SP bounces back, beats Portland in hockey battle

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PORTLAND—According to coach Joe Robinson, the South Portland boys’ hockey team played some of its worst hockey of the season.

And they won.

The Red Riots overcame a lackluster first two periods to defeat Portland, 3-1, Thursday at Portland Ice Arena.

South Portland led, 1-0, after two periods, but their coach wasn’t impressed.

“I went (into the locker room) and I said the first half hour of the game is the worst half hour I’ve seen you guys play in a long time,” Robinson said. “I went in there and yelled at them a little bit.”

At first the stern talk backfired. Portland (5-5) scored a 35 seconds into the third period, evening the game at one apiece.

Mike Fuller dug for the punk along the boards, keeping it in the offensive zone despite the efforts of two South Portland players. Winning the puck, he broke towards the goal and slide a pass to a streaking Eddie Apon who one-timed it into the back of the net.

“Eddie is all-state caliber and the captain of our team,” Portland coach Andy Gildart said. “He is always the guy we look to get the shot on net and into the goal. It was a good way to start the third.”

The Red Riots’ (4-4-1) best hockey was yet to come, however, and they answered four minutes later when Josh Cobb fired a shot from the top of the faceoff circle past Portland goalie Jared Wood for a 2-1 lead. Alec Neal was credited with an assist.

They pushed the lead to 3-1 when Tommy Ellis scored a power-play goal with an assist from Zachary Griffin 7:40 into the final period.

“We didn’t get down on the bench (when Portland scored),” Robinson said. “ There was plenty of time left. It was a brand new game. Instead of getting down they turned it on. It shows a lot.”

Griffin added an empty-net goal with 20 seconds remaining. He also scored the Red Riots’ first goal, a top-shelf wrist shot 11:30 into the second period. He finished with two goals and an assist.

Ellis had a goal and two assists. Robert Hannigan finished with a pair of assists.

“ In all honesty, that third period is the best period we’ve played all season,” Robinson said. “We went from the two worst periods to the best.”

Portland was 0-3 on power plays. South Portland hasn’t yielded a power-play goal in four straight games. Previously Greely went 0-for-6, Edward Little was 0-for-7 and Falmouth was shutout on all nine of its power-play opportunities.

“The guys are taking pride in being good penalty killers,” Robinson said. “They don’t get scared they don’t get intimidated. They look at is as a challenge.”

All three of Portland’s power-play chances came in the second period.

South Portland (third in the latest Western Class A Heal Points standings) faces off again next Thursday against Scarborough in Gorham. Portland plays at Falmouth Saturday and visits defending state champion Biddeford Wednesday.