By Keith B. Wehmeyer
FALMOUTH — The Falmouth boys’ hockey team skated into a juggernaut Saturday, falling to Brewer, one of the hottest teams of the young season, 4-1, at Family Ice Center.
The Witches, who had already knocked off two-time defending Class A state champion Biddeford 5-0 earlier in the season, received stellar goaltending from Eric White and a hat trick from Dylan Fitzpatrick.
“The likelihood of (Brewer) coming out of the Eastern Final is good, and if we continue to improve, yeah, we probably would see them again,” said Yachtsmen coach Scott Rousseau, “But we have plenty to deal with in Thornton Academy, Biddeford and Scarborough before we get ahead of ourselves.”
The Yachtsmen outshot Brewer, 25-17, but White turned away all but one, a top-shelf shot by senior standout Mike Chase on a breakaway just 2 minutes 3 seconds into the first period.
“It was a long pass from our wing Dan Hanley,” Chase said. “He hit me wide and I shot it over (White’s) glove.
The goal gave Falmouth a 1-0 lead, but that was all they’d muster against a team that has allowed only four goals in five games this season.
“Oh, I think the goaltending was the difference tonight,” Rousseau said.
Brewer tied the game on a power-play goal by Fitzpatrick with 5:44 remaining in the opening period. Fitzpatrick streaked down the left side on a breakout and slipped the puck past Falmouth goalie Kyle Buchanan, who had moved to the top of the crease.
“I was going down wide and when I went to take my shot, my stick got lifted by the back checker behind me,” Fitzpatrick said. “It drew (Buchanan) out to the top of his crease so I kicked it back up to my stick and just slid it in.”
The senior forward won the ensuing faceoff and scored again, a mere 12 seconds after his first goal. Fitzpatrick dumped the puck into the left corner where teammate Evan Nadeau reversed it back to the right. Fitzpatrick took over from there, dragging the puck out from behind the net and sending it high into the corner of the goal.
Trailing, 2-1, after a period, Rousseau made a change between the pipes, pulling Buchanan in favor of sophomore Jay Hurdmann.
“I thought the two goals that went in were kind of soft,” Rousseau said. “The team was a bit down and needed a lift. Jay played phenomenal the rest of the game. He only gave up one goal and made several great saves on a couple of two-on-ones to keep us in the game.”
Falmouth dominated the majority of the second period. The Yachtsmen were on the power play for six minutes, including a four minute stretch with Fitzpatrick in the box, but despite swarming the net and dominating possession, couldn’t get the puck past White.
“The kids came out and played phenomenal in the second period,” Rousseau said. “They drew penalties and the power play clicked well but it just didn’t go in tonight. That’s hockey.”
Then, after the Yachtsmen controlled the period, Brewer made the score 3-1 with six seconds remaining on a stomach-punch goal by Fitzpatrick, who fired a wrist shot from the top of the right faceoff circle.
The Witches later added an empty netter with 10 seconds remaining in the game.
The loss was Falmouth’s first of the season after wins at Waterville and St. Dom’s.
While Buchanan is a senior, Saturday’s game was only his second varsity start. He won his first, 3-2, over Waterville in the season opener.
“I still think Pat is a good goaltender,” Rousseau said. “He will be fine. He just had a bad night. He was struggling with the puck, kind of fighting it all through warm ups and the first period. Even when he was making saves he was fighting them off and not making them cleanly. Sometimes that happens.”
Hurdmann, Falmouth’s starting lacrosse goalie as a freshman last season, made his first varsity hockey start last Wednesday against St. Dominic and won, 5-2.
“They are both giving us good games,” Chase said. “They both give us a chance to win.”
Rousseau will continue to shuffle his goaltenders in the upcoming Maine High School Hockey Invitational. The Yachtsmen will face Xavier, Conn., Friday, Moses Brown, R.I., on Monday and West Haven, Conn., Tuesday.
“The reality of the matter is, considering what we had to replace on defense and what we had to replace in the go, I think we are way ahead of schedule,” Rousseau said. “We are playing solid defense, we are playing good in the goal. It’s okay that we lost tonight. We will be fine. We lost to most likely the best hockey team in the state. There is no shame in that.”
Falmouth returns to league action Jan. 3 at Thornton Academy, where Rousseau squares off against his younger brother, Shawn, the Golden Trojans’ coach.