FALMOUTH—For two periods Monday night, the high-flying Falmouth girls’ hockey team, led by senior standout Megan Fortier, was held in check.
Unfortunately for the visiting Greely Rangers, there was a period number three.
In a possible state championship game preview, the rivals traded goals in the second period, but the Yachtsmen went ahead to stay five minutes into the third on a shorthanded goal from junior Abby Payson, then added two Fortier goals to help cement a 4-1 triumph at Family Ice Center.
Falmouth bounced back from its lone loss of the season 48 hours earlier and ended its regular season at 17-1, while dropping the Rangers to 12-4.
“It took us a little while to calm down and get refocused,” said Yachtsmen coach Rob Carrier. “We came off a tough loss to Brunswick. The good thing about this game was it was right after. The girls put things in perspective and came out against a great team in Greely and gave a solid performance.”
Since the Maine Principals’ Association began sanctioning girls’ hockey in 2008-09, Greely and Falmouth had played five times with the Rangers winning four, including both meetings last winter, 2-1 and 1-0 (in overtime).
Entering Monday’s battle, both teams had excelled.
Greely (which went 12-7-1 and reached the semifinals last winter before a 3-2 loss to St. Dom’s) won its first five games, all by shutout, downing St. Dom’s (10-0), Scarborough (3-0), Winslow (4-0), Yarmouth (7-0) and Lewiston (1-0). Then, the Rangers ran into Falmouth and not only surrendered their first goal, but also suffered their first loss, 4-1. Greely bounced back to defeat Cape Elizabeth (9-0), then dropped an overtime decision to Leavitt (3-2). The Rangers then won six in a row, beating Winslow (5-1), St. Dom’s (7-2), Brunswick (5-1), Lewiston (3-1), Yarmouth (6-1) and Brunswick (4-1). The run ended Wednesday with a 4-3 home loss to Leavitt.
Falmouth, which missed the playoffs last year with an 8-10 record, has dominated from the get-go, thanks in large part to the return of Fortier, who was at North Yarmouth Academy last school year. The Yachtsmen dominated Yarmouth (5-0), Gorham (6-0) and Edward Little/Leavitt (5-1) before their 4-1 win over Greely. Falmouth then held off Lewiston, 1-0, before returning to prolific form with victories against Cape Elizabeth (9-1), Cheverus (6-1) and Biddeford (7-1), then squeaked out a 2-1 triumph at Scarborough. After easy wins over Cape Elizabeth (7-2) and Portland (8-4), the Yachtsmen were tested again, but prevailed, 2-1, over visiting York. Wins over Portland (9-1), St. Dom’s (9-3), Yarmouth (6-1) and Winslow (6-1) pushed the win streak to 16, but Saturday night, Brunswick came to Family Ice and upset Falmouth, 5-3.
In addition to the regular season meeting, Greely beat the Yachtsmen in overtime in the non-countable Dudley Cup.
This time around, on Senior Night, Falmouth closed strong and got back in the win column.
The Rangers controlled play in the first period, enjoying a 13-3 advantage in shots on goal, but Yachtsmen sophomore goalie Kirsten Mazur made sure they stayed off the board. Fortier demonstrated her speed and elusiveness on several occasions, but the Greely defense held her in check.
Early in the second period, the Rangers enjoyed a 5-on-3 situation with Fortier and senior defensive standout Moie Aaskov in the penalty box, but they couldn’t convert. The best chance came when junior Chelsey Andrews’ shot hit the pipe.
Greely senior goalie Emma Seymour was seriously tested for the first time with 12:16 to go in the second when Fortier rushed from the defensive end before firing a shot that Seymour stopped.
The Rangers broke the scoring ice with 8:46 left when junior Freyja Victory’s shot from the point was tipped home by senior Shannon Donovan.
Any momentum Greely had disappeared immediately, however, as 32 seconds later, Falmouth sophomore Lucy Meyer skated in and wristed a shot past Seymour from the left circle to make it 1-1.
Fortier had chances to put the Yachtsmen ahead later in the period, but the game was still deadlocked with 15 minutes to go.
“I wasn’t really frustrated,” Fortier said. “Greely’s defense and goalie played really well. We knew we had to keep at it and it would turn our way eventually.”
