Scarborough girls hold off Cheverus to stay undefeated

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Scarborough senior Madison O’Reilly knocks the puck past Cheverus senior goalie Taylor Courtois for the first goal of the Red Storm’s 2-1 victory Wednesday.

Chris Lambert photos.

More photos below.

PORTLAND—Four days ago, the Scarborough girls’ hockey team beat visiting Cheverus by six goals.

Wednesday afternoon in a rematch at Troubh Ice Arena, the Stags made things much, much more challenging, but in the end, the Red Storm managed to continue to do what they do best.

Win.

The tone was set in the first period, when Scarborough peppered Cheverus senior goalie Taylor Courtois for 15 minutes, but Courtois only allowed one goal, a rebound tally from senior Madison O’Reilly.

The drama ratcheted up a notch in the second period, when Stags senior standout Jill Hannigan scored on the power play to tie the score.

After both teams failed to convert on good chances the rest of the second, each had promising looks early in the third period, but the game remained 1-1 until 5:18 remained, when the Red Storm finally converted on the power play, as sophomore Lauren Topchik scored on a rebound.

Scarborough slammed the door from there and went on to its 12th consecutive victory, 2-1.

The Red Storm improved to 12-0-1, remained atop the Class A South Heal Points standings and dropped Cheverus to 9-4 in the process.

“There have been a few times we’ve been tied or down going to the third period and we shared with the girls that they could come back,” said Scarborough coach Caitlin D’Amour. “We have enough skill and experience to come back. We told them to settle down and play 45 seconds at a time.”

Careful what you ask for

Cheverus has already nearly doubled last year’s win total and following a series of decisive victories, was eager to measure itself against Scarborough.

The Stags won the first five meetings between the teams in the Maine Principals’ Association sanctioned-era (starting in 2008-09), but heading into Wednesday, the Red Storm had taken the last 12, including the meeting Saturday.

So far this winter, both teams had enjoyed a lot of success.

Cheverus welcomed former Portland Pirates standout Kent Hulst as coach this winter and gave him a pair of wins to start, 7-2, at York and 5-0 over visiting Biddeford. After losing at St. Dom’s (10-2) and at home to Falmouth (5-2), the Stags rattled off seven successive wins, downing visiting Winslow (8-3), Gorham (6-0) and Cape Elizabeth/Waynflete/South Portland (3-1), host Brunswick (4-1) and Gorham/Bonny Eagle (8-2) visiting Mt. Ararat/Morse (4-2) and host Portland/Deering (4-0), before having their streak snapped at Scarborough, 6-0.

The Red Storm started the year with a 3-3 tie at defending regional champion Falmouth, then beat 11 straight foes. Scarborough got things going with an 8-1 home win over Portland/Deering, then beat Capeflete twice, 2-0 at home and 5-3 in Portland. After downing visiting York (3-0), Scarborough handled visiting Edward Little/Leavitt (5-1), host Gorham/Bonny Eagle (6-1), visiting Biddeford (6-0), host York (4-1), host Yarmouth/Freeport/GNG (11-5), host Portland/Deering (6-0) and visiting Cheverus (6-0).

Wednesday, the Stags were seeking their first win over the Red Storm since Jan. 14, 2010 (2-1), but Scarborough made it 13 straight in the series.

Barely.

For most of the first period, Courtois held the Red Storm at bay, especially frustrating junior standout Sami Shoebottom and sophomore Lucy Bogdanovich. 

Finally, with 5:35 to play in the period, after Bogdanovich set up Shoebottom for a shot which Courtois stopped, O’Reilly, who just returned to the lineup, poked home the rebound for a 1-0 lead.

With 5.4 seconds left in the period, Scarborough sophomore Ellie Smith took a penalty and as a result, the Stags started the second period on the power play, something which gave them some life.

Seventy-three seconds into the second, Hannigan skated in on the power play and unleashed Cheverus’ first shot, but Red Storm junior goalie McKenzie Cormier made a glove save.

Eighteen seconds later, Hannigan tried to score on a wraparound, but again, Cormier came up big.

The Stags kept the pressure on, however, and with 13:20 to play in the second, senior Sophia Giancotti, from behind the cage, sent the puck in front to Hannigan, who one-timed it past Cormier to tie the score, 1-1.

If Scarborough didn’t already know it was in for a 45-minute struggle, Cheverus pushed for the go-ahead goal, but sophomore defender Grace Murphy raced back to break up a breakaway by Stags junior Lilly Wolff and moments later, sophomore Victoria Lemieux shot just wide.

The Red Storm then returned to the attack, but Courtois stopped a pair of bids from Bogdanovich, denied Shoebottom, stopped Bogdanovich on the rebound and made a save on a Shoebottom shot after a turnover.

Cormier did her part, twice denying Hannigan.

