Greely freshman Andy Moore, center, is congratulated by seniors Adam Rost and Colby Robinson after scoring the Rangers’ fourth goal during Tuesday evening’s 5-2 victory over Kennebunk in a Class B South quarterfinal. Greely will meet top-ranked Gardiner in the semifinals Friday in Lewiston.
Mike Strout photos.
More photos below.
FALMOUTH—Greely’s boys’ hockey team might be young, but is it ever promising and triumph might just be arriving faster than anyone expected.
Tuesday evening at Family Ice Center, the Rangers hosted a playoff game for the first time in three years and building on its solid play from the second half of the regular season, Greely kept the good times rolling.
Hosting No. 5 Kennebunk, a team the fourth-ranked Rangers beat less than a week ago in the regular season finale, Greely carried play most of the way, but it took awhile for it to open up a comfortable lead.
The Rangers got the jump at the 8 minute, 41 second mark of the first period, when senior Adam Rost somehow got a shot through Rams senior goalie Spencer Desrochers.
All of Greely’s good work appeared to go down the drain, however, when just before the first period horn, Kennebunk senior Brenden Whitten raced in and scored to tie things up and when the Rangers couldn’t convert a five-minute power play early in the second period, there was a feeling that they had let a golden opportunity slip away.
But Greely remained poised and was eventually rewarded.
With 6:52 left in the second period, sophomore Peter Lattanzi scored a gritty goal to put the Rangers on top for good and with 1:29 remaining, freshman Matt Kramlich buried a shot for a 3-1 lead, which stood up into the second intermission.
The Rams made things interesting early in the third period, as junior Kyle Beaupre scored 6:44 in, but Greely quickly reasserted control as a goal from another freshman, Andy Moore, made it 4-2 with 6:34 to play.
From there, the Rangers’ defense and senior goalie Josh Lawless slammed the door and Kramlich delivered the coup de grace with an empty net goal with 40.9 seconds left to bring the curtain down on Greely’s 5-2 victory.
The Rangers won a playoff game for the first time in three years, improved to 13-6, ended Kennebunk’s season at 12-6-1 and advanced to meet top-ranked Gardiner (13-5) in the Class B South semifinals Friday at 8 p.m. at the Colisee in Lewiston.
“I give the guys a lot of credit the way they didn’t get too high or too low,” said longtime Greely coach Barry Mothes. “That’s so important in these kinds of games. We haven’t always followed through on that. We needed to get the game below the dots and use our speed and agility. Kennebunk is a bigger, physically mature team. Our quickness was an advantage.”
In a wide-open Class B South, both teams came into the game believing they had what it took to make a championship run.
Greely was 3-5 at one juncture this winter, then roared to life, closing on a 9-1 surge, capped by a 4-1 home win over Kennebunk in the regular season finale last Thursday to finish 12-6 and leapfrog the Rams into the No. 4 spot in the region.
Kennebunk won seven of its first eight games, capped by a 5-1 home victory over Greely Jan. 9, and eventually was 12-2, but the Rams lost three and tied one of their final four contests to finish fifth in the region.
The teams had played twice before in the playoffs, with each winning once. The Rangers won the first, 2-1, in the 1997 Western B semifinals. The most recent matchup came back in the 1998 Western B Final, an 8-2 Kennebunk triumph.
Tuesday’s contest saw both teams continue their late season trend, as the Rams struggled and Greely pounced.
Early in the game, Lawless denied Rams seniors Camden Connor and Jakub Simikak, while Desrochers turned aside a bid from Moore.
The first goal came with 6:19 left in the first period and it came a shot from the blue line off the stick of Rost. The shot wasn’t especially powerful, but it slipped past Desrochers nonetheless and the Rangers were up, 1-0.
After Lattanzi and seniors Jack Saffian and Ryan Megathlin weren’t able to extend Greely’s advantage, the visitors ended the first period with a flourish, as Whitten got a head of steam and some room and as the clock wound down, beat Lawless to tie the score, 1-1, with just 1.6 seconds showing.
The Rangers could have been discouraged in the first intermission, but quickly regrouped.
“We talked about keeping it going,” Kramlich said. “That goal didn’t matter much. If we kept it going, we knew we’d win.”
“After that goal, the guys came in and were positive,” Mothes said. “It’s a tough break and it happens.”
It was quickly clear in the second period that there were no after-effects from the tying tally and 61 seconds in, Simikak was sent off for five minutes due to a major boarding penalty.
