The Cheverus boys’ hockey team got the Cup it was thirsting for Wednesday. But the Stags may have earned something even more important with an 8-0 throttling of Portland/Deering – the confidence and cohesion needed to chase a state championship.
Cheverus (4-2) got the critical first two goals from the newest member of its first line, Garrett Dion. Junior Conor Ryle got his second career hat trick to add an impressive flourish to the victory at the Portland Ice Arena.
“We needed the first goal. If they scored the first goal, they would have ran away with it,” Ryle said after being named MVP. “That’s what happened last year. We had to shut down everything they were doing, which we did perfectly.”
The Bulldogs captured the City Cup a year ago, and Cheverus goaltender Jason Blier said he had to hear about it.
“We’re on a travel team with a couple of the (Portland/Deering) kids and every day we walked in, if we tried to chirp them, they’d be like, ‘City Cup,’ ” Blier said.
“It was pretty much the whole motivation for us this year. We just kept reminiscing on it and said, ‘That’s not going to happen again.’ If there was any game we wanted to win this year, this was it.”
If the victory was a year in the making, it was a much more recent discussion that may have fueled Wednesday’s near-perfect performance.
A couple of early setbacks against Brunswick and St. Dominic revealed some discord. Ryle said there was too much finger-pointing going on and it came to a head at a practice. Afterward, the captains called a team meeting.
“We need to not get down on each other because we were knocking each other a lot. We need to come together as a team because that’s the only way we’re going to win it,” Ryle said. “It showed out there today.”
It also showed during an 8-0 victory over York, one of three shutouts this season for Blier.
One spark for Cheverus has been moving Ryle onto the first line with James Hannigan. The two combined for a short-handed breakaway goal late in the second period that effectively won it.
“Hannigan chipped it over to me. I threw it backhanded out to center ice and just chased it down,” Ryle said. “I had two guys closing in on me. I saw the goalie was leaning more to his right so I shot left. It tipped off his glove. I was just praying for it to go in.”
Cheverus Coach Dan Lucas said the plan against the physical Bulldogs (2-2-1) was to fire the puck in deep, then relentlessly forecheck to create chances or induce penalties.
Quality shots were in abundance, particularly for Ryle.
“I think that was probably his breakout game this year,” Lucas said. “He’s worked hard and hasn’t had a lot to show for it. Tonight it all came together. He plays hungry.”
Ryle admitted winning the City Cup two years ago, when he was a third-line freshman, didn’t mean that much to him.
But once it was lost, he was ecstatic to be able to get it back. He was also looking ahead to what could be for his newly unified team.
“I think we could win it. We have a much better team than last year,” Ryle said.
Mark Emmert can be contacted at 791-6424 or at: