Scarborough solves Falmouth again to stay undefeated

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Scarborough’s boys’ hockey team celebrates a goal during Tuesday’s 2-1 win at Falmouth in a playoff rematch.

Chris Lambert photos.

More photos below.

FALMOUTH—After losing several key players, including a standout goaltender, to graduation, Scarborough’s defending Class A state champion boys’ hockey team was supposed to come back to the pack this winter.

Some rebuilding season.

Tuesday evening at a packed-to-the-gills Family Ice Center, the Red Storm capped a perfect first half of the season with their most impressive victory to date.

Against a team that until recently was Scarborough’s nemesis.

Host Falmouth was hoping to avenge last year’s playoff ouster, but the Yachtsmen took costly penalties and couldn’t convert when they went on the power play.

After a scoreless first period, the Red Storm struck first when senior Cam Nigro scored shorthanded at 9:34 of the second. The lead lasted all of 84 seconds, as Falmouth drew even on a shorthanded goal of its own, off the stick of junior Robbie Armitage.

Late in the second, Scarborough demonstrated how scoring on the power play is done, as senior Matt Caron finished after a nice move and that goal put the Red Storm ahead for good.

Scarborough’s defense and senior goalie Ross LeBlond slammed the door in the third period and the Red Storm held on for a 2-1 victory, as they improved to 9-0 and dropped the Yachtsmen to 8-2 in the process.

“This was big,” said Red Storm coach Norm Gagne. “That was a really a good hockey game. Up and down, physical. Good chances. Good goaltending from both sides. I told the kids, I’m very proud of the way we came out. We’ve been coming out slow, but we came out and stepped up our game against a very good team.”

March comes early

Falmouth and Scarborough have been the cream of the Class A crop the past three seasons, as the Yachtsmen (after downing the Red Storm in the regional final) won state titles in 2013 and 2014 and Scarborough (after getting the Falmouth monkey off its back in the semifinals) broke through last winter.

Both teams have excelled so far this season.

Falmouth opened with a 5-4 overtime loss at Cheverus, then hit its stride. The Yachtsmen downed host Bangor (4-2) and St. Dom’s (7-5), visiting Biddeford (4-1) and Cheverus (5-1), host Edward Little (5-0), visiting Portland/Deering (7-2), host Greely (2-0) and visiting Lewiston (5-2).

Scarborough began its title defense with a 3-1 win at St. Dom’s in a state game rematch. After blanking visiting Cheverus (5-0), the Red Storm edged visiting Biddeford in overtime (3-2), downed visiting Edward Little (4-1), survived host Thornton Academy in overtime (6-5), then won at Kennebunk (7-0) and at home over Noble/Wells (4-1) and Gorham (4-1).

Making matters even better for Scarborough, Gagne moved into second place nationally in career victories with 696 heading into Tuesday’s game.

Last year, Scarborough won all three meetings, 3-1 at Falmouth, 2-1 at home and 5-4 in the semifinals.

This time around, the Yachtsmen hoped to get the better of the Red Storm for the first time since beating them in the 2014 Western A Final, 5-2, but Scarborough made it four in a row in the series.

After a relatively quiet first period (the Red Storm had a 5-4 edge in shots), action picked up in the second and all three goals were scored on the power play, but two of them were shorthanded.

Midway through the second, Scarborough senior defenseman Colin Hayward was sent off for a high stick penalty and Falmouth had a pair of golden opportunities to strike first, but with 6:41 left in the frame, junior Reece Armitage hit the post and 14 seconds later, he improbably did it again.

Red Storm junior Kyle Jacques then flicked the puck ahead to Nigro ahead of the Yachtsmen defense and Nigro beat Falmouth sophomore goalie Spencer Pierce for a 1-0 lead.

“We usually have slow starts, but this was one of our best,” Nigro said. “We knew we’d score. Kyle chipped it past the first defenseman. I looked over and there was no one else there. I took the open ice and shot it into the net.”

After a penalty on Reece Armitage, the Yachtsmen got on the board by virtue of a shorthanded goal, as Robbie Armitage took the puck from sophomore Brendan Hickey and beat LeBlond to make it 1-1 with 5:02 to play in the second.

After going on the power play again, Falmouth looked to take the lead, but a rocket from junior Henry Norris was denied by LeBlond and moments later, Reece Armitage was given a five-minute major penalty for boarding.

And Scarborough took advantage.

With 15.7 seconds remaining in the period, junior Eric Murray passed to Caron, who deked a defender, then got Pierce out of position before finishing to make it 2-1. Senior Sean McDonald was also credited with an assist.

“I came through the neutral zone and Eric gave me a good pass,” Caron said. “I had a head of steam and I did a little fake shot, took it to my shorthand. The goalie bit, I went to my backhand and scored.”

