The girls’ hockey playoffs begin with regional semifinals today and Saturday.

You have heard of the favorites before: Scarborough and York in the West and St. Dominic the powerhouse from the East.

But there is a dark-horse pick in this tournament.

Greely.

The Rangers (11-6-1) may be seeded third in the East, but they have been solid all year.

Greely gave St. Dominic (17-1) its toughest games. The Saints are unbeaten when they have had their full squad, but barely snuck by Greely 6-5 in December and then won 3-2 in overtime two weeks ago.

“The first game they scored in the last minute of regulation and in this last one, they won in overtime,” said Rangers Coach Nate Guerin.

“We know they’re the best team in the state (but) we have a strong, deep roster and we can skate with any team in Maine.”

Guerin has a point. The Rangers have not lost a game by more than one goal, including a 1-0 overtime defeat to Scarborough last month when Greely outshot the Red Storm, 31-17.

Today’s opponent is second-seeded Winslow, which beat the Rangers 6-5 in the season opener and then tied Greely 1-1 last month. Guerin, 29, a Greely assistant last year, is a Maine native who grew up in Michigan. Before returning to Maine, he coached high school boys in Ohio for four years. Now he directs a roster of 21 players.

“We have a lot of role players and we think of ourselves as a unit rather than two or three individuals that control the game,” Guerin said.

If Greely does have a standout, it would be senior defenseman Casey Benner. She has three goals and seven assists, but Guerin said her forte is defense.

“A lot of defensemen that get noticed are girls that take the puck up and have big offensive numbers,” Guerin said. “Casey is a classic stay-at-home (defenseman). She rarely gets beat.”

Two other seniors help pace the Rangers: leading scorer Michaela Finnegan (14 goals/10 assists) and goalie Maggie Bower, who forms a strong tandem with junior Emma Seymour.

Among the other scoring leaders are junior Ceci Hodgkins (12/10), sophomore Page Tuller (10/12) and sophomore Meg Finlay (10/11). Sophomore defenseman Chelsey Andrews has six assists.

Greely plays at 6 p.m. today at Sukee Arena in Winslow. The Red Raiders are 10-3-3.

THE OTHER EAST semifinal features top-seeded St. Dominic hosting No. 4 Leavitt/Edward Little at 3 p.m. at the Colisee in Lewiston.

The Saints beat Leavitt/Edward Little twice in early January, 5-2 and 8-1.

THE WEST semifinals have top-seeded Scarborough (12-4-2) playing host to No. 4 Biddeford (7-10-1) tonight at 9 at the USM Ice Arena in Gorham and No. 2 York (13-3-2) hosting No. 3 Cheverus (11-6-1) Saturday at 6:45 p.m. at the arena in Dover, N.H.

Scarborough lost its season opener to Biddeford 2-1, when the Red Storm were missing several key players. They beat the Tigers 7-0 in January.

York lost to Cheverus 2-0 Jan. 3, then tied the Stags 1-1 three weeks later.

Since a 2-1 loss to Greely on Jan. 8, the Wildcats have finished strong with a 6-0-2 record, including a 3-0 win over Scarborough last weekend.

THE WINNERS advance to the regional finals. Both games will be Wednesday at the Portland Ice Arena starting at 5 p.m.

The state championship is Saturday, Feb. 19, at 7 p.m., at the Colisee.

Staff Writer Kevin Thomas can be contacted at 791-6411 or at:

[email protected]