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Yarmouth senior captains Patrick Grant, left, Walter Conrad and Noah Grondin receive the runner-up plaque and salute the fans following the Clippers’ agonizing 3-2 double overtime loss to Waterville in Saturday’s Class B state final.
Chris Lambert photos.
More photos below.
LEWISTON—The echoes have been awakened, the glory has been restored and the pride can’t be quantified.
But unfortunately, for the valiant Yarmouth boys’ hockey team, the hardware will have to wait another year.
Saturday afternoon, in an absolute delight of a Class B state championship game at the Colisee, the Clippers went toe-to-toe with powerhouse Waterville and 45 minutes decided absolutely nothing.
Nor did eight minutes of overtime.
Yarmouth got off to a fast start, riding goals from senior captain and standout Patrick Grant and another from classmate, fellow captain and star Noah Grondin for a quick 2-0 lead, but as was the case in the teams’ regular season meeting back in January, the Clippers couldn’t hold it.
Less than a minute after Grondin scored what proved to be the final goal of Yarmouth’s season, the Purple Panthers got their high-octane offense going when junior Andrew Roderigue (remember that name) set up junior Michael Bolduc for a goal which cut the Clippers’ lead in half.
The score remained 2-1 through the end of the first period and all of the second, although Yarmouth did have a 5-on-3 power play to end the second stanza.
The Clippers carried that two-man advantage into the third period, but couldn’t score and that left the door open for Waterville, which tied the score on freshman Cooper Hart’s blast with 8:22 left in regulation.
Both teams just missed winning it in regulation, as Purple Panthers junior goalie Nathan Pinnette and Clippers sophomore goalie Dan Latham stood tall, so the game went to “sudden victory” overtime.
There, the Purple Panthers hit the post and Grant and senior captain/ironman Walter Conrad just missed ending it, so the contest needed a second OT to be resolved.
There, off a clean faceoff win, Waterville junior captain Matt Jolicoeur got the puck to Roderigue and after being frustrated most of the day, Roderigue wouldn’t be denied, etching his name into Purple Panthers and state finals lore with a rocket of a slapshot which Latham couldn’t stop, and Waterville won the Class B title, 3-2.
The Purple Panthers captured their 21st championship, their first in Class B, wound up 19-1-1 and ended Yarmouth’s most exciting and triumphant season in 14 years at 16-5.
“We’d have liked it to finish differently, but we did everything we needed to do to pull it out,” said Clippers coach Dave St. Pierre, a link to the glory days of the early 2000s and the man most responsible for restoring one of the state’s most proud programs to the pinnacle.”I felt it would be a close game from start to finish. We got looks, they got looks, we did things to shut them down and they did things to shut us down. Both goaltenders played fantastic. The journey this year was incredible. The kids made it unbelievable.”
Both teams have won multiple state titles, although they haven’t come with the regularity of years past.
Prior to Saturday, Yarmouth had played in 11 Class B state finals, as well as one in Class C (see sidebar, below), going 7-5. The Clippers won Class B every year from 1987 through 1990, captured the title again in 1994, then went back-to-back in 2001 and 2002, but prior to this season, they hadn’t appeared in a state game since.
Waterville’s first championship came way back in 1927, during the Calvin Coolidge Administration, the year Babe Ruth hit 60 home runs. Waterville won again in 1928 and added crowns in 1931 and 1932, every year from 1938 through 1941, and after a long dry spell, a run of five in a row from 1969 through 1973. After winning three in a row from 1979 through 1981, more hardware came in 1991, 1996, 2001 and finally, 2009, giving the program 20 overall championships, which prior to Saturday was tied with Lewiston for second most all-time behind St. Dom’s (24).
