By Michael Hoffer
For the second year in a row the Cheverus girls’ hockey team came oh-so-close to realizing its goal of winning a championship.
Last winter, the Stags lost to Biddeford in the Tier I title game. Wednesday, at the Portland Ice Arena, Cheverus was vanquished by the Tigers again, this time 2-1 in the West Region Final.
The Stags finished 16-3-1.
It’s almost playoff time for the boys as well, but it appears that just one of the three city teams will participate.
Last winter, Cheverus also lost 2-1 to Biddeford in the girls’ Tier I Final. This season, the first under the auspices of the Maine Principals’ Association, the Stags won 15 of 18 games, with the only non-victories being a 1-1 tie at eventual state champion Lewiston and two losses to the Tigers, 3-2 at home Jan. 10 and 1-0 at Biddeford Jan. 29.
Cheverus earned the No. 2 seed in the West Region and got past No. 3 Scarborough 3-1 in the semifinals.
In the regional final, the Stags drew first blood. After a scoreless first period, sophomore Grace Fitzpatrick scored through a screen for a 1-0 lead. Cheverus put 42 other shots on Biddeford goalie Brandee LeClair, but never beat her again.
The Tigers tied the game less than a minute after Fitzpatrick’s goal when Sara Grover beat Cheverus sophomore goalie Saundrine Lanouette. The winner came midway through the third when Jenna Roy sent a seemingly innocuous pass toward the goal and it deflected off a defender into the net.
Despite ample opportunities, the Stags couldn’t get the equalizer and the curtain fell on their season.
“Biddeford has been our problem for two years,” said Cheverus coach J.P. Lavoie. “We scored first and had them on the ropes, but it felt like we let down a little. They came back and scored in less than a minute. The winner was a fluky goal. It bounced off some kids and wound up in the net. The difference was their goaltender. Both teams played their hearts out, but she stopped just about everything.
“I thought we had a very good season. We did everything we hoped to do except get to the final game. For the most part, the kids played well every time out and had fun.”
Cheverus returns plenty of talent and will look to complete the job in 2009-2010.
“We lose four seniors, but we have a lot of kids coming back,” said Lavoie. “A lot of seniors next year. I feel good about next season. We should be strong again.”
SUBHEAD-Portland boys playoff-bound
On the boys’ side, Portland overcame a 2-5 start to make the postseason. The Bulldogs went 6-1-1 in an eight-game stretch, which featured a win over Cheverus that also made senior Sam Guimond the program’s all-time second leading scorer with 151 points. Portland lost 7-1 to visiting Falmouth Thursday and 4-3 to visiting Scarborough Saturday. The Bulldogs took an 8-8-1 mark, and the ?t seed in the Western Class A Heal Points standings, into Tuesday’s regular season finale at Westbrook (too late for this edition). Portland will compete in a preliminary round playoff game this weekend against a yet-to-be-determined foe.
Cheverus and Deering haven’t been as fortunate.
The Stags lost 4-0 to visiting Kennebunk and 8-1 at home to Biddeford Saturday. Monday, Cheverus’ season ended at 3-14-1 with a ?-? loss at Thornton Academy. The Stags finished ?t in the Heals.
The Rams ended 2-16 after losses to visiting Marshwood (2-1), South Portland (6-0) and Gorham (?-?). Deering was ?t in the final standings.
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com