YARMOUTH—Once upon a time, the fiercest, most entertaining rivalry in Maine high school sports pitted Falmouth and Yarmouth on skates.
Back around the turn of the millennium, the Yachtsmen wanted what the Clippers had and in ever increasing degrees of agony, never quite managed to get it.
While names like Matusovich and Rousseau, Delaney, Fletcher, Carmody and Tozier have faded into history, the rivalry went from sizzling to dormant, but Saturday evening at Travis Roy Arena, Falmouth and Yarmouth laced up the skates and opposed each other for the first time in seven years.
The defending Class A champion Yachtsmen demonstrated that when they’re clicking, they’re still the state’s gold standard by racing to a 3-0 lead after one period. Senior goalie Dane Pauls then stood tall in the second period as the Clippers attempted to rally. After Pauls kept a goose-egg in Yarmouth’s column, a power play goal from senior Tyler Jordan pushed Falmouth’s lead to 4-0.
To their credit, the Clippers roared back and cut their deficit in half with just under five minutes to go, but Jordan scored out of a scrum and junior Brandon Peters slammed the door with another tally and the Yachtsmen prevailed, 6-2.
Falmouth got goals from four different players, including two apiece from Jordan and Peters, Pauls made 24 saves and the Yachtsmen improved to 9-4 while dropping Yarmouth to 7-4-1 in the process.
“You have to play three periods of hockey, especially against a team that doesn’t quit,” said Yachtsmen coach Deron Barton. “Yarmouth’s young, they play hard, they’re well coached and they didn’t quit. They pushed us and made us work for pucks. I give them a lot of credit. We had to relay on everybody. Not just Dane, but we got big goals when we needed them. We answered back when we needed to. We didn’t get frustrated.”
Yarmouth beat Falmouth in the 1995 Western B quarterfinals and the Yachtsmen ousted the Clippers in the 1996 and 1999 semifinals, but it was the two most recent postseason meetings that will endure the longest.
In the 2001 Western B Final, played at the Cumberland County Civic Center, Falmouth entered with 19 wins, while Yarmouth had 17 and befitting their powerhouse status, the teams played through 45 minutes deadlocked at 3-3. Eight more minutes of overtime resolved nothing, so it was on to a second OT, where Clippers standout Ryan Delaney stole the puck at center ice, raced in and scored one of the biggest goals in program history to give Yarmouth an epic 4-3 win and the Clippers went on to down Gardiner, 4-1, to win the championship.
A year later, Falmouth was clearly the juggernaut, having lost just once in the regular season while beating Yarmouth in both meetings. But back at the Civic Center for another regional final, the Yachtsmen’s prolific offense never got going, thanks in large part to the play of Clippers goalie Jay Fletcher, and with just 22 seconds left in regulation, a rarely seen penalty shot was awarded to Yarmouth after a Falmouth defender was ruled to have deliberately moved the goal off its moorings. Tim Foster did the honors and finished and just like that, the Yachtsmen learned there was a worse way to lose a regional final than in double OT and their title dreams were denied once more. The Clippers went on to edge Gardiner again (in double overtime) to repeat as Class B champion, a status the program hasn’t attained since.
Falmouth spent one more year in Class B (losing a far less dramatic regional final to Cape Elizabeth), then moved up to Class A and the rivalry soon went by the wayside.
The Yachtsmen finally got that elusive championship last winter and have remained a top contender this winter.
After opening with a 10-2 home victory over Cape Elizabeth, Falmouth lost at Scarborough, 2-0. The Yachtsmen beat visiting St. Dom’s, 3-1, but the up-and-down play continued with a 7-2 loss at Messalonskee. After closing 2013 with a 4-1 home win over Thornton Academy and a 6-3 home victory over Biddeford, the new year began with a stirring 4-3 overtime win over two-time defending Class B champion Greely in the Dudley Cup. After falling at home to Cheverus (1-0) and at Lewiston in a state game rematch (3-1), Falmouth handled visiting Portland/Deering (7-1), then, after an 18-day break, which included some non-countable games against top-notch competition in Massachusetts, won at St. Dom’s Wednesday, 5-4, and held off visiting Bangor Friday, 3-1.
