Deering downs nemesis Lewiston, to host Cheverus in regional final
PORTLAND—The Deering boys' lacrosse team dispatched a recent nemesis Saturday morning and as a result, the Rams will face a city rival with the right to play for a state championship.
After losing to Lewiston in each of the past two postseasons, Deering was seeking revenge and after a sluggish first half, the third-ranked Rams got it.
An unassisted goal from senior Matt Flaherty with 9:38 left in the third period put the Rams ahead to stay and a pair of man-up tallies broke it open. Deering closed the second half on a 5-0 run and beat the No. 7 Blue Devils for the first time, 6-1.
Flaherty led the way with three goals, senior Karl Rickett won 7 of 10 draws and assisted on two goals and senior goalie Nick Martin had his best performance to date, stopping six shots as the Rams improved to 9-5, ended Lewiston's season at 7-7 and set up a regional final showdown with crosstown rival Cheverus (10-4) in the Eastern A Final Wednesday at a time to be announced.
"We had to possess the ball," said Flaherty. "That's been a problem in games past. We moved the ball around and had quick dodges."
Lewiston made it to the Class A Final in 2011, but dropped a hard-fought 6-4 decision to Scarborough. This spring, the Blue Devils have been up-and-down, but they saved their best for last.
Lewiston opened with wins at Edward Little (9-0) and at home over Oxford Hills (14-1), then lost to visiting Messalonskee, 8-4. After a win at Mt. Ararat (4-0), it fell at Brunswick, 7-6. The Blue Devils then dispatched visiting Cony, 8-1, Edward Little, 10-3, and Oxford Hills, 11-3. A three-game skid followed as Lewiston was bested by host Messalonskee (7-4), visiting Mt. Ararat (6-1) and Brunswick (14-3) before bouncing back to down host Cony in the finale, 10-4.
The Blue Devils went into the playoffs ranked seventh, but sprung the upset at Mt. Ararat Tuesday, 6-4.
The Rams showed glimpses of greatness and occasionally struggled in 2012, their first year under new coach Jon Dubois.
They opened with a 4-2 victory over Cheverus. After dropping a 7-4 home decision to Marshwood, Deering beat Portland, 9-5. Wins at Westbrook (9-4) and Bonny Eagle (18-5) followed. After almost upsetting host two-time defending Class A champion Scarborough (falling, 7-6), the Rams dominated visiting Windham, 15-2, but in the victory, Rickett was hurt and he'd miss four games with an injured collarbone. Deering was blanked at defending Class B champion Falmouth, 18-0, bounced back to beat visiting Gorham (15-3) and Greely (8-6), then ended the regular year with losses at Thornton Academy (9-4) and at home to Kennebunk (10-4) to end up 7-5 and third in the Eastern A Heal Points standings.
Tuesday, in a memorable quarterfinal, the Rams trailed visiting No. 6 Portland, their fierce rival, 5-3, heading for the final period and 6-5 with just seconds to go, but a goal from Flaherty forced overtime and junior Rick Murray delivered the winner, allowing Deering to advance.
Deering and Lewiston had met in each of the past two postseasons, with the Blue Devils prevailing in both the 2010 quarterfinals (3-0) and last year's regional final (9-5).
Saturday, goals were at a premium again, at least for 24 minutes, but eventually, the Rams wouldn't be denied.
Flaherty scored the lone goal of the first period, unassisted, with 9:43 to play and Deering had a 1-0 lead.
The Rams finished the first period with a 10-4 advantage in shots on goal, but had just the one tally to show for it.
Quarter number two was even more frustrating for the hosts who again had a 10-4 shots advantage, but few were good looks and none tickled the twine.
With 2:59 to go before halftime, Lewiston tied the score as senior Matt Melanson fed senior Chris Johnson for a shot that Martin couldn't save, sending the contest to the break deadlocked at 1-1.
While Deering might have been frustrated at the half, the message was simple.
Sure enough, the Rams soon seized control.
With 9:38 to play in the third quarter, Deering ended a 24 minute, 5 second drought and went on top to stay as Flaherty, through a screen, beat Blue Devils junior goalie Tom Lepage.
"We just kept chopping," Dubois said. "We were getting looks. The goalie was making saves. I keep telling the kids to keep chopping and the shots will fall. We missed the cage a lot with shots early. Once we put shots on cage, we got a few. It was a situation where we hit the goalie and we missed the cage. A lot of players were standing around off-ball. I think we probably possessed the ball for 70 percent of the first half. Usually, that's conducive to scoring, but we weren't taking good shots."