Yarmouth entered the 2015-16 season feeling like it had unfinished business following last year’s agonizing overtime loss to Gorham in the Western B semifinals. The Clippers had no peer in the early going this winter, downing their first seven foes: Gardiner (2-0), Gorham (4-1), Kennebunk (5-1), Cheverus (4-3), Cape Elizabeth (7-1), Maranacook (10-2) and Thornton Academy (4-1). After a 3-2 home loss to Waterville, Yarmouth lost at Brunswick (4-2) before bouncing back to defeat Greely (2-1), Gorham (4-0), York (4-3) and Leavitt (6-1). After a 6-1 loss to Class A South powerhouse Falmouth, Yarmouth defeated Brunswick (4-1), Portland/Deering (3-2) and Greely (4-3) before closing with a 2-1 home loss to Cape Elizabeth.
Waterville, a longtime Class A power, was the dominant team in Class B North this winter, besting 16 teams, while tying rival Winslow (4-4 on Dec. 28) and losing at Class A North champion Lewiston (5-1 on Jan. 27).
Waterville earned the top seed for the playoffs and like Yarmouth, had a bye into the semifinals, where it dispatched No. 4 Winslow (2-0). In the regional final, the Purple Panthers ended No. 3 Messalonskee’s four-year regional run and two-year reign as state champion with a 5-2 decision.
In the regular season meeting, Yarmouth jumped out early to a 2-0 lead on goals from Conrad and Grant, but Waterville scored three times in the second period to prevail, 3-2.
Heading into Saturday, the teams had no postseason history.
They certainly have some now after going out and in front of a large and vocal crowd, producing a memorable state final.
Action was fast and furious from the get-go.
Just 2 minutes, 37 seconds in, sophomore Cooper May hit the post on Yarmouth’s first shot.
Waterville then pressured Latham, as junior Justin Justin Wentworth shot wide and Roderigue fired the puck high.
With 10:14 to go in the first, the Clippers went down a man, as Grondin was sent off for tripping, but it wound up working out just fine for Yarmouth.
After Latham denied a shot from Jolicoeur and Roderigue had a shot blocked, the puck came free to center ice, where Conrad grabbed it and with Grant on his right and just one defender back, raced in on goal. Conrad sent the puck to Grant, got it back, shot and had it blocked by Pinnette, but the rebound sat free and Grant poked it home for a shorthanded goal and a 1-0 lead with 8:45 left in the period.
“Walt got the break on the puck and slid it over to me and I found a lane,” Grant said. “I was just able to bang it in.”
Waterville looked to answer, but a shot from Bolduc was saved, junior Jackson Aldrich shot wide, sophomore Chase Wheeler, junior Justin Wenworth and Roderigue were denied by Latham and a rush by senior captain Nicholas Denis was broken up by Conrad.
Grondin then broke free and as a defender closed in, he wristed a shot over Pinnette’s shoulder into the top right corner of the net for a 2-0 lead with 3:05 left in the first.
Yarmouth knew its lead was far from safe and sure enough, 48 seconds later, the Purple Panthers were on the board.
After Latham denied Wentworth and Bolduc on the rebound, Roderigue passed the puck across the crease to Bolduc at the far post and Bolduc beat Latham to cut Waterville’s deficit in half with 2:17 remaining.
It was the first goal Latham and the Clippers had surrendered in 67 minutes, 2 seconds of game action, dating back to the third period of the semifinals versus Kennebunk.
Neither team scored again in the first, although both had chances.
After Pinnette denied Grondin, Yarmouth senior Chris Romano had a shot saved.
At the other end, Denis shot wide and inside of 10 seconds remaining, a bid from Clippers junior Bill Jacobs was saved by Pinnette.
The Purple Panthers outshot the Clippers in the first period, 10-8.
In the second period, Yarmouth slowed the Waterville Express and had a chance to extend its lead late, but by the end of 15 minutes, nothing had changed.
The Purple Panthers tried to pick up where they left off, as Denis had a couple chances, but on the first, he shot wide and on the second, Conrad broke up his bid in front.
After Pinnette saved a shot by Clippers sophomore Joe Truesdale and junior Owen Ramsay shot wide, Waterville returned the attack, as Denis sent a backhander wide and a Roderigue blast from the blue line was saved by Latham.
With 9:06 to go in the second, Purple Panthers sophomore Cody Pellerin was sent off for a high stick, but Yarmouth couldn’t take advantage, as May and Grant shot wide and Grant redirected a May blast high.
