LEWISTON — Andre Clement was surprised to look up at the scoreboard and see his Falmouth boys’ hockey team tied with upstart Noble/Wells late in the third period Saturday.
The Yachtsmen are the defending Class A state champions and had built a three-goal lead early in the Western Maine semifinal at the Colisee. Noble/Wells had never advanced this far in the program’s 11-year history.
“They outworked us at points in the game,” admitted Clement, a senior captain.
But the final minutes were not one of those stretches. Clement made sure of that.
The center found the puck in his skates, took off along the left boards with a defender clinging to him, veered toward the goal and fired a backhander into the net with 1:23 remaining to give the Yachtsmen a surprisingly hard-earned 5-4 victory.
“We were trying to do too much in the neutral zone. We weren’t getting it deep when we needed to. Guys were trying to make fancy moves,” Clement said.
“I was happy that it went in. To be tied 4-4 that late in the game and to come out on top like that, it’s a great feeling.”
Top-ranked Falmouth (15-5) built a 3-0 lead after one period, thanks to a pair of goals from hard-shooting defenseman Jake Grade. But the Yachtsmen wore a path to the penalty box in the second period, and fourth-seeded Noble/Wells made them pay. Ryan Marsh scored on a wrist shot just as one power play ended, then fed Noah Pease out front for a second goal. Connor Pease converted a power-play opportunity late in the period, and suddenly Falmouth was heading to the locker room with its knuckles as white as its jerseys, leading just 4-3.
“That was a dogfight,” Grade said. “I don’t know if we were expecting it to be like that, but they were a great team and they came at us hard.”
Noble/Wells Coach Keith St. Cyr said it was Marsh’s goal that altered his team’s outlook.
“I had to remind them, ‘Listen, you guys do belong on the ice with them and you can compete with them,’” St. Cyr said. “Really what it took was that first goal, and all of the sudden, they go, ‘Wow, now I’m ready to skate.’ And they were.”
Noble/Wells tied the score midway through the third period when Connor Pease slid another power-play shot from the left point into the net. The Knights’ fans were roaring, sensing an upset.
Clement ended those thoughts.
Falmouth Coach Deron Barton praised the Knights for establishing the frenzied tempo that they wanted.
“They drew us into their game. They were constantly whacking and slashing and causing confusion in the neutral zone, and we’re just not used to that style of play,” Barton said.
“(Clement) is constantly in the mix when we need it. Without him and some of the other leadership on the team, the season ends today.”
The Yachtsmen advance to the regional final Tuesday at the Colisee against Scarborough.
Noble/Wells finished 15-5 against a Tier II schedule that many decried as too soft. The Knights certainly made some converts at the end of the season with victories over Portland/Deering and Cheverus before giving Falmouth all it could handle.
After the game, the Knights’ fans lined the hallway outside the locker room to escort the players en masse out to the bus.
“It was the proudest moment of my life in coaching,” St. Cyr said. “They set lofty goals for themselves, so we pushed them hard. And they stuck with it.”
Mark Emmert can be contacted at 791-6424 or at: