The girls’ hockey playoffs began Tuesday and one obvious question remains:
Can anyone beat Scarborough?
Nobody’s done it yet. The Red Storm finished their regular season 18-0 with a pair of impressive easy victories on consecutive days last week against two of the state’s best contenders, 5-1 over Leavitt/Edward Little and 8-0 over Greely, the two-time defending state champion.
“Scarborough is far and away the best team,” Greely Coach Nate Guerin said. “It’s going to take a special effort to hold them back.”
While much is made of the Red Storm’s gifted freshman class, Guerin said, “their strength is in the determination and leadership by upperclassmen players like (Rachael) Wallace, (Brenna) Kent, (Alyssa) Hulst and of course (goalie Devan) Kane.
“A very solid group having a strong season.”
Of course, Guerin’s team can take some credit for fueling that determination. Since Scarborough lost to Greely 1-0 in overtime in the 2013 state title game, the Red Storm have been on a mission.
And since a mild scare on Jan. 8, in a 5-2 win over Cape Elizabeth/Waynflete, Scarborough won its final eight games by a score of 40-1 (including a 6-0 win over No. 2 West seed Falmouth).
“We’d love to play them one more time but we’re a long way from that,” Guerin said.
Greely (12-6) is seeded third in the state and has to play at No. 2 Lewiston (13-4-1) in the East semifinals Friday.
Scarborough is scheduled to play this weekend against the winner of Wednesday’s preliminary game between No. 4 West seed Cape Elizabeth/Waynflete (10-8) and No. 5 York (4-13-1).
MT. ARARAT may not win a state title this year, but the Eagles (5-12-1) are going to the playoffs in only their second season.
“It’s a huge thrill for them,” Coach Ron Hutchins said of his players, many of whom never skated until they joined the team.
The Eagles’ program has taken baby steps, two years as a club team, then a middle school team and now two years at the varsity high school level. Hutchins said he has a core group of five seniors – Caroline Daniel, Nellie Hetherington, Devan Hutchins, Carly Raymond and Bailey Sullivan – plus two solid underclassmen, sophomore Kayla Richardson and freshman Kieley Hetherington.
“After that it’s all brand new skaters,” Hutchins said.
Junior goalie Alison Nolan never skated before last year. And she wasn’t supposed to be goalie. But the goalie the Eagles expected turned out to be injured.
“A day before the first game, the coaches had a meeting and we chose Alison,” Hutchins said. “We gave her the pads and she had one practice. She’s a real hard worker.”
All the Eagles work, and they do it early. At the much-used Bowdoin College rink, Mt. Ararat has two practices a week, starting with a 4 a.m. “chalk talk,” then running through the mezzanine and stairs, and practice at 5 a.m.
The Eagles, fifth in the East, will play No. 4 Yarmouth/Freeport at 5:20 p.m. Wednesday at North Yarmouth Academy.
THE BOYS’ playoff field is yet to be set, but one thing that is known is the Class B semifinals are likely to move out of the Colisee in Lewiston. The Portland Pirates have a home game Feb. 28, the same date the Maine Principals’ Association would like to stage two Class B semis in the arena.
Michael Burnham, assistant executive director of the MPA, discovered that the Pirates are hard to budge.
“A professional league doesn’t move quickly,” Burnham said of negotiations that began last fall. “We’ve heard nothing from them in weeks.”
Plan B was to hold the games at Bowdoin College, but that rink also is spoken for Feb. 28. Moving the games to Saturday, when the four Class A semifinals will be held at the Colisee, is not an attractive option because there are already six hockey games on the slate, plus the state ski championships.
Burnham said the MPA is trying to avoid returning the games to the Portland Ice Arena because it can’t accommodate the large crowds that typically attend. A new arena in Auburn poses the same challenge.
Burnham is holding out hope that the Pirates still might agree to move their game. Otherwise, holding all four Class B semifinals at Sukee Arena in Winslow may be the lone remaining option. After a winter spent wrangling with the issue, you can tell Burnham is certainly open to others.
The good news?
“This is almost certainly a one-year problem,” Burnham said.
Indeed, the Pirates announced Tuesday that they are moving back to Portland next season.
– Mark Emmert contributed to this report.
Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or at [email protected]