Is it Falmouth’s turn? Yachtsmen lead local boys’ hockey parade this winter
A year ago, the Greely boys' hockey team forever shed its legacy as the team that kept coming up with ever-more painful ways to lose deep in the playoffs when they won the program's first state championship.
This winter, another local power hopes that it's their turn.
Falmouth which underwent painful playoff loss after painful playoff loss back in its Class B days, reached the Western A Final for the first time a year ago, then fell 3-1 to St. Dom's to wind up 14-7. Despite losing all-time program high scorer Mike Chase to graduation, the Yachtsmen are in a great position to follow Greely's lead and reach the pinnacle.
Even without Chase, the Falmouth offense won't suffer. Senior Dan Hanley (a first-team all-state selection in 2008-09 after scoring 31 goals) has 98 career points and should be dominant. Senior Dixon Pike (a second-team all-star) is right there with him. Seniors Ford Bohrmann, Julien Clement, Gabe Hoffman-Johnson (Falmouth's Fall Male Athlete of the Year for his soccer brilliance), Brandon Morrill, Mitch Tapley and Brandon Tuttle can all light the lamp as well. Pike and Morrill both scored twice in Saturday's season-opening 5-1 win over Portland. The defense is anchored by junior Matt MacDowell (first-team all-state last winter). He's joined by junior Tim Hanley, seniors Bruce Tuttleand Tim Nash and freshman Jack Pike in front of junior Jay Hurdman, another reigning first-team all-state selection.
The Yachtsmen once again face a series of fierce tests on their schedule, but they have the ammunition to compete night in, night out. Look for Falmouth to light it up on offense and to frustrate opposing attacks. This team will win its share of games and has to be on the short list of teams to beat in the region and the state. Perhaps this is the year the puck bounces right and the Yachtsmen make the trip to Lewis ton the first Saturday in March.
"The gap between the strong teams and the 'have nots' has never been as large," said coach Scott Rousseau, now in his 13th season. "There is great parity among the strong teams, however. We'll have to learn to adjust without Mike Chase, but we should have a more balanced attack. Defense and discipline will still be our calling card."
Greely enjoyed a fairy tale ride a year ago, going 20-1 and beating Presque Isle 5-1 to win the Class B crown. Unfortunately, most of the key contributors from the squad graduated or moved on to play prep, so Greely has its work cut out as it looks to repeat. Weep not for the Rangers, however, they still have plenty to work with and proved that in a stunning season-opening 5-4 win at Cape Elizabeth Saturday.
For starters, anytime a team has a strong goalie, it has to feel good. Junior Matt Labbe has proved to be one of the best and has stepped up in big-game situations. A first-team Class B West selection (and the pick as Goalie of the Year a year ago after posting an 11-1 record with a 2.01 goals against average and a .901 save percentage), he returns for his third season and will look to carry his squad to victory. Labbe is aided by senior Carter Cyr, the latest in a string of strong Greely defenders, senior Casey Stevenson and junior Michael Tuller. Freshman Erik Rost is expected to see a lot of playing time on that end of the ice as well.
Offensively, the Rangers might not be as prolific this winter as they were in 2008-09, but they'll still light the lamp with regularity. Senior Ian Gray is the highest-scoring returner (7 goals, 9 assists last season). He had a pair of goals in the regional final against Cape Elizabeth and will be looked upon to score in clutch situations. Juniors John Murphy (9 goals last year), Justin Downey, seniors Jason Lewis and Ben Walsh and sophomore Pete Stauber all look to make more of an impact with more ice time. Freshman Kenny Richards will make the most of his opportunities.
While York and Cape Elizabeth are more highly touted at the outset, anyone writing off the Rangers might grow to regret it. Greely won't boast a gaudy record this year or run roughshod over the opposition, but the Rangers are always a tough out come playoff time. That will be the case once again as the team that few believe in makes yet another run at the top spot.
"We'll feature many new faces this year," said coach Barry Mothes, now in his 16th season on the bench "We have lots of challenges ahead of us and have plenty to work on, but the players who are here are ready to go. We might not be starting off from the same place of talent and depth and experience as some of our league rivals, but we'll do everything we can to get better as the weeks go on. Our long term goal is to get ourselves into the playoffs and be very tough to beat. Some of this year's juniors and seniors were on a very deep, veteran team last year. I know they want to make an impact."
Yarmouth was 4-12-2 a year ago and fell short of the playoffs, but hopes to be in the mix this winter. The Clippers got off to a promising start Saturday night with a 3-2 (overtime) victory at Camden. Sophomore Alex Kurtz played the hero, scoring twice, including the winner. Senior Steven Petrovek also scored. Senior Ethan Gray (an all-WMC honorable mention selection last winter) stopped 26 shots. That result will help build confidence for a team that has the potential to be in the running.
The Clippers will feature a dynamic, balanced offensive attack behind sophomore Max Grimm (all-Rookie team in 2008-09), Kurtz, Petrovek, sophomore Marshall Brunelle , junior Joey King, senior Ian McGilp,and freshman Mark Brown. On defense, look for senior Conor Costello, junior Ben Nickerson (an honorable mention all-star last year) and freshman Sam Landry to lead the way, protecting Gray and sophomore Patrick McLoon in goal.
Western Class B could be more balanced and deep than it's been in years. Yarmouth has to be a contender. Once the gold standard in the region, the Clippers can continue their climb back toward the top with a solid effort over the next couple months. Based on the Opening Night result and the general attitude around the team, lofty goals are realistic.
"Our goal is to make the playoffs," said fifth-year coach Marc Halsted. "We have a great group of kids who are excellent students and good people. It's been a lot of fun so far this year. If our work ethic continues to develop and we get production from our sophomore forwards, we could be a very competitive team throughout the year."
North Yarmouth Academy is coming off a superb season. Last year, the Panthers finished with a 24-10-2 record, which included a 15-6-2 mark in Division II Prep School action. They eventually advanced to the semifinals.
Several key players return this winter as NYA hopes to be right in the mix again. On offense, seniors Tom Gildersleeve and Will Strabley and juniors Finn Hadlock, Jordan Haskell and Tim Millett are all experienced and dangerous. Defensively, senior Brandon Barrett and junior Mike Morrison, along with freshman Isaac Lipton lead the way. Senior Sam Kurland returns in goal.
The Panthers have a very tough schedule, but hope to build on last year's success. Look for NYA to be very tough, entertaining and triumphant once more.
"We have a commitment by all to team defense, puck pursuit and possession, limiting turnovers, having strong special teams and solid goaltending," said eighth-year coach Kent Hulst."That will lead us to a successful season."
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com