AUBURN — The freshman had lost her groove but it’s definitely back now.
Elizabeth Gross scored three goals and added two assists Tuesday to lead Scarborough to a 5-1 victory against Leavitt/Edward Little at the Norway Savings Bank Arena in a game between the two best girls’ hockey teams in the state.
Scarborough, the West’s top team, improved to 17-0 and has one game remaining, Wednesday night against two-time defending state champion Greely.
The Red Storm are seeking to become the second girls’ hockey team to finish a perfect regular season, after Cheverus in 2010.
Leavitt/Edward Little, which had won 12 straight after a 2-1 loss to Scarborough in November, dropped to 13-3, remaining in first place in the East.
What was impressive about Gross’ performance was it was the first time the Red Hornets had allowed more than three goals in a game.
Gross scored twice in the first period – 26 seconds apart – and early in the second for a 3-0 lead.
“I felt like she finally got her groove back,” Scarborough Coach Caitlin Cashman said. “She had been a little out of it the last few games. Today something just sparked her. And whoever taught her how to shoot, thank you very much.”
Gross said she has honed her skills playing with her brother Jacob, a captain on the Scarborough boys’ team. But lately she’s slumped, then tried too hard to break out.
“I had been a little rattled because I wasn’t scoring,” Gross said. “My dad said I was trying too hard and I just needed to calm down and play my game.”
Alyssa Hulst and Sami Shoebottom also scored for the Red Storm. Lily Nygren had two assists. Devon Kane made 25 saves as the Red Hornets outshot Scarborough 26-23 – 16-10 through two periods.
“Kane came up big,” Leavitt/Edward Little Coach Shon Collins said. “We generated some excellent chances in the slot. We just couldn’t get a bounce or a finish.”
Kane made some top-quality saves, especially on breakaways from two dangerous forwards, Taylor Landry and Mariah Vaillancourt.
Scarborough also killed off five penalties, including two five-on-three power plays, one lasting 1:36, the other 1:51.
“We had a lot of composure,” said defenseman Brenna Kent, who was out there for much of the five-on-threes. “I don’t think any of us were nervous.
“They’re a good strong team and we played them like it was a playoff game.”
Gross’ first two scores came on a top-shelf shot after a feed from Riley McKweon, then a deke-and-backhand after a pass from Cara Reynolds.
She stuffed in a score on a power play (Rachel Wallace assist) for a 3-0 lead.
Amanda Grenier’s rebound put the Red Hornets on the board 6:08 into the second period. But Scarborough soon got its second power play and Hulst wristed a goal through a crowd at 13:42 for a 4-1 lead.
“We had some penalties and they made us pay,” Collins said. “They have a strong power play with some excellent shooters.”
Shoebottom roofed a goal in the third period to clinch it.
This was the fourth time this year that the Red Hornets have managed only one goal, and two of the games have come against Scarborough and Kane.
“Devan thrives on these games,” Cashman said. “That’s why she’s a goalie.”
Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or at [email protected]