Top-ranked Falmouth blanks No. 2 Cheverus in hockey showdown

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Falmouth’s boys’ hockey team celebrates a goal during its 5-0 win over Cheverus Tuesday.

Chris Lambert photos.

More photos below.

FALMOUTH—The top two teams in Class A South boys’ hockey squared off Tuesday evening at Family Ice Center and number one made a powerful statement.

Falmouth hosted Cheverus in a late-season showdown and over the course of 45 minutes, the Yachtsmen reminded everyone why they’re a serious contender to win their third Class A state championship in five seasons.

It took just over four minutes for Falmouth to get the only goal it would need, as sophomore Jack Kidder scored on a rebound.

Later in the first period, junior Brendan Hickey scored on a rebound as well to make it 2-0.

In the second period, while the Stags were unable to take advantage of multiple power plays, the Yachtsmen added to their lead when junior Marcus Cady scored to make it 3-0.

In the third period, Falmouth gave Cheverus a Valentine’s Day Hickey as the junior scored again, and a power play tally from senior Robbie Armitage slammed the door on the 5-0 victory.

The Yachtsmen won their third game in a row, improved to 12-3-1, handed the Stags their first loss in 10 games and dropped them to 11-4 in the process.

“We play well as a team and that was a great team win,” said Hickey. “We really needed that. Every game we try to come out and set the tempo. We didn’t want them to set the pace of the game.”

Get used to this

Entering play Tuesday, the teams hadn’t played this season, but this encounter was the first of two in 10 days with the possibility of a third meeting in early March looming as a possibility.

Both squads have emerged as the top threats in the region.

Falmouth opened with a 4-3, come-from-behind victory at Biddeford, then settled for a 3-3 home tie against defending regional champion Scarborough. Falmouth closed 2016 with wins at Yarmouth (9-1) and Cape Elizabeth (3-1) and opened the new year by beating Greely, 6-2, in the Dudley Cup. Wins at Bangor (4-2) and at home over Biddeford (3-0) followed, but after edging Lewiston, 3-2, the Yachtsmen lost at St. Dom’s, 2-1 and fell at home, 5-4, to Lewiston. After beating visiting Bangor (4-1) and St. Dom’s (10-0), it lost, 4-2, at Scarborough before getting back in the win column, 4-3, at Thornton Academy and 7-2 at Portland/Deering Saturday. 

Cheverus opened with a 5-3 home loss to defending Class A champion Lewiston. After a 4-2 win at Thornton Academy, Cheverus fell at Biddeford, 3-2. A 6-1 home victory over St. Dom’s was followed by a 3-0 loss at Scarborough and a 5-2 win over Portland/Deering. After a 10-0 win at South Portland, the Stags traveled to Chicago for a Jesuit tournament and upon their return, they beat host Gorham, 3-0, downed Portland/Deering, 5-3, rallied to beat Cape Elizabeth, 5-4, in overtime and kept the good times rolling with victories at Yarmouth (3-2), at home over Brunswick (5-1), at Noble (7-1) and Saturday at home over Scarborough (3-2).

Last year, the teams split, as Cheverus eked out a 5-4 overtime win in Portland and Falmouth returned the favor on its home ice, prevailing, 5-1.

Tuesday, the Yachtsmen dominated for the better part of 45 minutes.

The Stags had an early look at taking the lead, but Falmouth junior goalie Spencer Pierce denied senior Ryan McSorley.

The Yachtsmen then went ahead 4:02 into the contest when Cheverus junior goalie Jason Halverson stopped a shot by Falmouth junior Alex Grade, but Kidder was there to bang home the rebound for a 1-0 advantage.

With 9:22 to play in the period, Falmouth scored another tough goal, as Hickey got to the rebound of a shot from sophomore Garrett Tracy and scored (Armitage was also credited with an assist).

“Every team needs gritty goals,” Hickey said. “They’re important. Obviously, they paid dividends tonight.”

