Tuesday, December 10, 2013
By GREG REID Special to the Telegram
PORTLAND — The score sheet will tell you special teams was the difference Saturday night, as second-seeded York scored two power-play goals in the second period and went on to a 4-2 victory over No. 3 Cape Elizabeth in a Western Class B boys' hockey semifinal at the Portland Ice Arena.
Goalie Jared Posternak celebrates with teammates Conor O’Brien, left, and Craig Decato after York beat Cape Elizabeth on Saturday at the Portland Ice Arena in the Western Class B semifinals.
Photos by Derek Davis
Jared Posternak of York makes a save after being knocked into his goal while Chris Grennon of Cape Elizabeth tries to score during the third period.
York went 2 of 6 on the power play, scoring when it needed to most, while a physical Cape Elizabeth went 0 of 2 on its opportunities with the man advantage.
"We're up 2-1, they get those two power-play goals and bingo, momentum shift," said Cape Elizabeth Coach Bill LeBlond. "Those goals took the wind out of our sails."
Those watching might add the Wildcats' special teams got a boost from some special players.
There was the Wildcats' leading scorer, senior wing Craig Decato, setting up York's first goal, tying the game at 2 and assisting on the winning goal that sent York into the regional final against either top seed Greely or No. 5 Yarmouth, who played the other semifinal Saturday night.
Then there was freshman wing-turned-defenseman Derek Neal, who scored the winner with less than a minute left in the second and the final goal midway through the third, capping a rush he started at center ice to put the game away.
And then there was freshman forward Conor Tully, who tied the game at 1 at 13:58 of the first, and who, as York Coach Mike Vessey said, "had the best game of the year, backchecking, playing second unit on the power play and digging in the corners. Conor did a lot of yeoman's work."
Nick Breed put Cape Elizabeth (9-7-3) ahead 1-0 at 5:17 of the first, fending off tight defending to snap a wrist shot past York goalie Jared Posternak (15 saves). It was Breed's 34th goal in 17 games this season. He finished the season with a startling 51 points.
After Tully tied it at 1, Matt Ross put the Capers ahead 2-1 with a great individual effort, plowing through traffic and slipping the puck between Posternak and the near post at 8:59.
From there York went to work on the power play. Decato (12 goals, 40 points) sent a wrist shot over Kirby Saari's left shoulder at 12:50 to tie it at 2. Then Neal gave the Wildcats (12-5-2) their first lead of the game, when his slap shot caught the underside of the crossbar and dropped in at 14:03. Decato assisted on the play.
"We work on the power play a lot, more than most teams, I think," Neal said. "Our team chemistry is real strong right now and it's showing on the power play."
"I was very pleased with our play (until the power-play goals)," LeBlond said. "We definitely had a chance. If we could stay out of the box, it's a different game."
As it was, those goals were the turning point.
"Those two goals in the second period started to show that we were wearing them down," Vessey said.
Neal, who moved back to defense about a month ago to cover for injuries, created his own chance in the third, stripping a Caper of the puck in the neutral zone and carrying it in to beat Saari at 8:12 of the third. Saari was spectacular at times, finishing with 27 saves.