PORTLAND—Yarmouth and Greely went toe-to-toe in the first period with Greely landing the final blow, a wrister by John Downey with 22 seconds remaining. It was the fifth goal of the period and would ultimately prove the game winner.
The top-seeded Rangers held on to beat No. 4 Yarmouth, 4-2, in the Western Class B semifinals Saturday at Portland Ice Arena.
A flurry of goals, three in the period’s final 1:48, culminated in Downeys wrister, a laser from the right circle.
“Coach said if you shoot it, shoot it low,” Downey said, “So I decided to take a shot left side low and put it away.”
“That was a huge goal,” Greely coach Barry Mothes said. “That was a wild first period both ways. Johnny’s wrister was a huge goal to give us a little lift going into the break.”
Things went as expected early with the heavily favored Rangers going up, 1-0, just 1:11 into the game on another wrister by Downey from the right side. Yarmouth had an upset in mind though and tied the score at one apiece with 4:21 remaining in the first. Just out of the penalty box. Eamon Costello took a pass from Marshall Brunelle and skated free at Greely goalie Matt Labbe. Costello faked left and pulled it back right, tucking it backhanded just inside the right post.
Greely answered with 1:48 remaining in the period, scoring on a goal that was tough for Yarmouth coach Marc Halsted to swallow.
“That fluke end-over-end goal in the first period that went up into the rafters and falls behind our goaltender,” Halsted said, “that was tough to see.”
Greely defenseman Michael Tuller’s shot deflected of a Yarmouth defender, fluttered high, end-over-end, and landed behind Yarmouth goalie Red DeSmith (who was named the Western Class B February Rookie of the Month), putting Greely back on top, 2-1.
The Clippers weren’t done. Costello helped dig the puck out of the corner in the offensive end and Brunelle found Alex Kurtz who tied the score at two apiece with 44 seconds remaining in the period, but Downey was able to land the final blow, slinging his wrister past DeSmith with 22 seconds left, giving Greely a 3-2 lead that it would not relinquish.
“Labbe was really focused in the second and third period,” Mothes said “He hasn’t given up two goals in the first period all year, so I am sure that was bugging him. He buckled down and played a really solid last 30 minutes.”
The Clippers (10-9) had their chances to regain momentum in the second period, but saw two power plays end prematurely with penalties of their own.
“We had a power play in the middle of the second period,” Halsted said. “We were getting momentum and we took a needless penalty. That hurt. We were on the power play, everything was flowing and next thing you know, its four-on-four.”
Greely (15-3-1) added an insurance goal late in the second period when Justin Murphy knocked in a lose-puck rebound from the slot. Downey and Drew Hackett were credited with assists.
From there, the Rangers defense took over, making the two-goal margin hold up for the third period.
“I thought our defense played really well,” Mothes said. “ They took care of the puck better in the second and third which was really important. They played some good one-on-one defense.”
The Rangers move on to face No. 2 York in the Western Class B final on Wednesday (7 p.m.) at the Colisee in Lewiston. York defeated No. 3 Cape Elizabeth in the other semifinal matchup Saturday. Greely defeated York, 3-0, in the regular season. The Wildcats eliminated the Rangers in last year’s semifinal round, 3-2.
Greely is seeking its second state title in three years, with its last state title coming two years ago when this year’s seniors were sophomores.
“I am the captain this year, so we have to have it,” Downey said. “I am about to go off to college so I want it bad, more than sophomore year actually. I was playing second line that year, now I’m first line and captain. I want it bad.”