“There wasn’t a guy on the ice who was looking for individual credit tonight,” said Falmouth coach Deron Barton. “No one cared who got the credit. We’ve committed to getting tough goals. Once it becomes sexy, everybody wants a piece of it. You have to play like that because goaltenders are that good now.”

The Stags went on the power play twice in the period and couldn’t cut into the deficit, despite a good look from sophomore Justin Ray, which was denied by Pierce, keeping the score 2-0 heading to the first intermission.

Cheverus again had a chance to cut the deficit in half when it went on the power play early in the second period, but couldn’t convert and with 10:53 left, Falmouth got a chance on the power play and showed the Stags how it’s done, as Cady rebounded a Grade shot into the net for a 3-0 lead with 9:47 to go.

Later in the period, Cheverus had two more power plays, but had nothing to show for it.

The end of the competitive phase came early in the third period.

After Pierce came way out of the goal to break up a rush by Stags sophomore Alex Brewer, Hickey got his second goal with 12:44 remaining, pouncing on a loose puck in front and shooting it past Halverson.

The Yachtsmen got one final goal, on the power play, with 10:16 to go, as Armitage rebounded a shot from his brother, senior Reece Armitage, into the goal for a 5-0 advantage and Falmouth went on to close out the victory.

The Yachtsmen got plenty of production from Robbie Armitage and Hickey, who are part of what might be the best top line in the state before all is said and done.

“It’s taken awhile for that top line to come together,” Barton said. “We always saw the potential. They only started to jell the past couple weeks. It comes down to unselfish play. We have some super-skilled players on that line. They’re used to do it individually. Now, they’ve learned how to use each other and they’re dangerous.”

Falmouth had to kill eight penalties, but didn’t allow a goal.

“We need to get better controlling our penalties, but we have a great penalty kill,” Hickey said. “Lou and Marcus did a great job. Spencer has stood tall all year long. We’re lucky to have him.”

“I have a saying, ‘Hard working, honest penalties bring good karma on the penalty kill’ and that spoke for itself tonight,” Barton said.

Cheverus wasn’t sure what hit it.

“It was probably our worst game of the year,” said Stags coach Dan Lucas. “We just came out flat and we didn’t ever really get any emotion. They had a good middle ice thing going and we couldn’t set up our power play much. We didn’t give ourselves a really good chance all night.”

End of the line

Cheverus’ remaining slate is daunting, to say the least. The Stags (who remain second in the Class A South Heal Points standings) are home with Thornton Academy Thursday, welcome Biddeford Saturday and play host to Falmouth in the finale a week from Thursday.

“The way the season’s gone, this is probably the perfect time for a wakeup call,” said Lucas. “We got smacked around. It’s what this team needed. We have a few games to get it together. We’ll see what happens.”

After hosting Saturday Thornton Academy, the top-ranked Yachtsmen close at Cheverus Feb. 23.

“I think we’re coming together,” Hickey said. “At the beginning of the season, we were playing as individuals. Now we’re bearing down and trusting each other. We’re taking it one game at a time. We’re preparing for playoffs every game.”

“We’re playing every shift to get better,” said Barton. “Our eyes are set on moving through the playoffs shift by shift, period by period, game by game. We still have work to do. The finer details are the hardest ones to get right, but I’m happy where we are right now.”

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

Falmouth sophomore Jack Kidder beats Cheverus junior goalie Jason Halverson for the game’s first goal.

Falmouth junior Marcus Cady skates past Cheverus junior Marco Giancotti.

Falmouth junior Brendan Hickey tries to make a move on Cheverus sophomore Justin Ray. Hickey scored twice in the win.

Cheverus senior Ryan McSorley battles with Falmouth juniors Alex Grade (24) and Lou Mainella for the puck.

Falmouth sophomore Garrett Tracy fires a shot as Cheverus sophomore Justin Ray defends.

Falmouth senior Robbie Armitage tries to corral the puck.

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