LEWISTON—The Greely Rangers watched their season end at the hands of the York Wildcats last year after beating them twice in the regular season.
The had beaten York twice in the regular season again this year and with the Wildcats finally getting back to full health, there may have been concern that lightning could strike twice, but 2 minutes, 14 seconds into the first period of Wednesday’s Western Class B Final at the Colisee, Jordan Tarbox took a pass from Andrew Hackett and put the puck into the back of the net, giving Greely a lead it would never relinquish as the Rangers went on to a 5-1 victory, setting up a Class B state final showdown versus Messalonskee Saturday at 1 p.m.., at the Colisee.
“Satisfying win tonight,” said Greely coach Barry Mothes, whose team improved to 14-4-2 on the season. “We’ve had a lot of good games with York over the years. We have a lot of respect for that team. They’ve had a lot of success. A lot of great battles and tonight was another one. I thought our guys had focus from the get-go. I thought we were a little slow early, but after that first goal it all seemed to click.”
“It was a great feeling, had a lot of positive energy,” said Tarbox. “York is a great team, they had a full lineup today. We worked real hard and it was a great win. The first goal was huge, to get it out of the way early gave us a lot of momentum and it started a good run.”
Greely did a great job with special teams and defense on the Wildcats, something York coach Mike Vessey pointed to in the postgame.
“(They did) a great job of widening the ice (with their passing),” said Vessey. “We had some opportunities we didn’t capitalize on, (such as) a power play with a nice feed out front where the shot went right over the net. Greely played a very solid game. Our special teams have been pretty effective all season long. It was disappointing. We weren’t attacking the puck enough and we looked tentative on special teams.”
Greely started baby-faced freshman Kyle Kramlich in goal, who responded by turning away 21 of 22 York shots and narrowly missing a shutout.
“Kyle played a pretty solid game,” said Vessey, whose team finished the year at 12-6-2. “He covers his angles really well. We had a bunch of shots that were glove high and those are easy stops for a goaltender. He’s a freshman goaltender, playing in his first title game and we wanted to put the puck on the net early.”
“The guys played well in front of me,” said Kramlich. “Big win for us. Our fans cheered us on, and that gave me the energy (I needed).”
“This has been one of (Kramlich’s) best games in a long time,” said Mothes. “I thought he looked very crisp right away. Pucks were coming into his glove cleanly, his legs were moving quickly and I thought he was reacting well. He’s played some big games in his youth hockey career, but I think this was his biggest so far. I thought he responded really well.“
The scoring was balanced and timely. After going into the second period with a one-goal lead, junior Kenny Richards scored the first of three Greely power play goals to give the Rangers a 2-0 lead 2:20 into the period.
At the 7:40 mark, Greely once again found itself on the power play and sophomore Zac Doucette took a pass from senior captain Pete Stauber and scored to make it 3-0 Greely. That’s how the second period ended.
“We haven’t allowed three power play goals in a game all year,” said Vessey.
The third period started along the same lines, only this time Greely scored an even strength goal at the 4:21 mark, with Stauber getting the goal with an assist from junior Tim Storey to make it 4-0.
York finally got on the board and spoiled Kramlich’s shutout bid at the 11:32 mark, but the Rangers answered back 21 seconds later with their third and final power play goal, as sophomore Ted Hart lit the lamp unassisted, ending the scoring at 5-1 Greely.
“We thought the second and third period were pretty strong,” said Mothes. “(We were) trying to take care of the things we’ve been trying to do all year, (like) building on a lead, protecting a lead and playing smart.”
The Rangers will next meet Eastern B champion Messalonskee, which upset Brewer 5-2 Tuesday night in Orono. The teams have familiarity with each other, as they just squared off on Feb. 18. Greely won the game, 3-1, as Stauber, Richards and Hart all had a goal and Kramlich had 17 saves, losing the shutout with 30 seconds left in the game.
Messalonskee is led by forward Sam Dexter and goalie Nate DelGiudice, who had 33 saves in that first meeting.
“I think Greely is going to be really tough,” said Vessey. “They have a good range of upperclassmen and freshmen. (Mitchel) Donovan and (Reid) Howland are two talented freshmen with speed. They move the puck well. I think a lot of it will be how the Messalonskee goalie plays. Greely will get the puck to the net, no doubt.”
“(Last time) we played them, it was a hard-fought game,” said Kramlich.
“(Last time we played Messalonskee) they were without forward Chase Cunningham, who was out with an illness,” said Mothes. “I know he’s obviously a talented forward. We’ve seen them play, saw them play against Brewer, so they’re not a stranger. I think they’re a team in some ways that is a bit like us. They have some depth in their attack and they have some talented forwards who move the puck very well. They obviously have very mature, experienced goaltending, which is a strength. They’re a really well-coached team and it should be a really great game on Saturday.”
Greely will take part in its third state final. The Rangers lost to Brewer, 4-3, in overtime, in 2007 and won the program’s first and to date only championship in 2009, beating Presque Isle, 5-1.
Greely senior Jordan Tarbox races past a York defender. Tarbox had the Rangers’ first goal.
Greely junior Kenny Richards eludes a defender and skates in on goal.
Greely sophomore Zac Doucette celebrates his power play goal which made it 3-0 Rangers.
The new Western B champions pose with their hardware following Wednesday’s win.
The Greely student section had plenty to cheer about Wednesday night.
The Greely boys’ hockey team overcomes two years of frustration and celebrates its 5-1 win over York in Wednesday’s Western B Final. The Rangers will face Messalonskee in Saturday’s state final.
More photos below.