SACO—Nothing comes easily in the playoffs and Scarborough’s top-ranked girls’ hockey team discovered that Saturday afternoon at MHG Ice Arena in a South Region semifinal against No. 4 York, but luckily for the Red Storm, they boast an elite scorer and that scorer, junior Sami Shoebottom, ensured her team lived to play another day.
Shoebottom scored just over three minutes into the game, but despite putting 36 more shots on goal in the first two periods, Scarborough couldn’t add to its lead, as Wildcats junior goalie Sophia Stephens came up big time after time.
The Red Storm finally got some breathing room with 3:23 left, when Shoebottom scored again.
Shoebottom then completed her hat trick with a highlight reel goal a minute later and Scarborough went on to a 3-0 victory.
The Red Storm improved to 17-1-1, ended York’s season at 10-10 and reached the regional final for the fourth year in a row, where they will meet either No. 2 Falmouth (14-2-2) or No. 3 Cheverus (12-7) Wednesday at a time to be announced at the Colisee in Lewiston.
“I tried not to be worried, because I don’t want the girls to sense that,” said Scarborough coach Caitlin D’Amour. “We’re a third period team, so I knew we’d come out hard.”
Scarborough is coming off another terrific regular season, one which featured 16 victories and was marred only by a 3-3 tie at Falmouth in the opener and an 8-3 loss at undefeated Greely. The Red Storm held off Falmouth for the top seed in the South and earned a bye into the semifinals.
York went 9-9 in the regular season to wind up fourth in the South. Wednesday, the Wildcats beat No. 5 Cape Elizabeth/Waynflete/South Portland, 5-1, in the quarterfinals.
Scarborough won both regular season meetings against York by three goals: 3-0 at home and 4-1 on the road.
The teams played each of the past four seasons in the playoffs with the Red Storm taking the past three, including a 3-1 victory in last year’s semifinals.
Saturday, Scarborough put shot after shot on goal, but didn’t put it away until late in the third period.
It looked like the Red Storm might be on their way to an easy victory when Shoebottom scored (from freshman Courtney Brochu) 3 minutes, 6 seconds into the contest.
“I read the defender who was really far back,” Shoebottom said. “I couldn’t shoot from the outside against their goalie. I was able to get around the defender and move the goalie east to west and finish.”
The Wildcats almost tied the game midway through the first period after a Scarborough turnover in its defensive end, but senior Maeve Campbell’s shot was turned aside by Red Storm junior goalie McKenzie Cormier.
Scarborough had a 15-2 shots advantage in the first 15 minutes, but the score remained 1-0, as Stephens made 14 saves.
The Red Storm were even more frustrated in the second period, as they put 22 shots on goal, but not a single one tickled the twine.
Scarborough’s best chances were bids from Shoebottom early and Brochu on a power play, but Stephens saved them both.
Heading to the third period, York was still alive and the Red Storm knew it needed another goal or two to end all doubt.
Scarborough went on the power play again early in the third period, but had nothing to show for it.
With 6:29 to play, the Wildcats had their best bid to tie the score, but senior Eleanor Cifrino’s shot went just wide of the mark.
The insurance goal finally came with 3:23 remaining. After a turnover, Red Storm sophomore Ellie Smith got the puck to Shoebottom who did the rest and Stephens couldn’t stop the shot as Scarborough went up, 2-0.
With 2:22 to play, Shoebottom completed her hat trick, getting the puck from Smith, skating in and while falling, sending a shot past Stephens for a three-goal lead.
“I lost an edge (on my skate), but I stuck with it and I was able to get that third goal,” Shoebottom said. “We finally connected in the third period. We’re a third period team. We set each other up and were able to get two more.”
“Bottom line, we’re really fortunate and (Sami’s) a great kid with a great attitude,” D’Amour said. “Some kids could have a huge head, but that’s not her. I’m jealous, because I’m nowhere near as graceful. We’re lucky to have her. The girls love her.”
Scarborough slammed the door from there and celebrated its 3-0 win.
“Getting past today is a confidence booster,” Shoebottom said. “We’re a young team and we had nerves. We knew coming in that the goalie was good. She did a great job. We knew what we were getting into. We struggled with them, but we got the win.”
The Red Storm officially had a 51-5 shots advantage. Cormier stopped five shots for Scarborough and Stephens had 48 saves for York.
“Our shot selection just had to get better,” D’Amour said. “(Stephens is) a great goalie who’s great with her glove and we had to stop shooting at her glove.”
Both teams were 0-for-2 on the power play.
Scarborough will next travel to Lewiston Wednesday (D’Amour expects the game to have a 5 p.m. start time) to battle Cheverus or Falmouth in what promises to be a great South region final.
The Red Storm beat the Stags twice this year, 6-0 at home and 2-1 in Portland. The teams split two previous playoff meetings, with Cheverus taking the 2009 semifinal (3-1) and Scarborough winning in the 2013 semifinals (6-1).
After tying, 3-3, in the opener at Falmouth Nov. 21, the host Red Storm rallied to edge the Yachtsmen, 3-2, in overtime, Jan. 22. The teams have met twice prior in the playoffs, with Falmouth taking them both: 3-2 in the 2010 West region semifinals and 4-2 in the last year’s regional final.
Scarborough expects to face Falmouth on the big stage in Lewiston.
“We know we can stick with Falmouth,” Shoebottom said. “It won’t be easy. They have a good goalie and quite a few good players. If we play the way we can play and as long as we’re focused, I know we can do it.”
“Falmouth’s a good team,” D’Amour said. “We were lucky to come out with a win last time. It’ll be fun. We have to finish and stay disciplined.”
2015 West region semifinals
Scarborough 3 York 1
2014 West region final
Scarborough 7 York 0
2013 West region final
Scarborough 1 York 0
2012 West region semifinal
York 2 Scarborough 1