LEWISTON — Gorham Coach Jon Portwine had to sell a new game plan to a skeptical boys’ hockey team this week.
The Rams had fallen twice this season to Greely, mustering just two goals, and so he wanted to try something different in Wednesday’s rematch, with the Western Class B title on the line at the Colisee.
“Get the puck low and then work it up to the point. Get shots from there and then get traffic out front. Either tip-ins, redirections, rebounds, those were the goals that we needed to get,” Portwine said.
“They questioned me at first. But after the first period they were all in.”
Gorham fired 16 shots on Greely goaltender Kyle Kramlich in that first period. He stopped them all. But the tactic paid off in the third period when Jared Wood won the race to a rebound in a crowded crease and flipped it over Kramlich for the winning goal in a 4-2 Rams victory.
It set up a meeting with Messalonskee at 1 p.m. Saturday in Lewiston, where Gorham will seek a first state title.
Greely (10-8-3) saw its two-year reign as state champion end.
Wood’s winning goal, his second of the night, came on a power play after Andrew Schmidt fired a low shot from the point that Kramlich stopped. The puck fell at the feet of Gorham forward Tucker Buteau, and Wood seized his opportunity.
“I was just focused on making sure the shot didn’t hit me and bounce into no-man’s land, make sure it got to the net because every shot was important at that time,” Wood said of his goal, which snapped a 2-2 tie with 5:06 to play. “I just slapped it back toward the net. I didn’t know where Kyle was exactly. I didn’t really have an angle.”
Shawn Sullivan added an empty-net goal in the final 20 seconds for top-seeded Gorham (17-3).
The game was surprisingly free-wheeling, a far cry from the two earlier 2-1 Greely wins. The teams combined for 59 shots and both goaltenders needed to make clutch saves to keep it from becoming a rout. Kramlich was exposed for much of the night when his defensemen had trouble clearing the zone.
“We sort of got up ice. We weren’t aggressive enough on some pucks, lost track of some guys that gave them some dangerous chances,” Greely Coach Barry Mothes said. “Kyle made some good saves at the time to keep us in it. We just got on the wrong side of some pucks down low.”
Gorham senior goaltender Justin Broy knew he was in for a long night from the moment he was forced to snuff out an Aidan Black shot from low in the slot just 1:27 into the game. Greely forward Reid Howland seemed to spend half the game in Broy’s lap, dashing in for repeated close-range shots. His last chance came with Gorham on a power play leading 3-2 with just 3:13 remaining. Somehow, Howland emerged at the Gorham blue line with the puck and only Broy standing in his way.
Broy waited Howland out, then dropped to the ice for a point-blank save to preserve the lead. It was the biggest of the 26 he made.
“I knew if I let one in it would be a tie game and that would be a lot more stressful on my team,” Broy said. “I knew by the way he was skating he wasn’t going to shoot it because he was down low. So I felt like he was either going to take a quick, low shot or try to deke me out. So I just got as low as possible to take that away.”
Both Greely goals, from Howland and Tommy Thompson, came on power plays.
That was also how the Rangers beat Gorham during the season. Having to kill five penalties wasn’t the plan for Gorham, Portwine said.
“It could have hurt us more than it did,” he said. “Luckily we got away with it tonight.”
Mark Emmert can be contacted at 791-6424 or at: