February 19

High school hockey notebook: Tangled Western Class A comes down to a showdown

Falmouth and Scarborough meet for the top seed.

By Mark Emmert memmert@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Falmouth vs. Scarborough.

click image to enlarge

Falmouth's Tyler Jordan, No. 4, tries to move the puck around the defense of Scarborough's Cam Nigro, No. 10, in this Dec. 9, 2013, game played at the at the University of New England.

John Ewing / Staff Photographer

PLAYER OF THE WEEK

Isac Nordstrom, Falmouth junior: Had two goals and three assists as the Yachtsmen drilled Lewiston 6-1 on Monday. 

HONORABLE MENTION

James Hannigan, Cheverus junior: The forward scored his team’s final three goals in a 5-4 overtime victory over Biddeford.

Ricky Ruck, Biddeford freshman: His two goals 11 seconds apart keyed a 4-1 upset of Scarborough.

Zach Luce, Portland/Deering senior: Had two goals and added an assist in a 7-1 victory against South Portland. 

AREA TOP FIVE

1. Falmouth 12-5

2. Scarborough 11-4-1

3. Gorham 14-3

4. Cheverus 9-7-1

5. Biddeford 8-7-2

The Western Class A regular-season boys’ hockey title always seemed destined to come down to those two teams. And it will, at 7 p.m. Thursday in Falmouth.

But what a wild ride it’s been. Just in the past week, Biddeford knocked off Scarborough, then lost in overtime to Cheverus. Scarborough rebounded to beat Thornton Academy on the same night Falmouth handed Eastern power Lewiston a 6-1 setback.

Scarborough (11-4-1) won the first meeting against Falmouth (12-5) but that was in the opening week of the season, and the defending state champion Yachtsmen appear to have that hunger in their eyes again as the playoffs loom.

“In terms of team chemistry, it’s very similar to last year. We seem to have them buying in this year just like we did last year,” Falmouth Coach Deron Barton said.

“We don’t have the same skill level and the same experience level that we did last year, but we have the same work ethic.”

The playoffs begin Saturday. In Eastern A, Bangor and Lewiston have separated from the pack, although St. Dominic of Auburn should never be counted out.

In Western B, Gorham figures to get the top seed, with two-time defending state titlist Greely a threat even with a .500 record.

Eastern B holds no mystery. Undefeated Messalonskee has proved to be not only the class of that division but may be on a mission to prove it’s the best team in the state regardless of class.

But Western A is a tangled web.

Beyond Falmouth and Scarborough, Biddeford and Cheverus have shown they can play with anybody, although consistency is an issue.

Portland/Deering has gotten hot in the final weeks of the season. And no one wants to face Thornton Academy in the quarterfinals, even with a 6-10-1 record.

“You can’t put your finger on who’s a clear-cut favorite,” Scarborough Coach Norm Gagne said.

“If I look at our club, I was feeling so much better after the first five or six games that we played and seeing the other teams and saying, ‘Hey, we could be the team that wins the West.’ And then I see the way we played the other night (a 4-1 loss to Biddeford) and gee, I’m not so sure now.”

First up is the rematch with Falmouth, with the top seed and bragging rights on the line. Last year Scarborough swept the Yachtsmen in the regular season only to come up short in the playoffs.

So perhaps it doesn’t mean all that much. Except that it does to the players.

“Everybody likes to finish No. 1. Of course it’s a goal,” Barton said. “As far as we’re concerned it’s playoff hockey. We’re treating the game like, instead of a four-game streak to the state title, it’s five. That’s the mentality we have and that’s the mentality the kids have. First place is important but it’s not the ultimate goal.”

Gagne hopes his team learned its lesson from what he termed a lackluster effort against Biddeford.

“I told the kids, you can be the best but you’ve got to play like the best. That’s why you see upsets all the time,” Gagne said.

“It’s really about winning one-on-one battles. Biddeford totally outworked us and that bothers me. I’m telling you, that game killed me. I went home and told my wife, ‘Am I getting too old for this?’ I think it’s so simple and the players make it look so hard.”

Scarborough has alternated goaltenders most of the season but Gagne has settled on Ben Bragg for the postseason.

He likes Bragg’s athleticism and consistency.

(Continued on page 2)

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