Yarmouth junior Cooper May celebrates his clinching goal in Monday’s 4-1 win at Cape Elizabeth in a Class B South quarterfinal. May had a hat trick, helping the defending regional champion Clippers advance to meet York in the semifinals Friday.
Joe Carpine / 360digitalphotography.com photos.
More photos below.
PORTLAND—You can’t quantify heart.
Especially when it’s the heart of a champion.
Yarmouth’s boys’ hockey team, the reigning Class B South champion, faced a crisis of confidence heading into the playoffs, having lost seven of its previous eight games, but it’s safe to say that since the calendar flipped to the postseason, the Clippers have rediscovered their swagger.
Visiting red-hot Cape Elizabeth in a Class B South quarterfinal in front of a large and vocal crowd Monday evening at the Troubh Ice Arena, Yarmouth, ranked sixth, put a quick end to the third-seeded Capers’ title hopes.
The Clippers came out with great energy and while they didn’t score in the first period, they were rewarded 2 minutes, 44 seconds into the second when junior Dom Morrill found the net.
After killing a 5-on-3 Capers’ power play, Yarmouth doubled its lead at the 9:39 mark of the second when junior Cooper May tickled the twine to make it 2-0.
The Clippers managed to protect the lead thanks to series of stellar saves from junior goalie Dan Latham, then, with 4:35 to play in the third period, delivered the dagger, as after senior Bennett Travers produced a terrific individual effort to win the puck, he set up May for another goal.
Cape Elizabeth finally solved Latham with 1:31 left, when junior Ryan Collins scored in traffic, but 53 seconds later, May fired the puck into an empty net to complete his hat track and Yarmouth put the finishing touches on an impressive 4-1 victory.
In addition to May’s three goals, Latham stopped 39 shots and the Clippers improved to 8-10-1, ended the Capers’ fine season at 12-6-1 and advanced to meet second-ranked York (15-2-1) in the Class B South semifinals Friday evening, at a time to be announced, at the Colisee in Lewiston.
“We refocused on our theme of being a family and coming together and working for each other,” said Yarmouth coach Dave St. Pierre. “We talked a lot about that the last week of practice. You saw guys working for each other. Taking hits to make plays, chipping pucks into places they had to. It came down to our will.”
Class B South has been wide open all season and the postseason figured to follow suit, which gave both Cape Elizabeth and Yarmouth hope entering the playoffs, even if they did go in different directions in the second half of the season.
The defending regional champion Clippers won just one of their first eight contests and wound up 7-10-1, but still managed to garner the sixth and final playoff spot in the region (see sidebar, below, for links to previous game stories).
The Capers, meanwhile, went 6-1-1 in their final eight and ended the season 12-5-1 to finish third in the region.
Cape Elizabeth took both regular season meetings, 4-3, in overtime, Feb. 2 in Portland, and, 3-2, in Yarmouth Feb. 21.
Entering play Monday, Yarmouth had won five of the previous eight playoff meetings (see sidebar, below), but the Capers had taken the past three, including a 4-3 win in the 2013 quarterfinals, the most recent.
This time around, the Clippers put together their best 45-minute effort of the season and were rewarded by extending it.
Yarmouth put pressure on early, but didn’t have a golden scoring opportunity.
The first good chance came almost six minutes in when Cape Elizabeth senior Evan Concannon shot just wide.
Capers junior goalie Peter Haber kept the game scoreless by denying May and after Latham robbed Capers junior Sean Agrodnia on successive shots, the Clippers went on the power play.
Haber stood tall, however, getting junior Joe Truesdale to shoot wide, then saving shots from Truesdale, Caleb Morrison and senior Chris Romano.
Late in the first period, Latham denied junior Alex Glidden and Haber came up big to rob May.
With 17.8 seconds left, Romano was sent to the penalty box for roughing, allowing Cape Elizabeth to begin the second period on the power play.
The Capers couldn’t convert, however, and it wasn’t long before Yarmouth was on top to stay.
With 12:16 left, the puck came to Morrill near the goal and Morrill fired it past Haber for a 1-0 lead.
“We felt we put a good first period together,” said May. “We had to build off that since the second period has been our worst period all year. Dom’s worked hard all year. We have faith in him. He made a great play there.”
The Clippers’ special teams and their backbone in goal then came up big to protect the lead.
