BIDDEFORD—The Falmouth boys’ hockey team continued to run the gamut of its brutal schedule Wednesday afternoon without one of its top players.
While the Yachtsmen weren’t able to hand Biddeford its first loss of the year, they did impress with a 45-minute effort which reminded the Tigers (and everyone else) that they will be a force the rest of the way.
Falmouth allowed just a power play goal late in the first period and failed to convert on a four-minute penalty in the second. After nearly tying the score on several occasions, the Yachtsmen fell behind 2-0 in the third, but rallied back to make a game of it before Biddeford finally put them away with a late empty netter.
Falmouth fell to 4-3-1 with the 3-1 setback.
“Sometimes when two good teams play, you can play really good hockey and still not win,” said Yachtsmen coach Scott Rousseau. “The guys stepped up. All in all, I’m pretty pleased.”
Falmouth has been up-and-down this winter, but has shown glimpses of greatness. After opening with a 5-1 home win over Portland, the Yachtsmen fell 4-1 at home to Thornton Academy. Falmouth then blanked Cape Elizabeth 6-0 and edged host Brewer 2-1 before losing 3-0 at Scarborough. After going 3-1 in the Maine High School Hockey Invitational over the holiday break, the Yachtsmen beat Greely in the Dudley Cup, won 3-0 at Lewiston and battled back to forge a 4-4 home tie against Scarborough Saturday night. In that contest, senior Matt McDowell, a defensive standout, received a game misconduct penalty and by rule, had to sit out against the Tigers.
Biddeford, meanwhile, has met every challenge. The 2007 and 2008 Class A champions could be the best team in the state. The Tigers (coming off a stirring 3-2 home win over rival Thornton Academy in a battle of unbeatens Saturday night) rolled to a 6-1 win over Falmouth in the final of the non-countable “Fix Cup” last month, but learned Wednesday that the Yachtsmen were vastly improved.
Just 17 seconds in, the hosts looked to take the lead when senior standout (and league scoring leader) Trevor Fleurent broke in, but Falmouth junior goalie Jay Hurdman denied his shot. Both Hurdman and Biddeford senior goalie Matt Roy kept the game scoreless until the visitors were whistled for a tripping penalty late in the period. With just 16.7 seconds to go, the Tigers got the jump when freshman Brady Fleurent scored on a rebound of sophomore Eric Grover’s shot for a 1-0 advantage.
The game remained tight in the second.
Just 49 seconds into the new period, Yachtsmen sophomore Brandon Tuttle’s shot was deflected high. With 8:29 left in the second, Biddeford sophomore Tyson Nadeau was given two minutes for interference and two more for roughing, giving Falmouth a golden, four-minute opportunity to draw even.
Initially, the Yachtsmen placed tons of pressure on the Tigers, but Roy came up big, saving bids from senior Julien Clement, sophomore Cam Bell, Bell again and senior Dixon Pike in a 29-second span. Ultimately, Biddeford killed the penalty and managed to hold its 1-0 lead into the third.
In the final period, Falmouth came out looking to tie things up. Forty-two seconds in, senior Dan Hanley broke in on Roy, but the goalie made a kick save. With 12:25 to go, Hanley raced in again, but had the puck swatted away from behind by Tigers junior defender Nick Gagne. With 7:19 left, a Hanley shot was saved and Tuttle’s rebound went wide.
Biddeford took a 2-0 advantage with 3:26 to play when Brady Fleurent skated behind the goal and fed Tyler Fleurent up top for a blast that eluded Hurdman.
Undaunted, the Yachtsmen didn’t buckle and cut the deficit in half on the power play with 1:26 left when senior Gabe Hoffman-Johnson rebounded Clement’s shot into the net.
Falmouth pulled Hurdman with 1:14 to play, hoping an extra skater would provide the equalizer, but with 17.3 seconds to go, senior Craig Anton scored into the empty net, bringing the curtain down on the 3-1 Biddeford victory.
“Realistically, I think the four-minute power play was the key in the game,” Rousseau said. “We made one mistake in the first period. In the second, they made a big mistake and we had plenty of chances, but we couldn’t find the back of the net. That’s hockey. Their second goal, we were taking chances and they capitalized. We still got back in it. I don’t think many teams could have come in and held this team without its best defenseman. Congratulations to Biddeford. We’ll see them at least one more, maybe twice.
“This is the first loss we’ve had since the Christmas tournament. We played well in Lewiston and played well against Scarborough. We dealt with some adversity and were able to come back. That tie felt like a win.”
Falmouth (third in the Western A Heal Points standings, fourth in the Coaches’ Poll and fifth in the Big Jab’s “Super Six” poll) hosts Waterville Saturday night and goes to St. Dom’s Monday. The Yachtsmen then turn around and go to Thornton Academy and host Biddeford in a four-day span.
“It’s all about building for the end,” Rousseau said. “We’re a team that got off to a slow start. We’re playing really good hockey right now. We have to turn the page. We have Waterville coming in Saturday, then St. Dom’s, then TA and Biddeford again. I’m happy where we are.”
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com