By Michael Hoffer
LEWISTON— The stars appeared to have aligned for the Falmouth hockey team entering the Western Class A Final.
In a season devoid of a powerhouse like undefeated Biddeford a year ago, the field was wide open. The Yachtsmen got a fortunate draw and easily dispatched of their first two playoff foes.
Tuesday night at the Colisee, however, Falmouth wasn’t able to continue the dream and qualify for a first-ever Class A state final as its offense went cold and St. Dom’s scored three times in the third period to send the Yachtsmen home, 3-1.
Falmouth got within a goal on junior Dixon Pike’s power play goal with 1:02 to play, but just 21 seconds later, the Saints scored on an empty netter to essentially end the Yachtsmen’s stirring run.
“St. Dom’s is by far the fastest team I’ve seen all year long,” said Falmouth coach Scott Rousseau. “It’s probably the best high school game I’ve seen in years. The pace was phenomenal. The way both teams competed was amazing. They really pushed each other to the limit. They got the break and we didn’t. That’s hockey.”
Not enough offense
Falmouth overcame youth and inexperience on the defensive end this winter to post a 12-6 mark. The Yachtsmen earned the No. 3 seed for the playoffs and made quick work of No. 6 South Portland (10-0) in the quarterfinals and No. 10 Kennebunk (4-1) in the semis.
St. Dom’s went 12-6, good for the No. 4 seed. After outlasting No. 5 Scarborough 7-4 n the quarterfinals, the Saints ended No. 8 Biddeford’s two-year reign as state champion with a 5-3 victory.
The teams met twice in the regular season. Falmouth won 5-2 at St. Dom’s way back on Dec. 17 and edged the visiting Saints 4-3 on Jan. 31.
The teams had met twice prior in the playoffs. Two years ago, the Yachtsmen beat the Saints 7-1 in the quarterfinals. Last winter, Falmouth won 2-0 in the quarterfinals. The Yachtsmen had never advanced beyond the semifinal round since moving up to Class A in 2003-04 and were seeking their first regional title since winning Western B in 1997.
Tuesday, both teams had quality chances early, none better than St. Dom’s freshman Nathan Bergeron getting a great look in front at the 10:23 mark, but Falmouth sophomore goalie Jay Hurdmann turned the bid aside.
The Yachtsmen’s first shot on goal came from senior standout Mike Chase at the 8:29 mark after he stole the puck and split two defenders, but Saints’ junior goalie Shayne Curtis made the save. That rush came short-handed and Falmouth soon killed the game’s initial power play.
Hurdmann continued to ride high as the first progressed, stoning junior Trevar Haefele one-and-one with 6:37 left. Chase had another good look with 3:18 to go in the first, but his shot was saved and the rebound was steered aside.
Despite a decided St. Dom’s edge in possession time and shots (7-3), the game was scoreless after one period.
The offensive chances picked up in the second.
Just 45 seconds in, Haefele skated in, but shot high. With 10:34 to go in the period, Pike was sent to the box for tripping. Eighteen seconds later, St. Dom’s appeared to take the lead when the puck went into the net, but the official waved off the goal, deeming it went off his skate.
On the Yachtsmen’s lone power play chance of the period, junior Julien Clement’s bid was turned aside and 40 seconds later, Pike shot wide.
With 5:37 left in the second, Haefele was stopped by Hurdmann, then sent the rebound high and wide. Twenty-two seconds later, Haefele got another chance, but was robbed point blank by Hurdmann.
Falmouth had two more good chances in the period as Pike was denied on a break-in and with 3:42 to go, Chase hit the post.
Second period shots were 6-4 in favor of the Saints, but the score remained 0-0 and anyone’s game heading for the third.
The Yachtsmen almost took the lead 58 seconds into the final stanza, but Chase’s shot was deflected and rolled slowly to Curtis who gloved it.
With 12:53 to play, St. Dom’s finally broke the ice.
To no one’s surprise, Haefele was right in the middle of the action, collecting a loose puck and feeding senior Spencer Teixeira, who wristed a shot through a screen past Hurdmann for a 1-0 lead.
Falmouth turned up the pressure seeking the equalizer. Junior Dan Hanley shot just wide with 10:29 to go. With 9:50 left, Chase stole a pass and had a good look, but was denied. With 8:33 remaining, Clement unleashed a shot that Curtis kicked aside.
With 6:59 to play, St. Dom’s got caught with too many men on the ice, but the Yachtsmen, on the penalty, couldn’t make them pay.
Hanley and Chase both had chances, but Curtis stood tall, especially on Chase’s bid which came after the standout skated through the defense.
The Saints got some breathing room with 4:06 to play. Senior Casey Parker tipped home junior Cam Brown’s shot and Falmouth was on the ropes, down 2-0.
The Yachtsmen desperately sought to answer as a Chase rush was broken up by St. Dom’s senior Joseph Kiemanski and Hanley shot high. With 2:51 left, Saints’ freshman Jake Landry went to the penalty box for hooking. With 2:38 remaining, Curtis made his biggest highlight reel save of the evening, snaring a Chase blast with his glove, but with 1:02 to go, Falmouth finally broke through as Pike’s rocket found the net.
The Yachtsmen’s dreams of a comeback quickly died, however. Just as Pike’s name was being announced, Parker took a pass from senior Ben Randall and skated in on the open net to score and make it 3-1.
Falmouth didn’t get another good look and its season ended at 14-7.
“We just couldn’t get that break,” Rousseau said. “If Mikey’s shot doesn’t ring off the post in the second period and we get the lead, anything could have happened. I’m very proud of how the kids played. We exceeded expectations. It just wasn’t our turn, I guess.”
St. Dom’s had a final shots on goal advantage of 21-14. Hurdmann made 18 saves. Curtis stopped 13 shots. The Yachtsmen went 1-for-3 on the power play. The Saints had no goals in two opportunities.
“Their goalie played well and made some nice glove saves,” Rousseau said. “We didn’t have as many shots as they did, but we had as many quality chances.”
Thanks and see you next year
Falmouth loses Chase and five other seniors.
“(Mike’s) the best player we’ve ever had by far, but no one’s going to remember him for the player he was,” Rousseau said. “They’ll remember the quality human being he is like no other. For a star player to be that inclusive was amazing. I hope my son Jackson grows up to be like Mike Chase.
“I’ll miss the seniors a great deal. They provided great leadership and represented us very well.”
The Yachtsmen, as always, will return some top-notch talent in 2009-2010 and figure to make another run at the pinnacle.
“It hurts, but we’ll be back,” Rousseau said. “They’re a great bunch.”
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org