Yarmouth is right in the thick of things in Western B. The Clippers opened with a 5-3 loss at Gorham, then beat visiting Brunswick in overtime, 5-4. After a 4-0 home win over Gardiner and a 1-1 tie at Kennebunk, Yarmouth opened the 2014 portion of the schedule with a 9-3 romp over host York before losing at home to Edward Little, 5-4. The Clippers got back on track with a 5-4 home win over Greely, then lost at Cheverus, 7-3, but turned around to win three straight: 4-2 at Portland/Deering, 5-0 over visiting Leavitt and 8-1 over visiting Winthrop.
The teams’ last meeting came Feb. 7, 2007, an 8-1 win for the Yachtsmen at Yarmouth. The Clippers hadn’t beaten Falmouth since that 2002 Western B Final, a span of six games (in which the Yachtsmen won by a composite 32-7 margin).
Saturday, Falmouth took care of business, but the final score wasn’t indicative of just how harrowing the game was at times.
The Yachtsmen needed a mere 17 seconds to go on top for good, as senior Andre Clement centered the puck and sophomore Noah Nagem fired it past Yarmouth junior goalie Nick Allen for a quick 1-0 lead.
“That first goal took a little weight off my shoulders,” Pauls said.
“We want to go out and set the tone and get one quick and tonight we did that,” said Barton. “I was happy with that.”
Junior Isac Nordstrom made it 2-0 with a short-handed goal midway through the frame.
“Isac anticipates well,” Barton said. “Our system lends itself to a player like him.”
After Pauls robbed Clippers senior Max Watson, then watched as sophomore Noah Grondin sent the rebound wide, the visitors went up by three goals as Peters managed to score on a rebound with Jordan and Nordstrom getting credit for assists.
In the final minute, Yarmouth almost answered, but a shot from senior Isaak Dearden was turned aside by Pauls and sophomore Patrick Grant’s rebound was also saved.
The Yachtsmen outshot the Clippers, 12-5, in the first period, but Pauls would be busy in the second period as Yarmouth looked to get back in the game.
The hosts began the second period on the power play and began peppering Pauls, who didn’t waver.
Just 36 seconds in, junior Brian Travers fired a wrister that Pauls saved. A minute later, Murray’s shot didn’t get through, but the rebound came to Grant who had a great look, only to see Pauls turn it aside. After Grondin couldn’t convert, junior Dylan Tureff shot wide.
The Clippers went back on the power play, but a shot from Travers was saved by Pauls and a blast by Dearden was calmly snared by Pauls’ glove.
“I stayed focused,” Pauls said. “The first save is the hardest save to make. Once I make one, I get into rhythm and stay in the game.”
Then, with 4:57 to go in the second, Falmouth, on the power play, got some breathing room as Jordan finished (Nordstrom got the assist).
Yarmouth had a 14-5 shots advantage in the second period, but Pauls stopped every shot and the Yachtsmen managed to extend their advantage.
Early in the third period, Falmouth almost got a fifth goal, but Nordstrom’s shot rang off the pipe.
Finally, with 5:41 to play, the Clippers broke through as Grondin scored out of a scrum with Walter Conrad getting credit for an assist. A mere 62 seconds later, the hosts made things very interesting as Dearden (assisted by senior Max Watson and Grant) lit the lamp and Yarmouth trailed only 4-2.
“I wasn’t too surprised,” said Pauls. “They kept going until the end. I knew they’d fight. I could have probably prevented both of (the goals), but they worked hard, so credit to them.”
Any hopes of an epic comeback were quickly dashed, however, as with 4:20 left in regulation, Jordan scored out of a scrum to essentially break the Clippers’ will.
“The biggest thing for us was getting back to our game, playing physical,” Jordan said. “We knew we had to come back and get one quick. It was key to come back and throw some bodies around. Getting that goal right after their two goals was key.”
Fifty-seven seconds later, Peters (set up by junior Jake Grade) beat Yarmouth sophomore backup goalie Victor Wakelin and that slammed the door on the Yachtsmen’s 6-2 victory.
“We focus on getting three solid lines,” Jordan said. “Everyone has their roles. As long as we play our roles, everything clicks. It’s the work ethic that pays off.”
“A letdown was my biggest fear,” Barton said. “We talked about it as a team, but I have to give them credit. (Bangor last night) was a hard game. To come back and play another physical game like this is tough. I’m proud of them.. We got good competition (in Massachusetts). We were prepared and we’ve had three good games.”
