Greely's Cinderella run ends with agonizing OT loss to York in regional final

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Greely celebrates a goal during Wednesday’s Class B South Final against York. The Rangers scored twice, but it wasn’t enough, as the Wildcats ended their run in overtime, 3-2.

Joe Carpine photos.

More photos below.

LEWISTON—Greely and York had to make up for lost time and once again, the rivals penned a playoff epic.

The Rangers and Wildcats, who produced some of the most memorable and improbable playoff finishes you could ever hope to see, hadn’t met in the postseason for five years prior to Wednesday evening’s boys’ hockey Class B South Final at the Colisee, but once they renewed acquaintances, it was business as usual.

There were ebbs and flows and 45 minutes weren’t enough to determine a winner.

And it resulted in a painful ending for Greely.

The fourth-ranked Rangers, an afterthought in the minds of most heading into the tournament, continued to surge in a dominant first period, completely stymieing the second-ranked Wildcats’ potent offense and taking a 1-0 lead when freshman Matt Kramlich scored on a wrister with 1:41 to go.

Greely had a 13-3 shots advantage in the first 15 minutes, but only had the one goal to show for it, thanks to York junior goalie Keenan Gamache, and to no one’s surprise, the Wildcats returned to form in the second period.

With 9:15 to go in the second, junior captain Jacob Martin showed off his flair for the dramatic, almost single-handedly beating the defense and Rangers senior goalie Josh Lawless to even the score.

The game remained deadlocked heading for the third period, where, just 95 seconds in, Greely retook the lead when another fabulous freshman, Jake MacDonald, scored and the Rangers held that lead for over 10 minutes.

With 4:43 to play, Greely went on the power play and had a chance to produce an insurance goal, but instead, the Wildcats pounced on a mistake and Martin broke in to score short-handed to tie the game.

Neither team could strike again late in regulation and the game went to overtime.

Early in OT, the Rangers had their chances to steal the regional title, but they couldn’t finish and with 3:08 left in the 8-minute session, York got a goal from sophomore Andrew Bertolini to survive and advance, 3-2.

The Wildcats improved to 17-2-1, ended Greely’s season at 14-7 and advanced to meet defending champion Waterville (19-1) in the Class B state final Saturday at 1 p.m., in Lewiston.

“We’ve had epic battles with Greely,” said York coach James Powers. “Some of them heartbreaking and some of them glorious. This was a fun one.”

“It was a dramatic, well-played regional final,” said Rangers coach Barry Mothes. “I think it was a championship-caliber game, as it’s supposed to be. There hasn’t been a bad Greely-York playoff game yet. We’ve set a pretty high standard.” 

Twists and turns

York was expected to reach the regional final and after a dominant campaign, the Wildcats, ranked second behind Gardiner (the only team to beat them this winter), earned a bye into Friday’s semifinal round, where they crushed defending regional champion Yarmouth, 8-1.

Greely, meanwhile, started 3-5 and wasn’t given much thought entering the playoffs, even though the Rangers won nine of their final 10 regular season games to wind up fourth. Greely then ousted No. 5 Kennebunk and upset top-ranked Gardiner by 5-2 scores to advance.

York beat Greely, 6-2, Feb. 15 in Falmouth.

The teams had plenty of playoff history, including some absolutely unforgettable tilts. Between 2001 and 2012, the Rangers and Wildcats split 10 meetings (see sidebar, below). There were a pair of double-overtime wins for York, a win for Greely on a controversial goal as time expired, a dramatic Rangers’ comeback to force overtime that led to a victory and a 2-2 split in four prior regional finals.

The most recent postseason meeting resulted in a 5-1 Greely victory in the 2012 regional final.

Wednesday, the Rangers proved they belonged on the big stage, but ultimately, York found a way to win the title.

The Wildcats had the first couple chances, but a bid from sophomore Marshall Ford deflected and landed on top of the goal and Lawless denied a bid from Martin.

The Rangers then settled down and began to pressure.

After Gamache saved a shot from senior Adam Rost, MacDonald just missed.

With 10:01 to go in the first period, Rost fired from up top and junior Matt Dubbert redirected the puck, but it rolled barely to the outside of the near post.

At 5:17, Martin was sent off for roughing and Greely went on the power play.

The Rangers got one good chance, but senior Ryan Megathlin was robbed on the doorstep by Gamache.

At 7:58 of the first, Greely went on the power play again and had a couple chances, but Gamache first denied senior Colby Robinson, then Kramlich on the rebound. 

After Lawless stopped a shot by Wildcats senior Julius Lundgren, Lundgren was sent off on a five-minute major for boarding at 10:56 and the Rangers had a man advantage for the remainder of the period.

This time, Greely took advantage.

After Gamache denied shots by Kramlich and Megathlin, Kramlich played give-and-go with Robinson and wristed a blast past Gamache, just inside the far post at for a 1-0 lead at 13:19.

The Rangers remained on the power play, but despite some good chances, couldn’t add to their lead.

After Gamache denied Megathlin, he stopped a shot from Rost and a Megathlin rebound.

