LEWISTON — Despite winning fourteen games and losing just four during the regular season, fourth-seeded Noble/Wells didn’t play a top contender all season, having played a Tier-2 schedule in Class A. The lack of experience playing against the state’s best hockey teams showed through 15 minutes of a Western Class A boys hockey semifinal on Saturday, as the Knights trailed No. 1 Falmouth 3-0. But the Knights never gave in, tying the game late before the Yachtsmen scored with 1:23 left in a 5-4 win at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee.

The Knights, who had never played a postseason game at the 3,600-seat arena in Lewiston, and had won just two playoff games in their history, were surprisingly the aggressors early on. The Knights nearly scored the first goal on a power play four minutes in, but Falmouth goalie Dane Pauls turned away two solid shots.

The Yachtsmen then went on the man-advantage midway through the opening period, and needed 12 seconds to score their first goal ”“ off the stick of freshman defenseman Jake Grade.

Grade scored again just over four minutes later, as he slapped a shot from between the top of the circles past Noble/Wells goalie Wyatt Ricker.

Falmouth notched another power play goal with 58 seconds remaining in the period, as Brandon Peters tipped in a rebound from Tyler Jordan.

The Knights ended the period on their second power play, as Falmouth’s Connor McDowell went to the box for hooking with 26 seconds left.

“I told them we had been in that position before; we’ve been down 3-0 before, and came back and won a game,” Noble/Wells Keith St. Cyr said of what he told his players during the first intermission. “But more importantly, I think that they proved to themselves, at least in the first five minutes of that period, that they could skate with them, they could be on the ice with them. So it was really trying to convince them that they believe that they can do that.”

Noble/Wells opened the second period with 1:34 of power play, and it took the Knights almost the entire time to get into the offensive zone. But just as the man-advantage was expiring, junior forward Ryan Marsh took a pass from classmate Dean Pratt and fired a wrist shot past Pauls.

“The whole thing we’ve been saying to each other is once we get a goal, we get confidence. We start playing to a higher level,” said Marsh. “So when I scored that goal, it pumped the team up. We all got fired up.”

The Knights then regained the momentum they had at the start of the game, and began to pepper Pauls with shots. The senior captain showed strong poise and glove work, however, and kept the net clean.

Noble/Wells finally took advantage of a solid chance on Pauls’ blocker side, as Noah Pease put back a rebound at the left post off a shot from Marsh to cut the deficit to 3-2 midway through the period.

Pease’s goal seemed to wake up the Yachtsmen from their sleepwalk, as they started to mount pressure against Ricker and the Knights defense. Ricker had to stuff breakaway attempts by Falmouth’s Isac Nordstrom and Andre Clement a minute apart with five minutes left in the period.

“I think he’s the best goalie in the state,” Marsh said of Ricker, who made 29 saves. “He controls rebounds incredibly. He had a huge game today, and saved us.”

A minute after that, the Yachtsmen finally connected, as Hunter Low’s shot from the left boards snuck through traffic and past Ricker to make it 4-2.

The Knights went on the power play late in the period, and continuing a trend from their quarterfinal against Cheverus ”“ when they scored three power play goals in the third period ”“ they were successful once again. Connor Pease took a shot from the left point that found its way past Pauls with 33 seconds left in the period to cut the deficit to one again.

“The funny part is, that was the weakest part of our game all season. And the last three games, our power play has been our money,” said St. Cyr. “How that happened, I can’t tell you, to be honest with you. It just seemed to click. We tried to keep it simple, get shots on and get people in front of the net, and it just seemed to work.”

The Knights found themselves on a power play again midway through the third, and again they found the back of the net. It came from another Connor Pease shot from the left point, and it tied the Tier-2 team with the top-ranked team in the region.

“We thought we could do it. We’re not the underdogs. It’s a winnable game at this point; we’re right there,” Marsh said of what was going through his head when the Knights tied the game. “Energy was flying. We were just going crazy. It was incredible. It was an incredible experience.”

Pease nearly put in the go-ahead goal for Noble/Wells, but a shot from the right point sailed just wide left with 5:15 to play.

Clement, who had been a thorn in the Knights’ side all game but denied by Ricker with every shot he took, finally got the better of the goalie, as he carried the puck down the left boards, past a diving Noble/Wells defender in the left corner and then slipped a shot past Ricker for the game-winning goal with 83 seconds to play.

The Knights weren’t able to mount an attack to try and tie the game back up, as the defending state champs held on.

“I couldn’t be prouder of any team that I’ve ever coached before. They just kept fighting to the very end,” said St. Cyr. “They knew the odds were stacked against them, they knew we were playing a clearly better-talented team than us, and they didn’t let that get in the way. I couldn’t be any prouder.”

Staff Writer Wil Kramlich can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 323 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @WilTalkSports.

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