Yarmouth exorcises demons, downs Kennebunk to reach regional final

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Yarmouth sophomore Cooper May, left, is congratulated by his teammates after his third period goal clinches the Clippers’ 5-1 win over Kennebunk in Friday’s Class B South semifinal. Yarmouth will face Gardiner in the regional final Wednesday.

Chris Lambert photos.

More photos below.

LEWISTON—A year ago, on the final Friday night in February, the Yarmouth boys’ hockey team came to the Colisee as a higher seed and went home disappointed.

Friday evening, the Clippers made a return trip and enjoyed themselves much, much more.

Yarmouth, the top seed in Class B South, figured to get a challenge from No. 5 Kennebunk and that was the case most of the way, but the Clippers’ penchant for finishing, their solid goalkeeping and penalty kill and their desire to extend their season, proved to be too much for the Rams to overcome.

Yarmouth shot to a 1-0 lead just 3 minutes, 16 seconds in, when senior captain and standout Walter Conrad finished after a great individual effort. Sophomore Cooper May continued his strong late season surge by scoring with 7:55 left and the Clippers took a 2-0 lead after one period.

Yarmouth added a third goal 10:18 into the second period, as senior captain and sparkplug Patrick Grant lit the lamp.

The Rams finally got on the board with 9:19 to play, when senior Bo Beveridge scored on a rebound, but after the Clippers killed off a penalty, May delivered the dagger with 1:55 remaining and with 44 seconds to go, an empty net goal from junior Chris Romano sent Yarmouth and its fans home happy with a 5-1 victory.

The Clippers improved to 15-4, ended Kennebunk’s season at 10-9-1 and advanced to the regional final for just the second time since 2002 and the first time since 2010, where they will battle No. 2 Gardiner (14-4-1) Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Colisee for the right to go to the Class B state final.

“I thought we got really close last year, but we had a tough break, so we’re still tasting that,” said Yarmouth coach Dave St. Pierre. “We wanted to come in tonight and take that next step.”

First obstacle

Yarmouth enjoyed a terrific regular season, winning 14 times, and as the top seed for the first time since 2002, earned a bye into the semifinals.

Kennebunk went 9-8-1 this year and won at No. 4 York, 3-2, in Tuesday’s quarterfinals.

In the lone regular season meeting, the Clippers won, 5-1, at the Rams Dec. 12, behind two goals from Conrad, one apiece from Romano, senior Noah Grondin and junior Anders Newberg and 31 saves from Latham.

Yarmouth entered the contest 0-2 all-time in the playoffs against Kennebunk, losing the 1985 Class C Final, 4-3, in double overtime, and the 2014 quarterfinals, 4-1.

Friday, the Clippers produced a solid 45-minute effort and exorcised some demons in the process.

Yarmouth did what a top seed hopes to do and seized control in the first period.

After a couple minutes to get used to the venue, Conrad made sure his team would score first, as he skated out of his end, across the Rams’ blue line, deked two defenders in highlight reel fashion, then shot on Kennebunk junior goalie Spencer Desrochers. Desrochers stopped the initial shot, but with Grant clogging up traffic in front of the goal, Conrad managed to poke home the rebound and the Clippers were up, 1-0, just 3 minutes, 16 seconds in.

“I got around the defenders, got a shot and luckily it bounced off his pads right to me,” Conrad said. 

“We talk about getting the first goal and punching them in the mouth early, so that was huge,” May said.

“Walt is a once in a generation player,” St. Pierre added. “He and Patty. They’re heart and soul guys, talent guys, they pick us up.”

After Desrochers saved shots by junior Bill Jacobs, Grondin and Romano (on the doorstep), Yarmouth went up 2-0 with 7:55 to play in the period.

Junior Owen Ramsay sent a shot on goal from just inside the blue line and May redirected it past a prone Desrochers and into the net.

“Owen took the shot and I just tipped it through the goalie’s legs,” May said. “It was a lucky shot. I was in the right place at the right time.”