As time wound down, Greely freshman Andy Moore had a great look at a lot of net, but was just high, and Rost had a shot saved, keeping it 1-0 Rangers heading to the first intermission.

“Our power play’s been OK this year,” Mothes said. “If we had been a little more lethal, it might have given us the goal that could have opened up the game a little. We had looks and chances and we needed to be more productive.”

Greely put 13 shots on goal in the first 15 minutes and held potent York to a mere three, but Gamache’s 12 saves kept things close.

In the second period, the Wildcats came out strong and eventually produced the tying tally.

The Rangers had 56 seconds of power play to start, but only mustered one shot, a blast from Robinson which Gamache kicked aside.

York then got a short-handed look from junior Spencer Pickett, which Lawless stopped.

At the 1:33 mark, Lawless robbed sophomore Dalton McCann in front and with 12 minutes to go in the second, Lundgren whistled a shot off the crossbar.

At 4:10, Greely had a 2-on-1 opportunity, but Wildcats sophomore Jacob Nelson, face down on the ice, swatted the puck out of harm’s way.

After Lawless denied a shot from York junior Joseph Graziano, the Wildcats got on the board at the 5:45 mark, as Martin won the puck just outside the blue line, skated around the Greely defense, then went one-on-one with Lawless and beat him to the short side to tie the score, 1-1. Freshman Maxwell Pickett was credited with an assist.

The Wildcats hoped to take the lead, but Lundgren shot high and sophomore Marshall Ford missed just wide.

With 6:59 left in the second, after Moore kept possession, Megathlin had a good look in front, but Gamache denied him.

After a Martin rush was broken up by Greely junior Ben Kennedy, Lawless saved a shot by Maxwell Pickett.

After a steal, Kramlich had a great chance to put the Rangers back ahead, but Gamache made the save and seconds later, Kramlich set up sophomore Peter Lattanzi for a shot which Gamache also stopped.

After Martin shot wide and Maxwell Pickett had a shot saved, Martin was denied by Lawless, but the rebound sat free. Luckily for Greely, McCann couldn’t quite reach it.

With 2:41 left in the period, York had a chance to take the lead when it went on the power play, but Lundgren shot just wide, Martin was denied by Lawless’ pad, then shot wide.

With 55.1 seconds to go, Moore had a golden opportunity to put Greely ahead when he intercepted the puck and broke in free, but Gamache stopped him cold.

In the waning seconds, Spencer Pickett had a shot blocked and Graziano’s shot was saved by Lawless, keeping the score 1-1 after two periods.

The Wildcats had a 12-5 edge in shots in that frame, but couldn’t get the lead.

In the third period, Greely went back on top, but again, couldn’t hold on.

After Lawless kept the game tied by denying York senior Colin Palmer 17 seconds in, MacDonald had a good look, but Gamache made the save.

The goalie wouldn’t be as fortunate the next time.

The go-ahead tally came 1:35 into the third and came largely through the effort of senior captain Ryan Sullivan, who fired a pass from the Rangers’ blue line right on to the stick of MacDonald at the Wildcats’ blue line. MacDonald took a couple strides, then launched a shot that got past the goalie and into the net for a 2-1 lead.

“(Matt and Jake) are both really good young players,” Mothes said. “They’ve produced all year. They’re our second and third leading scorers. Andy Moore’s been great too. They’ve stepped right in and they’ve played great hockey the past six, seven weeks. They’ve blended in really well with the experienced guys. We hope they’ll be contributing down the road.”

York almost pulled even 18 seconds later, but Lawless robbed junior Mark Engholm.

The Wildcats continued to pressure for the equalizer, but Lawless denied junior Thomas Carr, Bertolini and a pair of bids from Lundgren.

Then, with 4:43 left in regulation, Palmer was sent off for hooking, giving Greely a chance to essentially clinch it, but it would be York scoring the goal.

Martin stole the puck just outside the Wildcats blue line and raced in one-one-one on Lawless. Martin got the goalie going one way, faked, then tucked the puck into the net to make it a brand new game, 2-2, with 3:19 to play.

“The most painful aspect of that goal was that it was short-handed,” Mothes said.

Both teams had chances late in regulation.

After a timeout, the Rangers still had 36 seconds of power play and senior Jack Saffian got a good look, but Gamache made a huge save with 2:29 remaining.

At the other end, Bertolini was denied by Lawless.

After a turnover, MacDonald had a chance to play the hero, but shot high.

Moore then pounced on a failed clear and had a shot saved, but he got the rebound and missed just wide.

In the final minute, Gamache denied both Sullivan and Rost to send the game to overtime.

In Maine high school hockey, teams play as many eight-minute, “sudden victory” OT sessions as necessary, but on this night, only one would be required.

Greely almost won it 66 seconds in, as first Dubbert, then MacDonald had great looks turned aside by Gamache.

At the other end, Engholm had a shot saved and Spencer Pickett’s rebound was also turned aside.

After another Spencer Pickett charge resulted in a shot saved by Lawless, Moore raced in at the other end and tried a wraparound, but Palmer dove and knocked the puck away.

