Portland/Deering falls to TA in quarterfinals

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Thornton Academy senior Chandler Bilodeau shoots on Portland/Deering junior goalie Ben McCallum during the teams’ Class A South quarterfinal Wednesday night. Bilodeau scored three goals to help the Golden Trojans to a 6-3 victory.

Joe Carpine / 365digitalphotograpy.com photos.

More photos below.

PORTLAND—The Portland/Deering’s boys’ hockey co-op team has been in no shortage of close games this winter and Wednesday evening’s Class A South quarterfinal against Thornton Academy was no exception.

And when fourth-ranked Portland/Deering erased a two-goal deficit and tied the score midway through the third period, it appeared poised for a dramatic victory and a trip to the semifinals, but instead, it would be the fifth-seeded Golden Trojans coming up big with the game on the line, scoring the final three goals to bring a sudden end to Portland/Deering’s season.

Portland/Deering took a 1-0 lead 5 minutes, 32 seconds into the first period when junior Jake Luce scored, but late in the first period, Thornton Academy senior Chandler Bilodeau hinted at a big night to come with a tying goal, then senior Owen Dubois scored in the final minute to give the visitors a 2-1 lead.

When the Golden Trojans went up, 3-1, on a Dubois goal at 2:26 of the second period, they appeared to have all the momentum, but Portland/Deering pulled within a goal after a terrific individual effort from sophomore Miki Silva in the final minute, setting the stage for a dramatic third period.

There, with 6:43 to play, Portland/Deering tied the score, when sophomore Whit Steele scored on a rebound, but the tie lasted only 22 seconds before Bilodeau put Thornton Academy ahead for good.

Bilodeau completed his hat trick with 5:16 left and with 53.4 seconds to go, senior Reagan Wintle scored into an empty net to clinch the Golden Trojans’ 6-3 victory.

Thornton Academy got six goals from its top line, improved to 12-7, advanced to battle top-ranked Cheverus (13-4-1) in the Class A South semifinals Saturday at 2 p.m., at the Colisee in Lewiston, and in the process, ended Portland/Deering’s season at 8-9-2.

“Thornton is a good team,” said Portland/Deering coach Jeff Beaney. “They have the one line and we couldn’t find the combination to slow them down. They played well. The guys will remember this season and I’m very proud to coach them. They’re sad it’s over, but they did a great job representing the city.” 

Eye on Cheverus

While Biddeford, Cheverus and Falmouth have been the class of the region this winter, Portland/Deering and Thornton Academy have had their moments.

Portland/Deering opened with a 3-2 victory at the Golden Trojans Dec. 9, but struggled with consistency, never winning more than two consecutive games in succession en route to an 8-8-2 record and the No. 4 seed in Class A South.

Thornton Academy, which won just four games and missed the playoffs last winter, went 11-7 and was competitive with everyone. The Golden Trojans dropped three games in overtime and wound up fifth in the region.

The teams split in the regular season, with Thornton Academy taking the second meeting, 2-1, Jan. 18 in Portland.

The only previous playoff meeting was a wild one, an 8-7 Golden Trojans victory in the 1999 Western A preliminary round.

Wednesday’s encounter was lower scoring, but again, Thornton Academy managed to advance.

Portland/Deering started strong and got the game’s first goal, as junior Donnie Tocci got the puck to Silva, who shot on Thornton Academy junior goalie Seth Dube. The shot was just off target to Dube’s left, but the rebound caromed out front to Luce, who scored at 5:32 for a 1-0 lead.

Portland/Deering had a chance to double its lead at 7:52 when it went on the power play, but couldn’t generate a shot.

Late in the first period, the Golden Trojans came to life and scored twice in just over a minute.

The tying tally came with 1:52 to go, as Bilodeau grabbed the puck and got ahead of the defense before shooting past Portland/Deering junior goalie Ben McCallum to make it 1-1.

Thornton Academy then took a 2-1 lead with 41.5 seconds on the clock, as Wintle got the puck to Dubois, who buried it.

In the first period, Portland/Deering had an 11-8 shots advantage, but found itself behind.

In the second, the intensity and hitting picked up and after another 15 minutes, the spread was still one goal.

After Dube denied a game-tying bid from Portland/Deering senior Cam King, Dubois scored his second goal, assisted by sophomore Christopher Balzano and Wintle, and at 2:26 of the second, Thornton Academy was up, 3-1.

Portland/Deering went on the power play and looked to answer at 9:07, but despite myriad great opportunities, couldn’t solve Dube.

