By Keith B. Wehmeyer
PORTLAND — Western Class B hockey got a lot more interesting Monday night as Cape Elizabeth defeated Greely, 3-1, winning the third annual Fix Cup at the Portland Ice Arena.
The Cup is given to the winner of a four-team Beanpot-style tournament and honors the life of former broadcaster Frank Fixaris.
Mike Holden and Sam St. Germain scored goals 20 seconds apart midway through the third period to seal the Capers’ victory.
The Rangers had positioned themselves as the regional favorite over the season’s first two months, defeating every Class B opponent they faced, along with a handful of Class A contenders.
“I’d say the race tightened up a bit,” said Cape Elizabeth coach Jason Tremblay. “But if you ask our locker room, I don’t think the race was ever loose.”
Greely’s only official loss was to Class A Thornton Academy, 6-3, in its second game of the season. Falmouth defeated the Rangers, 6-1, in the Dudley Cup on New Year’s Day, which, like Fix Cup, does not count in the standings.
The Capers lost three games over a four-game stretch earlier in the season, including a 5-4 overtime loss to the Rangers (Jan. 5), but are gaining momentum as the playoffs approach. They defeated Falmouth, 4-3, in the opening round of the Fix Cup last week. Greely edged Thornton Academy to reach the Fix final.
“Beating Falmouth the other night has really put a lot of energy into our game,” said Tremblay. “We are starting to really play well right now. Our young guys are starting to pick it up and our seniors are really helping the team. You go as your seniors go and they are really leading this team right now. I am really proud of how they’ve performed.”
Five minutes into the opening period and skating a man down, Cape Elizabeth senior Mike Holden forced a turnover in the neutral zone and passed to fellow senior Sean Eubanks who beat Greely goalie Matt Labbe through the five-hole to put the Capers up, 1-0.
After senior Zach Breed was denied by Labbe on a penalty shot in the second period, the one-goal margin remained until Holden flicked a shot from the point, through a screen and past Labbe with 8:50 remaining in the third period. The Capers went up 3-0, a mere 20 seconds later, when St. Germain stuffed in a rebound after Eubanks shot off the crossbar.
Kevin Hart scored the Rangers’ lone goal with 15 seconds remaining in the game. With Labbe pulled and two Cape Elizabeth players in the penalty box, the Rangers had three extra skaters, giving Hart plenty of time to line up a wrister, sending it top shelf to end Phil Jordan’s chance of a shutout.
Shutout or not, Jordan made 34 saves and helped keep the score 1-0 for much of the game against a prolific Greely offense. The Rangers had scored 40 goals over their previous five games.
“It’s not like we had no chances,” said Greely coach Barry Mothes. “We certainly had chances to get this game tied up or take a lead. It’s not like we were here for 45 minutes and had no pressure. We had pressure. Unfortunately it just didn’t translate.”
Greely skated with a two-man advantage for a minute in the first period and had seven power-play chances in all, but was only capitalized on one. There were close calls throughout, including a Jesse Shavel shot that found the crossbar in the second period.
“We were just trying to keep (Greely) to the outside,” said Holden, a defenseman. “We are really confident in our goalie. We knew he would make the first save so we had to clear the rebounds.”
“Our defense played awesome tonight,” said Eubanks.
The Rangers won’t have to wait long for a rematch. Cape Elizabeth and Greely meet again Saturday at 8:10 p.m. in Falmouth. Greely had no games in the interim, while the Capers had to play at Class A Thornton Academy Wednesday and Kennebunk Thursday.
Tremblay couldn’t even think of the rematch after Monday’s win.
“Don’t even ask me about playing Greely again because I am worried about T.A.,” he said.
Mothes on the other hand was able to look ahead.
“It’s a big game Saturday night,” he said. “I am looking forward to it and I hope to heck the players are looking forward to it, too. We’ll be right back at it.”