Hockey teams in thick of playoff hunt

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If you haven’t noticed, local boys’ and girls’ hockey teams are in the midst of a solid season.

With plenty of excitement to come.

The girls’ hockey playoffs begin next week and the boys’ season is in its stretch run. Here’s a glimpse at where our local teams stand and what’s to come:

Boys

The hottest boys’ team is Cape Elizabeth, which under first-year coach Bill Leblond lost its first three outings, but since has won nine of 10 to improve to 9-4. The Capers’ lone loss in the 2011 portion of the schedule came at home to York (5-3) on Jan. 13. Since then, they’ve rattled off four straight, capped by a 4-3 home victory over Leavitt last Thursday, the team’s third successive by one goal. Austin Shields had a pair of goals, Nick Breed and Vinny Dell’Aquila one each. Cape Elizabeth is third behind Greely and York in the latest Western Class B Heal Points standings. The Capers were supposed to host the Rangers in a pivotal showdown Tuesday, but that game was postponed by snow and hadn’t been rescheduled by press time. Cape Elizabeth is at Marshwood Saturday and visits Westbrook Tuesday of next week. Games versus Gardiner and Leavitt also dot the remaining schedule.

In Western A, both South Portland and Scarborough are in the middle of the playoff hunt.

The Red Riots, playing the toughest schedule in their history, entered the week 4-5-2 and sixth in the Heals (the top eight teams make the playoffs). South Portland dropped a 3-1 decision at Scarborough last Thursday. Robert Hannigan gave his team the lead with a first period goal, but that’s all the offense could muster.

“We came out and got the first goal and looked pretty good,” South Portland coach Joe Robinson said. “Then we just died afterwards. They outworked us on both ends. Our forecheck was nonexistent other than on our goal.”

The Red Riots tied visiting Kennebunk, 2-2, Saturday. Hannigan and Cole Rowland had the goals. Dominic Desjardins had a whopping 49 saves. South Portland hosted Gorham Thursday and visits Cheverus Saturday.

Scarborough, which began the year 2-6, has now won three in a row to improve to ninth in the region and is closing in on the final playoff spot. The Red Storm got two goals from freshman Jacob Gross to help beat South Portland.

“He is just a little guy,” said Scarborough coach Norm Gagne. “When you have a freshman playing with the big boys boys its not easy, but he has handled it pretty well.”

‘We started off kind of slow with a really tough schedule,” Gross said. “ Right now is a big confidence booster though. If we can win Saturday it would be big – three wins in a row.”

Sure enough, the Red Storm came through against visiting Edward Little Saturday, winning, 5-3, behind two goals from Zach Pettingill, to improve to 5-6. Scarborough was home with Falmouth Thursday and welcomes Kennebunk Saturday. Wednesday, the Red Storm go to powerhouse Lewiston.

Girls

Scarborough’s girls’ team is also sizzling and appears to have the top seed in the West region locked up for the upcoming playoffs.

The Red Storm improved to 12-2-2 Saturday with a 4-1 victory at Leavitt/Edward Little. Scarborough was scheduled to host York Tuesday, but snow moved that game to Friday. The Red Storm end their regular season Saturday at the top team in the East region, St. Dom’s.

Cape Elizabeth’s co-op team with Waynflete appears as if it will fall short of the postseason. The Capers lost at home to Cheverus (2-1) and at Falmouth (5-0) last week, before beating visiting Gorham (4-2) Saturday to improve to 4-12. Hannah Dineen had the lone goal versus the Stags and added a goal and an assist in the win over the Rams. Cape Elizabeth (seventh in the West region, where just four teams make the playoffs) was home against Portland Thursday and finishes the season Saturday at home versus Biddeford.

The girls’ hockey semifinals are the weekend of Feb. 11-12. The regional final is Wednesday, Feb. 16, at Portland Ice Arena. The state championship game is Saturday, Feb. 19, at the Colisee in Lewiston.

Freelance writer Keith B. Wehmeyer contributed to this story

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net

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