On four separate occasions, the puck came to Tocci for shots. He had three saved by Dube and another blocked. King, Luce and senior Joe Pichette were also denied.

But in the waning seconds, Portland/Deering got a goal and some life and some momentum to take the third period.

With 31.1 seconds showing, in the Golden Trojans’ zone, Silva plucked the puck out of midair, dropped it at his feet, then shot it past Dube to cut the deficit to 3-2 (King and Walter Lewandowski were given assists, and gravity should have gotten one as well).

It was anyone’s game when the third period began and momentum shifted back and forth before the visitors pulled it out.

Portland/Deering went on the power play with 10:20 to play when Thornton Academy had too many men on the ice, but the hosts couldn’t generate a shot on goal.

Portland/Deering hung tough, however and with 6:43 remaining, senior Alex McGonagle got the puck to freshman Dante Tocci, who set up Steele for a shot which Dube saved before Steele stayed with the play and scored on the rebound to make it 3-3.

But before the goal celebration could die down, the Golden Trojans had the lead back.

With 6:21 on the clock, Dubois passed to Bilodeau, who rushed in and fired a low shot that McCallum slowed, but the puck got behind him and rolled slowly over the goal line for a 4-3 lead.

Just over a minute later, with 5:16 to play, Bilodeau completed his hat trick (Wintle and Dubois were awarded assists) and Thornton Academy had a 5-3 lead and a little breathing room.

“(A hat trick) is great,” said Bilodeau, who missed much of his junior season with a collarbone injury. “I’ve been in a slump in the second half of the season, so I got that off my back.”  

Portland/Deering tried to answer, but Dube denied Luce and King.

Then, with McCallum pulled for an extra skater, Wintle, after three assists, scored a goal of his own, into an empty net with 53.4 seconds left and the Golden Trojans went on to a 6-3 victory.

“We had all lines working hard,” Bilodeau said. “We got a lot of production from our first line, but everyone contributed. (Portland/Deering) started to come back and we got a little scared, but we made sure we didn’t let off the gas. We have a lot of kids who haven’t played in playoffs before. We knew it would be tight, but everyone really wanted to win.”

“We knew it would be a tough game,” said Thornton Academy coach Michael Roux. “I have all the respect for Coach Beaney and his team and we knew they’d work hard for 45 minutes and they did. We had to match their intensity. I have good leaders in the locker room. I have nine seniors and they wanted it.”

Thornton Academy got 25 saves from Dube and will now turn its attention to Cheverus.

The Golden Trojans split with the Stags in the regular season, winning, 4-2, Dec. 19 in Portland and losing at home in overtime, 2-1, Jan. 18. 

Cheverus won both previous playoff meetings, with a 4-3, double-overtime victory in the 2013 Western A quarterfinals the most recent.

“We lost a lot of one-goal games, so our record didn’t show how good we are,” Bilodeau said. “Cheverus is a good team. We played them tight this year.”

“Our goal was to get up to Lewiston,” Roux said. “We have high hopes. Cheverus is a solid team. They have great goaltending. We’ll get shots, but they need to be quality shots. It’ll be a great game.”

On to 2018-19

Portland/Deering had a 28-26 edge in shots and didn’t take a penalty, but it went 0-for-4 on the power play.

McCallum finished with 20 saves.

“We’ve become known for never really being out of it,” Beaney said. “We’ve played in so many one-goal games. The guys went out and worked hard. We had a little trouble putting the puck in the net, but we competed. We did a lot of things pretty well. We were evenly matched.

“We lost a tremendous group last year and I didn’t think we’d have the same chemistry, but I’ll tell you, it’s been so enjoyable. The guys take care of each other.”

Portland/Deering graduates seven players, but should be right back in the hunt next winter.

“We’ve got a good group back and a good core from the eighth grade,” Beaney said. “We have a really good foundation. It’ll be a whole new process, but a lot of the young guys who didn’t play much learned how to prepare and handle situations.”

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

Portland/Deering junior Donnie Tocci and Thornton Academy junior Richard Martin fight for the puck.

Portland/Deering senior Cam King takes a shot.

Portland/Deering senior Joe Pichette lines up a shot as junior Walter Lewandowski looks on.

Portland/Deering junior Donnie Tocci is slowed by Thornton Academy sophomore Sawyer Wirsing.

Portland/Deering celebrates a goal.

Thornton Academy celebrates the win.

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Sports Editor of The Forecaster since 2001. Find detailed game stories at theforecaster.net. I tweet prodigiously at @foresports.