“Cooper had a tough knee injury at the beginning of the season and he’s worked his way back,” St. Pierre said. “He played 11 games and put up 22 points. He’s a big part of our team.”

After Newberg was sent to the box for tripping, the Rams had a chance to answer, but only managed one shot in two minutes as Latham denied the bid of senior James Ross.

Latham had to come up huge a few times before the period ended to preserve the lead.

With 4:08 left, a wrister from sophomore Nate Jewett appeared goal-bound, but Latham snared it out of midair with his glove.

After Romano’s bid to extend the lead was kicked away by Desrochers, Latham was tested by both Beveridge and Ross, but saved both shots and the Clippers took a 2-0 lead to the first intermission.

Yarmouth enjoyed an 11-7 shots on goal advantage in the first period.

Much of the second period was a story of near-finishes, as both goalies came up big.

Just 27 seconds in, Romano’s shot was kicked aside by Desrochers.

After Desrochers denied May, Ross had a great look on the doorstep for the Rams, but Latham came up big.

With 10:13 left in the period, May’s blast found Desrochers’ facemask and the goalie made the save in somewhat uncomfortable fashion.

Desrochers then stopped May and Grant in quick succession.

With 9:04 to go in the second, Latham again robbed Ross in close. 

Grant tried to sneak a shot past Desrochers with 6:39 remaining, but the goalie kept the puck out.

Grant finally broke through with 4:42 left, taking a pass from Romano, then beating Desrochers, although the goalie got a piece of the puck before it trickled into the net for a 3-0 lead.

“I was just tyring to drive the zone and get the puck on the goalie,” Grant said. “I saw Cooper driving to the net and found (the goalie’s) 5-hole.”

Kennebunk had a chance to get some life when Jacobs went to the penalty box for charging with 3:32 to play in the period ,but the Rams didn’t generate a single shot.

After Grant was denied one more time by Desrochers, the game went to the second intermission with Yarmouth firmly in control, up, 3-0.

In the third period, the Rams made things interesting for awhile, but they couldn’t rally.

The Clippers almost produced the dagger with 11:47 to play, but Conrad was denied by Desrochers in front and a rebound went through the crease. 

Kennebunk then pushed to get on the board and after a wrister from junior Brenden Whitten was saved by Latham and a Beveridge shot was blocked by Conrad, Ross got the puck on net, the rebound sat free and with Latham prone on his back, Beveridge buried the puck to pull the Rams within 3-1 with 9:19 remaining.

Kennebunk had a chance to make things very interesting when Grondin was whistled for a tripping penalty with 7:08 to play, but despite three shots on the power play, the Rams couldn’t score.

“We were disciplined on the penalty kill,” May said. “It was great tonight. We pressured them all over the ice. That was a key to the win.”

“Killing penalties is all about hard work and getting your stick in the passing lane,” Conrad said. “We tried to be aggressive, but at the same time being safe and not give them any opportunities. We managed to get the puck out of the zone and kill the power plays.”

“We worked a lot on PKs in practice,” St. Pierre added. “We wanted to slow them up. We compressed the box, blocked shots and protected loose pucks.” 

Yarmouth returned to its offensive ways and was rewarded with 1:55 to go, when May ended the competitive phase of the contest by rebounding Ramsay’s shot into the net.

“Again, right place, right time,” May said. “Another shot from Owen and I just put it upstairs and over the goalie’s stick.”

“Cooper’s quite a force on the ice,” Grant said. “Adding him to our line with Chris allows us to break up some things offensively. He’s been awesome.”

With 44.1 seconds left, sophomore Joe Truesdale set up Romano for the empty netter and the lead was 5-1.

The news wasn’t all good for the Clippers, however, as with 25.5 seconds remaining, Newberg and Beveridge got into an altercation and both were sent off.

Beveridge’s season and high school career is over, so he faces no further penalty, but the scrum was costly for Newberg, who, by rule, has to sit out the following game.

Yarmouth then put the finishing touches on its 5-1 victory and moved on. 