After sophomore Matt Sanborn was sent off for a cross check at 4:47, Romano was sent to the penalty box 51 seconds later for slashing, giving Cape Elizabeth over a minute of a 5-on-3 power play, but Latham made a sensational glove save to rob sophomore Phil Tarling (the hero of the teams’ first meeting) and after Glidden hit the post, Latham stopped a Glidden shot and while the rebound sat free for an agonizing moment, it was eventually cleared.
Back at even strength, the Capers kept coming, as senior Ben Ekedahl had a shot saved and Tarling’s rebound was denied as well.
Then, after Travers broke up a rush, he transitioned Yarmouth to offense and got the puck to Romano, who fed May and May put the puck in the net for a 2-0 lead with 5:21 remaining in the second period.
Just 12 seconds after the goal, Latham robbed Cape Elizabeth senior Carter Brock and again a rebound sat free before being cleared in the nick of time.
With 2:31 remaining in the second, Morrison went to the penalty box for high sticking, then received an additional 10 minutes for roughing, but again, the Capers couldn’t capitalize, as Latham dove to rob senior Andrew Pellechia before denying shots from Glidden and senior Jeb Boechenstein, allowing the Clippers to take a 2-0 advantage to the third period.
“We kept the puck to the outside really well,” said Latham. “Getting up early built confidence. It’s fun to be in a zone. It’s just instinct. We talked about not letting up. We had to keep getting pucks deep and going to work.”
Latham got plenty of help from his defensemen.
“The end of that second period you saw two of our seniors, Chris Romano and Tyler Veilleux, block shots to snuff out chances they had to put the puck in the net,” St. Pierre said. “Our seniors stepped up.”
As expected, Cape Elizabeth came out strong in the third period, hoping to get on the board and turn momentum, but Latham didn’t allow it, stopping bids from Tarling, senior Ben Ekedahl and Boechenstein.
Then, with 4:35 to play, Yarmouth got some breathing room, thanks to the tenacity of Travers, who fought for the puck behind the net, won it, then sent a pinpoint pass on to the stick of May, who beat Haber for a 3-0 lead.
“We’ve been together all year building chemistry on our line,” May said. “Bennett missed his junior year, but we’re glad to have him back for his senior year. We’re great linemates. He’s always going hard and he makes it easy for me to score goals.”
To their credit, the Capers fought hard to the end and with Haber off the ice with 1:31 remaining, were finally rewarded, as Collins scored, with Boechenstein getting an assist.
Cape Elizabeth then looked to really make things interesting, again pulling Haber, but this time the risk backfired, as senior Owen Ramsay raced to collect the puck in the Capers’ zone and tapped it ahead to May, who buried it to complete his hat trick.
“Coach told us to hang back and worry about D first,” said May. “I knew if I had a chance to go, I’d go.”
“Cooper is a talent,” St. Pierre said. “When you have a big, strong body and you can skate the way he does and add in the will to compete, that’s a tough force to stop.”
Cape Elizabeth couldn’t answer from there and Yarmouth put the finishing touches on its 4-1 victory.
“We played a full 45 and we all worked together,” Latham said. “We put something out on the ice that we’re proud of. We’ve always felt that if we give up two or less goals, we can pull out any game. We’re the defending champions and we have something to prove.”
“It’s been a tough stretch for us, but we had to hold our heads high and keep competing and focus on the next practice and the next game,” May said. “We knew it would come. We liked our group, we just had to keep working.”
“You learn from success in previous years,” St. Pierre added. “Cape played us tough both games this year. That gave us extra motivation. They’re a great hockey team. They came at us all night long. We always try to have a tough, competitive schedule every year. That makes us better down the stretch. It shows during the postseason.
“I talked to the boys about going back to the simple things. Making sure defensively we were in the right places, getting pucks to the safe places. We’re a third period team, but Cape’s the other third period team in our league. I felt like if we won the first five minutes (of the third), we’d have a chance to win it.”
Latham stole the show with 39 saves on 40 shots faced.
“That’s the best game Danny’s played all year,” said May. “He had probably 10 or 11 saves he had no business making. He’s the hardest worker in practice. He wanted this more than ever.”
“Danny came out of nowhere last year and for my money, he was the best goaltender in Class B and maybe in the state,” St. Pierre said. “He gives us everything he’s got. He’s struggled a little bit this year, but he made amazing saves tonight. His competitive nature showed tonight.”
