Greely, Scarborough skate to tie in girls' hockey showdown
PORTLAND—Girls' hockey fans can only hope the defending state champion Greely Rangers and juggernaut Scarborough Red Storm meet again.
That's because if they do, it will be Feb. 16 in Lewiston with a state championship at stake and if it's anything like their lone regular season encounter, it will be memorable.
Saturday afternoon at the Cumberland County Civic Center, the Rangers and Red Storm produced 53 minutes of palpitating action and playoff intensity.
The Red Storm, which had only been tested once this winter, twice held one-goal leads, but each time the talented and tested Rangers answered.
After Scarborough broke the ice midway through the second period on a rebound goal from Alyssa Hulst, Greely tied the game with 12:56 left in regulation on a power play tally from senior Paige Tuller. The Red Storm retook the lead, 2-1, with 10:04 to go when Kristen Murray scored on a breakaway which proved costly, but again, the Rangers responded, this time on junior Sarah Kurland's shorthanded strike.
Despite ample chances for both squads, neither could tickle the twine again and the game ended in a 2-2 tie, leaving Scarborough 7-0-1 and Greely 6-2-1.
"It was a pretty big deal," said Kurland. "We know Scarborough's a team we'll have to contend with later in the season. It felt like a more important game than just a regular season game."
Greely enjoyed a magic carpet ride to the title last winter, peaking for the playoffs and never looking back, capping its run with a stunning in its decisiveness 7-1 victory over Falmouth in the state final.
While the Rangers return plenty of firepower, the loss of goalie and 2012 Winter Female Athlete of the Year Emma Seymour produced some big shoes to fill. Greely had no trouble in its first two outings, dominating Yarmouth (11-0) and blanking Brunswick (6-0). The Rangers then lost to Leavitt/Edward Little (2-1) before bouncing back to down Mt. Ararat (14-1) and Yarmouth (9-1). A 4-2 home loss to Lewiston followed, but Greely then handled Mt. Ararat (11-1) and St. Dom's (9-1).
Scarborough was ousted in the semifinals last year, but had only been tested once this winter. That was in the Red Storm's second game, a 1-0 victory over Lewiston. Scarborough had opened with a 7-0 win over Gorham and followed its triumph over the Blue Devils with easy wins over Falmouth (7-0), York (3-0), Cheverus (10-1), Biddeford (5-0) and Portland (6-0). In 315 minutes this season, Scarborough had never trailed.
Last year, Greely handled the visiting Red Storm, 3-0, in the teams' lone meeting.
Saturday's contest was back and forth with an abundance of scoring chances, but the only thing the game didn't produce was a winner.
The tone was set early when the seasoned Rangers came out strong and put nine shots on goal, but Red Storm goalie Devan Kane stopped every one. Greely got solid play from its goalie, sophomore Maura Perry, and the game remained scoreless after 15 minutes.
The Rangers then controlled play for nearly seven minutes in the second period, but couldn't score.
Kurland set the tone just 11 seconds in when her backhanded flip went just wide.
With 13:09 to go in the second, senior Monica Howland hit the post and freshman Danita Storey's rebound was snared by Kane.
Three minutes later, senior Meg Finlay was denied in front. Finlay got the rebound and fed Kurland, who shot wide.
Seconds later, Tuller shot wide.
Scarborough's first shot of the second period led to the first goal of the game.
Brenna Kent sent a shot on goal that Perry stopped, but the rebound kicked right to Hulst, who buried it, making it 1-0 Red Storm.
"I was in the air, just found the puck and lifted it up," said Hulst.
Kane kept Scarborough on top by denying Kurland point blank and robbing Finlay on the rebound, stopping Kurland alone in front and Storey on a breakaway.
"I don't know how I saved that," Kane said, of her denial of Storey. "You just flail sometimes and do what you have to do."
Greely was frustrated, but remained confident entering the third period and soon was rewarded.
After Red Storm senior Sarah Martens was sent to the penalty box for checking, the Rangers pounced as Tuller got past a defender before beating Kane up high to make it 1-1 with 12:56 left. Finlay and Kurland were credited with assists.
With 11:10 to go, Kurland had a look at putting Greely on top, but again was denied by Kane.
Scarborough then got a break which proved to be a mixed blessing.
Murray stole the puck and raced in alone on Perry. Murray played the puck well out in front and it appeared the goalie could have come out to play it, but she stayed put and Murray, while falling forward, managed to tip the puck past Perry and into the goal for a 2-1 lead.
That was the good news.
The bad was that Murray slammed into the left post with her collarbone, which was believed to have been broken, and had to leave the game and eventually the building by ambulance.
"That's a pretty huge blow," said Red Storm coach Caitlin Cashman. "I knew it happened to her collarbone and I refused to tell (the girls) on the bench. We were able to redirect them. We just told them now in the locker room."
The Red Storm opened the door for Greely with 10:04 to go when Rachael Wallace was whistled for tripping, but with 48 seconds to go on the power play, the Rangers lost their advantage when Storey was called for slashing.
Scarborough actually went on the power play with 6:43 to go, but Greely kept possession and after Kurland had a shot denied, Kurland took a pass from Tuller and fired a shot that Kane deflected, but couldn't stop and the puck squirted into the goal to make it a brand new game, 2-2, with 5:54 left in regulation.