Greely had the opportunity to score multiple goals, but didn’t get any, as Desrochers denied Saffian, junior Matt Dubbert, Kramlich and senior Ryan Sullivan and senior Colby Robinson shot wide.
Again, the Rangers didn’t hang their heads and after killing a Kennebunk penalty, Greely went on top to stay, thanks to the hard work of Lattanzi, who fought for the puck and beat Desrochers with 6:52 to play in the second. Senior Ian Grant got an assist.
“After the five-minute power play, it was tough not to score, but we kept our composure,” Mothes said. “I was glad we were able to grind out some goals. That “Gray Line,” (sophomore Jackson Williams), Lattanzi and Grant, has worked really hard the past few games, but hasn’t converted. It was nice to see Peter chop one in.”
A tripping penalty on Grant gave Kennebunk a chance to answer, but the Rams took a penalty of their own and playing 4-on-4, Kramlich got some room and he’s very dangerous in open ice. With 1:29 left in the second, Kramlich deked a defender and fired a shot past Desrochers to make it 3-1.
“I cut in and tried to shoot it,” Kramlich said. “I didn’t try to do too much. I put it in the right place.”
Greely had a 14-3 shots advantage in the second period, but the Rams came out with renewed energy in the third and after Simikak twice shot wide, Kennebunk cut the deficit to 3-2 with 8:16 to play, as senior Justin Wiggins fed Beaupre for a goal.
Again, Greely rose to the occasion, regaining the momentum with 6:34 left, as Saffian passed to Moore, who sent a quick shot past Desrochers to restore a two-goal lead.
“The three freshmen, Matt, Andy and Jake (MacDonald), are our top three scorers right now,” Mothes said. “They’ve had a strong season. They were ready to go from the get-go in the opener at Gardiner. They never showed a sense of being awed by the occasion. They’ve contributed a lot.”
Simikak almost made it a one-goal game again with 1:37 left, but his shot off a faceoff was snared by Lawless and with Desrochers out of the net, Kramlich ended all drama with 40.9 seconds to play, sending the puck into the cage from center ice for a three-goal advantage.
“I knew the goalie was out and I was just trying to shoot it in,” Kramlich said. “It’s a lot easier to shoot with no goalie.”
The Rangers ran out the clock from there and celebrated their 5-2 victory.
“It was awesome,” Kramlich said. “The environment and the fans were great.”
“Kennebunk played a strong first six, seven, eight minutes of the third period and it got a little scary,” Mothes said. “We didn’t take care of the puck and they got it to 3-2, but we had a good response to answer right away. The resiliency was good tonight. We’re a young team in a lot of ways, even though we have seniors. When we were sitting at 3-5, the seniors sat down and talked. We stressed the urgency. They upped the level of their game, working hard, winning puck battles, showing maturity. They’ve played in playoff games in other sports and that focus and sense of stability has been important.
“I stressed to the guys that Thursday’s game was gone and everybody is starting over. I told them Friday or Saturday that I expected a stronger game from Kennebunk tonight and I thought they played well. It was a good test for us. We couldn’t take beating them for granted.”
For the first time since 2014, Greely will make the trip to the Colisee and the Rangers will be confident going up against the top seed.
Host Gardiner won the season opener, 3-2, but Greely prevailed, 5-4, on its home ice Feb. 7. The teams have no playoff history.
“We’ll keep rolling into Gardiner,” Kramlich said. “I’m looking forward to playing up there. We have to keep pucks deep, work our butts off and control the play.”
“We’re excited,” Mothes said. “It’s a thrill to go back up there. There will be a couple of great semifinals. We’ve had two good games with Gardiner. We got a lucky bounce to get back into the last one and the guys took that bounce and turned it into a win. (Gardiner has) a lot of pride and size and strength. It’ll be a battle for us. It’ll be a great test for the team. A great hockey experience. We’ll leave it all out there and see what we can do.”
Greely junior Ben Kennedy sends Kennebunk junior Zachary Brown airborne.
Greely senior Colby Robinson fires a shot.
Greely freshman Jake MacDonald has a shot saved by Kennebunk senior goalie Spencer Desrochers.
Greely freshman Andy Moore handles the puck.
Kennebunk senior Camden Connor dives to break up a rush by Greely sophomore Jackson Williams.
Greely sophomore Peter Lattanzi bangs home a loose puck for a 2-1 lead.
Greely freshman Matt Kramlich is congratulated after his first of two goals.