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Portland sophomore Miki Silva jumps for joy after junior Evan Bay scores a goal during the Bulldogs’ 12-6 home win over Windham Friday night in a Class A North semifinal. Portland will play either Falmouth or Lewiston in the regional final Wednesday.
Mike Strout photos.
More photos below.
W- 0 2 2 2- 6
P- 4 3 1 4- 12
9:51 P Shaw (Moore)
8:57 P Moore (Arcand)
6:33 P Shaw (unassisted)
30.1 P Shaw (O’Brien)
10:47 W Lekousi (unassisted)
6:48 P Silva (unassisted)
4:25 W Lekousi (unassisted)
2:07 P Silva (O’Brien)
7.0 P Silva (Shaw) (MAN-UP)
9:47 P Moore (Shaw) (MAN-UP)
5:55 W Lekousi (unassisted)
1:39 W Anderson (Babb)
10:48 P Arcand (unassisted) (MAN-UP)
8:09 W Lekousi (unassisted)
6:06 W Woolston (Babb)
4:26 P Silva (unassisted)
3:58 P Bay (unassisted)
50.3 P Shaw (unassisted)
W- Lekousi 4, Anderson, Woolston 1
P- Shaw, Silva 4, Moore 2, Arcand, Bay 1
W- Babb 2
P- O’Brien, Shaw 2, Arcand, Moore 1
Faceoffs (Windham, 13-8)
W- Gaudet 13 of 21
P- Bay 8 of 18, Clifford 0 of 3
Shots on cage:
W (Elliott) 3
P (Hoekstra) 9
PORTLAND—After winning just six total games the past two seasons, the seniors of Portland’s boys’ lacrosse team were seeking big things this spring.
And it’s safe to say that the Bulldogs have accomplished something special.
Wednesday afternoon or evening, Portland will take part in a game that will be followed by a trophy presentation for the first time since 2010, thanks to a terrific effort Friday evening at Fitzpatrick Stadium in a Class A North semifinal against Windham.
The second-ranked Bulldogs got a chance to face the only team to beat them this season, the third-seeded Eagles, and there’s no question they were primed for challenge, as they raced to a quick lead and never looked back.
A goal just over two minutes into the game from senior Sam Shaw put Portland on top to stay and after senior Kevin Moore added a goal, Shaw scored twice more for a 4-0 lead after one period, an advantage that was made possible in part by three saves from Bulldogs senior goalie Aaron Hoekstra.
Windham played much better in the second period, but couldn’t cut into the deficit.
After Eagles junior Thomas Lekousi got his team on the board, sophomore Miki Silva scored his first goal for the hosts, but Lekousi again cut the deficit to three.
Late in the half, Silva scored two more goals, including one with seven seconds left, to extend Portland’s advantage to 7-2.
When Moore opened the second half with a goal, it appeared the Bulldogs might be primed to pull away, but Lekousi and freshman Holden Anderson answered for Windham and sophomore Matt Babb had a shot at the horn to pull the Eagles even closer, but Hoekstra made the save to keep the score 8-4.
Senior Tristan Arcand extended Portland’s lead early in the fourth quarter, but goals from Lekousi and junior Tyler Woolston made things very interesting.
That’s as close as Windham would get, however, as Silva, junior Evan Bay and Shaw scored to clinch it and the Bulldogs went on to a 12-6 victory.
Shaw and Silva each had four goals, Hoekstra made nine saves and Portland won a playoff game for the first time since 2011, improved to 12-1, ended the Eagles’ season at 11-3 and advanced to meet either No. 1 Falmouth (11-1) or No. 4 Lewiston (10-3) in the regional final Wednesday.
“This means everything to the program,” said Bulldogs coach Mike DiFusco. “When you have rough years, it’s tough, but when you start winning, the kids get motivated and they reap the benefits. The senior class has been through it all, highs and lows. They came in this year hungry, confident and wanting to play for each other. They deserve it. I’m really proud of them.”
Both Portland and Windham failed to post a winning record last year, as the Eagles went 5-8 and lost, 15-7, to eventual state champion Brunswick in the Class A North quarterfinals, and the Bulldogs finished 2-10, missing the postseason in the process, but in the newly classified Class A North, each squad has roared to life this season.
