South Portland co-op team solves Scarborough at last

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The South Portland/Freeport/Waynflete boys’ hockey team celebrates a goal during Thursday’s 4-1 home win over Scarborough, the program’s first victory over the Red Storm since 2004.

Joe Carpine / 365digitalphotography.com photos.

More photos below.

PORTLAND—To end a nearly 14-year dry spell, you need a team effort.

And it certainly helps when you can combine three teams into one.

The South Portland/Freeport/Waynflete co-op squad produced arguably its finest hour Thursday afternoon at Troubh Ice Arena, getting the better of perennial powerhouse Scarborough in a game it controlled most of the way.

South Portland/Freeport/Waynflete got off to a quick start, as players from all three schools helped produce a goal 25 seconds in. Freeport sophomore Devan Hannan scored on a rebound of a shot from South Portland senior Aidan Schifano and Waynflete senior Max Winson was credited with an assist.

Later in the first period, South Portland/Freeport/Waynflete made it 2-0 on a goal from Waynflete junior Mitchell Adams, set up by Schifano.

In the second period, Scarborough got a series of clutch saves from senior goalie Brandon Wasser to stay in the game and with 3:34 remaining, freshman Zachary Chaisson scored on the power play to pull the Red Storm within a goal after 30 minutes.

In the third period, South Portland/Freeport/Waynflete ended all doubt, as Winson scored early and South Portland freshman Bradley McMains added his first varsity goal.

The South Portland/Freeport/Waynflete defense and South Portland sophomore goalie Liam McGibbon did the rest as the squad went on to a 4-1 victory.

South Portland/Freeport/Waynflete beat Scarborough for the first time since 2004, improved to 2-3 and in the process, dropped the Red Storm to 2-3.

“It’s remarkable,” said South Portland/Freeport/Waynflete coach Joe Robinson. “I’m proud of the guys. They’ve worked hard. We played a full 45-minute game. It’s a big step for us. Scarborough may be a little down, but they’re still a solid program.”

Infrequent foes

Despite belonging to the same league and residing just a few miles apart, Scarborough and South Portland/Freeport/Waynflete don’t play every season.

Entering play Thursday, Scarborough had won the past seven meetings, including a 5-1 home victory last winter, and held a 7-2 edge dating to the start of the century (see sidebar, below).

Both teams have some holes to fill this winter, but each shows the promise that they’ll be dramatically improved by season’s end.

The Red Storm, Class A South semifinalists last winter before welcoming Jake Brown (a former assistant to Norm Gagne with the program) as their new coach this season, started with home losses to two-time defending Class A champion Lewiston (8-0) and defending Class A South champion Falmouth (6-1). Scarborough then edged visiting Portland/Deering (2-1) and host Gorham (4-3).

South Portland/Freeport/Waynflete, which got to the Class A South quarterfinals last winter, began by holding off visiting Brunswick, 4-3. Losses at Portland/Deering (4-3) and Cheverus (7-2) and at home against Thornton Academy (7-2) followed.

Thursday, Scarborough looked to continue its domination in the series, but South Portland/Freeport/Waynflete knocked off the mighty Red Storm for the first time since a 5-4 overtime home victory Feb. 5, 2004 (four days after the Patriots beat the Panthers in Super Bowl XXXVIII).

South Portland/Freeport/Waynflete made an immediate statement, pressuring and getting a shot from Schifano, which Wasser saved. Winson kept the puck alive, however, and Hannan rammed it home for a 1-0 lead just 25 seconds into the game.

“That first goal lifted a weight off our shoulders,” Winson said. “This is the first time our first line has scored in two games.”

“We had a couple tough losses to Cheverus and TA and we’ve only skated once since Christmas, so I was afraid we might come out flat, which wouldn’t have been surprising, but we didn’t,” Robinson said. “We took it to them from the get-go. I juggled the lines and it seemed to provide a spark.”

South Portland/Freeport/Waynflete almost doubled its lead a minute later, but a backhanded bid from senior Caleb Rowland was saved.

Scarborough’s first shot came in the first minute, as after a turnover, Chaisson shot wide.

After Schifano was wide on a rush, South Portland/Freeport/Waynflete made it 2-0 at the 11:32 mark, as Schifano set up Adams in transition for a 2-0 lead.

The Red Storm went on the power play 22 seconds later, as Adams was sent off for two minutes for interference, but the visitors couldn’t generate a shot.

With 22 seconds to go in the first period, sophomore Gus Lappin was sent off for tripping and Scarborough went man-up again.

The Red Storm looked to cut their deficit in half as time wound down, but McGibbon made a save on a shot from senior Jake O’Reilly.

Wasser kept Scarborough in the game in the second period and allowed his teammates to cut into the deficit.

After the Red Storm had early looks from junior Patrick Clonan and Chaisson, which McGibbon saved, Schifano, Winson (on the doorstep) and Hannan were all robbed by Wasser.

