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Falmouth junior Alex Grade is congratulated after scoring a second period goal during the Yachtsmen’s 7-2 win at Portland/Deering Saturday afternoon.
Mike Strout photos.
More photos below.
PORTLAND—The Class A boys’ hockey state final is four weeks away and it’s not far-fetched that the Falmouth Yachtsmen could be a participant if they continue to play at a high level.
Saturday afternoon at Troubh Ice Arena, Falmouth paid a visit to Portland/Deering and all the elements that make it a potential champion were on display.
The Yachtsmen fell behind midway through the first period when Portland/Deering’s Mason Martel scored, but Falmouth roared right back to tie it on a goal from senior Robbie Armitage and later in the period, got a goal from junior Theo Hembre to take a 2-1 lead to the first intermission.
After Portland/Deering managed to draw even 12 seconds into the second period on a goal from Jake Luce, the rest of the game belonged to the Yachtsmen, who went on top to stay 34 seconds later on a goal from junior Brendan Hickey.
After junior Alex Grade added the to the lead, Falmouth couldn’t convert on a five-minute power play, but that was a momentary speed bump, as before the second period ended, Hembre and Armitage added goals for a 6-2 lead.
Early in the third period, sophomore Jack Kidder added to the lead and the Yachtsmen put a stranglehold on Portland/Deering from there and went on to a 7-2 victory.
Falmouth improved to 11-3-1, further solidified its hold on the top seed in Class A South and dropped Portland/Deering to 8-6-1 in the process.
“We have to keep it simple,” said Yachtsmen coach Deron Barton. “We had a stretch of games where we tried to do too much and be too creative. Back to basics always works in hockey. We’ve dominated, but we haven’t been putting the puck in the net.”
Both teams had enjoyed their moments this season and both hope that their best is yet to come.
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, at home to defending Class B South champion Yarmouth (4-3), at Cheverus (5-3) and at Massabesic (8-6). After a 2-1 win at Thornton Academy and a 3-3 home tie versus Massabesic, Portland/Deering downed visiting Noble, 5-2, in its last outing, last Saturday.
Falmouth opened with a dramatic, 4-3, come-from-behind victory at Biddeford, then settled for a 3-3 home tie against defending regional champion Scarborough. Falmouth closed 2016 with wins at Yarmouth (9-1) and Cape Elizabeth (3-1) and opened the new year by beating Greely, 6-2, in the Dudley Cup. Wins at Bangor (4-2) and at home over Biddeford (3-0) followed, but after edging Lewiston, 3-2, the Yachtsmen lost at St. Dom’s, 2-1 and fell at home, 5-4, to Lewiston. After beating visiting Bangor (4-1) and St. Dom’s (10-0), it lost, 4-2, at Scarborough before getting back in the win column last Saturday, 4-3, at Thornton Academy.
Last year, Falmouth won both meetings, 7-2 at home and 6-0 in Portland.
Saturday, Portland/Deering hoped to beat the Yachtsmen for the first time since Jan. 10, 2004 (2-1 in Falmouth), but instead, the Yachtsmen improved to 18-0-3 over the past 21 meetings.
Falmouth hit the post early in the first period, but the first goal went to the hosts, as Dom Tocci set up Martel for a shot which eluded Yachtsmen junior goalie Spencer Pierce.
It took all of 80 seconds for Falmouth to answer, as Armitage scored, with Hickey and Hembre getting assists.
With 1:26 to go, Hembre got his stick on a shot by junior Parker Wyatt and got the puck past Portland/Deering goalie Sam Segal for a 2-1 lead, which held up into the first intermission.
The Yachtsmen were even prolific in the second period.
Portland/Deering staggered Falmouth just 12 seconds in, as King back-handed a rebound of Joe Herboldsheimer’s shot into the net to make it 2-2.
But Falmouth quickly regained control and this time, it was for good, as Armitage’s shot was saved by Segal, but Hickey was there to bang home the rebound (Hembre got an assist as well) and the Yachtsmen were ahead, 3-2.
With 11:51 remaining in the period, on a delayed penalty, Falmouth kept control of the puck and Grade finished a feed from Hembre to make it 4-2.
