BIDDEFORD — The Thornton Academy senior hockey players are boldly going where they’ve gone twice before.
The Trojans are heading back to the Colisee in Lewiston after riding a dominant second period to a 5-3 victory over rival Biddeford on Tuesday night in a Western Class A quarterfinal at Biddeford Ice Arena.
“Love that rink, have some great memories in that rink. Two state titles. So it’s good to get back there,” Thornton Academy defenseman Drew Lavigne said. “It’s more meaningful this time just because I’m a senior, I’m a captain.”
Lavigne keyed the second-period surge for the sixth-seeded Trojans (8-10-1).
His rush to the net gave Thornton Academy a 2-1 lead at 4:52. He was dragged down on a breakaway and slid into Biddeford goaltender Brandon Daigle, but managed to first slide the puck into the net before it became dislodged. After a review, the goal stood.
“It was a perfect pass from (Taylor Browne); glad he saw me,” Lavigne said. “I was able to break through the (defense) and attack the net and get the goalie scared. And once I did, it just slid right through his five hole.”
Late in the period, Lavigne fed a perfect pass from the left boards to Alex Fallon to the right of the crease. Fallon steered the puck into the goal for a 3-1 lead, which became 4-1 26 seconds later when Browne scored off a faceoff. Browne and Fallon also are seniors, as is Owen Lemoine, who scored the Trojans’ first goal, in the first period.
They were freshmen and sophomores when Thornton Academy won back-to-back state titles in 2011 and ’12.
A practice session early in the year led to the clinching goal in the final seconds. Biddeford (9-8-2) controlled the third period, using great individual-effort plays from Ricky Ruck and Nik Lemieux to cut the lead to 4-3. The Tigers pulled Daigle with 45 seconds left, looking for the equalizer.
But Browne got the puck near his end line and fired it the length of the rink and into the net to set off a Trojan celebration and set up a semifinal game at 2 p.m. Saturday against Scarborough.
“We did a drill earlier in the year where we had three players on the end boards – me, Drew and Alex – and we were shooting it all the way down, trying to score. And if we didn’t make all three, we were skating,” Browne said. “So it kind of paid off.
“To cap that off, in front of all your friends and family, was really special.”
Biddeford is home ice for both teams, although the Tigers technically got that designation as the No. 3 seed. The stands were packed 45 minutes before faceoff.
“This will be something, win or lose, you’ll always remember,” Thornton Academy Coach Jamie Gagnon said. “When you’re still 40 minutes from game time and you look out, the crowd’s full and already starting to chant. This will be something special.”
Biddeford kept the crowd on the edge of its seats early with a sequence of near-goals. Corey Brown deflected a shot off the pipe. Ruck had half a net to shoot at but sent the puck high.
Tigers Coach Rich Reissfelder said those missed opportunities – and the Trojans’ second-period flurry – were ultimately his team’s undoing.
“We felt we were the better team all night and we just needed to start working like it,” Reissfelder said.
“It seemed like the puck would not settle for us all day. We just couldn’t buy a break.”
Gagnon praised the ability of his eight seniors to summon the will to win.
“This place, it felt like it was tilted there for a while. And they can move. They have a lot of guys that can score, a lot of guys that can skate,” Gagnon said.
“It came from our senior leaders tonight, and it had to. They gave everything they had and there’s not much left there in the (locker) room.”
Mark Emmert can be contacted at 791-6424 or at email@example.com