Later in the second, Wasser denied Winson again and was able to turn aside a rebound shot from Hannan as well.

“Brandon has been our backbone and he was again,” Brown said.

Scarborough then got a break with 4:58 to go, as Freeport freshman Willets Meyer was sent off for five minutes for boarding and at 11:26, Chaisson scored his first varsity goal (from sophomore Cameron Budway) off a blistering shot in front and the Red Storm trailed by just one.

Scarborough only got to enjoy half the power play, however, as with 2:30 on the clock, junior Wyatt Plummer was sent off for holding.

“The five-minute penalties always kill you, but luckily, they evened it up,” Robinson said. “That alleviated the pressure.”

Late in the period, Wasser stopped shots from sophomore Austin Gross, Adams and junior Atticus Patrick, allowing the Red Storm to head to the second intermission down by just a 2-1 margin.

South Portland/Freeport/Waynflete then regained control in the third period and went on to make history.

After Budway had a good look to potentially tie the score denied by McGibbon, Atticus Patrick sent a shot through a screen which Wasser saved, but Hannan kept the puck alive and it bounced off Winson and in for a 3-1 lead with 12:44 to play.

“(At intermission) our captain, Aidan, gave us a huge pep talk,” Winson said. “We all knew it was a big game. Scarborough is a good program. We did what we have to do. Atticus took a shot and I was in front. It hit my hand. I got a bruise from it, but it was worth it. I was in the right place at the right time.”

After McGibbon saved a shot from Scarborough sophomore Nolan Matthews, South Portland/Freeport/Waynflete ended all doubt with 7:10 remaining, as McMains scored his first varsity goal (Hannan got the assist).

Down the stretch, McGibbon saved a shot from Clonan, Budway missed high and McGibbon swatted away a high shot from sophomore Dawson Gendreau.

At 5:41 p.m., the final horn sounded and South Portland/Freeport/Waynflete celebrated its historic and impressive 4-1 victory.

“This just shows how hard we’ve worked,” Winson said. “It shows how the program has grown and that our practice is paying off. Some people think (being a co-op) might be awkward, but no one was out of place from the beginning. We’ve all meshed together.”

“We wanted to skate and make them chase,” Robinson said. “We played a simple game. These past three games, I’ve had freshmen scoring goals. It’s a good sign for us.

“It’s our fourth year doing (the co-op) and it’s working out great. They get along. They’re very close. I couldn’t be luckier. We’re South Portland-heavy, but we have plenty from the other schools.”

South Portland/Freeport/Waynflete enjoyed a 30-14 shots advantage and got 13 saves from McGibbon.

Scarborough got 26 saves from Wasser, but was never able to recover from its early deficit.

“Credit to South Portland, they came to play,” Brown said. “The first period was the difference. They wanted the puck more than us. I think we showed our youth today. The kids sat back and the next thing you know, it’s 1-0, then 2-0. We were aggressive in the second and third.”

High hopes

Scarborough has another key test at Falmouth Saturday and welcomes Cape Elizabeth in its first 2018 contest Monday of next week. Trips to highly-touted Cheverus and Biddeford follow.

“Our hope is we learn from this,” Brown said. “Our discipline has been really good. We don’t have any breathers. We’ll have productive practices and look to come ready to play.”

South Portland/Freeport/Waynflete, meanwhile, doesn’t play another countable game until Jan. 6, when it goes to Massabesic.

“We have to just focus on the next game,” said Winson. “We’ll keep pushing each other and have fun.”

“It’s going to be jam-packed after we play next Saturday,” Robinson said. “We believe we can contend. Tonight is a very good step.”

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

South Portland/Freeport/Waynflete junior Atticus Patrick fires a shot.

South Portland/Freeport/Waynflete sophomore goallie Liam McGibbon denies Scarborough sophomore Cameron Budway.

Scarborough sophomore Nolan Matthews shoots the puck.

South Portland/Waynflete/Freeport senior Max Winson tries to handle the puck in front of Scarborough senior goalie Brandon Wasser.

South Portland/Freeport/Waynflete junior Owen Patrick fires a shot.

Scarborough senior goalie Brandon Wasser, junior Wyatt Plummer (2) and junior Patrick Clonan, along with South Portland/Freeport/Waynflete sophomore Devan Hannan, watch the trickling puck.

Recent Scarborough-South Portland results

2016-17
@ Scarborough 5 South Portland 1

2012-13
@ Scarborough 11 South Portland 0

2011-12
@ Scarborough 6 South Portland 0
Scarborough 9 @ South Portland 2

2010-11
@ Scarborough 3 South Portland 1
Scarborough 4 @ South Portland 0

2004-05
@ Scarborough 3 South Portland 0

2003-04
South Portland 3 @ Scarborough 2
@ South Portland 5 Scarborough 4 (OT)

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