Portland stumbled just once in a dozen games and earned the No. 2 seed in the region, its best ranking since 2010. Windham, meanwhile, lost its opener and its finale, and as the No. 3 seed in Class A North, had no trouble with No. 6 Bangor in Wednesday’s quarterfinal round, 18-7.
Portland and Windham played twice this season. In the opener, April 13, the host Bulldogs got seven goals from senior Reilly O’Brien and prevailed, 13-8. The Eagles then snapped Portland’s nine-game season-opening win streak, 8-7, May 25.
Entering play Friday, the teams had no playoff history.
Under pleasant skies (75 degrees), the Bulldogs avenged an early setback and continued their memorable ride.
Windham junior Cooper Gaudet won the opening faceoff and the Eagles had the first good look, but Hoekstra set the tone by denying Anderson.
With 9:51 to play in the first period, Moore set up Shaw for a goal and Portland was on its way.
Just 54 seconds later, Arcand fed Moore for a goal and with 6:33 on the clock, Shaw scored unassisted to make it 3-0.
Windham tried to answer, but Hoekstra saved a shot by Lekousi, then robbed Woolston.
With 30.1 seconds remaining in the frame, O’Brien set up Shaw for a goal and a 4-0 advantage after 12 promising minutes.
“I was fired up to play (Windham) again,” said Shaw. “I thought back to (when we lost to them) last time when ‘Hoek’ and I were sitting there and he said, ‘We’re not going to let it happen again.’ Lo and behold, we didn’t.”
“We’ve had that article (from our loss to Windham) up in our locker room for awhile now, so we wanted this really, really bad,” said Hoekstra, who was sidelined in 2017 due to a collarbone injury. “To come out firing, that shows how amped we were.”
After a 13-minute, 13-second drought to start the game, the Eagles got on the board when Lekousi scored unassisted with 10:47 to play in the half, but after Hoekstra saved another shot by Lekousi, Silva scored for the first time, unassisted, with 6:48 left before halftime, to restore the four-goal advantage.
Lekousi scored for the second time, unassisted, with 4:25 on the clock, but after Hoekstra denied another Lekousi shot which could have pulled Windham closer, O’Brien threaded a beautiful pass to Silva, who finished to make it 6-2.
With 23.3 seconds to play in the half, Portland went on the man-up and with just 7 seconds remaining, Shaw set up Silva for a goal and a 7-2 halftime advantage.
The Eagles had an edge in faceoffs (6-4) and shots on frame were even (8-8) in the first half, but Hoekstra’s six saves helped the Bulldogs open up a lead.
“(Aaron’s) our backbone,” DiFusco said. “We rely heavily on him. He makes big saves every game. He’s the best goalie in the state. I can’t say enough about him.”
Portland tried to pull away in the third period, but Windham wouldn’t go quietly.
After an offsides penalty on the Eagles, Moore (from Shaw) scored man-up with 9:47 to play in the quarter and the Bulldogs had an 8-2 lead.
Lekousi answered unassisted with 5:55 left and with 13.9 seconds on the clock, after a turnover, Babb fed Anderson for a goal which cut the Eagles’ deficit to four.
Windham nearly drew even closer when it had a chance to score a momentum-turning goal at the horn, but Hoekstra came up big, denying Babb, to keep the score 8-4 heading for the final stanza.
There, Portland eventually put it away.
After another Eagles penalty early in the fourth quarter, the Bulldogs struck man-up again, as Arcand somehow collected a loose ball in front before beating Windham sophomore goalie Ben Elliott.
Windham had one final push, as Lekousi scored unassisted with 8:09 on the clock and two minutes later, Babb set up Woolston for a goal in transition to pull the Eagles within 9-6.
But Bay won the ensuing faceoff to restore order and after matching penalties were called, making play 5-on-5, Silva scored unassisted with 4:26 remaining to make it 10-6 Portland.
Bay won the next faceoff as well, got the ball back and scored unassisted with 3:58 to play to extend the lead.
Shaw delivered the coup de grace with 50.3 seconds remaining, scoring unassisted, and the Bulldogs went on to the 12-6 victory.
