NORM GAGNE, SCARBOROUGH HOCKEY
The Legend of Norm Gagne added another chapter this winter and it was one of his finest hours.
Fourteen years removed from his last championship (with Waterville), Gagne’s Scarborough Red Storm, after back-to-back losses in the Western A Final, weren’t supposed to be in the title mix, but on the night of March 7, they were the team dancing on the Colisee ice, showing off the hardware.
Gagne got his players to believe, turned goalie Ben Bragg into the state’s finest netminder and guided the Red Storm through several tough playoff tests to their first-ever Class A title, earning The Forecaster’s nod as our Southern edition Winter Coach of the Year, of a boys’ team.
Gagne was a goalie at Edward Little (he didn’t wear a mask his first year) and started coaching in 1973 when he was a football coach at Gardiner. When the head coaching job opened the next year, he was beaten out by someone you might have heard of, John Wolfgram, but he inherited the hockey position and in 13 years with the Tigers, won three state titles. Gagne’s next stop was Waterville, where he won three championships in 18 seasons, with the last coming in 2001. After spending a year at Gorham, he took Lewiston to the state final in three straight seasons, but lost each time. After assisting Jay Mazur for a year, the Scarborough head coaching job opened in 2010 and Gagne took over.
The Red Storm had a series of close calls under Gagne and entering this season, few saw them as a title contender. Instead, Scarborough overcame a 2-2 start, gradually got healthy and gained confidence and appeared primed for a high seed, but a 1-0 loss to Cheverus in the finale relegated the Red Storm to the No. 4 seed for the playoffs.
As a result, Scarborough had to battle Biddeford into overtime in the quarterfinals, but the Red Storm survived, 3-2. Next was another crack at nemesis Falmouth and this time, Scarborough’s late surge was the difference in a 5-4 win. A third straight regional final trip resulted in a victory, 5-2, over Cheverus, setting up a state final date with St. Dom’s. The Red Storm fell behind early, but drew even on sophomore Skylar Pettingill’s goal and behind the goaltending wizardry of Bragg, stayed alive until the second overtime, when senior Sean McGovern won the title with a breakaway goal.
“Losing to Cheverus was a downer, but looking back, it was meant to be,” said Gagne. “We faced adversity, but I’m proud of the kids for taking on the challenge. We matured at the right time. The seniors brought the younger players under their wing. I told them we could win the title if they believed it.”
The state final victory was the 688th all-time triumph in Gagne’s illustrious career, leaving him third in the nation, just eight behind the No. 2 spot.
Gagne has spent years going to clinics and learning his craft and it’s paid off, something that’s obvious to his players.
“It’s been a privilege to play for him,” Bragg said. “He’s a Maine high school hockey legend. He gives us his wisdom. He has a million stories to tell.”
Gagne retired from teaching everything from algebra to history to math to physical science to phys ed to government and health back in 2004, but he’s in no rush to retire from coaching.
“Motivating kids hasn’t changed,” Gagne said. “As long as I can make an impact, I’ll coach.”
That’s good news for everyone who loves hockey. Norm Gagne, our Southern edition boys’ team Winter Coach of the Year, is truly one of a kind and his brilliant hockey mind is still going strong.
2013-14: Joe Robinson (South Portland hockey)
2012-13: Phil Conley (South Portland basketball)
2011-12: Derek Veilleux (Scarborough track)
2010-11: Jim Ray (Cape Elizabeth basketball)
2009-10: Joe Robinson (South Portland hockey)
2008-09: Derek Veilleux (Scarborough track)
2007-08: Phil Conley (South Portland basketball).
2006-07: Tony DiBiase (South Portland basketball)
2005-06: Jay Mazur (Scarborough hockey)
2004-05: Jason Tremblay (Cape Elizabeth hockey)
2003-04: Jim Ray (Cape Elizabeth basketball)
2002-03: Matt Townsend (Scarborough basketball)
2001-02: Paul Brogan (South Portland indoor track)
CHRIS CASTERELLA, CAPE ELIZABETH BASKETBALL
While Greely ultimately cut down the nets, there’s little doubt that the Cape Elizabeth girls’ basketball team stole the show at the Western Class B tournament. Longtime doormats, the Capers, who barely made the playoffs, embarked on one of the most unexpected and spirited tournament runs in memory and further added to the resume of the woman at the helm.
Casterella savored Cape Elizabeth’s run more than anyone. It was she, as a player, who was part of the last Capers regional finalist and she spent years turning the program back into a competitor. For her role in not only turning Cape Elizabeth around, but for getting the Capers to steal hearts during a magical week in February, Casterella is The Forecaster’s choice for our Southern edition Winter Coach of the Year, of a girls’ team.
This is the fourth time Casterella has been honored.
Casterella (then Chris Roberts) starred in high school, leading Cape Elizabeth to a pair of regional finals. She graduated as the program’s leader in assists and made 3-pointers and remains its second-leading scorer. She went on to play at Colby College and after a year serving as an assistant coach at Scarborough, took over her alma mater in 2007-08, back when a 3-15 season was about the norm for this program.
Her first season produced just one victory, but it wasn’t long before the Capers returned to contention, making the playoffs in 2010. Postseason appearances followed in 2011 and 2013. Last year, Cape Elizabeth had a .500 season and there weren’t a lot of expectations heading into this winter.
While the Capers showed glimpses, a four-game losing streak to end the year left them 9-9 again. This time they qualified, as the No. 9 seed, and had to go to Fryeburg Academy for the preliminary round. Cape Elizabeth survived that test, then shocked undefeated, top-ranked Spruce Mountain in the quarterfinals. After senior and Winter Female Athlete of the Year Hannah Sawyer shot the Capers past Lincoln Academy in the semifinals, Cape Elizabeth found itself on the big stage of the Western B Final. Midnight finally struck there for Cinderella, as the Capers lost to eventual champion Greely, but what a run it was.
“I’m just so happy for (the girls), that they got to experience this,” Casterella said. “They really came into their own. We had a great year. I hope it carries forward, but I think they realize how unbelievably difficult and how special it is to get to this point.”
Casterella left an impact on her players.
“Coach knows exactly where to put us,” Sawyer said. “She knows us and she knows the game so well. Her constant desire to win inspires me.”
Casterella, who coaches with her husband, Jay, and is the mother of a small child, will now have to deal with the pressures of expectations, but this program is primed to continue to compete.
As long as Chris Casterella, our Southern edition girls’ team Winter Coach of the Year, is at the helm, the Capers will have to be viewed as a threat.
2013-14: Caitlin Cashman (Scarborough hockey)
2012-13: Chris Casterella (Cape Elizabeth basketball)
2011-12: Tom Maines (Scarborough basketball)
2010-11: Chris Roberts (Cape Elizabeth basketball)
2009-10: Jim Seavey (Scarborough basketball)
2008-09: Chris Roberts (Cape Elizabeth basketball)
2007-08: Bre Fortiguerra (Scarborough hockey)
2006-07: Ron Kelly (Scarborough track)
2005-06: Deven Morrill (Cape Elizabeth Nordic skiing)
2004-05: Ron Kelly (Scarborough Indoor track)
2003-04: Mike Giordano (South Portland basketball)
2002-03: Kerry Kertes (Cape Elizabeth swimming)
2001-02: Tim Kipp (Scarborough swimming)
Other edition winners:
Portland: Dan Lucas (Cheverus hockey), Billy Goodman (McAuley basketball)
Northern: David St. Pierre (Yarmouth hockey), Joel Rogers (Greely basketball)