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The sport of ice hockey is breathtaking, exhilarating and yes, agonizing, and never was that illustrated more than last week when two local girls’ teams saw their championship hopes dashed in Lewiston.
If that wasn’t enough excitement, local boys’ teams are getting ready to begin their quests for a title.
Falmouth’s girls’ team posted a superb 14-2-2 regular season mark, earned the No. 2 seed in the South region and drubbed No. 3 Cheverus, 11-0, in the semifinals.
Last Wednesday, the Yachtsmen trekked to Lewiston for the regional final to face top-ranked Scarborough, a team Falmouth tied and lost to by a goal in regular season play and beat in last year’s regional final, 4-2.
This time around, the Yachtsmen twice took one-goal leads, as Camden Carrier made it 1-0 on the power play and after the Red Storm rallied to tie, Marcy Kittredge’s goal made it 2-1, but again Scarborough drew even and that set the stage for Red Storm standout Sami Shoebottom to score three times in just over a minute to help Scarborough win by the misleading final score of 5-2, which ended Falmouth’s season at 15-3-2.
“It was a tough loss,” Falmouth coach Rob Carrier said. “We were tied with about two minutes left and had a bad breakdown in defensive zone coverage. We’ve had trouble all year with covering the front of our net and it got us in the end.
“I felt this year overall was a success. We developed some younger inexperienced girls and got great contributions from our older girls.”
Graduation will hit the Yachtsmen hard, but they expect to make another run at a title in 2016-17.
“Our talent level will dip with the seniors that are leaving us,” Carrier said. “It’s a lot of points and heavy minutes played that will need to be filled. With the girls that are returning, I think we can get some points back but I think we’ll be playing a lot more games next year that will be close right to the final buzzer.”
If Falmouth’s loss was painful, Greely’s was downright soul-crushing.
The Rangers enjoyed a perfect regular season (18-0) and earned the top seed in the North. Greely advanced with a 5-1 win over fourth-ranked Edward Little/Leavitt in the semifinals.
That sent the Rangers to Lewiston to meet St. Dom’s in the regional final. Greely beat the Saints twice during the regular season (2-1 at home and 8-4 on the road), but the third time wouldn’t produce the same result.
When standout Danita Storey, who scored over 100 goals in her career, lit the lamp twice in the first period, it appeared the Rangers were on their way to the state game.
“(Scoring is Danita’s) job and she’s really good at it, as her career stats show,” Greely coach Nate Guerin said. “She doesn’t just score in the blowout games, she scores in the important games.”
Early in the second period, St. Dom’s got on the board and the Saints soon tied it up, 2-2. Late in the period, St. Dom’s struck again and took a 3-2 lead to what proved to be a frenetic third period.
Just 20 seconds into the third, Ellie Schad tied the score for Greely, but the Saints went back on top on a late power play goal.
The Rangers momentarily saved their season when they pulled goalie Nica Todd for an extra attacker and Emilee McGillicuddy banged home the puck with 43 seconds showing, making it, 4-4.
“There’s no sense of giving up, ever,” Guerin said.
But just when it appeared the game would head to overtime, St. Dom’s broke Greely’s collective heart with a goal with only 3.7 seconds remaining on the clock. The Rangers weren’t able to respond and their season ended in bitter fashion at 19-1 with the 5-4 setback.
“(St. Dom’s has) a lot of talent and they played their best game of the season,” Guerin said. “You put those things together and you know you’re in for a good game and it was a great game. It was one of the best I’ve been involved in.”
St. Dom’s went on to win the state championship Saturday with a 2-1 win over Scarborough on another late goal, making Greely’s pain that much more acute.
“It was a brutal loss,” Guerin said. “The girls put in a ton of hard work for the season only to come up a goal short to the eventual state champion in a shoot-out of a game. The girls did everything that we asked of them and unfortunately ended up on the losing side of the scoreboard. We couldn’t be more proud of the effort they put into the season.
“The season was very successful overall. We were able to develop some team systems and some individual talent that should help us hit the ground running in the fall. Winning games is great, but ultimately we hope to help these young women have an experience that makes them love their teammates and love the game of the hockey for the rest of their lives. If we moved closer to that, the season will have been a success.”
Greely will try again in 2016-17 and the sting of this loss could propel the Rangers to the top next season.
“We’re looking forward to a strong returning core of players next season and fully hope to be in the picture come playoff time next February,” Guerin said.
The boys’ hockey playoffs start Tuesday of next week with the quarterfinals on the ice of the higher seeds.
As the top seed, Yarmouth will get a bye right into the semifinals in Class B South.
The Clippers finished the regular season 14-4 (their best record since 2003-04) with wins at Portland/Deering (3-2) and over visiting Greely (4-3) and a 2-1 home loss to Cape Elizabeth on Senior Night. Chris Romano had two goals and Cooper May one in the first victory. Yarmouth had to rally from a 3-1 deficit to beat the Rangers on Senior Night and did so thanks to goals from May and Patrick Grant to tie the score and another from Bill Jacobs (his second of the game) to win it. Noah Grondin had the lone goal in the loss.
Yarmouth last earned the No. 1 seed in 2002, which was also the last time the Clippers won a state title.
Yarmouth senior Walter Conrad was named the January Class B South Defenseman of the Month by the league’s coaches. Conrad, who also won the award in December, spearheaded a staunch defense and scored seven goals and added 11 assists on the offensive end. He had a plus-18 for the month.
Greely’s playoff hopes were on life support at press time. Last week, the Rangers beat visiting York in overtime (3-2), then let one slip away at Yarmouth (4-3) to fall to 5-12 and eighth in Class B South (where only seven teams qualify for the postseason). In the victory, Peter Lattanzi and Aidan Roberts had regulation goals and Adam Rost won it in OT. Nathan Gervais, Ryan Megathlin and Colby Williams had the goals versus the Clippers. Greely hosted Brunswick in the finale Wednesday and needed a win to have a chance to reach the postseason for the 16th year in a row.
In Class A South, Falmouth was still in the running for the top seed in Class A South at press time. Last week, the Yachtsmen suffered a 4-3 loss at Lewiston, which snapped a five-game win streak. Robbie Armitage, Marcus Cady and Chris Camelio all scored in the setback. Falmouth closed the regular season at top-ranked, defending state champion Scarborough Wednesday and could have leapfrogged the Red Storm into the No. 1 spot with a victory.
The South Portland/Freeport/Waynflete co-op team started the week seventh in A South (eight teams make the playoffs) with a 5-9-2 record and after hosting Noble/Wells Monday, closes at home versus Windham/Westbrook Thursday.
Sun Journal staff writer Wil Kramlich contributed to this story.
Greely’s Bridget Roberts fights for the puck during the Rangers’ 5-4 loss to St. Dom’s in last week’s North Region Final.