Yarmouth/Freeport tested, but downs Capeflete to stay perfect
YARMOUTH—While most of us look ahead to the new year, the Yarmouth/Freeport girls' ice hockey team isn't going to want 2013 to end.
That's because the beginning portion of its season has been so magical.
Monday afternoon at Travis Roy Arena, Yarmouth/Freeport extended its stirring run to eight straight victories to start the year, although visiting Capeflete sure didn't make it easy.
After a scoreless first period, Yarmouth/Freeport took the lead on senior Ariel Potter's goal in the second, but Capeflete immediately tied things up and the game was deadlocked, 1-1, heading for the third.
There, Potter and her teammates wouldn't be denied.
Potter broke the tie 2 minutes, 49 seconds in, then, with 3:28 to play, she completed her hat trick and Yarmouth/Freeport held on for a 3-1 victory, which dropped Capeflete to 3-4 on the season.
"We love a challenge," said Yarmouth/Freeport coach Jeff Haley. "(Capeflete's) really come on. They threw everything at us and we really had to make some adjustments. Our goal isn't to be undefeated, but to go out and compete."
Better than expected
While Yarmouth/Freeport has stolen early headlines, Capeflete has been a very pleasant surprise itself. It opened with a 5-0 loss at Leavitt/Edward Little, fell, 5-1, at home to Yarmouth/Freeport, then was blanked by host Scarborough, last year's state runners-up, 6-0, but the season turned around with a 6-5 come-from-behind win over visiting Falmouth. Capeflete then won, 10-1, at Portland/Deering and 4-3 at Cheverus.
Yarmouth/Freeport began the year by handling Brunswick (7-2), Mt. Ararat (7-1), Capeflete (5-1) and Gorham/Bonny Eagle (5-1). After an 11-0 home win over Portland/Deering, Yarmouth/Freeport delivered a powerful statement with a 3-2 victory at two-time defending state champion Greely before improving to 7-0 with a 4-0 win at Winslow.
"Beating Greely was absolutely huge," Potter said. "We weren't shocked, but we weren't expecting it. We'd gotten blown away by them in year's past, but that was big for confidence."
In addition to the earlier meeting this winter, the teams tied, 2-2, last year in Yarmouth, in the only other game between the programs since the Maine Principals' Association began sanctioning girls' hockey.
Monday, Yarmouth/Freeport discovered that the more it emerges as a favorite, the more difficult the road will be, but it found a way to prevail once more.
Capeflete made it clear from the drop of the puck that it wasn't interested in being just another victim and instead, it had the better of the play early.
Speedy and dynamic Capeflete junior Kathryn Clark almost scored off the opening faceoff, but Yarmouth/Freeport junior goalie Hannah Williams managed to clear the puck at the last moment. Williams then stopped Clark point blank in the third minute and seconds later, Williams denied junior Kate Ewald and grabbed the rebound just before junior captain Julia Ginder could reach the puck.
Yarmouth/Freeport's first great look came with 6:43 to go in the first when freshman Katie Clemmer had a good look stopped by Capeflete junior goalie Lily Jordan.
Late in the period, Williams denied a Clark backhand, Jordan robbed Clemmer on a breakaway and Jordan stopped a backhanded shot from Clemmer keeping the game scoreless after 15 minutes.
Early in the second period, Capeflete threatened to break the ice, but junior Allison Mills was denied by Williams.
After Jordan denied a bid from Yarmouth/Freeport senior Emily Johnson and Capeflete killed off a power play, the hosts finally broke through.
Potter tickled the twine for the first time with 5:16 to go in the second, beating Jordan to her left, just inside the far post. Johnson was credited with an assist.
Before Yarmouth/Freeport's celebration subsided, however, the visitors drew even, as senior Gretchen Stevens beat Williams (Clark was credited with an assist) to make it 1-1.
Late in the period, Yarmouth/Freeport junior Michelle Robichaud was denied by Jordan on a breakaway and Johnson's rebound was also turned aside.
Capeflete went on the power play late in the stanza and carried that man-advantage into the third, but it would be the hosts who saved their best for last.
Just after the power play expired, Clark almost gave Capeflete the lead, but Williams denied her shot in front.
Less than a minute later, Yarmouth/Freeport had the lead for good.
With 12:11 showing, after stealing the puck, Potter went one-on-one with Jordan (15 saves) and beat her high to the far side to make it 2-1.
"I think I beat her wide to the left," Potter said. "I just went for it and good things happened. I just got a lucky break."
Capeflete didn't buckle, however, and attempted to answer, but Williams (11 saves) turned aside bids from Kate Ginder and freshman Hannah Bosworth.
"Hannah's been steadfast for us all year long," Haley said. "We knew we had to step up and support her."
After a Clark rush was broken up by Clemmer and Stevens sent a pair of shots just wide of the mark, Potter clinched it.
With 3:28 left, after Yarmouth/Freeport won a faceoff in its defensive end and the puck skittered up the left boards, Potter ran it down and again managed to beat Jordan for a 3-1 lead. Freshman Molly Wilson was credited with an assist.
"(Ariel's) a captain and she expects to put the team on her shoulders and get it done," Haley said.
Yarmouth/Freeport slammed the door from there and stayed perfect.
"It was a rough game, but we weren't going to lose our winning streak," said Potter. "(Capeflete) definitely came ready to play. We were a little surprised. We beat them by more last time, but they had key players back. We've had teams we cruised by and picked up bad habits. This showed we had to work hard. It was good to play like a team like this.
"We never thought we'd be 8-0. We've had some rough seasons in the past when we were developing, but this year we have more talent. We have chemistry. We value all the players on the team. We're building off a lot of people rallying behind us."
"Even the referee said it was the best game he's seen all year long," Haley said. "That was a huge win. We learned a lot about ourselves. We know we can compete. We had to learn how to win. If you do little things, big things will happen and the girls are reaping the rewards."
Capeflete lamented what-if.
"We're still learning as a team how to win games," said Capeflete coach Bob Mills. "We played two periods out of three. Hopefully we'll go out and execute better next time. We really wanted to end their undefeated streak."
Second half nears
Capeflete, third behind Scarborough and Biddeford in the West Region Heal Points standings, hopes to bounce back Monday when its hosts Cheverus. It opens the 2014 portion of its schedule Jan. 2 at home versus Biddeford and still has lofty goals.
"The next four weeks will be really busy for us," Mills said. "We talk about playoffs all the time. That's certainly a goal. We expect to be there and we expect to do some damage in the playoffs. We hope to be firing on all cylinders at the end of the season and play a complete game. We're a tough team to play against when everyone on the ice is playing with passion."
Yarmouth/Freeport, which is first in the East Region, reaches the midpoint of its season Saturday, when it figures to be tested at Leavitt/Edward Little. The team returns to action after a short holiday break on Jan. 6, at Lewiston and knows it still has work to do.
"We need to communicate better and not be slow on the puck," said Haley. "We're not perfect, even though the record says that. We still need to make little adjustments."