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Portland/Deering senior captain Cam King celebrates after scoring a goal in his team’s 4-3 overtime win over York Wednesday.
Joe Carpine / 365digitalphotograpy.com photos.
More photos below.
PORTLAND—The Portland/Deering co-op boys’ hockey team has played nothing but down-to-the-wire games so far this winter, so when Wednesday’s home showdown against defending Class B South champion York didn’t produce a winner in 45 minutes, it was more than equipped to play on into overtime and ultimately garner its most satisfying victory of the young season.
After nearly 15 scoreless minutes to begin the game, York broke the ice with just 10.6 seconds remaining in the first period, when junior Jake Nelson scored on a rebound.
Portland/Deering drew even 3:46 into the second, as senior Cam King scored on the power play, but with 7:16 remaining in the second, senior Mark Engholm put the Wildcats back on top, 2-1, a lead which, thanks to several clutch saves from senior goalie Keenan Gamache, they carried into the third period.
There, Portland/Deering junior Donnie Tocci finished after a great rush to tie it, 2-2, with 10:24 remaining, but with 4:18 on the clock, York senior Spencer Pickett scored on the power play to put the Wildcats ahead again.
Again, Portland/Deering rallied, as senior Joe Herboldsheimer scored with 2:38 left in regulation.
The game would go to overtime, where, in the final minute, Tocci threaded a perfect pass to sophomore Whit Steele, who scored his first career varsity goal at the most opportune time, giving Portland/Deering a riveting 4-3 triumph.
Portland/Deering improved to 3-1 on the season, ended York’s win streak at three and dropped the Wildcats to 3-2 in the process.
“We never quit,” said Portland/Deering coach Jeff Beaney. “Sometimes, we get frustrated, but the Portland/Deering kids always compete and that’s the key. We picked each other up as the game went along. It was pretty exciting.”
After a very successful campaign a year ago, which didn’t end until the Class A South semifinals in Lewiston against eventual regional champion Falmouth, Portland/Deering is hopeful of being a top team again in 2017-18 and the squad opened with victories over host Thornton Academy (3-2) and visiting South Portland/Freeport/Waynflete (4-3) before falling at Scarborough, 2-1.
York, the defending regional champion, which has a great chance to repeat this winter, opened with a 3-0 home loss to Biddeford, then got on track by defeating host Yarmouth (6-1), visiting Maranacook (9-1) and Massabesic (5-2).
Last year, the host Wildcats beat Portland/Deering, 6-3.
Wednesday’s game, which was originally scheduled to be played last Saturday, only to be postponed by bad weather, saw Portland/Deering earn its first victory over York since an 8-7 road triumph on Dec. 14, 2013, but it sure didn’t come easily or quickly.
Both teams had good chances in a first period that appeared destined to end 0-0 before York scored in the waning seconds.
Just 27 seconds into the game, Portland/Deering went on the power play, but couldn’t register a shot on goal.
The first good opportunity came with 12:09 to go in the first, when King fired a shot, but Gamache made the save. Gamache then stopped freshman Dante Tocci, King again, then junior Jake Luce on the rebound.
Portland/Deering junior goalie Ben McCallum made his first save midway through the first, denying junior Dalton McCann in front, then sweeping away senior Jake Martin’s rebound bid.
On the play, the Wildcats earned an opportunity to go on the power play, as Portland/Deering junior Donnie Tocci was sent off for elbowing.
On the ensuing power play, York got shots from Martin and Engholm, but McCallum saved both.Tocci then came out of the penalty box and almost scored, missing wide.
After a turnover, the Wildcats had a chance to go ahead, but Pickett was robbed by McCallum.
After a nice spin move and shot from Portland/Deering senior Joe Pichette resulted in a save by Gamache, Gamache saved a blast from sophomore Dylan King with his glove.
When McCallum stopped shots from Engholm and Pickett (on a feed from Martin on a 2-on-1), it appeared the score would remain 0-0, but with just 10.6 seconds remaining, Engholm had a shot saved and Nelson was there to bury the rebound to make it 1-0 York after 15 minutes of play.
York enjoyed a 10-4 edge in shots in the first period.
In the second period, each team found the net once, but Gamache’s excellence kept the Wildcats on top.
Portland/Deering almost pulled even at the 1:20 mark, but after Donnie Tocci took a pass from Luce, he was robbed by Gamache.
Portland/Deering then took advantage of a power play, as after Pickett was sent off for tripping, Luce passed to King, who made a dazzling move on a defender before firing a blast that Gamache couldn’t save to tie the score, 1-1, with 11:14 remaining in the period.
York had a chance to answer on a power play, but only mustered one shot and after stealing the puck, Portland/Deering junior Walter Lewandowski had a chance to put his team on top short-handed, but Gamache made the save.
Then, with 7:16 to go in the second, the Wildcats retook the lead, as Martin set up Engholm for a blast into the net, giving York a 2-1 advantage.