Falmouth was outshot, 26-24, but Pauls stopped 24 shots.
“We outshot them, but Dane’s a good goaltender,” said Yarmouth coach David St. Pierre. “He’s strong. Unfortunately, we put pucks up in his glove where he’s really good.”
Jordan and Peters both had two goals and Nagem and Nordstrom also tickled the twine.
Yarmouth got 18 saves from Allen and goals from Dearden and Grondin.
“I was pleased with how we played,” said St. Pierre. “We rebounded from a poor first period, we just couldn’t find the back of the net. We have to learn how to compete in the first 15 minutes. It’s been a struggling point all year. I thought we’d figured it out, but tonight was an example where we did that. Once we figured it out, we went to work. I was happy to see we didn’t quit. We showed we can skate with teams like that. Our power play’s been struggling lately. We need to get pucks to the net more. We’re not generating enough shots on net. We’re a young team and we’re learning as we go. This was a learning opportunity for us. Guys are showing some strength and figuring things out.”
Long after the final horn, members of both teams expressed appreciation that the rivalry has been restored.
“We all play together in Casco Bay,” Jordan said. “Any time you play Greely or Yarmouth, there’s an extra emphasis since its a crosstown rivalry. They’re always fun to play.”
“We’re hopefully going to keep this on the schedule for years to come,” said Barton. “They have a nice group of underclassmen coming up and we do too.”
“It was definitely nice to have that game back on the schedule,” St. Pierre said. “It’s been too long since we’ve played each other. I think both teams appreciate having the other on the schedule to look forward to.”
Yarmouth (now third behind Camden Hills and Greely in the Western Class B Heal Points standings) returns to regional action Wednesday when Gorham pays a visit. After playing at Westbrook Thursday and Cape Elizabeth Saturday, the Clippers have a couple huge road tests versus Greely and Camden Hills before closing the regular season with a home game against York.
“I think we’re in a good place,” said St. Pierre. “I don’t think we’re ready yet to make a run, but we have a little time left to work on things. We need to get better in all facets of the game. Breaking the puck out of the zone, our power play has to get stronger and our competition level has to be good out of the gate. There’s no question it’s a wide open conference. Any of four or five teams could come out on top. Greely’s probably playing the best right now, but we play them again. There’s a fair amount left to be sorted out and that’s what we have to build upon.”
Falmouth (second to Scarborough in Western A) travels to Bangor Monday for a makeup game, visits Biddeford Wednesday and Thornton Academy Saturday. After hosting Lewiston Feb. 15, the Yachtsmen host Scarborough in the regular season finale Feb. 20.
Falmouth ultimately has its eye on winning more hardware come March 8.
“Every team’s goal is to win a state championship, but our goal is to go far,” Jordan said. “It’s going to be fun.”
“We played a bunch of really good teams in Massachusetts,” Pauls said. “That really prepared us for the stretch of games we have coming up. I don’t want to jinx anything, but I feel like as a team we’re starting to get there. We always have to stay disciplined and we have to work hard. We won’t take anyone likely. From here on out, we have tough games. We want this type of schedule because it gets us prepared for playoffs. These are fun games.”
“I feel like that (Massachusetts) trip was a canary in a coal mine for us,” Barton added. “Last year, I saw a difference when we came back. This year, I see the same thing. Whether or not we end up in the championships this year remains to be seen because there are a lot of good teams. I feel strongly about where we’re at.”
Yarmouth junior Dylan Tureff plays the puck despite losing his balance.
Falmouth’s Isac Nordstrom gets a step on the defense. Nordstrom had a short-handed goal in the first period.
Yarmouth freshman Bobby Murray finds some operating room.
Yarmouth’s Noah Grondin fires a shot on goal.
Falmouth senior Tyler Jordan weaves his way through the Yarmouth defense. Jordan scored twice.
Falmouth senior Andre Clement unleashes a shot.
Yarmouth freshman Bobby Murray and Falmouth freshman Robert Armitage collide.
Yarmouth junior goalie Nick Allen makes a save.
Hard hitting was the rule, not the exception, as Yarmouth sophomore Patrick Grant and Falmouth freshman Reece Armitage said hello during the Clippers and Yachtsmen’s boys’ hockey teams’ contest Saturday night. Falmouth prevailed in the rivals’ first meeting in seven years, 6-2.
Jason Veilleux photos.
More photos below.