After a turnover, Waterville had a look at a shorthanded goal, but Wentworth was denied by Latham.
One final power play look, by May in front, was saved by Pinnette and it was back to 5-on-5.
After Roderigue shot wide and Jolicoeur’s bid sailed high, Latham managed to get a piece of another Roderigue blast.
With 1:39 remaining, Conrad got free for a shot which was saved and after the whistle blew, Denis was sent to the penalty box for roughing. After Jacobs had a shot saved, with 1:09 showing, Yarmouth earned a 5-on-3 chance when Pellerin was called for holding.
The Clippers couldn’t take advantage of the golden opportunity, however, as Pinnette denied May, Conrad set up Grant for a shot which went just wide and a wrister from Conrad was saved by Pinnette with the glove.
Yarmouth enjoyed a 13-4 shots advantage in the second period, but the score remained 2-1.
The Clippers had 22 seconds of 5-on-3 to start the third period, then 30 more of 5-on-4, but they couldn’t extend the lead and that came back to haunt them.
On the 5-on-3, May shot just high and wide and on the 5-on-4, Romano fired a shot that Pinnette stopped with his pad.
“(Not scoring) was tough,” St. Pierre said. “We had a good opportunity. Credit to Waterville. They were aggressive and killed the penalty. We had some good looks, but couldn’t score.”
Waterville then pressured for the equalizer, but Latham stopped shots from junior Zach Smith, senior captain Michael Oliveira and Roderigue and Pellerin sent a shot high, Roderigue shot wide and Roderigue had a shot deflected wide.
With 8:29 left, Latham made his best save, denying Roderigue with the very tip of his left foot, but the rebound caromed out to Hart and his shot wouldn’t be denied, finding the net to produce a 2-2 tie with 8:22 left in regulation.
“We knew when we got up on them, it wouldn’t be the end of the game,” St. Pierre said. “We knew they’d come at us. Teams don’t quit in a state championship game.”
The Purple Panthers, riding their momentum, then looked to go ahead, but Latham stopped Oliveira (who got a shot off despite having Conrad all over him).
With 5:36 to play, the Clippers went back on the power play, as Smith was sent off for interfering with Grant.
Conrad them had three shots, but two were saved and one went wide.
Once play returned to 5-on-5, Rodgerigue’s tipped shot was saved, May shot wide and in the waning seconds, Denis had a shot saved by Latham, sending the game to overtime.
The first eight-minute, “sudden victory” session didn’t solve anything, although both teams came agonizingly close to ending it.
Just 26 seconds in, Latham had to stop a backhander from Jolicoeur.
With 7:17 to go in OT, Oliveira redirected a puck and for a split second, it looked like that would be it, but to Waterville’s chagrin and Yarmouth’s relief, it rang off the post and the teams played on.
The exhausted Clippers then had some chances, as with 5:13 to go, Conrad had a great look, only to see Pinnette stop it and Grant looked to have a promising chance on the rebound, but Pinnette got a piece of that as well.
After Pinnette poked the puck away from May, Pellerin tried to end it at the other end, but shot wide and Smith and Denis both missed wide as well.
With 3:02 left, Conrad shot wide.
With 1:38 remaining, Grant missed wide.
With 1:01 to go, the Purple Panthers almost won it again, when the puck sat free in front, Denis got to it and with a lot of open net to shoot at, he sent the puck just wide of the post.
With 39.3 seconds left, May was taken down on a rush, but there was no penalty called.
That was it and the teams would have to go to a second overtime.
Only after the ice was resurfaced, which only served to ratchet up the drama that much more.
The second overtime would bring the curtain down on the Class B boys’ hockey season and dash Yarmouth’s dream.
Just 22 seconds in, May almost won it, when he took a pass from Grant and shot, but Pinnette made the save.
After Denis shot wide, Jacobs pounced on a fluky bounce at the other end and just missed high.
Grant tried to break in and score, but Pellerin broke it up and after Roderigue was denied on a shot from beyond the blue line, Latham stopped Hart’s shot.
