The Falmouth boys’ hockey team spent 52 grueling minutes on the Androscoggin Bank Colisee ice Saturday night before finally dispatching St. Dominic 3-2 in overtime for a second consecutive Class A title.
So you couldn’t blame the Yachtsmen for lingering on the ice another 52 minutes in celebration. They were hugging each other, mugging for the cameras and lugging around their hard-earned trophy.
Junior forward Isac Nordstrom was so excited that he made an impromptu decision about his future.
“I’m looking at a couple of prep schools,” the exchange student from Sweden said when asked about having a chance to three-peat. “But I’ll probably stay here in Falmouth and we’ll probably get another one.”
Jake Grade, who scored the winning goal 6:43 into overtime, said the mood was much different than it was last year when Falmouth blanked Lewiston 4-0 for its first championship. For one thing, Grade was a sophomore forward on that team and not as big a factor.
“I contributed more this year and it’s a great feeling,” said Grade, now a defenseman.
This was a much younger Falmouth team. Nine of the team’s top 14 players were in their first varsity season, including four freshmen.
Nordstrom, who scored Falmouth’s first goal Saturday on a rebound in heavy traffic, said the difference was obvious before the game even started.
“You could tell before the game that they were a little more nervous,” Nordstrom said. “Our leadership and our older players just kept them in the game and this is the result.”
Falmouth had a bumpy ride to its 17-5 record and repeat title. Five of those victories came in overtime.
“It was a completely different building team for us and a completely different feel of confidence,” Falmouth Coach Deron Barton said. “We weren’t the powerhouse we were last year, and we won anyway.
“As much as I want to say I’m surprised at how we played, I’m not.”
One constant in both playoff runs was senior goaltender Dane Pauls. Barton arrived on the scene in Pauls’ sophomore season, which was admittedly up and down. Player and coach weren’t on the same page early on, Pauls said.
As a junior, Pauls was benched for a long spell in favor of freshman Ryan Bonnvie. Pauls had become too aloof, Barton said, and he wasn’t always sure his goaltender’s heart and head were in the game.
Pauls returned to the crease for the final five games last year, culminating in that shutout of Lewiston. He was the starter throughout this season and turned aside 20 shots Saturday.
Barton and his coaching staff were on the ice to present each player with a medallion. The last Yachtsman to receive his was Pauls, and he and Barton shared a long, poignant hug.
“Without him, we don’t get to overtime. Without him, we don’t get to this game. Every win we’ve had, he’s been a big part of the reason. I still can’t believe some of the saves he made tonight. I just have to watch them again because they were unbelievable,” Barton said.
“We’ve grown real close over the last two years. We had a lot of private discussions coming into this game. Because it means so much to him, and he didn’t want to disappoint his team, he didn’t want to disappoint me, and he didn’t want to disappoint the fans. There was a lot of pressure, even for a guy who was good. I just told him, ‘It’s over, and you did it.’”
CLASS B: Both teams in the Class B championship game Saturday had reason to savor historic seasons.
Messalonskee thumped Gorham 6-1 for its first state title. The victory capped a 21-0 season, but Eagles Coach Mike Latendresse said he never mentioned a certain word until it was all over.
“This is the first day that I used the word undefeated. I never talked about it, never said anything in the locker room about it,” Latendresse said. “Because 1) it was not a goal, and 2) it’s extremely difficult to accomplish. It means that 21 times you’ve got to show up.
“We never once in the 21 games panicked. We were challenged at times and we raised up to the challenge every time.”
Gorham (17-4) had never before played for a state title, so Rams Coach Jon Portwine tried to get his team to focus on a bigger picture, even after a difficult defeat.
“The memories of this will last them a lifetime,” Portwine said. “I never dreamed of coming this far with this program. They’ve accomplished something that I never did. So for me to say that I know how they feel would be a lie. They still need to be proud of what they accomplished.”
Portwine won 10 games in his four seasons as a player at Gorham. He was an assistant coach for seven years and has been the head coach for six. So no one recognizes more than he how hard the climb has been.
Gorham forward Tucker Buteau, a senior captain who scored the lone goal against Messalonskee, echoed his coach’s thoughts.
“I think right now, it’s not really shock. It’s just like a depression almost. Having it so close. It was right there,” Buteau said outside the locker room.
“It’s a good progression for the program. And it was because of hard work. There’s a group in there that loves to play the game of hockey.”
Buteau was asked if the realization that his high school career was over had sunk in.
“Yeah. It’s tough. It’s real tough,” he said, his voice cracking. “I don’t know if I can talk about that.”
THE GIRLS’ HOCKEY coaches voted on their All-Region teams last week. Both Falmouth and Lewiston placed four players on the first team of their respective regions. State champion Scarborough had three players on the first team – goalie Devan Kane and forwards Elizabeth Gross and Sami Shoebottom – and three on the second team. Please see the complete teams on Page B2.
Biddeford junior Curtis Paradis returned to the slopes this weekend for the first time since a late-run wipeout in the Class A giant slalom state championship Feb. 27 at Shawnee Peak.
After seeing his son spit up blood, Mike Paradis took him to Bridgton Hospital, where he remained overnight with a bruised right lung.
“I’m feeling a lot better now,” Curtis said Sunday. “I have a race next weekend at Loon.”
A two-time Class A slalom state champion, Paradis didn’t get a chance to defend his title. After turning in the fastest time in the opening giant slalom run, he caught a gate three from the finish and helicoptered in the air before crashing.
On Saturday morning, he returned to the same Shawnee slope and ran gates. He said it took him a few runs to “get my groove back.”
He said he should be ready for lacrosse in the spring. He also runs cross country for Biddeford in the fall.
– Staff Writers Mark Emmert, Kevin Thomas and Glenn Jordan contributed to this report.