Portland/Deering hoped to answer, but Gamache saved a pair of bids from King and after Donnie Tocci shot wide, Gamache saved a shot from freshman Max Cheever, robbed Luce and with just over a minute to go, made a terrific save on a Lewandowski shot as well, sending the game to the second intermission with the Wildcats clinging to a one-goal lead.
Portland/Deering had a 10-4 shots advantage in the second period.
In the third, Portland/Deering rallied twice.
Just a minute in, Donnie Tocci had a good look, but shot just wide.
With 13:20 on the clock, senior Sam Shaw shot high.
After McCallum broke up rushes by McCann and Martin, Donnie Tocci took it into his hands to tie the score, winning the puck, racing in, then beating Gamache just inside the far post with a wrister at 4:36 to make it 2-2.
The Wildcats nearly retook the lead with 8:05 to play, when a puck sat free in front of the Portland/Deering goal, but senior defenseman Alex McGonagle swept it out of harm’s way at the last second.
York got a break at the 8:53 mark, as Steele was sent off for two minutes for tripping and after not generating a shot for nearly the duration of the power play, Pickett took a pass from Engholm, skated in and fired the puck past McCallum and into the goal for a 3-2 lead with 4:18 remaining.
Portland/Deering refused to fold and for the third time, tied the score.
With 2:38 to go in regulation, McGonagle sent a shot in from the blue line and Herboldsheimer got his stick on the puck to get it past Gamache, making the score 3-3.
Neither team generated a shot the rest of regulation and the game went to an eight-minute, “sudden victory” overtime.
There, Portland/Deering capped its comeback in fittingly breathtaking fashion.
After King missed just wide and Luce had a shot blocked, Lewandowski pounced on a puck and fired, but Gamache made the save.
York had a golden opportunity to end it with 5:08 to go in OT, but McCallum robbed Pickett.
Gamache then came up huge again with 3:38 on the clock, snaring a Donnie Tocci rocket with his glove.
McCallum had to make a save on a shot from Nelson 36 seconds later, but the rest of OT belonged to Portland/Deering.
First, with 1:59 remaining, Gamache robbed Luce after he stole the puck and unleashed a shot.
Twenty-nine seconds later, Herboldsheimer got the puck in front, but couldn’t get much on his shot, which Gamache saved.
After Donnie Tocci shot high, King had a rush broken up.
Then, with 38.7 seconds on the clock, it appeared the hosts had it won, as first Tocci had a great look which Gamache saved, then Steele appeared primed to tuck home the rebound, only to see Gamache reach back and snare the puck at the last possible second.
With the possibility of a tie looming, Portland/Deering stayed with it and finally ended the contest in its favor.
Tocci got the puck to Gamache’s right, skated in and instead of shooting, passed to Steele on the doorstep and with 27.5 seconds remaining, Steele sent the puck past Gamache and into the net for a 4-3 victory.
“I didn’t really know if (Donnie would) shoot it,” said Steele. “I saw the puck coming to me and I saw my opportunity and I put it in. That was a really good feeling to get my first goal.
“We kept the fight going and eventually we came back. We stepped up our game and focused more and I think that led to our win. (Gamache’s saves were) frustrating. We did everything right, but we couldn’t get it in. It got in our heads. We had to keep working.”
“Every game has been a one-goal game and I think we knew without playing or practicing in awhile, we’d have to get through some rough spots,” Beaney said. “(York’s) as good as the A teams we’ve played. We played fewer players for awhile. I thought it was a good move to put the young guys out there. They were rested and got the goal.”
Portland/Deering finished with a 27-24 shots advantage. McCallum made 21 saves. Gamache stopped 23 shots for York, many of them of the highlight reel variety, but it wasn’t quite enough.
York is now idle in terms of countable games until Jan. 6 when Brunswick pays a visit, but Portland/Deering will ring in 2018 when it battles Cheverus in the annual “City Cup” New Year’s Day. Portland/Deering then hosts Thornton Academy and goes to Falmouth in a stretch that will go a long way toward determining whether or not the squad will be a top contender.
One thing’s for certain. Portland/Deering is never out of a game.
“We have to practice our hardest, we have to focus and we have to build our team up,” said Steele.
“It’s a fun group,” said Beaney. “Last year was huge, the experience we gained. It’s great to watch the older players incorporate the younger kids in. We get Cheverus, Thornton, Falmouth. It’s a tough stretch, but it’ll be nice to go into that with a little momentum.”
Portland/Deering junior Walter Lewandowski lines up a shot.
Portland/Deering junior goalie Ben McCallum makes one of his 21 saves.
Portland/Deering senior Cam King skates up the ice.
Portland/Deering sophomore Miki Silva gets around a York defender.
Portland/Deering senior Joe Herboldsheimer and York senior Spencer Pickett meet along the boards.
Portland/Deering junior Donnie Tocci fires a shot.