"We knew that we'd get dirty goals where the goalie's down and the puck's loose in front of the net," said Kurland. "Since Paige had the puck and she had two girls on her, I felt I had an OK shot. She got the puck to me. I think it was lucky. It was a really nice pass from Paige."
"Paige played great," said Greely coach Nate Guerin. "We've talked to her about playing a complete game and she responded well with a big goal and a huge assist."
That would be the game's final goal, but each team had good looks at a winner.
With 3:21 left, Martens, who scored so many clutch goals during Scarborough's run to a girls' soccer title in the fall, fired a wrister through a screen which went just wide. Michaela Price then had a look, but Perry made a save with her blocker.
Greely then had looks, but Howland shot high and Storey's shot was saved.
In the final minute, Finlay appeared to have a good look, bu Kent broke up the shot at the last second, Kurland shot wide and Kurland sent a soft shot on target that Kane easily snared.
In Maine girls' hockey, teams play one eight-minute, "sudden victory" overtime and if no one scores, the game ends in a tie.
That would be the case Saturday, but not without some close calls.
Just 10 seconds in, Martens sent a low shot just wide.
With 6:51 to go, Kane had to save Finlay's shot and a rebound was cleared out of harm's way. Sophomore Mary Morrison then had a look, but Kane kicked it aside.
With 5:15 left, a low shot by Howland was denied.
Greely kept the pressure on and Tuller shot wide, Morrison had a shot saved, Storey's shot through a screen was denied and Morrison's shot was also saved.
The, with 2:02 to go, Morrison made the defensive play of the game, breaking up a potential Hulst breakway.
"The puck was messed up on my stick and I couldn't shoot it," Hulst lamented.
The last chance came in the final minute when Martens had a look, but she shot wide and that was that.
Greely 2 Scarborough 2.
"These girls do a really nice job taking it one game at a time," said Cashman. "They were excited about Greely. It's hard to be totally 100 percent prepared after playing some of the games we did. The first period, we were excited, but we were also really nervous about Greely. We have to play our game and not worry about them from when the puck drops. It's a 45-minute game. It's a learning experience."
Kane was superb, making 36 saves on 38 Greely shots. Considering that she's barely been in a pressure situation all season, Kane's effort on this stage rightly turned heads.
"Devan made some awesome saves," said Cashman.
"(Kane) is top quality," Guerin said.
"I had a lot of shots against Lewiston too," Kane said. "It keeps me focused. I stayed in it. I gave up two rough goals, but that happens. Greely really crashed the net. They tried to get in my head. I didn't let them. I just pretend it's like a normal period. If I thought it was overtime, I'd probably lose my mind. I don't even look at the clock. I just hope the buzzer sounds soon. Of course, I'd like to see them again."
Scarborough will learn from this experience.
"It was an intense game," said Hulst. "All the pressure was on. We looked forward to this game."
"We got a little caught up in all the hoopla," Cashman said. "We got a little panicky. We weren't connecting as well as we had been. If we see them again, we'll know how to keep composed. We were hesitating a little bit. Once you hesitate, talented players will capitalize. We have a couple hard games coming up. This will be a good example of having to keep working 100 percent every game."
Perry stopped 12 of the 14 shots she faced.
The Rangers went 1 of 2 on the power play, while the Red Storm finished 0 of 2 and worse, gave up a goal shorthanded.
Greely could have easily come away with a victory, but still managed to split precious Heal Points.
"We had good chances on net," Kurland said. "It feels like a small victory knowing we can contend with a team like that. When we get down, we don't get nervous. We give 110 percent."
"It was a really impressive third (period)," Guerin said. "It was nice to win that period. Scarborough's a great team. Having lost to Lewiston and Leavitt, we knew we had to show we could hang in these tough games. The kids responded well. We probably should have won. We had a lot of close chances. We had rebounds that were there. We did what we could to score. We know if we see them again, it would be the last game of the season. They're the top team in the West. We wanted to make sure we could hang with them. The girls did a good job responding."
Long season ahead
Scarborough (first atop the West Region Heal Points standings) is idle until Jan. 2 when it hosts the Cape Elizabeth/Waynflete co-op team. The Red Storm will be tested by Leavitt/EL on Jan. 5, but has an excellent shot at earning the top seed.
"This break will help," Kane said. "We've played a lot of hockey. This year, I feel the team is way closer than it's ever been. We love each other. We want it. We've never had the drive we have right now. If we keep up the drive, I think we can go far."
"We learned we have to be ready every game," said Cashman. "We have to focus on our systems. Leavitt will be a really good test. We still have a lot of season. D zone coverage is our big thing. Everyone has to do their job. If you don't do your job, then someone isn't doing their job because they have to step in and do your job. Everybody has a role on this team. Improving on that and hitting the net would be nice."
As for Greely, it goes to Winslow Wednesday, meets Falmouth in the Dudley Cup exhibition New Year's Day, then is back in action Jan. 5 at home versus Cheverus. The Rangers are in a three-horse race (they're currently third behind Leavitt/EL and Lewiston in the East Region Heals) for the top spot and hope to continue to improve and find themselves back on the big stage in February.
"We have to keep working on the dirty goals, that's what working for us right now," Kurland said. "We'll keep working on the passing combinations. I think we're off to a good start."
"I have a good group," Guerin said. "They work so hard. Our main focus is playing 45 minutes. This was our first real 45, 50-plus minute game. I hope we can stay consistent with that."