time. We just focused in the locker room and we came out and wanted it in that third period.”

The Red Storm closed it out from there and celebrated another win.

“(Cape was) playing really tough,” Perry said. “I felt like they wanted it more than us, but we pulled through. We take pride in our balance. It doesn’t really matter what line is out there, any line can score.”

“I expected a good game because they gave us a good game last year,” Gagne said. “Overall, they blocked a lot of shots and their goalie made some good saves. They’re well coached and did a good job.  We have to play good D and when we do, we know we can win the game. We don’t have time to wind down after school when we play this early. I don’t like the early games. I’ve told my athletic director that.”

Scarborough had a 40-19 shots advantage and scored twice on the power play.

LeBlond made 17 saves, while Rusk stopped 36 shots for the Capers, who played well, but had nothing to show for it.

“We did some good things,” said Buotte. “You never want to say you accept a loss, but there are losses where you can sit back and think we thought a good fight. We pushed an undefeated, Class A school that hasn’t lost this year to the end. What more can you ask for? A couple more bounces and maybe we could have come out of here with something, but I’m very pleased with the effort.

“We knew we wanted to come out and take it to them. We knew if we sat back, they’d blow us out. Grant made some big saves early and once we found our footing, we took it to them, especially in the second period. Unfortunately, we just couldn’t get the tying goal.””

Work to do

Cape Elizabeth (now seventh in the Class B South Heal Points standings, seven teams make the playoffs in the region) looks to get back in the win column Saturday at Maranacook. After hosting Portland/Deering Thursday of next week and Gardiner two nights later, the Capers close at Yarmouth Feb. 15.

“We’re playing in a way that I believe we’re going to click,” Buotte said. “We want to keep moving forward because we know we’ll get some goals, we’ll get goaltending and the region’s open. We can play with anybody. We proved it today. We just want to make the playoffs, that’s the big objective right now, and we’ll go from there.”

Scarborough continues to close in on locking up the top spot in Class A South, but has a grueling finishing kick. The Red Storm meet powerhouse Lewiston twice in three days, Saturday in Lewiston and Monday at home, then close with home games versus St. Dom’s and Falmouth.

“We have to keep focusing and play hard,” Perry said. “I think we have a shot.”

“We’re on to the next one, Gagne said. “We have a tough closing stretch. It’s tournament hockey now. We have to play each game like it’s a tournament game. Each team wants to be the one to knock us off. Every time we play, I look up and see three or four (opposing) coaches here. I know they’re trying to figure out a way to beat us. We have our work cut out for us, but it’s not a bad thing. Hopefully we’ll come ready to play our next game. We’d better.”

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

Scarborough junior Thomas Marshall fires a shot.

Cape Elizabeth sophomore Alex Glidden races up-ice as Scarborough junior Kyle Jacques defends.

Cape Elizabeth sophomore Derek Allen sends a shot on net.

Scarborough junior Justin Perry and Cape Elizabeth junior Eli Babcock fight for possession.

Cape Elizabeth senior goalie Grant Rusk saves a shot by Scarborough’s Jack Callahan.

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Sports Editor of The Forecaster since 2001. Find detailed game stories at theforecaster.net. I tweet prodigiously at @foresports.