Fast start not enough as Falmouth falls to TA

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LEWISTON—The Falmouth Yachtsmen were the one boys’ hockey team able to get the best of the Thornton Academy Golden Trojans this season. A 5-3 win Dec. 22 and a 3-3 tie Jan. 21 were the only blemishes on the Thornton Academy season and they both came at the hands of Falmouth.

The Golden Trojans, going into Tuesday night’s Western Class A Final at the Colisee, had outscored their opponents not named Falmouth 132-18 this season and just 10 seconds into the game, Thornton Academy found itself down 1-0 on a goal by Yachtsmen senior Cam Bell.

The Golden Trojans answered just 11 seconds later with a goal of their own by C.J. Matsuk, only to have Falmouth take the lead again eight seconds later on a goal by senior Brandon Tuttle.

It looked like in the first 29 seconds Falmouth would once again have Thornton Academy’s number. Unfortunately, there were still 34 minutes and 31 seconds left to play and the Trojans outscored the Yachtsmen 7-2 during that time frame to leave Lewiston with an 8-4 victory and the Western Class A championship (Thornton Academy faces St. Dom’s in the Class A Final Saturday at 6 p.m., at the Colisee).

“I was as surprised as anyone (by the start of the game)” said first-year Falmouth coach Deron Barton. “You get game plans, create game plans, envision what is going to happen and then reality kicks in. It was interesting and unexpected, but it was exciting. The teams came out with a lot of passion, they played hard and it was a wide open game.”

Wide open it was. Fans barely had time to let the butter soak in to their popcorn before three goals had been scored. It happened so quickly that the public address announcer had to announce the goals and assists all at once.

Thornton Academy tied it up 3:58 into the first period when Robert Downing went in unassisted while on the penalty kill. The short-handed goal tied the game at 2-2, effectively taking the wind out of the Yachtsmen’s sails.

“It’s always on your mind that the karma is going to go against you when you have had success against a good team,” said Barton. “They are a good team who didn’t get to where they were because they weren’t talented. We knew we would have our hands full, but we were confident going in and we fully expected we could play with them.”

Play with them Falmouth did. Although Thornton Academy took a 4-2 lead into the locker room at the end of the first period, Golden Trojans head coach Jamie Gagnon was still fearful. After all, Falmouth scored five goals in the last eight minutes in their December matchup to hand Thornton Academy its only loss of the season. He didn’t have to go that far back to remind his team of Falmouth’s offensive explosiveness.

“I went into the locker room and reminded them they can score in 10 seconds, just like they did to start the game,” said Gagnon. “The seniors kept reminding their teammates about it too. Falmouth is just a very good hockey team. They have three lines that can score, that can skate, their goaltender has played well against us, they play good special teams, are well coached and have solid defense. They matchup well with us.”

The start of the second period was much calmer and the offensive fireworks didn’t start until the 5:16 mark, when Thornton Academy’s Bryan Dellaire got one past Falmouth goalie Dane Pauls to make the score 5-2.

Falmouth got one back at the 10:24 mark when sophomore Ben Freeman scored to make it 5-3 Golden Trojans. Thornton Academy fired back 46 seconds later, when Downing once again beat Pauls to make it 6-3 and that’s how the second period ended.

“You have to make your own bounces in a game like this,” said Barton. “We got caught on our heels a bit, because it seemed like every time we got a goal they answered right back. That hurt us.”

That story continued in the third and final period. Falmouth started the third period down two men due to penalties. Thornton Academy took advantage, getting a power play goal from senior Andrew Carignan to make it 7-3 at the 55 second mark of the third. Falmouth then settled down and at the 3:24 mark, got a goal from junior Kris Samaras to cut thedeficit to 7-4.

The Yachtsmen would get control of the puck in the Thornton Academy zone for a good chunk of the next five minutes, getting some good scoring chances, but the puck, which seemed to be destined to bounce Falmouth’s way in the first 29 seconds of the game, changed its mind and its direction. It would bounce off a stick, out of the zone, take a funny bounce off the boards or miss the net entirely. After one possession where Falmouth kept the puck in Thornton Academy’s zone for nearly a minute, the puck was cleared out to center ice by Dallaire, who found a wide open Maksut for a breakaway goal to make it 8-4, ending the scoring and ending Falmouth’s season.

“That’s been our motto all year, to play good defense, keep the shots on the perimeter and get out and run when we can,” said Gagnon, of the final goal. “We want to run in transition and turn good defense into good offense, and that’s what that play was all about.”

Although it ended short of its ultimate goal, Barton’s first year can be considered a success. The Yachtsmen finished runners-up in Western A with a team consisting of mainly underclassmen.

“Being a first year coach and getting to know the players takes a while,” said Barton, whose team finishes the year at 15-5-1. “I knew I had some good players, although I wasn’t sure what I was going to be dealing with in terms of team chemistry. We set the bar high, I set the expectations for each player individually and they came together. We had leadership from our seniors, but our sophomores and juniors really stepped up to fill the holes and make this season a success.”

The seniors had three coaches in four years, and Barton praised them after the game.

“It was really important to me that they gave me an opportunity, which they did,” said Barton. “They stuck by me, I stuck by them and without them we don’t have the season we had.”

With a large contingent of talented underclassmen coming back, Falmouth could be in a similar situation next season.

“We have a lot of experience left in that room,” said Barton. “I am very optimistic.”

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