Greely dominates Falmouth to win girls' hockey crown
LEWISTON—In a marquee matchup of neighboring rivals, the brightest of stages was set for an epic showdown at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston Saturday night for the girls’ ice hockey state championship game.
The Greely Rangers of the East Region faced off against the Falmouth Yachtsmen of the West. Going into the contest, most figured it would be a tight battle coming down to the wire, but the end result was strikingly different as the Rangers scored early and often en route to a dominant 7-1 victory for their first ever state title.
Several Rangers had remarkable games, as Sarah Kurland, Monica Howland and Etta Copenhagen all scored twice. Standout senior goalie Emma Seymour rose to the occasion as well, stifling virtually all of Falmouth’s scoring opportunities while recording 28 saves.
“Our girls just played incredibly hard,” said Greely second year coach Nate Guerin. “We were trying to work hard all over the ice and they showed it.”
For Falmouth's senior standout co-captain Megan Fortier, undoubtedly one of the most dominant scorers in the state, it was an overall frustrating night. She scored one goal late in the second period, but was hounded consistently by Greely defenders.
An ongoing story throughout the playoffs for Greely was the absence of tri-captain Paige Tuller, forward Meg Finlay and defenseman Freyja Victory. Tuller had mono, Finlay was dealing with a knee injury and Victory had a concussion. Tuller and Finlay were two of Greely’s top scorers throughout the regular season, but the team was able to come together and win throughout the playoffs (beating Leavitt/Edward Little, 1-0, in the semifinals and Brunswick, 7-2, in the regional final) despite the adversity.
Well, Tuller and Finlay had seen enough from the bench and didn’t want to miss a chance to play in a state title game (Victory still had to sit out because of the severity of her concussion). While neither started, both made an immediate impact for both team morale and confidence, while also getting on the score sheet. Tuller had two assists and Finlay had one.
Just six minutes into the game, it looked like it was going to be Greely’s night, as Kurland took a shot at the cage with no angle at all. Despite being essentially parallel with the goal line, the puck snuck in past Falmouth goalie Kirsten Mazur and it was 1-0 Greely with 8:41 left in the first, with Mary Morrison getting the assist.
Five minutes later, senior CeCi Hodgkins was in the right place at the right time in front of the net to make it 2-0, assisted by Tuller. Then, 21 seconds later, Kurland put in a shot from point blank range after some commotion and ricochets near the crease. Just like that, it was 3-0 Greely with 3:07 left in the first. Copenhagen and Chelsea Andrews were credited with the assists.
“The plan is always to score early, sometimes it happens and sometimes it doesn’t,” said Guerin. “To get a lucky bounce like that kind of set the tone and we got a couple lucky bounces defensively that really helped. Hard work makes you lucky.”
Falmouth was stunned. During the regular season, it had defeated Greely 4-1 twice. Throughout the year, including playoffs, the Yachtsmen had outscored opponents 109-28, and in 11 games they let up just one goal. Greely outscored opponents 84-31, with Seymour recording seven shutouts.
Falmouth's third-year coach Rob Carrier was certainly caught off guard, especially with the dangerous Finlay and Tuller finally in the roster after missing the previous postseason games.
“I think it gave Greely a boost of confidence knowing that two of their top players were back in the game,” said Carrier. “I think I didn’t do a good job of preparing the girls for the game. They worked hard, they executed the systems, I just didn’t have them mentally ready to go out there and face such a talented team in Greely.”
The second period was also dominated by the Rangers.
Fortier had a good looking one-on-one chance with Seymour early in the period, but the goalkeeper stuffed it. Two minutes later, on a Greely power play, Monica Howland scored from the left side, assisted by Hodgkins, making it 4-0 with 9:10 left in the second.
Later in the period, after an pair of penalties from both squads, Etta Copenhagen went top shelf unassisted on the right side with a skilled wrist shot, to push the lead to 5-0 with 3:21 remaining.
Less than a minute later, Fortier finally was able to execute successfully and maneuver around a defender while controlling the puck. She got up close to the cage and shot it top shelf left side for Seymour’s one blemish on the game. Fortier is a warrior and it was a showdown of two of the state’s best going at it. Falmouth’s only goal of the game made it 5-1 with 2:38 left in the second. Alyse Bazinet got the assist as she hit Fortier with the pass, which Fortier took and skated quite a distance before scoring.
“We just worked on trying to funnel (Fortier) up the boards and kind of give her one option and keep her out of the middle as best as we could,” said Guerin. “The girls really did a great job of forcing her wide.”
Fortier has been Falmouth’s go-to player all year, obviously. It certainly takes a total team effort to put together a win against an offensively and defensively talented opponent. But Fortier’s intensity was the same in this game as it has been all year.
“I saw her (Fortier) trying to will this team back into the game,” said Carrier. “We didn’t have the seeing eye pucks that we were used to getting during the season, that’s a credit to Emma Seymour in the net for Greely and the way Greely plays defense.”
Greely still had more scoring in store for the second period. Howland had an easy put in from close range on the right side after some passing around the net. Pulley and Finlay recorded assists as the Rangers went up 6-1 with 29 seconds left in the period. It would certainly take a monumental comeback for the Yachtsmen to overcome the deficit. With all the momentum and confidence with Greely, the Rangers were poised to take down their rivals.
“They’re a great team,” said Copenhagen. “There is a good mutual respect level for each other.”
The two team share the same home rink in Family Ice Arena in Falmouth.
“The rivalry is fun,” said Guerin. “These girls grew up playing together, they’re neighbors. They see each other all the time at the rink. It’s pretty intense.”
Early in the third period, Copenhagen got a lucky bounce off her shin pad as Falmouth Mazur (19 saves) tried to clear the puck from the zone. Greely was short-handed, but Copenhagen quickly took it back at Mazur and scored top shelf from point blank to make it 7-1 Greely with 12:39 left in the game, ending the scoring on the evening.
Greely’s numerous weapons were on display Saturday night. It was simply a team effort at its finest, fueled by the return of two high caliber players.
“My team is the best team ever,” said Kurland. “I think this is the best I’ve seen us play. It was just a great game.”
Copenhagen really elevated her game in the playoffs, although she was also very consistent in the regular season.
“She does it all,” praised Guerin. “She just brings it every game, every situation, she’s huge.”
Copenhagen, just a junior, knew how to handle the championship game.
“We work real hard,” said Copenhagen. “Tonight I was just really feeling it and we all were feeling it. We just went into this game thinking ‘no excuses, no regrets’ and we wanted to make history. This is our first state title ever. It’s a great feeling.”
Greely will lose six players to graduation, Falmouth just two.
Next season, it could very well be another Rangers-Yachtsmen state game matchup, but teams like York, Scarborough and Brunswick will pose strong threats.
“It’s not going to be an easy road to get back here,” said Carrier. “I know the girls that are coming back want to get back here, but it’s a long season, we’ll see how it goes.”
For the Rangers, it’s time to savor the moment. The town of Cumberland always has a parade the night of a state championship win, which consists of fire trucks accompanying the bus of players and convoy of horn-honking fans. Simply a night the girls will never forget.
“It’s the best feeling in the world,” said Seymour. “I can’t describe the feeling right now.”
“We played together, it’s just awesome,” said Tuller. “We just never gave up.”