In the third period, it was up to LeBlond to protect the lead and he stood tall.

With 11:30 to play, a shot from Falmouth senior Hogan Tracy was deflected en route and LeBlond had to lunge back to his stick side to make the save.

With 9:41 remaining, the Red Storm appeared to extend their lead, but Caron not only had the goal wiped off the board, but he was sent to the penalty box for roughing.

With 8:53 left, Robbie Armitage had a good look which LeBlond denied. Junior Chris Camelio then had two promising chances, but LeBlond saved the first shot and the second sailed high.

After Caron had a second goal waved off (the puck was ruled to be kicked into the goal intentionally), LeBlond denied Robbie Armitage on a rush, Hickey just missed wide and as time wound down, with Pierce out of the net and the Yachtsmen playing 6-on-5, freshman Jack Kidder shot wide and a final bid from Camelio was turned aside by LeBlond and Scarborough and its loud vocal section celebrated the 2-1 victory.

“We built off last year and got another victory, which is great,” said Nigro. “We tried to play like it was any other game. We just ignored the fans and what they were saying to us. Protecting the lead was tough. Especially when they pulled the goalie and went 6-on-5. The last 20 seconds took forever, but we take pride in our defense. Defense is our first priority.”

“We really had to step it up this game,” said Caron. “Falmouth was coming off a big win over Lewiston. We were pumped up. We came out hard and ready. They came back at us. We pride ourselves on defense and build from that. That’s what we did today.”

“It’s become a big rivalry,” Gagne added. “In my pregame speech, I talked about that. They knocked us out of the playoffs three years in a row, then last year, we beat them. We lost some power from last year, but the one thing I really enjoy is that our seniors step up each year. Our leaders really do a good job leading. They don’t just wear a letter on their sleeve. They bring the younger kids under their wing year after year. That’s a credit to them. We talk about responsibility and hard work and they buy in.

“We preach blocking shots. That’s part of our defensive game. I talk about three things, attitude, aggressiveness and the inner game, how much you want to win. Doing little things for your teammates. That doesn’t take a lot of talent. We had a lot of blocked shots by a lot of guys tonight.”

Scarborough had a 28-18 shots advantage and got 17 saves from LeBlond.

“Ross stood tall today,” Caron said. “It was one of his better games all year.”

“We gave our MVP to Nigro tonight,” Gagne said. “Penalty killing, scoring short-handed. Caron was right there too and so was the goalie. If I could give out three stars, I would.”

Falmouth got 26 saves from Pierce, but went 0-for-5 on the power play and took six penalties.

“You can’t get caught up in the emotions and expect to win a game like this,” said Yachtsmen coach Deron Barton. “We took undisciplined penalties, broke all of our rules. We underperformed. It’s plain and simple. It’s one of the most meaningless games we’ve had. We played it, it’s two points and we’ll move on. It was nice to play a quality team. Playing a quality team at this point of the season is what’s most meaningful.”

Til we meet again

The rivals do battle again in the regular season finale, Feb. 18 on Scarborough’s home ice.

Both have hurdles to clear in the meantime.

The Yachtsmen (second behind Scarborough in the Class A South Heal Points standings) look to bounce back next Thursday, when St. Dom’s comes to Falmouth. Home games against Bangor and Yarmouth and trips to Thornton Academy, Biddeford and Lewiston also loom.

“We’re a young team,” Barton said. “We’re making young mistakes. We’ll learn from our mistakes and move on. Next time, we’ll come more mentally prepared.”

The top-ranked Red Storm host Lewiston Saturday. Scarborough also has to play at Cheverus, Biddeford, Cape Elizabeth and Lewiston and will be tested at home by Thornton Academy and St. Dom’s.

The Red Storm are hoping their second half is as memorable as the first.

“We knew we had a good core coming back and our newcomers are stepping up big,” Caron said. “We have to keep working hard in practice and get better every day.”

“We’ll enjoy this tonight, then we’ll think about Lewiston tomorrow,” Gagne said. “We need to get better on the power play. We didn’t make good, crisp passes out of the zone tonight, but we’re getting better with each game and that’s what we want to do. We learn from our mistakes.”

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

Scarborough junior Skylar Pettingill winds up for a shot.

Falmouth junior Chris Camelio skates past Scarborough junior Justin Perry.

Falmouth junior Robbie Armitage beats Scarborough senior goalie Ross LeBlond for the Yachtsmen’s lone goal.

Scarborough senior Cam Nigro fires a shot. Nigro scored the game’s first goal.

Scarborough senior goalie Ross LeBlond prepares to make a save on Falmouth sophomore Theo Hembre.

Scarborough junior Justin Perry handles the puck while Falmouth senior Hogan Tracy lurks.

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