The game remained 2-1 until Lewiston began racking up penalties, allowing the Rams to get some separation.
With 4:31 to go in the third, playing man-up, Rams senior Anthony Verville scored an unassisted goal.
A mere 35 seconds later, again playing with the man advantage, Deering got some breathing room and extended its lead to 4-1 as Rickett passed to Murray, who finished.
"Once we started possessing and got quality shots, it got better on the scoreboard," Rickett said. "We knew defensively we were set. We were playing great. We just had to get better shots. We had to get them on goal more. We're a little more relaxed in the second half. Once the man-up happened, we did a better job cutting. We weren't as antsy."
"Man-up is something we work on every day in practice," said Dubois. "We have a lot of different looks because a lot teams get film and try to shut you down. We threw different looks at them man-up and had success. With an extra man and the ball moving that fast, it's easier to score."
With 1:46 remaining in the third period, Verville set up sophomore Isaac Santerre for a goal and a 5-1 advantage, which stood until quarter's end.
The final goal came with 4:12 left, again man-up. Just seconds after hitting the post with a shot, Flaherty took a pass from Rickett and rocketed a shot past Lepage into the net.
"Man-up we practice a lot every day," said Flaherty. "We know what they'll do on defense. Our defense is one of the best man-down defenses, so we get good looks every day in practice."
That put the finishing touches on the 6-1 triumph.
"It means a lot," Rickett said. "Getting this one is nice, especially coming off the win over Portland. I definitely had some flashbacks to two years ago with the low scoring game. Once we got it going, we kept piling on."
"It feels great," said Flaherty. "They shut us out 3-0 my sophomore year. They beat us last year in Lewiston. It feels good to beat them."
Flaherty continued to pace the offense, scoring three times.
"Flaherty's allowed to pull the trigger anytime," Dubois said. "He's a smart kid, a captain. He knows when it's a good time to shoot, when it's not a good time to shoot. He has a rocket."
Murphy, Santerre and Verville each had goals. Rickett assisted on two goals, while Verville had one helper.
Martin had six clutch saves.
"Our goalie played a phenomenal game," Dubois said. "Probably one of the better games he's played all season."
Rickett won 7 of 10 faceoffs.
"Karl did his usual," said Dubois. "He controlled the middle of the field. Once again, he won (70 percent) of the faceoffs, took a stick out of their best midfielder's hands, ran our man-up. It shows what an all-conference, All-American kid can do."
The Rams finished with a 39-34 advantage in ground balls as Rickett led the way with a half dozen, while Flaherty collected five.
Deering turned the ball over 23 times, but finished with a 40-21 advantage in shots (13-7 on cage).
For Lewiston, Johnson had the goal, Melanson the assist. Lepage made seven saves. Senior Chris Rancourt went 3 of 10 on faceoffs. Junior Steven Patrie led the team with six ground balls. Melanson and senior Brandon Tiner both had five. The Blue Devils turned the ball over 26 times and couldn't penetrate the Rams' defense.
"We scouted (Lewiston) pretty well and had their 2-2-2 set down pretty well with our slides," said Rickett. "We communicated well, but Nick Martin really brought it home for us. It was one of the best games I've seen from him."
"We got a little film on these guys and we thought we could pressure and get on their hands and make life difficult," Dubois said. "We gave up one on a nice pass to the back pipe. I wouldn't call that a mistake, it was just a nice play."
As the No. 3 seed in Eastern A, Deering expected to play just one home playoff game, but Lewiston's upset of No. 2 Mt. Ararat allowed the Rams to host Saturday and Cheverus' overtime win at undefeated, top-ranked Brunswick in the other semifinal, sets up a regional final showdown at Memorial Field.
Way back on April 13, Deering beat the host Stags (in a game played at Deering), 4-2. The teams have just one prior playoff encounter, a 14-13 Cheverus win in the 2002 divisional semifinals.
With city bragging rights and a spot in the Class A state game at stake, expect Wednesday's showdown to be memorable.
"If we play like we did today, get great goalie play and good defense, that will get us in," Rickett said.
"Cheverus is a lot better (than the first time we played them)," Flaherty said. "I love playing them. It's a good matchup. I knew we were pretty solid, but no one really knows at the beginning of the season. As the season went on, we got better and better."
"I watched (the Stags) play their last game and they're doing a few different things offensively they weren't doing the last time against us," Dubois added. "They're playing as well as any team in the state right now. We'll do what we do and try to stick to fundamentals and hope we play good position defense and try to possess the ball on offense. That's what we'll try to do. We have two more practices and one more game at least. We'll see what happens then."