The final stanza saw the Rangers with some golden chances to retake the lead, but Donovan’s shot was saved by Mazur, as was a rebound bid from senior CeCi Hodgkins. Junior Meg Finlay also had a good look, but was denied by Mazur.
With 10:44 to go, Rangers junior Paige Tuller rushed in, but her shot was also turned aside.
Finally, with 9:59 remaining, Falmouth, playing short-handed, took the lead for good. After junior Gabby St. Angelo’s shot was saved by Seymour, Payson was in the right place to bang it home and it was 2-1.
“The great thing about having Megan is that people focus on her and they forget we have other girls who can put the puck in the net,” Carrier said. “They’ve been overshadowed, but they keep plugging away. They work really hard on positioning and being opportunistic.”
The Yachtsmen got some breathing room with 8:37 left when Fortier scored, assisted by Meyer.
“Lucy broke up a breakout pass by Greely, gave it to me in the middle and I had no one pressuring me,” Fortier said.
Greely had a chance to cut into the deficit with 7:33 to play when freshman Mary Morrison skated by a Falmouth defender who had fallen down, but her shot was denied by Mazur.
With 4:23 left, Fortier slammed the door with an unassisted tally.
“I finally finished a rush,” Fortier said. “I deked to the right and backhanded it over her shoulder.”
The Yachtsmen went on to the 4-1 victory.
“The difference in the third period was that the girls really wanted to get back on track before the playoffs,” Carrier said.
Greely had a 28-21 advantage in shots on goal, but wasn’t able to finish its opportunities.
“We had a really strong 30 minutes,” said Rangers coach Nate Guerin. “It was nice to see. We came out really flat in the third and didn’t do a lot of the things we’re used to doing. The better third period won. We’re used to generating a ton of chances. We’d love to bury more obviously, but I give their goalie credit for the saves she made. We weren’t able to bury rebounds.”
Mazur made 27 saves.
“Our goalie played really well,” Fortier said.
“Kirsten’s been pretty solid all year,” said Carrier. “She had the opportunity to watch Jen Greene last year and learn from her. She carried that into this year. We haven’t missed a beat in the goalkeeping department.”
Seymour stopped 17 shots.
Greely finishes its regular season with a home game versus York Wednesday and a visit to Portland Saturday.
The Rangers will likely be the No. 2 seed in the East Region.
“Our goal for the regular season was to get home ice for the first round,” Guerin said. “Playoffs is a whole new season. We have a great goalie. We have great lines. It comes down to intensity and focus. We have to play a 45 minute game.”
Falmouth (which has wrapped up the top spot in the West Region) won’t take the ice again until Feb. 10 for the semifinal round, which it will host. The regional finals are Feb. 15, at Portland Ice Arena. The state championship game is Feb. 18, at the Colisee in Lewiston.
“We’ve all worked hard and knew what we had to do (to win),” Fortier said. “No games are easy. We know we can beat anyone. That’s reassuring going into the playoffs.”
“It’s nice to see this team have the same kind of success that the boys are accustomed to,” Carrier said. “We’ve got a clear benchmark. Something to strive for. The girls are really focused right now. There’s a lot of parity. We’ve only lost one game, but we’ve had a lot of one-goal games. A lot of our opponents we only play once, so that makes it like a playoff atmosphere. You have to win those games.
“Scarborough, York, Portland all have great players and do different things very well. Scarborough and York were one goal games. Portland we caught on nights where they haven’t performed like they could. Those are three quality teams.”
Falmouth sophomore goalie Kirsten Mazur manages to cover up the puck as Greely senior Shannon Donvan crashes in.
Greely junior Monica Howland races up ice with a Falmouth defender in hot pursuit.
Greely junior Chelsey Andrews attempts to slow the rush of Falmouth sophomore Lucy Meyer. Meyer had the Yachtsmen’s first goal.
Falmouth sophomore Kirsten Mazur gets to a rebound before Greely junior Etta Copenhagen can bang it home.
Greely senior goalie Emma Seymour can only watch as Falmouth senior Megan Fortier backhands the puck into the net to clinch the Yachtsmen’s 4-1 win.
Falmouth senior Megan Fortier (center) is congratulated by her teammates after her third period goal gave the Yachtsmen some breathing room in their showdown against Greely. Falmouth wrapped up its regular season with a 4-1 win over the Rangers.
More photos below.