“We’ve waited too long to not come out with a win here,” Hoekstra said. “The past two years were really disappointing seasons, nothing really went our way, but no one was going to stop us today. It was a chance to rewrite the whole script.”
“A fast start was very important,” DiFusco said. “We knew we had to get the ball moving and possess if we were going to win. We had to keep the ball hot and stay active. We did it throughout the first quarter. We slowed down a little in the second and third quarters and paid for it, but we got back to it at the end.”
Shaw paced the offense with four goals and two assists.
“I’ve had some good wins in hockey, but nothing is sweeter than this win,” said Shaw, who plans to play lacrosse at Elmira (New York) College next year. “It’s my favorite win in my entire career. We’ve worked so hard as seniors. Our senior leadership has turned it around. We’re all hungry and we all show up and put in the work.
“We don’t usually start out fast. Sometimes that comes back to bite us. Today, the fast start was huge and we had a fairly substantial lead most of the game. We were feeling the adrenaline. We were fired up. It’s our first home playoff game in years.”
Silva also scored four times. Moore had two goals and Arcand and Bay scored once apiece.
O’Brien had two assists and Arcand and Moore each added one.
“We knew in order to be successful, everyone had to get touches and we did that,” DiFusco said.
Hoekstra was solid, making nine clutch saves.
“I was seeing the ball well,” Hoekstra said. “Because of our defense, we’ll always give up outside shots. We try to limit teams to those. My defenders help me out plenty. They win us games.”
“‘Hoek’ is amazing,” said Shaw. “We used to split time in middle school and I tease him that I let him have the spot, but he puts in so much work. He’s a great goalie and he showed it tonight.”
Freshman Max Cheever had a team-high eight ground balls, while Silva collected seven.
The Bulldogs had a 20-17 edge in shots (but each team put 15 on cage).
Portland turned the ball over 20 times.
Windham was led by Lekousi’s four goals. Anderson and Woolston each scored once.
Babb had two assists.
Elliott made three saves.
Gaudet won 13 of 21 faceoffs.
Lekousi led the team with seven ground balls, while Gaudet grabbed five.
The Eagles turned the ball over 22 times.
“(Portland) came out fast,” said Windham coach Pete Small. “They’re talented. They had a good game plan. They got the lead, but one of the trademarks of our team is we can come back. We’re used to coming back and we don’t freeze up. We matched up well from the second quarter on.
“We’re still young, with just four seniors. Top to bottom, most of our guys are young. We’d never won more than eight games in a season and we won 11. This was a good step. The kids are hungry. They want to get better, faster, stronger.”
Portland could face a daunting task Saturday, if the Bulldogs go up against a Falmouth squad that defeated 11 of 12 foes, losing only at undefeated Thornton Academy.
The Bulldogs didn’t face the Yachtsmen this spring and the teams have no postseason history.
Portland didn’t play Lewiston this year either. The teams have met three previous times in the playoffs, with the Blue Devils holding a 2-1 edge. Lewiston won, 8-7, in overtime, in the 2015 Eastern A quarterfinals, the most recent encounter.
Regardless of who stands in their way Wednesday, the Bulldogs aren’t ready for this magical run to be over.
“We have to prepare mentally,” Hoekstra said. “I know Falmouth has the big name, but quite frankly, we know how we can compete. It’s a matter of doing it. We’re having a lot of fun.”
“We think we have a chance,” said Shaw. “Hopefully we’ll get off to another fast start. If we play our game, I don’t think there’s a team in the state that can beat us. We’re having a blast. I don’t want to leave.”
“We have to play our game,” DiFusco added. “We can’t worry about who we’re playing, just worry about ourselves and move forward.”
Portland senior goalie Aaron Hoekstra eyes a shot by Windham sophomore Matt Babb. Hoekstra made nine key saves.
Portland junior Evan Bay collects a loose ball in front of Windham junior Grant Jacobson.
Portland sophomore Miki Silva gets a step on Windham senior Andrei Voinea before scoring one of his four goals.
Portland junior Cam Clifford has the ball knocked away by Windham sophomore Brady Jackson.
Portland freshman Max Cheever possesses the ball.
Portland senior Sam Shaw celebrates after scoring one of his four goals.
Portland senior Reilly O’Brien (9) congratulates senior Tristan Arcand after a goal.