Yarmouth rallies, hands Greely first loss

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FALMOUTH—Wake up the echoes.

Saturday evening at Family Ice Center, you could almost close your eyes and drift back a decade.

The Yarmouth boys’ hockey program, which last won a state championship in 2002, under the direction of coach Scott Matusovich, stepped into the past and won the type of game it used to steal all the time back in the day.

Facing undefeated Greely, a team which has run roughshod over the region this winter, the Clippers trailed most of the way and were down 6-4 with seven minutes to play and the Rangers on the power play.

Then, in the span of 39 seconds, Yarmouth scored two shorthanded goals to draw even. With 3:52 remaining, senior sparkplug Alex Kurtz scored on a rebound and the Clippers defense and junior goalie Red DeSmith held on from there for an inspirational 7-6 victory.

Yarmouth improved to 4-3-1, thanks to Kurtz’s two goals and three assists and two goals and two helpers from classmate Eamon Costello. Greely, despite holding leads of 1-0, 2-0, 3-2, 4-3, 5-3 and 6-4, fell to 6-0-1.

“I give credit to my teammates,” said Kurtz. “Our D played great. We just go shift by shift. That’s all we can ask for. We came in with a relaxed attitude. We were quiet on the bus. We got our warmup going. Things clicked and we came together as a team tonight.”

Wakeup call

Entering Saturday, Greely, which was upset by eventual state champion York in last year’s regional final, appeared to have no peer in Western B. The Rangers opened with a 10-1 home romp over Winslow, then broke open a close game in the third period of a 7-2 triumph at Yarmouth. After tying host Biddeford, 3-3, Greely closed the 2011 portion of its schedule with a 7-0 home win over Gardiner. After the calendar flipped, the Rangers downed visiting Camden Hills (4-2), host York (4-0) and visiting Cape Elizabeth (4-0), in a game that made it appear that it was going to be Greely and then everyone else.

Yarmouth was ousted by Greely in last year’s semifinals (4-2) and dipped into the past in the offseason when David St. Pierre was selected to replace Marc Halsted as coach. St. Pierre was a longtime assistant to Matusovich and brought Matusovich back as an assistant.

The Clippers started slowly this winter, losing at Cape Elizabeth (6-2) and at home to Greely (7-2). After a momentum-turning 1-1 tie at York, Yarmouth crushed host Noble, 10-2, to end 2011. The new year started with victories at Portland (5-3) and Massabesic-Old Orchard Beach (8-0), but last Saturday, Camden Hills came to Yarmouth and beat the Clippers, 4-3.

Since Greely upset Yarmouth in the 2003-04 semifinals, in what was effectively a changing of the guard, the Rangers have had the upper hand in the rivalry, going 13-2-1 in that span. Greely actually won nine in a row prior to the Clippers’ 2-1 home win Jan. 23, 2010. Last winter, the Rangers didn’t only eliminate Yarmouth in the playoffs, they also took the two regular season meetings, 5-1 and 4-2.

This time, the Clippers found a way to get it done.

Greely got off to a hot start, scoring 4 minutes, 33 seconds in when senior captain Pete Stauber took a pass from junior Kenny Richards and beat DeSmith to make it 1-0. Freshman John Wright was also credited with an assist.

When Richards set up freshman Reid Howland for a goal with 7:08 to go in the first, the Rangers appeared in good shape, but Greely then started parading to the penalty box and the Clippers took advantage.

With 1:30 left in the first, playing two-men up, Yarmouth cut into the deficit when sophomore David Clemmer scored (from senior Matt Madrid). A mere 40 seconds later, with a one-man advantage, Kurtz set up Costello for a power play goal and the game was deadlocked, 2-2, at the first intermission.

Just 63 seconds into the second period, the Rangers went back on top, 3-2, when freshman Mitchel Donovan tipped home junior Kyle Megathlin’s shot (sophomore Ted Hart also had an assist). Again, the Clippers answered, with a familiar combination getting the job done. Kurtz set up Costello, who finished (senior Max Watson was also credited for an assist).

Greely took the lead for the third time with 5:58 left as sophomore Aidan Black tipped home senior Andrew Hackett’s shot. The Rangers appeared to take firm control when, on the power play in the waning seconds, Donovan scored on a rebound of junior captain Tim Storey’s shot, to make it 5-3 after two.

Instead of buckling, however, Yarmouth came out confident for the third period and stunned those on hand with a stirring rally.

It only took 36 seconds for the Clippers to make the score 5-4 as senior Marshall Brunelle beat Greely freshman goalie Kyle Kramlich. Kurtz and Costello assisted on the goal.

With just over eight minutes to go, Rangers sophomore Zac Doucette was robbed by DeSmith at one end and Kramlich denied Yarmouth junior Kevin Haley at the other. Greely transitioned back to offense and with 7:51 showing, Doucette set up Donovan for another two goal lead.

In control and going on the power play with a little over seven minutes left, the Rangers seemed primed to lock up the win, but the Clippers had other ideas.

With 6:59 to play, Clemmer scored a shorthanded goal (Haley got the assist) and suddenly it was a one goal game.

“We were missing a player tonight, (junior) Mark Brown,” said Kurtz. “Somebody had to step up. David Clemmer did.”

