Keith B. Wehmeyer
PORTLAND- Leading up to its semifinal matchup with Scarborough, the Cheverus girls’ hockey team got back to basics, working on special teams – the power play and penalty kill.
Saturday night at Portland Ice Arena, it paid off. Two power-play goals were the difference, as the Stags defeated the Red Storm, 3-1 in a West Region semifinal.
Cheverus was 2 for 6 on power-play chances while holding Scarborough without a special teams goal in five opportunities.
The Stags advanced to the regional final, while the Red Storm’s season ended at 13-5-2.
Cheverus jumped out to an early lead just one minute 28 seconds into the first period. Skating with a man advantage, Grace Fitzpatrick shot through traffic from the point, clanging the puck off the far post and into the netting.
The quick goal could have led to a repeat performance of the teams’ meeting a month earlier, a game which Cheverus won handily, 8-2. However, in the playoffs, the Red Storm weren’t going to go that easily. Less than a minute after the Stags went ahead, freshman Abby Rutt stuffed home Spencer Shoebottom’s rebound to even the score at one apiece.
“We could have folded,” said Scarborough coach John Fortiguerra. “That goal showed our grit.”
The Red Storm poured on the offensive pressure in the first period, tallying 13 shots in the opening frame, but unfortunately for them, Cheverus goalie Saundrine Lanouette had an answer for every other shot thrown at her.
With eight minutes remaining in the opening period, Rutt single-handedly beat Cheverus’ forecheck, skating the length of the ice before trying to beat Lanouette with a backhand.
Lanouette answered with a kick save, but the rebound floundered near the crease. With the Scarborough offense bearing down, the goalie dove with her stick extended, knocking the puck toward the corner and away from danger.
Lanouette kept the score tied until her teammate, Alyssa Audet, put the Stags ahead for good, pouncing on Emily Sawchuck’s rebound and sending it past Scarborough goalie Felicia Mazzone with 1:17 remaining in the first period.
Each team killed a power play in the second before Sawchuck put Cheverus up, 3-1, with an extra-effort goal late in the period. Sawchuck brought the puck into the offensive zone on her own, going one on one with a Scarborough defender at the blue line. She had the puck knocked away, but skated around the defender, regained control of the puck and beat Mazzone on the backhand.
Mazzone did her best to keep the margin at just two goals, stopping Sage Witham on a breakaway 15 seconds into the final period, but her teammates couldn’t crack the Cheverus defense, managing only five shots in the final two periods combined.
Scarborough goes home, but Fortiguerra hopes they do so with heads held high.
“This is the best game I have seen them play all year long,” he said of his team. “This was the best and most intense game we played.”
Scarborough junior Marina Sterrer raced up-ice during her team’s playoff loss to Cheverus Saturday. (Jason Veilleux photo)