Jordan's hat trick leads Falmouth past Scarborough, back to states
LEWISTON—The Falmouth boys' hockey team has gone from cursed to confident and as a result, the Yachtsmen are making a return trip to the Class A state final.
A year after shedding its reputation as the team that couldn't win the big one by beating Scarborough in the regional final and Lewiston in the state game, Falmouth took the big stage again for the Western A Final Tuesday evening at the Colisee, again with the Red Storm on the other side of the ice and again, the Yachtsmen did what it took to advance.
Falmouth got the jump in the sixth minute when senior Tyler Jordan scored. Jordan added a second goal with 4:25 left in the first period and junior captain Andre Clement struck in the final minute to give the Yachtsmen a comfortable 3-0 lead.
Falmouth didn't let itself get too comfortable, however, especially after it let a three-goal slip away Saturday in a narrow semifinal round win over Noble/Wells, and 1:38 into the second period, senior Brandon Boehm scored unassisted to make it 4-0.
Scarborough pulled junior goalie Ben Bragg in favor of senior Alex Cherry and its offense found its stride with 9:01 left in the stanza when senior captain Jake Gross scored.
The Red Storm could draw no closer until 11:17 remained in the game, when senior Eric Grantz scored on a rebound, giving his team life.
The Yachtsmen's defense and senior goalie Dane Pauls didn't allow anything else, however, and with 4:04 to play, Jordan raced in, eluded the defense and finished to complete his hat trick and salt away what proved to be a 5-2 victory.
Falmouth made an impressive statement, improved to 16-5, ended Scarborough's season at 14-6-1 and advanced to meet St. Dom's (13-7-1) in the Class A Final Saturday at 6 p.m., at the Colisee.
"It's just unbelievable," said Jordan. "We came in and there were good vibes all around. Good hockey karma. We played awesome."
For the second year in a row, Falmouth and Scarborough were on a collision course as they stood out as the top two teams in the region.
The Yachtsmen had some holes to fill and suffered some tough losses during the regular season, but finished strong.
After opening with a 10-2 home victory over Cape Elizabeth, Falmouth lost at Scarborough, 2-0. The Yachtsmen beat visiting St. Dom's, 3-1, but the up-and-down play continued with a 7-2 loss at Messalonskee. After closing 2013 with a 4-1 home win over Thornton Academy and a 6-3 home victory over Biddeford, the new year began with a stirring 4-3 overtime win over two-time defending Class B champion Greely in the Dudley Cup. After falling at home to Cheverus (1-0) and at Lewiston in a state game rematch (3-1), Falmouth handled visiting Portland/Deering (7-1), then, after an 18-day break, which included some non-countable games against top-notch competition in Massachusetts, won at St. Dom's, 5-4, and held off visiting Bangor, 3-1. After winning, 6-2, at Yarmouth, the Yachtsmen lost at Bangor (6-3), won overtime games at Biddeford (8-7) and Thornton Academy (6-5), then handled visiting Lewiston (6-1) and Scarborough (4-3) to earn the top seed for the playoffs.
After breezing past No. 8 South Portland in the quarterfinals, 10-0, Falmouth got pushed in Saturday's semifinals by No. 4 Noble/Wells, but a late goal from Clement spelled a 5-4 win.
The Red Storm appeared to be the team to beat for much of the season, but stumbled late.
Scarborough lost its opener, 5-4, in overtime to visiting St. Dom's, then appeared unstoppable, downing visiting Falmouth (2-0), host Thornton Academy (8-4), visiting Lewiston (3-2, in overtime), host Marshwood/Traip (8-0), visiting Gorham (3-1) and visiting York (7-0) before opening the 2014 portion of its schedule with a 2-2 tie at Biddeford. After beating visiting Cape Elizabeth, 3-0, the Red Storm lost at Lewiston, 4-3, but won at St. Dom's, 3-2, Portland/Deering, 11-0, and Cheverus, 5-4. After sandwiching an 8-3 loss at Bangor and a 4-1 home setback to Biddeford around a 3-0 home victory over Cheverus, Scarborough handled visiting Thornton Academy, 7-1, before closing with a 4-3 loss at Falmouth to fall to the No. 2 spot.