Cape Elizabeth was left shaking its head, knowing that if a few bounces had gone its way, its season would have continued.
“It’s frustrating,” said Capers coach Matt Buotte. “Some nights, hockey can be cruel. Last year, when we lost up at the Colisee (to Gardiner in the semifinals), we felt we had a lot left in the tank and we had regrets going into the offseason. Tonight, we don’t have regrets, other than losing. We had nine, 10, 11 amazing chances when Latham stood on his head. Latham dragged them to the state final last year and he’s the type of a goalie who can do that again. It was a game that if it’s our night and we get the bounces, we’d get nine or 10 goals, but we’re going home.
“Yarmouth’s a class organization and they deserved it tonight. They took advantage of their chances. We hit a post, they cleared about five pucks off the goal line. What can you do? From an execution standpoint, there isn’t much I’d go back and change. If we played that same exact game 10 times, we’d win seven or eight. We created enough chances to advance, but they kept them out.
“We’d gone to York Thursday and were unfortunate to not secure a bye, which was our goal. We knew when we didn’t that we were in a bad spot. It’s tough to beat a team three times, especially a talented, well-coached team like Yarmouth. They’re the defending champs until someone knocks them off. They played with the heart of a champion tonight. In some of the 1-on-1 battles, maybe they had a little extra to give.”
Despite the disappointment, the Capers have a lot to be proud of. Cape Elizabeth’s 12 victories were its most in six years.
“We did have a great season,” Buotte said. “A lot to be proud of. We beat everyone in our region except York, who we tied. I felt going into the playoffs that four or five good teams would be going home. There aren’t any gimmes in this region. We knew no matter who we faced, it would be a dogfight.
“We believed this would be the year we knocked the door down. These guys were so committed to each other. Guys worked out every single day all summer. They wanted it so badly. We’re trying to build a championship culture. Everybody supports each other. We won as a team and we lost as a team. I’m really proud of the guys.”
Friday night, Yarmouth will battle a York squad it lost to, 7-0, Feb. 11 on the road.
The Clippers have won four of the previous six playoff encounters. The Wildcats took the most recent, 5-4, in the 2010 regional final.
Yarmouth will again be the underdog, but until someone ends their reign, the Clippers have to be taken very seriously.
“I think we still have something to prove,” Latham said. “We have to play 45 minutes again. It’s that simple.”
“No matter who we play, there’s a target on our backs,” May said. “We can’t worry about being the defending regional champs. We have to work hard and if we do, we can beat anybody. That last game was a tough loss and they outplayed us. We feel like we didn’t put together a full 45 in that one. We’ll have to be physical in the defensive zone. That’ll be a key. I’m excited to go back to Lewiston.”
“We’ve said all year that one through six (in the region) this year, flip a coin,” St. Pierre added. “We’ve been close with each other all year. It makes for an exciting playoffs. We didn’t play terribly well in that first game (at York). They took it to us. They have so much offense.
“I think we’ve got as good a chance as anybody. Our guys are ready to compete. When we put three periods together, we can play with anybody in the state. Why not us?”
Yarmouth junior goalie Dan Latham denies Cape Elizabeth junior Alex Glidden for one of his 39 saves.
Cape Elizabeth senior Ben Ekedahl and Yarmouth junior Cooper May fight for the puck.
Cape Elizabeth sophomore Phil Tarling gets around Yarmouth senior Owen Ramsay.
Cape Elizabeth junior goalie Peter Haber prepares to make a save.
Yarmouth junior Cooper May lines up a shot.
Yarmouth junior Dom Morrill celebrates the game’s first goal.
Cape Elizabeth celebrates its lone goal.
2013 Western B quarterfinals
Cape Elizabeth 4 Yarmouth 3
2005 Western B semifinals
Cape Elizabeth 5 Yarmouth 2
2003 Western B semifinals
Cape Elizabeth 6 Yarmouth 2
2002 Western B semifinals
Yarmouth 4 Cape Elizabeth 3
2000 Western B Final
Yarmouth 5 Cape Elizabeth 4
1993 Western B quarterfinals
Yarmouth 12 Cape Elizabeth 2
1987 Western B Final
Yarmouth 4 Cape Elizabeth 2
1984 Class C semifinal
Yarmouth 3 Cape Elizabeth 1