At the 6:51 mark, Greely nearly went up by two again, but Richards’ shot hit the crossbar.

It then took only 31 more seconds for Yarmouth to tie the score. Kurtz did the deed with another shorthanded goal, this one assisted by Costello.

“Eamon did a terrific job of getting me the puck,” Kurtz said. “He went through like three guys. I was sitting on the back door and tapped it in. He did it all for me.”

“The first couple minutes, we ran around, but we settled down and stayed the course,” St. Pierre said. “We’ve preached all week in practice about little things and outworking guys. That’s been our Achilles’ heel. We haven’t had that extra effort, taking the hit or chipping the puck. We found that the little things matter. That’s how we scored the two goals. We worked hard.”

The game winner came with 3:52 showing.

Costello put a shot on net and with the puck loose, Kurtz swatted at it and managed to get it past Kramlich and the Clippers had the lead for the first time, 7-6.

“I just slapped at the puck, tried to get it in and tucked it under his pads,” Kurtz said. “They signaled goal and we went nuts.”

“(Alex is) a great player,” St. Pierre said. “He’s got a ton of skill and passion. He leaves it all on the ice. The team rallies around that emotion and passion.”

The only scare down the stretch came with 15.5 seconds remaining when DeSmith had to sprawl to collect a loose puck with the Rangers playing with an extra attacker. Yarmouth was able to run out the clock from there and celebrate its big win.

“This game meant the world to me,” said Kurtz. “I love playing in this rink. Big ice sheet. Great atmosphere. Greely played a heck of a game. Mitchel Donovan had some great goals.We’ve discussed this week about how this program was in the can when I was a freshman. We’ve built our way.”

“We talked before the game about believing in ourselves and executing out there,” St. Pierre said. “If we believed and picked each other up, we were still in it. We played really strong. Greely’s a great team. In my opinion, they’re one of the top five teams in the state, regardless of class. To come into their barn and get a win, it’s a big statement. It helps us cement that if we work hard, we can play with anyone. They’ll be back and they’ll want revenge. We’ll have to be ready.”

Yarmouth got two goals each from Clemmer, Costello and Kurtz and one from Brunelle. Greely’s goals came from Donovan (three), Black, Howland and Stauber.

The Rangers had a 31-30 edge in shots on goal. DeSmith made 25 saves, Kramlich 23. The Clippers scored two power play goals in seven opportunities. Greely went 1 for 4.

“We just a really poor job of buckling up and playing smart,” lamented longtime Rangers coach Barry Mothes. “I give (Yarmouth) credit for fighting hard. They deserve credit and the win. They played hard. I was disappointed in our lack of attention to smart hockey. We’ve been in other games where we talked about taking care of the puck in important stretches. Maybe you don’t feel it’s as important when you’re up two and on the power play. We had some of our most experienced guys out there tonight when those goals were scored.

“The rhythm of the first period, we started out well. I think some of the penalty calls had an effect on the game. They went both ways. Iit affected the tempo of the game, but the loss is on us. We just did a poor job of keeping our heads. We talked between the second and third about the importance of protecting the puck and not giving them odd-man rushes, but they had odd-man rushes galore. It wasn’t smart hockey down the stretch.”

Tough stretch

Greely will travel three times next week, to play Lewiston Monday, St. Dom’s Wednesday and Leavitt Saturday. The Rangers are second to York in the latest Western Class B Heal Points standings and hope to bounce back from this loss.

“I hope we learn from this,” Mothes said. “The way we played down the stretch is just really disappointing. Our challenge is to learn from it. I don’t think we were carried away or our heads were too big. If we were, this will keep our head on our shoulders. We have 48 hours to bounce back and see if we can do a little better with some of the things that hurt us tonight. We’ll have to. Those will be challenging games.”

Yarmouth still has work to do to secure playoff positioning. Even after the win, the Clippers were sixth in Western B (where only five teams qualify for the postseason). Yarmouth is at Leavitt Wednesday and hosts Gardiner Saturday.

“It’s only our eighth game of the season,” St. Pierre said. “We’re not even at the halfway mark. We have a saying in our locker room that we’re never too high or too low. We can’t dwell on this win, we have to get ready for the next game.”

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

Greely freshman goalie Kyle Kramlich turns aside Yarmouth junior Kevin Haley’s shot.

Greely junior Brendan Trelegan pins Yarmouth senior Bart Gallagher against the glass.

Yarmouth senior Alex Kurtz leaves Greely junior Kenny Richards in his wake and skates toward Rangers junior Kyle Megathlin.

Yarmouth senior Alex Kurtz delivers a hit on Greely senior Andrew Hackett up against the boards.

Greely sophomore Ted Hart lines up a shot while Yarmouth junior goalie Red DeSmith prepares to make the save.

Yarmouth senior Max Watson and Greely senior captain Jordan Tarbox say hello hockey-style.

Sidebar Elements

Yarmouth senior Alex Kurtz (pinned against the glass) is mobbed by his teammates after scoring the go-ahead goal with 3:52 to play. The Clippers got even more enjoyment out of celebrating in front of the Greely student section. They went out and completed their 7-6 upset win.

More photos below.

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