Scarborough coach Norm Gagne, senior Matt Caron (3) and the rest of the Red Storm look on in dismay after losing Saturday’s Class A state final, 2-1, to Lewiston.
Mike Strout photos.
More photos below.
LEWISTON—A year ago, the Scarborough Red Storm enjoyed their finest hour with a dramatic one-goal victory in the state championship game on the biggest stage in high school hockey.
Saturday evening at the Colisee, the Red Storm had a chance to do it again, but this time, despite a valiant effort, the happy ending didn’t come to fruition.
Facing Lewiston in a fabulous Class A state final, the two teams once again did all they could to gain some separation from the other, but for the third time in four weeks, they were as even as could be.
The Blue Devils, eager to end what was for them, an interminable 14-year championship drought, started fast and grabbed a 1-0 lead when sophomore Joe Bisson scored with 4:43 to go in the first period.
Scarborough found a different gear to start the second period and was rewarded 33 seconds in when senior Jack Callahan tickled the twine.
Neither team could score from there, however, as Red Storm senior goalie Ross LeBlond, the hero of Scarborough’s regional final win over Falmouth, and Lewiston junior Jacob Strout met every challenge through the end of the second period and for the first 14-and-a-half minutes of the third.
After twice going to overtime and settling for ties in the regular season, it appeared the state final was destined for extra time as well, but with only 29 seconds remaining in regulation, Blue Devils junior Jeromey Rancourt banged in a rebound and Lewiston went on to a 2-1 victory and partied like it was 2002.
The Blue Devils snapped a six-game state final drought, finished the year 17-2-2, won their 21st title, celebrated long after the final horn and in the process , ended the Red Storm’s title reign and Scarborough’s fine season at 16-3-3.
“The kids gave me everything they had,” said Red Storm coach Norm Gagne. “We’ve got nothing to hang our heads about. It was a close, contested game.”
Gagne is one of the most storied high school coaches ever and has left his imprint on hockey all over the state and before he ever stepped behind the Scarborough bench, he guided Lewiston to the Class A state final in his three seasons with the program.
Gagne has known the Colisee well, long before it was so named in fact, and he and his team were eager for another shot at a title.
Scarborough wasn’t viewed as the team to beat this winter, but the Red Storm were almost perfect in their first 14 games, going 13-0-1. Scarborough opened with wins at at St. Dom’s (3-1, in a state game rematch), Cheverus (5-0), Biddeford (3-2, in overtime), Edward Little (4-1), Thornton Academy (6-5, in OT), Kennebunk (7-0), Noble/Wells (4-1), Gorham (4-1) and Falmouth (2-1). The Red Storm’s lone blemish in that stretch came with a 2-2 tie at Cheverus, but even in that one they salvaged something by scoring in the waning seconds to force overtime. Scarborough bounced back to beat Biddeford (3-2), Thornton Academy (3-0), Portland (6-1, which was Gagne’s 700th career coaching victory) and Cape Elizabeth (5-2). Scarborough stumbled down the stretch, however, tying Lewiston (1-1), losing to St. Dom’s (4-2), tying Lewiston again (4-4), then falling at home to Falmouth in the finale, 5-0.
As the top seed in Class A South, the Red Storm blanked No. 8 Massabesic/OOB/Bonny Eagle, 7-0, in the quarterfinals. In the semifinals, Scarborough eliminated No. 4 Cheverus, 4-1. Tuesday, the Red Storm scored just once but it was enough to hold off No. 2 Falmouth in the regional final.
Lewiston lived up to its lofty billing this winter, going 14-2-2, losing only at Falmouth and Bangor (in overtime) and tying Scarborough twice.
The top-seeded Blue Devils had a bye into the semifinals, where they sent No. 4 Bangor packing (6-3), then pulled away in the third period to beat No. 2 St. Dom’s (5-1) in the regional final.
While Scarborough entered the contest 2-1 all-time in state finals (see sidebar, below), Lewiston has as rich a history as any program, winning the first of its 20 state titles way back in 1929, just months before the stock market crashed, triggering the Great Depression. The Blue Devils, perennial finalists, hadn’t won a championship since outlasting Cheverus in a triple overtime epic in 2002.
There was absolutely no separation between the teams this winter. In the 1-1 tie, Callahan scored for Scarborough and Alex Robert countered for Lewiston. The second game was even more dramatic, as Red Storm senior standout and Travis Roy Award finalist Matt Caron tied the contest with 6.3 seconds remaining and LeBlond had to stop a penalty shot in OT to preserve the deadlock.
Saturday, in front of a more-than-full house, the teams’ first-ever postseason encounter resulted in a down-to-the-wire thriller.
