(Ed. Note: For the complete Scarborough-Cheverus game story, with additional photos, see theforecaster.net)
The door has been kicked down at last.
Scarborough’s boys’ hockey team, after four previous futile trips to the Western A Final (including each of the past two years) finally got over the hump Tuesday night with a 5-2 victory over Cheverus and will battle St. Dom’s in the Class A state game Saturday at 6 p.m. at the Colisee in Lewiston.
That’s the good news portion of the local boys’ hockey story.
Cape Elizabeth wasn’t as fortunate, as it lost to Kennebunk in the Western B semifinals.
Scarborough faced its share of question marks entering the season. After losing to Falmouth in each of the past two regional finals, there were no guarantees the Red Storm would get back, but after starting 4-3, Scarborough closed with a 6-2-3 run and wound up fourth in the region. The Red Storm had to go to overtime to survive fifth-ranked Biddeford in the quarterfinals, 3-2, last Tuesday, then came from behind to deliver some payback to two-time defending state champion Falmouth in Saturday’s semifinals, 5-4.
Goals from Sean McGovern and Matt Caron erased an early 2-0 deficit, but the top-ranked Yachtsmen took a 3-2 lead to the third period. There, Scarborough tied it on a McGovern tally, went ahead for good on Cam Nigro’s goal with 3:31 to go and got some breathing room when Nigro scored again, on the power play with 2:09 remaining. Falmouth got a goal back, but the Red Storm, behind 28 saves from goalie Ben Bragg held on to prevail.
“I’ve been on the team since freshman year and the last three years, we were knocked out by (Falmouth),” Bragg said. “We didn’t need much motivation.”
That set up a showdown with No. 2 Cheverus in the regional final. During the regular season, the teams tied, 1-1, at Scarborough and the Stags won, 1-0, at home.
The squads had met four previous times in the playoffs, with the Red Storm winning three, including a 4-2 victory in the most recent encounter, the 2013 semifinals.
Tuesday, Scarborough proved to be the better team for most of the night and with the game on the line, made the plays to advance.
An early power play strike from Caron got the party started.
“We were so hyped about beating (Falmouth), but we had to come out focused for this game,” Caron said.
Caron scored again, going top shelf, for a 2-0 lead after one period.
“I came out in the high slot and Sean gave me a good pass and I just threw it on net,” Caron said. “I think the goalie was screened and didn’t see it.”
“That start was very important,” said McGovern. “If we didn’t have that start, the game wouldn’t have ended the way it did.”
When Colin Hayward scored with 12:20 left in the second period, the Red Storm had a seemingly safe 3-0 lead, but Cheverus rallied to pull within 3-2 after two periods and started the third on the power play.
But Scarborough didn’t let the Stags score. Cheverus did have a goal waved off with 4:56 left (the net was clearly off its mooring before the shot) and had another power play with just over two minutes to play, but couldn’t produce a shot and an empty net goal from McGovern sealed it. Nigro then put the final nail in the coffin with an empty netter with 16.3 seconds showing and the Red Storm went on to the 5-2 victory.
“It’s fantastic,” Caron said. “The last two years, we thought we had the team to win. This year, we had the toughest road to the Western Maine title and I think we deserved it.”
“It’s an awesome feeling,” McGovern said. “We’ve gotten so close the last three years. What we’ve accomplished this year is awesome. I love these guys.”
“We just battled,” Bragg said. “We knew we weren’t the most skilled team, but we’ve performed. I already had my hands up (in celebration) with three seconds left. It was a great feeling. Long overdue.”
“What we did in that first period was just fantastic, but I think we took our foot off the gas in the second, so I told them we needed the same attitude in the third period that we had in the first and we played a lot better,” legendary Scarborough coach Norm Gagne added. “I wasn’t expecting this. We’re playing with house money right now. I can’t say enough about how these kids battle. Under adversity, they’ve learned to fight back.”
The Red Storm were outshot, 27-22, but Bragg made 25 saves.
“Ben came up big when he needed to and he’s done that for us all year,” Gagne said. “He’s been rock-solid. He’s got to be the best goalie in the state right now. We wouldn’t be here right now without him.”
The Red Storm now turn their attention to St. Dom’s (17-2-1).
Scarborough’s first Class A championship (and its second at any level, 1995 Class B) won’t come easily.
The Red Storm lost, 2-1, at St. Dom’s back on Dec. 10. Scarborough lost its two prior playoff meetings against the Saints: 8-1 in the 2005 semifinals and 7-4 in the 2009 quarterfinals.
This time around, the Red Storm like their chances.
“We’re very happy right now, but the best part is we get another game,” said McGovern. “It will be another tough battle. We’ll be ready for it.”
“We have to come ready to play and stick to the game plan,” said Bragg. “Hopefully, we can pull out one more win.”
Cape Elizabeth had high hopes this season and as the No. 5 seed in Western B, it knocked off fourth-ranked Camden Hills in last week’s quarterfinals, 2-1. Last Friday, in the semifinals, the Capers had to face No. 1 Kennebunk and despite two goals from Jack Drinan and one from Alex Glidden, they fell short, 6-3, to finish the year 10-9-1.
Scarborough junior Sean McDonald tries to knock the puck away from Cheverus senior James Kane during the teams’ Western Class A Final Tuesday night.
Scarborough’s boys’ hockey team celebrates winning its first Western A title Tuesday night after downing Cheverus, 5-2.