“We worked all week in practice on two key things, playing defensive hockey and outworking our opponent all over the ice and we executed that,” May said.

“We haven’t done this yet in the four years we’ve been here,” Grant said. “It’s a great feeling. There’s no one I’d rather play with than these guys.”

“It felt like playoff hockey,” Conrad said. “Cape brought a playoff intensity in our last game and we knew we’d have to turn it up a notch since Cape beat us. We had 11 days to focus. We told ourselves if we played defensive hockey and worked hard, we’d have success. I think we felt really good tonight. We were excited. This is what we’ve looked forward to. It felt good to get back on the ice and compete.”

“That was our goal coming in, to play 45 minutes,” St. Pierre added. “We knew they were coming off a big win and would be coming at us hard, so we wanted to win that first 15 (minutes), specifically the first two or three shifts, and I think we sustained the pressure the whole game long. When they got their goal, we had to tighten up, play good defensive hockey and take care of our assignments. To their credit, the boys stepped up and did that.” 

The Clippers wound up with a commanding 36-18 shots advantage and didn’t have a power play opportunity. Latham made 17 critical saves.

“Danny played great,” said May. “He made big saves when we got caught in our own zone.”

“Dan’s been great all season,” said Grant. “I don’t think we’d be where we are without him. He had an excellent game and made key saves. He kept them scoreless and that allowed us to gain momentum.”

“Dan’s been there all year for us,” added St. Pierre. “He never played varsity hockey until this year, but he worked his tail off in the offseason and came in ready to go. He was Rookie of the Month in December and he’s carried us the whole way.” 

The Rams went 0-for-3 on the power play and got 31 saves from Desrochers.

Just like 2002

Yarmouth will happily return to Lewiston Wednesday to play in its first regional final since 2010 and just its second since winning its last championship in 2002.

Standing between the Clippers and a state final appearance is Gardiner, which knocked off No. 7 Gorham (4-0) and No. 6 Cape Elizabeth (5-4) to advance.

The teams’ lone regular season meeting came way back on Dec. 5, when Yarmouth blanked the visiting Tigers, 2-0, as Jacobs and Truesdale scored while Latham stopped all 28 shots he faced.

The Clippers won two of the past three playoff meetings. The last was the most memorable, as Lonnie Darling’s goal in the second overtime produced a 3-2 victory in the 2002 Class B Final. Yarmouth also beat Gardiner, 4-1, in the 2001 state game.

“We realize we’re the 1 seed, but we don’t let it faze us too much,” May said. “We’re just taking it one game at a time. We’re 0-0 right now. We’ll have good practices and keep working. We’re in a good place right now and we’re confident.”

“We’ll come ready to work Monday,” Conrad said. “It comes down to hard work and defensive zone hockey. We have the motivation of playing without Anders. We have the mentality of a family. We want to do it for him, win and get him back for the state final.”

“(Assistant coaches) Scott (Matusovich) and Dennis (Hunt) and I coached together and had success back (in the championship years)) and we came back with the mentality to bring it back,” St. Pierre added. “We’ve been pretty successful. We still have a couple more games to go to reach our ultimate goal. (Gardiner’s) a very strong team. They’ll test us defensively. They won’t give us goals easily, so we’ll have to come in and work.”

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

Yarmouth senior captains Walter Conrad (27) and Patrick Grant send the puck past Kennebunk junior goalie Spencer Desrochers for the game’s first goal (Conrad was credited with scoring it).

Yarmouth senior Noah Grondin fires a shot.

Yarmouth junior Chris Romano skates past Kennebunk junior Brenden Whitten.

Yarmouth senior Patrick Grant plays the puck as Kennebunk junior Spencer Desrochers looks on warily.

Yarmouth sophomore Cooper May, who scored twice, winds up and shoots.

Yarmouth senior Walter Conrad races up the ice.

Yarmouth junior Bill Jacobs sends a shot on goal.

Yarmouth’s student section, the YC Ultras, had a lot to root about Friday night.

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