The Red Storm outlasted No. 7 Portland/Deering in the quarterfinals, 4-2, then downed sixth-ranked Thornton Academy with ease in Saturday's semifinals, 7-1.
The teams came to the Colisee Tuesday having met five prior times in the postseason (please see sidebar, below), with Scarborough taking the first three before Falmouth captured the past two, including last year's memorable regional final when the Yachtsmen scored twice late to win, 4-3, en route to their first championship.
This time around, Falmouth won again and it didn't come down to the wire.
Before Jordan opened the scoring, each team had chances.
Just 41 seconds in, Gross broke in, but Pauls poked the puck away before he could finish.
Yachtsmen junior then Isac Nordstrom raced in on goal, but Bragg made the save.
After Grantz shot high, Grantz was denied by Pauls on a 2-on-1. Clement had a shot in traffic kicked away by Bragg, then Red Storm sophomore Matt Caron was robbed point blank by Pauls.
With 9:28 left in the first period, off a faceoff in the right circle, freshman Robert Armitage won the puck to Jordan, who fired a shot past Bragg to put Falmouth ahead to stay.
Scarborough looked to tie, but a rush from junior Matt Henderson was broken up.
Then, with 4:25 left in the first, Jordan rushed down the right side before beating Bragg to double the lead.
After the Yachtsmen killed a penalty, they really opened it up as with 38.1 seconds showing in the first, Clement took a pass from freshman Chris Camelio in transition and beat Bragg for a 3-0 advantage.
While excited to have the lead, Falmouth knew its job was far from finished.
"In between periods, we knew we had to keep going at them," said Yachtsmen junior defensive standout Jake Grade.
"It's a double-edged sword to get up like that," said Falmouth coach Deron Barton. "It sets you up for a letdown, but if you're coming from behind, it's a battle against time and you don't want to be there either. You want to get an early lead and take away the other's team confidence. Especially that team. They're very skilled and dangerous until the last minute."
Sure enough, Falmouth got the pivotal first goal of the second period, as Boehm managed to score unassisted with 13:22 left.
At that juncture, Scarborough coach Norm Gagne decided to pull Bragg in favor of Cherry.
"I had to," said Gagne, about the change. "I didn't want to embarrass the kid. Credit to Alex coming off the bench. He did a heck of a job to keep us in it."
After going on the power play, the Red Storm got on the board.
Seconds after shooting wide, Gross managed to beat Pauls (Henderson and senior captain Cam Loiselle got assists) and with 9:01 to play in the second, Scarborough's deficit was 4-1.
Cherry kept momentum in his team's corner by robbing Jordan in front and when Gross broke free on Pauls, hopes were high on Scarborough's side, but Gross shot just wide and the game remained 4-1 after two periods.
Growing desperate, the Red Storm continued to push in the third and after Pauls denied a drive from Loiselle, Grantz broke in and shot high over Pauls' shoulder, but when the rebound caromed off the boards in front, Grantz quickly pounced on the puck and sent it home to make the score 4-2.
Scarborough just wouldn't be able to rally, however, thanks to a stingy Falmouth defense, which wasn't about to find itself in a one-goal game.
Then, with 4:04 to play, Jordan delivered the coup de grace, collecting the puck on the right side, making a nice move on a defender, then backhanding the puck past Cherry to make it 5-2, completing his hat trick in the process.
"It was just my turn, I guess," Jordan said. "I got lucky. It's nice to have a hat trick, but I'm just glad we won, to be honest. I didn't even know it went in. I turned around and heard everyone freaking out."
"Tyler carried us today," Grade said. "He's my linemate."
"Tyler's Tyler," Barton added. "He's the type of kid come tournament time, he shows up. You don't hear a lot from him during the season, but when you do, it's big. He doesn't get the credit he deserves for playing the defensive game he does. He works hard and played great defense tonight. I tell the kids the harder you work on defense, the more offensive opportunities you get and he's a perfect example of that."
Down the stretch, the Red Storm had several good looks, but Pauls stymied Loiselle on a breakaway, sophomore Cam Nigro on a blast and finally Gross on a good look.
Moments later, the final horn sounded and the Yachtsmen celebrated their 5-2 victory.
"The early lead was important," Jordan said. "I was terrified until the end that they'd come back. It just happened against Noble. I think that helped us because we knew we had to come out strong. (Scarborough's) a very good hockey team and I respect them very much."