With 4:33 left, Ramsay sent a blast on target, but Pinnette made the stop. Conrad then sent a rocket just high.
With 3:49 showing, Conrad took the last shot of the Clippers’ season and it just barely missed wide.
Waterville was able to get possession back and play stopped with just under three minutes to go.
Where the Purple Panthers then put a bow on a fabulous game and secured their first ever Class B crown.
Denis won the faceoff at the left circle cleanly to Jolicoeur, who passed the puck to the right, up top, to Roderigue.
After so many of his blasts were just off target or turned aside, this time, Roderigue wouldn’t be denied, as his one-timer of a high rocket tickled the twine and at 3:15 p.m., after 2 hours and 8 minutes of real time thrills, Waterville had the championship, 3-2.
“Honestly, I didn’t even think it was real,” Roderigue said. “I didn’t know what was going on. It was a one-timer. Got it off as quick as I can, and it went in.”
Yarmouth was stunned.
“Things happen in overtime hockey,” Conrad said. “Bounces go certain ways. We didn’t get bounces, but you can’t control that. What we can control is our effort and we put it all out there.”
“The team’s effort was perfect,” Grondin said. “We did what we needed to do. We were definitely the two best teams in the state. They’re a very good team. They’re lethal. We limited their chances, but they gave us a good test.”
“We talked about (Roderigue) this week in practice and trying to shut him down, but he’s a great player,” St. Pierre added. “He reminds me a lot of Walter. He’s got a lot of the same elements. He scores big goals. They won the draw clean and he got a chance to get a shot off. Our top line got looks and chances. A couple bounces didn’t go our way. I had confidence we’d get that game-winner.”
Yarmouth finished with a 33-30 shots advantage, but went 0 for 4 on the power play. Latham made 27 saves and received the loudest ovation from the Clippers cheering section in the postgame ceremony.
“Without Dan we wouldn’t have made it this far,” Grondin said. “A big shout-out to him.”
“Danny Latham’s a kid who’s just an unbelievable goalie,” Conrad said. “He kept us in games and carried us in the playoffs. Look for more big things to come from him in the years to come. He’s an amazing kid and an awesome goalkeeper.”
“I can’t say enough about Dan,” St. Pierre added. “What he did to get ready in the offseason. Our goalkeeping coach, Alex Bubier, did a great job with Dan. He did everything he could for us. Unfortunately, I just don’t think he saw that last shot.”
Yarmouth’s defense was solid in front of Latham. Conrad, of course, led that effort and he left every ounce of energy on the ice, rarely taking a break, especially late in the contest.
“I had to change my playing style a little bit, lock it down and play more conservative,” Conrad said. “I was able to do it for the team.”
“Walter’s an incredible athlete,” St. Pierre said. “I think he could play a whole game without missing a shift. Between his will, determination and his athleticism, he’s just a machine out there. I don’t think he came off the ice in the third period or overtime. He showed signs of being tired here and there, but I’ll take a 50 percent Walter Conrad any day of the week.”
Waterville had just one power play and not only didn’t score, but actually surrendered a shorthanded tally. Pinnette made 31 saves.
While Yarmouth finished a goal short of immortality, this particular team will go down in the legend of the state’s most storied Class B program for its talent, valiant play and most of all, its closeness.
“It stings now and it might sting for awhile, but looking back, we had a good season,” Grondin said. “It’s been incredible. We’ve preached family all year. We peaked at the right time. All 20 guys played all 45 minutes. That’s what got us this far.”
“We had a great team effort today,” Grant said. “I can’t give enough credit to everyone in that room. We left everything out there. This is the best hockey team I’ve ever been a part of.”
“We talked after the game,” said Conrad. “The love we feel for each other is unbelievable. We’re a family. We’re proud of the effort. We’re so happy to have had the chance to play a game against a very good Waterville team. It’s very gratifying.”
“I struggled finding what to talk about (after the game),” St. Pierre added. “I talked about once-in-a-generation type players. There’s nothing I could say to take the pain away. I told them how proud I am and how much I’ve appreciated being a part of what they’ve built. The legacy they’ve built is impressive. They’ve showed all the kids in the stands how to play the right way.