With 10:35 to play, Martel was sent off for five minutes after a major penalty for boarding, but Portland/Deering managed to kill it.
Grade was denied twice and Armitage had a good look as well, but Segal stood tall.
Portland/Deering could only hold off the Yachtsmen for so long, however, as with 4:37 remaining in the period, Hickey got the puck ahead to Hembre and Hembre raced in and finished for a 5-2 lead.
“It wasn’t just me,” Hembre said. “It was everyone. Robbie and Hickey, all of us passed it around and didn’t care who scored the goal. We threw it in deep and ground it out.”
“Theo is a mighty fast player,” said Armitage. “That’s what you need up front. Hickey’s more of a grinder, but Hembre’s quick.”
“Theo’s adjusted his game,” Barton added. “He’s going to the dirty areas and getting his stick on pucks where he wasn’t before and it’s paid off for him.”
Portland/Deering went on the power play and had a couple great chances to answer, but Cam King hit the post, then had a shot saved by Pierce.
With 2:14 left in the second, Hembre set up Armitage for a short-handed goal and a 6-2 advantage.
“Robbie’s dangerous,” Barton said. “Man-down, even-strength, he’s just dangerous.”
The competitive phase was over heading into the third period, but Falmouth scored on more time, as junior Jacob Skillin-Lanou set up Kidder for the seventh goal.
Portland/Deering couldn’t answer and the Yachtsmen went on to a 7-2 victory.
“We hit a bit of a rough patch, but we’re trying to stay positive and keep things simple,” Armitage said. “That’s been key.”
“We were a little rusty, which is to be expected after time off, but we had a good week of practice and I was confident we’d come out and play well,” Barton said.
Falmouth enjoyed a 47-19 shots advantage. Pierce made 17 saves.
Portland/Deering got 40 saves from Segal, but still fell short.
“(Falmouth’s) good,” said Portland/Deering coach Jeff Beaney. “That’s why they’re first. The biggest difference is Falmouth’s is smart in situations. We scored and they came out hard. We didn’t handle that well. We had opportunities, but you can’t give up a 2-on-1 off a faceoff and you can’t give up a goal after scoring and give up momentum. The guys did a great job on that penalty kill, then we had some bad decisions.”
Portland/Deering is ranked fourth in Class A South and its road gets no easier, as it goes to Scarborough Friday, then closes with games at home versus Thornton Academy and at Biddeford.
“Every team goes through a down cycle and we’ve done a good job getting back in it, but it doesn’t get much easier,” Beaney said. “That stretch will prepare us for the playoffs. The guys look forward to the big games. We know we have to beat a couple teams down the stretch. A home playoff game has been our goal from the beginning of the year. It’s doable. There’s a lot of parity in our region. It’ll be fun.”
Falmouth faces a big home test Tuesday when Cheverus pays a visit. After hosting Thornton Academy, the Yachtsmen close at Cheverus.
“We’re trying to keep building and be at our best in the playoffs,” said Hembre. “We have a lot of chemistry. We’re ready.”
“We have to correct our minor mistakes, especially in practice and in film,” said Armitage. “We have to be confident in what we’re doing. If we do that, we’ll be successful and we’ll hit our peak when we need to.”
“It’s that time of year and the guys know it,” Barton added. “They have their legs. We’re healthy. Knock on wood, we stay healthy the rest of the season. I like that we’ve proved we can come back from adversity. If we stay committed to our systems, I like our chances.”
Portland/Deering’s Jake Luce shoots the puck past Falmouth senior Reece Armitage as junior goalie Spencer Pierce looks on.
Falmouth junior Marcus Cady loses his stick after colliding with Portland/Deering’s Donnie Tocci.
Falmouth senior Reece Armitage splits Portland/Deering defenders Will Herboldsheimer, left, Cam King and Peter Barry.
Portland/Deering’s Donnie Tocci handles the puck as Falmouth junior Parker Wyatt defends.
Portland/Deering’s Cam King shoots the puck.
Falmouth junior Theo Hembre brings the puck into the offensive zone as Portland/Deering’s Peter Barry defends. Hembre had two goals and four assists.