BIDDEFORD – Thornton Academy kept knocking them down, but the Biddeford guys in home white and orange kept getting back up.
Thornton pinned two goals on its rival in the opening six minutes, but midway through the third period the game was tied and victory was seriously in doubt.
What do you do against a team like that?
“You never give up,” said Alex Lambert of Thornton. “Not one guy on this team quits. And that’s what you need in a game like this, and in any game, really.”
That resiliency, capped by Cooper O’Brien’s power-play goal with 5:17 remaining, lifted Thornton to a hard-fought 5-3 victory over Biddeford in a Western Class A boys’ hockey game Monday before a crowd of 550 at the Biddeford Ice Arena.
“We’ve got some guys who work their tails off,” said Biddeford Coach Rich Reissfelder. “We had a couple of bad decisions early that cost us. The kids were hyped up: It’s Biddeford-TA. When we settled down in the second and third, I thought we outplayed them. They had some good flurries, but overall I thought we controlled play, had some great opportunities. But we need to take better shots.”
Thornton (3-1), in its road maroon jerseys, jumped to a 2-0 lead in the opening six minutes.
Eric Profenno put the Trojans ahead 1-0 when he one-timed Alex Fallon’s pass inside the back post at 3:26.
Owen Lemoine (two goals) slipped a backhander past Jon Fields (18 saves) just 1:23 later to make it 2-0.
“The puck came loose behind the net and I just grabbed it (and) came out front,” Lemoine said. “Fields was moving a little to one side so I put it in the open net.”
Nate Crepeau led the Tigers (2-2) with a goal and two assists. He cut the Trojans’ lead in half at 11:12 when he slipped a rebound of Nik Lemieux’s point-blank shot past Andrew Huot (22 saves).
Biddeford carried momentum in the second, but Thornton added to its lead on a power play at 5:44 of the period.
“When you get up early, you hope to build on that,” said Thornton Coach Jamie Gagnon. “Unfortunately they came back on us. I’m really proud of our effort to come back at the end.”
Freshman defenseman Walsh Troiani-Gagner’s low shot from the right point beat Fields inside the post for a 3-1 edge.
It was Troiani-Gagner’s first game for the Trojans after sitting out with an offseason shoulder injury.
Biddeford had a chance to climb back into the game on a five-on-three power play late in the second, but Huot and the Trojans’ penalty-kill unit held.
Lemieux gave the Tigers some life when he finished a two-on-one with Crepeau at 5:25 of the third to make it 3-2.
Two minutes later, Devon Werthner converted another Crepeau pass to make it 3-3.
“When they tied it up, it would have been easy to let emotion take over,” Lambert said. “You don’t want to overthink things. We were able to hold onto (the puck) and be intelligent with it. We didn’t let emotion take control.”
The Trojans regained the lead on O’Brien’s hard shot from the right circle at 9:43. Lemoine sealed it with an empty-net goal with about 20 seconds to play.
“It’s a matter of progress,” Reissfelder said. “We either step forward or back. We can learn from what we did well, learn from what we didn’t.”