"I thought it would be really close, but we'll take it," Grade said. "We learned we can't let teams get back in it. It was a team effort today and we put the game away. It feels pretty good to beat Scarborough again."
"Hats off to the guys," Barton added. "It was all them. By this time of year, the coaches are pretty much done. We put it on them and they responded. The Noble game galvanized them. The coaches didn't have to say anything. The kids came out in practice and bought in. That was really good to see. Psychologically, we have great leaders. They made up their mind to get it done and it showed on the ice tonight. If you don't respect (Scarborough), you don't win. We did respect them and played three periods and it paid dividends tonight. It doesn't hurt to be in the position we're in this year. Last year was a huge step forward for the program. It got the monkey off everyone's back. It's gone forever now."
Falmouth enjoyed a 24-17 edge in shots. Pauls made 15 saves.
"It was all defense," said Grade. "Dane's carried the team all year. Without him, we wouldn't be in this position. I give a lot of credit to him."
The Yachtsmen went 0-for-2 on the power play.
Scarborough went 1-for-2 on the power play. Cherry made 11 saves, while Bragg stopped eight shots.
"It hurts," said Gagne. "It's not something we expected. We thought we'd give them a better battle then we did. Getting down early takes the energy out of you. With each minute and each missed opportunity, the frustration builds. The harder you try, the worse it gets. As a coach, I've done this so many years, you always know they'll be nervous. We got behind the eight ball right off. On the same token, we did have some great opportunities. We had times we got nice passes and they would bounce off a stick, or we'd be in the slot and couldn't handle it. That's nerves. That's just the way it is. It just wasn't meant to be tonight. I've been in situations that were even worse, down 5-0, and came back and won. I've seen it turn around and we had those opportunities. We have to tip our hat to Pauls for making the stops when he needed to. We didn't have the composure to put the puck away in the open net. I'm proud of the effort. We just didn't capitalize on their mistakes, while they capitalized on ours.
"This is a young group. I didn't think we'd be in the situation we were in, but when we got here, I thought we had a shot. When you bring 10 first year varsity players into a pressure situation like playing for a championship, the anxiety of the game takes its toll. (The Yachtsmen) were here last year and most of their guys played in that championship game last year and that experience helped them."
Scarborough graduates eight seniors, but also returns a lot of talent, suggesting it will continue to kick at the championship door.
"We've got a young group and hopefully we'll regroup and rebuild for next year," Gagne said. "The seniors brought us to where we are. We hope the third time's a charm next year."
State championship Saturday
Falmouth beat St. Dom's twice during the regular season: 3-1 at home way back on Dec. 12 and 5-4 in Auburn Jan. 29.
The teams have played three previous times in the playoffs.
The Yachtsmen downed the Saints, 7-1, in the 2007 quarterfinals and 2-0 in the 2008 semifinals. The teams last met in the playoffs in the 2009 regional final, a 3-1 St. Dom's triumph.
Falmouth is ready to repeat as Class A champions, but it knows it won't come easily.
"We're playing great hockey and we have a great coach," said Jordan. "We've become a family. We're brothers and it just works. I'm looking forward to the state game. We just have to prepare like it's any other game, come out strong, take it to them and see where the cards fall."
"We'll prepare and come out just as hard as we did today," Grade said. "It will be a battle. We love playing in these kinds of games. We'll come out flying and try to put them away early."
"It's going to be fun," added Barton. "At this point, win or lose, it doesn't get any better than this. Steve Ouellette, the St. Dom's coach, I'm so happy for him. He's worked so hard with that program. They never give up. We'll come out and keep doing what we've done all season long. It's a big game and all that, but we'll approach it like just another hockey game. We'll play every shift for three periods. If we do and the hockey Gods are kind to us, we'll have another championship."
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.
Previous Falmouth-Scarborough playoff meetings
2013 Western A Final
Falmouth 4 Scarborough 3
2012 Western A semifinals
Falmouth 5 Scarborough 3
2007 Western A semifinals
Scarborough 5 Falmouth 1
1996 Western B Final
Scarborough 3 Falmouth 1
1994 Western B quarterfinals
Scarborough 2 Falmouth 1 (2 OT)