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Waynflete’s Owen Anderson is pinned against the boards by Cheverus’ Jackson Header during the South Portland/Freeport/Waynflete co-op team’s 4-2 victory over the Stags in last week’s Class A South semifinal.
Cheverus goalie Bryson Pomerleau prepares to deny South Portland/Freeport/Waynflete’s Gus Lappin during last week’s quarterfinal.
(Ed. Note: For the complete South Portland/Freeport/Waynflete-Cheverus game story, see theforecaster.net)
In a year of unrivaled parity, it didn’t come as a surprise to see an unexpected team reach the Class A South boys’ hockey final.
The Portland/Deering co-op squad, after an 8-10 regular season, was at its best last week, upsetting Scarborough and Thornton Academy to reach the regional final for the first time in 18 years.
Cheverus and the South Portland/Waynflete/Freeport co-op team weren’t as fortunate.
Portland/Deering finished fifth in Class A South and had to go to No. 4 Scarborough for the Class A South quarterfinals last Wednesday.
Donnie Tocci scored a first period goal, Jake Luce and Tocci scored in the second period and Dante Tocci scored in the third to lift Portland/Deering to a 4-1 victory.
Saturday, Portland/Deering squared off against top-ranked Thornton Academy in the semifinals in Lewiston.
The Golden Trojans took a 1-0 lead after two periods, but Dante Tocci tied it early in the third.
“We had a lot of gas left and we were turning the tide,” said Portland/Deering coach Jeff Beaney.
Whit Steele then scored later in the period for a 2-1 lead.
“I was wide open and I just had to shoot it high,” Steele said.
Portland/Deering, thanks in part to 30 saves from goalie Ryan Becker, held on for a 2-1 victory.
“We got more and more chances and we realized we could play with them,” Dante Tocci said.
“We just battled,” Donnie Tocci said. “It’s all about the battle. I didn’t want it to be my last hockey game.”
Portland/Deering evened its record at 10-10 and advanced to meet No. 2 Biddeford (14-6) in the regional final Tuesday evening in Lewiston (see theforecaster.net for game story).
In the teams’ lone regular season meeting, the host Tigers prevailed, 4-1, Jan. 15. Biddeford won both prior playoff meetings, 5-0, in the 1991 Western A quarterfinals and 7-1 in the 2008 Western A quarterfinals.
The Portland/Deering-Biddeford winner will face either two-time defending champion Lewiston (17-2) or St. Dom’s (14-4-1) in the state final Saturday at 6 p.m. in Lewiston.
Portland/Deering lost, 4-0, at home to Lewiston Jan. 10 and fell, 5-1, at home to St. Dom’s Feb. 9.
Third-ranked South Portland/Waynflete/Freeport hosted No. 6 Cheverus in a quarterfinal last week.
It took only 31 seconds for the Red Riots to take the lead, as Deven Hannan broke the ice. The Red Riots then doubled their lead with 3:03 remaining in the first period, as Waynflete’s Mitchell Adams scored a short-handed goal.
When South Portland/Freeport/Waynflete scored again, 31 seconds into the second period, when Bradley McMains finished, it appeared en route to a decisive win, but the Stags showed their heart and pride and battled back.
Cheverus got on the board with 11:03 to go in the second, when Colby Anton scored unassisted and three minutes later, playing short-handed, the Stags cut their deficit to 3-2, as Jackson Wilson finished.
Cheverus remained within a goal in the third period and appeared to tie it with two minutes left, but much to its chagrin, the goal was waved off and with 13.2 seconds left, Hannan added an empty net tally to clinch the Red Riots’ 4-2 victory.
“That (empty netter) was awesome,” Hannan said. “We’ve struggled to beat Cheverus and we finally got it done.”
“This is a huge win,” said Red Riots coach Joe Robinson. “Early in the year, it was looking pretty grim, but we’ve battled back and put together some big wins. I’m very proud.
“There was no way Cheverus would lay down and die and they didn’t, but I think 5-on-5, when those opportunities were there, we pretty much dominated,”
Cheverus had a 22-19 edge in shots on goal, but suffered a painful ending as its season ended at 8-11.
“I’m proud of the effort we put forth,” said Stags first-year coach Mike Carmody. “It was a slow start for us and to their credit, (the Red Riots) brought the intensity and we had trouble matching up. We had opportunities throughout the second and third (periods) to get back into it, but their goalie made big saves.
“The kids did some great things. I just got done telling them in the locker room, that it stinks right now because you care. They put maximum effort into it. Our season had ebbs and flows. For a team with two lines and four (defensemen), I’m pretty proud of what they accomplished. We’re a young team and hopefully this was a big learning experience.”
SP/Waynflete/Freeport moved on to meet No. 2 Biddeford in the semifinals Saturday in Lewiston.
The Tigers scored first, but Andrew Burns tied things up. After Biddeford went back on top, 2-1, McMains earned a penalty shot, but he couldn’t convert and Biddeford added a third goal and prevailed, 3-1, to end the Red Riots’ season at 11-9.
“We gave them a game,” Robinson said. “We had our chances. We played really well. We had plenty of chances to score. If we hit that (penalty shot) and it’s 2-2 and momentum swings to us and our crowd, but their goalie (Justin Larnerd) played really well.”
Press Herald staff writer Kevin Thomas contributed to this story.