With 1:17 to play in the second, Cheverus freshman Madison Courtois was called for a roughing penalty and Scarborough went back on the power play. The Red Storm almost went ahead as time wound down, but junior Lily Nygren’s shot was stopped by Courtois, sending the teams to the locker room still deadlocked, 1-1.

Early in the third period, Bogdanovich twice bid to put Scarborough on top, but both shots were saved by Courtois. 

Stags senior Caroline Ray had a couple chances too, but Cormier kept the game tied.

With 7:02 to play, Cheverus sophomore Evie Roop was sent to the box for tripping and this time, the Red Storm took advantage.

After Nygren shot wide and Shoebottom, freshman Courtney Brochu and Nygren were all denied by Courtois, Bogdanovich sent a shot on goal which Courtois stopped but couldn’t clear and with 5:18 remaining, Topchik got to the loose puck and steered it home for a 2-1 lead.

“We knew we had to get it done on that shift and I was in the right spot to knock it in there,” Topchik said. “We’ve worked on rebounds a lot. I had to calm down and look for the open spot.”

“We work on rebounds a lot,” D’Amour said. “Lauren was able to get it.”

Instead of sitting on the lead, Scarborough looked to put the game away, but Courtois robbed Red Storm sophomore Vanly Doiron point blank.

With 2:18 left, Ray was sent to the penalty box, but Scarborough couldn’t deliver the knockout blow as Shoebottom was also called for a penalty.

Cheverus never was able to pull the goalie and pressure for the equalizer, but as time wound down, Hannigan took the puck down the left side and managed a weak shot only to see Cormier made the save and the Red Storm held on for the 2-1 victory.

“It was a very different game tonight,” Topchik said. “We knew anything could happen. We knew we could do it and as a team, we made it happen.”

“There’s some history between Scarborough and Cheverus and the girls let the hype of the game get to them and took themselves out of it,” D’Amour said. “We got way too excited. 

“Every time we work on shooting the day before the game, we either miss the net completely, hit the goalie, or hit each other in the game. We did that a lot today. We just couldn’t connect today like we have in other games. You learn from it.”

The Red Storm had a 42-11 edge in shots, went 1-for-5 on the power play and got 10 key saves from Cormier.

“Both of our defensemen are sophomores, so it’s nice to have McKenzie because she’s calm,” said D’Amour.

Cheverus scored once in three power play chances, got 40 saves from Courtois and played much better than in the previous meeting, but was still disappointed it didn’t come away with the victory.

“I think our girls realized we didn’t play that well the other night, so as a group we decided to go out and play a better game and we did,” Hulst said. “We tried to keep the puck to the outside and not give them quality chances. We have a quality goaltender and she’ll make saves on long shots. We stuck to our game plan to get pucks deep and compete. We didn’t panic in our own end. We ran around last game. Today, we didn’t run around and stayed in our positions.

“We’ll take something positive from how we played. We don’t like to lose, but we competed.”

Finishing kick

Both teams have some tough tests in the final three weeks of the regular season.

Cheverus (third behind Scarborough and Falmouth in Class A South) returns to action a week from Saturday, the 16th, at home versus Portland/Deering. The Stags then go to Biddeford and Cape Elizabeth, host York and close at Falmouth.

“The girls are reaching their potential,” Hulst said. “Each girl has gotten better and is working hard in practice. We’re just trying to find a good game plan and stay consistent and not get too high or too low and keep playing no matter what the score is.” 

Scarborough hopes to stay undefeated Saturday when it hosts Gorham/Bonny Eagle. The Red Storm then face a gauntlet, hosting defending state champion Lewiston and defending regional champion Falmouth, going to undefeated powerhouse Greely and closing at Biddeford. 

“We have to stay in our heads and stick with our game and not get too overconfident,” said Topchik. “We have to work really hard. We’re having so much fun. I can’t wait for the rest of the year. We’ve really come together. We’ve worked hard at practice. “

“We have a lot of tough games coming up,” said D’Amour. “I’m hoping we can start rotating three lines. We have to bear down and get our mental game in check. We get a little too rattled in our own zone. We have to work on those things, but I have hard workers.”

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

Scarborough junior standout Sami Shoebottom is denied in front by Cheverus senior goalie Taylor Courtois.

Scarborough sophomore Lauren Topchik skates with the puck. Topchik later scored the winning goal.

Cheverus senior Jill Hannigan carries the puck as Scarborough junior Lily Nygren gives chase.

Scarborough sophomore Lucy Bogdanovich and Cheverus freshman Sophia Pompeo battle for possession.

Scarborough sophomore Grace Murphy tries in vain to slow Cheverus senior Jill Hannigan.

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Sports Editor of The Forecaster since 2001. Find detailed game stories at theforecaster.net. I tweet prodigiously at @foresports.