Lewiston came out firing on all cylinders and was eventually rewarded with the lone goal of the opening period.
Just 29 seconds in, junior Bradley McLellan sent a shot on target, but LeBlond made the save.
After a Red Storm defender blocked a shot from sophomore Alex Rivet, LeBlond denied junior Cole Ouellette.
The Blue Devils almost got a gift with 12:04 to play in the first, when the puck took a weird bounce and squirted free in front, but it was cleared at the last minute.
With 10:36 left, Rancourt had a golden opportunity on a breakaway, but LeBlond made the save.
Scarborough’s first good look came with 9:41 remaining, but senior captain Sean McDonald shot wide.
Junior Kyle Jacques was then sent off for interference, giving Lewiston a power play, but shots from Rivet and Bisson were stopped by LeBlond.
After LeBlond robbed senior Griffin Wade and junior Cody Doyon, with a rebound cleared by a defender, the Blue Devils sent their raucous cheering section into delirium.
With 4:43 left in the first, Rancourt skated out of the defensive zone, fed Rivet and Rivet set up Bisson on the doorstep for a shot LeBlond couldn’t stop and Lewiston had a 1-0 lead.
“We had a lack of communication on that first goal,” Gagne said. “There was nobody there and there was an odd-man rush and they took advantage. Turnovers turn into scoring opportunities. That’s hockey.”
The Red Storm had a chance to answer 22 seconds later, when Blue Devils sophomore Dustin Larochelle was sent off for roughing, but a nice bid from senior Cam Nigro and another from Callahan were saved by Lewiston junior goalie Jacob Strout.
After one final save from LeBlond, the teams went to the first intermission with the Blue Devils ahead, 1-0.
After being outshot, 13-7, in the first period, Scarborough came out a vastly more determined and spirited team in the second and quickly tied the score.
Just 27 seconds in, junior Eric Murray got the puck to Callahan, who skated in up the left side and fired a shot past Stout to tie the score, 1-1.
“After the first period, I told the kids, ‘We’re one shot away from tying this up’ and we did it early in the second,” Gagne said.
After LeBlond twice denied Rivet, sophomore Ryan Bosse put a shot on goal which LeBlond stopped and he subsequently saved three rebounds to preserve the tie.
With 12:22 to go in the second, Jacques went back to the penalty box and again, his teammates came up big on the penalty kill.
LeBlond stopped Bisson in front, then freshman Nick Bisson shot wide and was denied.
With 9:18 left in the second, senior Griffin Wade had a good look in close, but he flicked the puck high over the goal.
A minute later, Blue Devils senior Jon Sturgis was sent off for holding and the Red Storm hoped to take the lead, but Jacques’ redirection of a shot from Murray was saved, Murray was denied and Callahan hit the net, but unfortunately for Scarborough, it was outside of the cage.
With 5:28 to go, Rancourt had a shot saved and Joe Bisson got the rebound right in front. With LeBlond down, he had an open net to shoot at, but sent the puck high over the cage.
Scarborough went back on the attack and after Strout used the glove to deny junior Skylar Pettingill and Caron shot wide, Callahan was cross-checked into the boards by Rivet, went down for several minutes on the ice, left the game and didn’t return.
“That was boarding all the way and it should have been a five-minute major and a game disqualification,” Gagne said. “I told the guy from the MPA, if we lost a kid, they should have lost a kid.”
The Red Storm went back on the power play with 2:03 left in the second.
On the man-advantage, Jacques had a shot saved by Strout and Nigro sent a shot wide, but the rebound came out in front and resulted in a scrum. Scarborough couldn’t knock the puck home and the teams went to the second intermission still deadlocked.
“In the second period, we just couldn’t get a bounce,” said Gagne. “We had a lot of pucks down low and in front, but we couldn’t get that bounce to get the lead.”
At that point, over 136 minutes played this season, Lewiston and Scarborough each had six goals.
Lewiston again enjoyed a big shots advantage (13-6) in the second period.
There was little separation in the third period, but there was finally resolution between these two even squads.
Early in the third, the Red Storm had the better chances, but junior Justin Perry was twice denied by Strout and Caron shot wide.
With 9:55 left, the Blue Devils went on the power play, but Scarborough almost struck shorthanded, as Nigro appeared primed to break in alone, only to see Nick Bisson get back, dive and break it up.
Rancourt then just missed and was visibly frustrated in the aftermath.
His night would get better, however.
After LeBlond stopped a shot from Larochelle, Caron was denied by Strout.
With 4:14 remaining, Lewiston had another chance to go ahead on the power play, but Joe Bisson’s shot with a lot of net showing was blocked, Nick Bisson’s shot was saved and Robert shot high.
