SACO—A sure victory turned into a nailbiter for the Scarborough boys’ hockey team Monday afternoon, but when all was said and done, the Red Storm had another victory in the books.
It’s 11th straight.
Facing two-time defending Class A champion Thornton Academy at MHG Ice Centre, Scarborough shot to a 3-0 lead after one period and was up, 4-1, with just under two minutes to play, but two Golden Trojans’ goals in a 28-second span made things very interesting. The Red Storm was able to hold on, however, and improved to 12-1 with a 4-3 victory, which dropped Thornton Academy to 5-5 on the year.
“I’m going to be white-haired tomorrow,” said Scarborough coach Norm Gagne. “It’s a lesson learned. We have to buckle down and get better. I told the kids before that it’s never over until it’s over and that they have to stay within the moment.”
Scarborough, which lost to Falmouth in last year’s regional semifinals, entered the 2012-13 season with high hopes and has lived up to the billing. After opening with a 2-1 home win over Lewiston, the Red Storm suffered its lone loss, 1-0, at St. Dom’s. Scarborough’s win streak began with an 11-0 romp at York and continued with a 4-3 (overtime) home victory over Falmouth, a 13-1 win at Kennebunk and a 7-1 home victory over Gorham to cap the 2012 portion of the schedule. The new year brought more triumph as the Red Storm handled host Cape Elizabeth (8-0), visiting Marshwood (6-0), visiting Brunswick (2-0), host Biddeford (3-0), host Thornton Academy (7-4) and host Gorham (6-1).
Thornton Academy has had no peer the past two seasons, but graduation has hit the program hard and the Golden Trojans have had their ups and downs this winter.
Monday, Scarborough appeared early as if it was going to run away for an easy win, but this game came down to the final horn.
The Red Storm applied early pressure, but junior Jake Gross was denied point blank by Thornton Academy sophomore goalie Andrew Huot in the second minute.
That only delayed the inevitable.
With 11:51 to go in the first period, Rousselle took a pass from Gross and fired past Huot top shelf for a 1-0 lead. Junior Cam Loiselle was also credited for an assist.
With 6:17 left in the first, Rousselle struck again, this time on the rebound. Loiselle carried the puck down the right wing and launched a shot that Huot kicked aside, but Rousselle pounced on the rebound to make it 2-0.
“It was a rebound,” said Rousselle. “We work on it quite a bit in practice, getting low shots on the far pad. I just picked up the rebound and had a wide open net. We try to come out hard every game. Sometimes we don’t. It’s good to set the tone early in the game. We dictated the play the first period-and-a-half.”
In the final minute, Scarborough made it 3-0, thanks to a highlight reel tally from senior Trevor Murray.
After Gross played the puck ahead and with Huot coming out of the cage, Murray managed to one-time the puck (with one hand) past the goalie and into the cage to seemingly put the Red Storm firmly in command.
“It was good hustle,” said Rousselle. “Good things happen when you move your feet.”
The second period featured seven penalties and a game misconduct.
With 11:22 to go, Scarborough got its fourth and final goal as Rousselle set up junior Garrett McDonald shorthanded.
The Golden Trojans got their first goal on the power play with 6:49 left when freshman Eliot Owen passed to junior Alex Fallon, who beat Red Storm senior goalie Dalton Finley.
The score remained 4-1 through the end of the second period, despite myriad penalties, as Scarborough missed an opportunity to ice the win.
“We haven’t had a period where someone was in the box the entire time,” Rousselle said. “We faced adversity and had to battle through it. We found out we have to run three lines. We had two the entire time and we got tired. We have to move our feet a little more and not take hooking and tripping penalties.”
The Red Storm had a couple more power play opportunities in the third period, but couldn’t score, leaving the door open for Thornton Academy, which closed strong.
With just 1:41 to go, on the power play, sophomore Tyler LaPointe scored to make it 4-2, but Scarborough still seemed safe.
That illusion disappeared just 28 seconds later when junior Owen Lemoine (assisted by Fallon and senior Cooper O’Brien) beat Finley to suddenly make it a one-goal game, 4-3.
“Faceoffs are so important, especially in your end,” Gagne said. “Credit to them. They won the faceoff, got a quick shot and scored. We didn’t stay in the moment and they got the shot off and scored.”
The Golden Trojans pulled Huot, hoping to tie things up, but had no luck and then, their hopes of a dramatic comeback appeared dashed when senior Stephen Comar was called for a cross-checking penalty with 10.3 seconds to go.
Thornton Academy would create one final opportunity, however, and a last-second bid by Lemoine was turned aside by Finley, allowing the Red Storm to escape with a 4-3 win.
“We knew they’d pull the goalie,” said Rousselle. “We were looking at the empty net and wanted to get an empty net goal. They got one and then they got another. We took timeout and got together as a team and decided what we needed to do and fortunately, we pulled it out.”
“It was a lot closer than it should have been,” Gagne said. “The first period was a good period. We spent the whole second in the penalty box. Both teams. It took the momentum of the game away. It got really sloppy. There was no rhythm. The third period was a little better.”
Scarborough has the inside track to the top seed for the playoffs, but the rest of the regular season will be daunting. The Red Storm welcomes Cheverus Saturday, also hosts South Portland and Biddeford and plays at Falmouth and Cheverus.
“We’re trying hard to not let it get in our heads that we’re unbeatable, because we know we’re not,” Rousselle said. “We have to work hard in practice and not develop lazy habits.”
“I think sometimes because of our record, we forget we can be beaten,” Gagne said. “In southern Maine, there’s a lot of parity. Anybody can beat us on a given night. We’ve got a long way to go. We have a big game coming up with Cheverus. They’ve only got two losses. Falmouth’s a really good team. They only have two losses. Biddeford’s a really good team with a good goalie. We have tough games and we know that.”
Scarborough junior Jake Gross falls over Thornton Academy sophomore goalie Andrew Huot.
Scarborough junior Trevor Murray fires a shot that Thornton Academy sophomore goalie Andrew Huot can’t see.
Scarborough senior Jack Rousselle gets tangled up with Thornton Academy freshman Eliot Owen in front of the goal.
Thornton Academy sophomore Hunter Ebling sends Scarborough senior Jack Rousselle flying.
Scarborough senior Nick Bagley shields the puck from Thornton Academy junior Alex Fallon.
Scarborough senior goalie Dalton Finley sprawls for a loose puck while Thornton cademy sophomore Eric Profenno lurks during the Red Storm’s 4-3 win Monday afternoon.
More photos below.