York then pressured and both Carr and Bertolini had shots saved by Lawless.

After Martin looked to break in and end it, but was stopped by Robinson, the Rangers went back on offense and Kramlich got a look, but missed just wide.

Bertolini almost ended it with 3:36 to go, but his shot was kicked aside by Lawless.

Bertolini wasn’t about to miss again.

With 3:08 showing, after Greely couldn’t clear the puck, Bertolini pounced on it, skated between the circles and unleashed a blast that got past Lawless, found the net and at 8:54 p.m., gave the Wildcats a 3-2 win, unleashing a wild celebration.

“It felt really amazing,” Bertolini said. “My teammates made a play and forced the puck up to me. All I had to do was put it in. I went to the open space.

“The most important thing was we stopped taking penalties. Coach told us to stay out of the box and we could win. I knew since we beat them last time, they’d come out strong.”

“We just asked the guys to keep digging deeper and deeper,” Powers said. “The first period was upside-down with all the penalties we took. We were down, 1-0. We talked all year about winning periods. We lost the first one, but it wasn’t a big deal. Lo and behold, we came out and outshot them in the second and ran all three lines again. We won that period, 1-0. We turned the momentum. Then we won the third, plus overtime. (Greely’s) a well-coached, talented team. The regular season result meant nothing.” 

Greely finished with a 29-28 shots advantage and got 25 saves from Lawless in his swan song.

“I thought Josh had a good game,” Mothes said. “We gave us six goals against them last time and it could have been eight or nine. With just over three minutes left, we’d held them to just one goal. The defense helped out and the forwards did a nice job in the neutral zone.”

York got 27 saves from Gamache, who came up huge when his team needed him the most.

Saturday afternoon, York hopes to cap its dominant season with the program’s second state championship (2011 was the other).

The Wildcats will have their hands full with Waterville, which lost just once this season (to defending Class A champion Lewiston) and survived Old Town/Orono in overtime in its regional final.

York and Waterville didn’t play this season.

“We have to work really hard and battle as hard as we have all year,” Bertolini said. “They’re a good team. It’ll be a good game.”

“Our fans are behind us,” Powers said. “This group hasn’t been here before. We know how hard it is to get here. You can’t waste opportunities. I know Waterville has a good squad. It’s two teams playing for the same thing. We’ll see how it plays out. My guys aren’t afraid of anybody. If we play with discipline and cut the penalties out, we’ll keep our legs all the way through.”

What a ride

Greely came within a whisper of its fifth regional championship and when the sting of this setback fades, the Rangers will feel a ton of pride.

“We did so many things the way I hoped we would,” Mothes said. “I don’t think York had lost a first period all year. We wanted to crack through on that. We did. We had a nice shots advantage and got that all-important first goal. We knew they were a lethal team and they’d push back. We hung in there in the second. To get that early goal in the third was great. I liked the way we were playing, but in the end, we just didn’t take care of a couple pucks the way we needed to and it killed us. Sometimes you survive those mistakes, but we didn’t.

“I told the seniors I’m really happy they got to have this experience and play in three playoff games and play in a game like this. I wish it had ended differently. I’m standing here wishing we were playing Saturday. I think over the last five or six weeks, this team’s grown into a championship-caliber team. Tonight was another good chapter in a story that’s been growing. It’s tough to lose, but to have the opportunity to do this, I’d much rather have it than to have packed our bags two weeks ago. The guys generated a lot of support from their schoolmates and families. We got good crowds up here.”

Greely also has a lot to look forward to.

“We still have a good group coming back,” Mothes said. “We had a lot of sophomores and juniors who gained a lot of experience. Hopefully we’ll be able to bank that into a good summer season and look forward to next year.”

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

York junior goalie Keenan Gamache comes up empty as Greely freshman Matt Kramlich’s shot gets past him for the game’s first goal.

Greely senior goalie Josh Lawless can’t stop York junior Jacob Martin, who scores his team’s first goal in the second period.

York sophomore Dalton McCann skates between Greely senior Colby Robinson, left, and junior Ben Kennedy.

York junior Mark Engholm knocks the puck away from Greely sophomore Peter Lattanzi.

Greely freshman Matt Kramlich winds up and shoots.

York receives the regional championship plaque.

Previous Greely stories

Season Preview

Yarmouth 3 Greely 2 (OT) 

Greely 5 Kennebunk 2

Greely 5 Gardiner 2

Previous Greely-York playoff results

2012 Western B Final
Greely 5 York 1

2011 Western B Final
York 6 Greely 4

2010 Western B semifinal
York 3 Greely 2

2009 Western B semifinal
Greely 8 York 0

2008 Western B Final
York 4 Greely 3

2007 Western B Final
Greely 2 York 1

2005 Western B semifinal
Greely 5 York 4 (OT)

2004 Western B quarterfinal
Greely 5 York 4

2003 Western B quarterfinal
York 3 Greely 2 (2 OT)

2001 Western B quarterfinal
York 3 Greely 2 (2 OT) 

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Sports Editor of The Forecaster since 2001. Find detailed game stories at theforecaster.net. I tweet prodigiously at @foresports.