With under two minutes left, the Blue Devils continued to push, but freshman Samuel Frechette and Wade both shot wide and LeBlond denied Rancourt.
All signs pointed to a third overtime game this winter for the teams, but Lewiston delivered the haymaker in shocking fashion and shook off 14 years of frustration in the process.
The winning sequence began with a shot from Sturgis up top. LeBlond made the save, but the puck sat free and after a rebound attempt by Rivet. Rancourt wouldn’t be denied as he buried the rebound and with only 29 seconds to go, the Blue Devils had a 2-1 advantage.
“Rivet tipped it in and it went right to me off the goal stick and I put it home,” Rancourt said. “It was right there. I went mind-blank. It was right there, I just put it in.”
“We got a little discombobulated there,” Gagne lamented. “We should be in overtime right now. We should have had the puck two or three times and we didn’t get it out. We were tired. We couldn’t do it. It’s a credit to Lewiston. They kept the puck in.”
Gagne called timeout and hoped to set up a tying goal, but Lewiston won the faceoff and pressured and LeBlond couldn’t leave the ice. In fact, he had to make a save on Rancourt just to keep hope alive with 12.4 seconds to go.
“I was hoping to win the faceoff and get it deep, but it just didn’t work out,” Gagne said.
Scarborough did get the puck across center ice as time wound down and LeBlond came off for an extra attacker, but the Red Storm couldn’t muster a shot and at 7:51 p.m., after a terrific and palpitating 103 minutes of real time excitement, Lewiston had its 21st crown, 2-1.
“It’s something we talked about all year,” Lewiston coach Jamie Belleau said. “We knew we had a talented group. The most talented teams don’t always win. It takes something special. It’s how they respond to adversity, their maturity level, their discipline and those types of things. Really understanding that they’ve got to fight for each other. That was special with this group.
“It’s a monkey off your back. But right now, I’m not even worried about the monkey on our back. These kids did it. We’re champions. And hey, that’s all I need to say. They worked for it and they deserved it.”
Scarborough came oh-so-close, but couldn’t quite get lightning to strike twice.
“I knew it would be close and that the team who made the fewest mistakes would win,” Gagne said. “I’m proud of the kids. We faced a lot of adversity in this game. When we lost Jack, that messed all our lines up. We had to piece it together. They were dominant in places, but we were still in the game. You can’t count us out. We have nothing to hang our heads about. We played a one-goal game in the state final.”
Lewiston wound up outshooting Scarborough, 34-17.
“I wanted to get 20 shots,” Gagne said. “I felt if we did, we could win. We just didn’t get those shots.”
LeBlond made 32 saves in his swan song, while Strout stopped 16 shots for the Blue Devils.
Neither team converted on the power play, as the Red Storm went 0-for-3 and Lewiston failed on all four attempts.
Scarborough will greatly miss key contributors like Callahan, Caron, Hayward, McDonald, Nigro and LeBlond (Jack Murphy and John Timpson also graduate). That senior class helped elevate the Red Storm to unprecedented greatness in the sport’s biggest classification and almost managed to go back-to-back as champions.
“I’m really proud of the seniors,” Gagne said. “We’re not even in this game without their leadership. They’ve improved each and every year. They’ve brought the younger kids along.”
Next year, Jacques, Murray, Perry, Pettingill and Smith will be the senior leaders and freshmen like Anthony Burnham and Mason Parks will play even bigger roles.
This loss will serve as fuel and don’t be surprised if Scarborough gets another chance to win it all next March.
“I want the returning guys to remember this feeling,” said Gagne, who will enter the 2016-17 campaign with 704 career victories,. which is the second most nationally. “They have to work harder. We have to get bigger, stronger and faster and we have a few months to do that. We’ve got a good group coming back. I’m looking forward to next year.”
Sun Journal staff writers Wil Kramlich and Kalle Oakes contributed to this story.
Scarborough senior captain Cam Nigro gets checked into the boards by Lewiston senior Kyle Morin.
Scarborough senior Jack Callahan celebrates after tying the score early in the second period.
Scarborough senior Matt Caron fights Lewiston sophomore Dustin Larochelle for possession.
Scarborough junior Eric Murray fires a shot.
Scarborough senior Colin Hayward finds some operating room.
Scarborough junior Skylar Pettingill fights Lewiston freshman Samuel Frechette, left, and junior Bradley McLellan for the puck.
Scarborough’s student section took up a big chunk of the arena and was boisterous throughout.
Lewiston celebrates its game winning goal.
Scarborough senior captain Matt Caron accepts the runner-up plaque.
2015 Class A
Scarborough 2 St. Dom’s 1 (2 OT)
1996 Class B
Winslow 5 Scarborough 3
1995 Class B
Scarborough 5 Brewer 2