“To be able to come back to the program and have the quality of kids I have, it’s special. We’ve talked with them about what we’re about as a program. What we stand for, how we want to play. This group of young men deserve credit. We came in with a chip on our shoulder. We won big games early on. Having an extra week-and-a-half with these guys was great.”
The Clippers carried on a season-long love affair with their fans (the boisterous “YC Ultras”) and never was that more evident than Saturday.
“Looking up in the stands, I saw so many faces of alumni, students, parents, everyone was looking down and they were behind us the whole time,” Grant said. “I can’t give enough credit to the “Ultras.” They’ve been amazing all year. I hope we made the parents and alumni proud.”
Yarmouth only has four seniors on its roster (Erik Salmon is the fourth). The Clippers tri-captains left an imprint that can’t be duplicated.
“What the seniors hoped to leave behind is that legacy and mentality we brought to this season,” Conrad said. “We hope the younger guys saw that and bring it next year.”
“I’m so proud of those three (captains),” St. Pierre said. “The leadership they presented from day one to today was amazing. They helped establish the team and family mentality. They represent this program in countless ways. We lose three, but we lose our heart and soul. They will be difficult to replace.”
The Clippers return an abundance of talent next winter and will look to finish the job. The 2016-17 team will be backstopped by Latham. Defensively, Ramsay, juniors Nate Dealaman and Anders Newberg will lead the way. Jacobs, May, Romano and Truesdale will be formidable goal-scorers.
Look for the next Yarmouth edition to use Saturday’s gutwrenching defeat as fuel as it seeks to be the group to add that elusive eighth championship.
“I feel like we’ve left the program in a good place,” Grant said. “I’m confident in those guys for next year.”
“There’s a lot of potential in the program,” Conrad said. “I’m really excited to see what these guys can do.”
“(Noah, Patrick and Walter) set the stage and now other kids will have to step up,” St. Pierre added. “We have a good core coming back. We have Danny back in net. We have young guys who are close to being ready to go. We’ll regroup and get back to where we want to be.”
Sun Journal staff writer Wil Kramlich contributed to this story.
Yarmouth sophomore Cooper May gets held up by Waterville junior Zach Smith in front of junior goalie Nathan Pinnette.
Yarmouth senior Patrick Grant blows past Waterville senior captain Nicholas Denis.
Yarmouth sophomore Cooper May beats the goalie, but just misses the net.
Yarmouth senior captain Noah Grondin goes one-on-one with Waterville junior goalie Nathan Pinnette.
Yarmouth junior Chris Romano shoots just wide.
Yarmouth senior captain Walter Conrad weaves through the Waterville defense.
Yarmouth sophomore Cooper May lines up a shot.
Yarmouth senior captain Patrick Grant skates in on Waterville junior goalie Nathan Pinnette.
Yarmouth’s one-of-a-kind, boisterous cheering section, the “YC Ultras,” was vocal and active throughout the game.
Waterville erupts after junior captain Andrew Roderigue produces the game winner in the second overtime.
Yarmouth sophomore Cooper May (19), senior Walter Conrad, sophomore goalie Dan Latham and junior Chris Romano look on disconsolately after the loss.
2002 Class B
Yarmouth 3 Gardiner 2 (2 OT)
2001 Class B
Yarmouth 4 Gardiner 1
2000 Class B
Winslow 5 Yarmouth 4 (OT)
1994 Class B
Yarmouth 4 Brewer 0
1993 Class B
Old Town 7 Yarmouth 2
1992 Class B
Old Town 6 Yarmouth 5 (OT)
1991 Class B
Winslow 5 Yarmouth 2
1990 Class B
Yarmouth 5 Old Town 4
1989 Class B
Yarmouth 3 Old Town 2
1988 Class B
Yarmouth 3 Winslow 2
1987 Class B
Yarmouth 5 Orono 1
1984 Class C
Kennebunk 4 Yarmouth 3 (2 OT)