It’s taken for granted that in sports, as in many walks of life, true character only really comes out when the chips are down and seemingly everything is against you.

But that doesn’t mean that when an individual, or a team, rises up and battles against those odds, it’s any less special.

For the Noble/Wells boys hockey team, the odds have been stacked the other way for quite some time. From having just 17 players on the roster ”“ four of them goalies ”“ to having to merge players from two different schools, to being told time and time again that they’re not really as good as their record says, the Knights stood tall in the face of adversity this entire winter.

So when they found themselves down 3-0 after one period of Saturday’s Western Class A semifinal against Falmouth ”“ the defending state champions and arguably the most talented team in the state ”“ Noble/Wells easily could have folded.

There were many reasons to do so: Just getting that far had been a “historic” achievement, as head coach Keith St. Cyr had himself admitted after last Tuesday’s 4-3, come-from-behind victory over Cheverus in the quarterfinals.

That had been only the program’s second-ever playoff victory, and the first time they’d gotten past the quarterfinal round; with just 13 skaters on the roster, compared to the 20 or so on which most Class A teams can rely. That means everything after that could have been viewed as just gravy for the Knights, especially considering that Noble/Wells plays a Tier II Class A schedule, meaning that the majority of their games had been played against the lesser teams of Class A as well as some Class B teams.

The Knights hadn’t beaten, let alone played, a team near the level of Falmouth all season, leading many to speculate that their 14-4 regular-season record was undeserved, unmerited, a fluke, a fraud.

The win against perennial power Cheverus had somewhat soothed those thoughts, but playing Falmouth at the 3,600-seat Androscoggin Bank Colisee was another story. Common sense said that Noble/Wells probably didn’t belong on the same ice surface, and for 15 minutes, those doubters were proved correct.

But despite all those reasons to just go away, the Knights did just the opposite on Saturday, and exploded the common sense of Maine high school hockey fans and pundits ”“ including certain sports writers at this publication ”“ as a result.

Despite their inferior numbers and the dispiriting first period, Noble/Wells only got stronger as the game went on, scoring three times in the second period and again in the third to tie the game at 4-4 and put a massive scare into the defending state champs.

Falmouth eventually did hang on to win 5-4 on a late goal, but the Yachtsmen’s respect hadn’t been lost: “They earned a spot here, no question about it,” Falmouth head coach Deron Barton told the Lewiston Sun Journal afterwards. “Maybe they weren’t as talented as we were, but they wanted it as much or more (than) we did, and it showed.”

It’s a cliché to say that in sports, especially at the high-school level, winning doesn’t always matter. But sometimes it’s true. At the very least, the Knights’ improbable run and the buzz it created will generate more interest in the Noble/Wells program, and hopefully ensure that St. Cyr has more troops to rely on in the seasons ahead.

But even if that doesn’t happen, from the comments of St. Cyr after the game, who’s to say he and his team weren’t winners anyway?

“I couldn’t be prouder of any team that I’ve ever coached before. They just kept fighting to the very end,” St. Cyr said. “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.”

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Today’s editorial was written by Sportswriter Cameron Dunbar on behalf of the Journal Tribune Editorial Board. Questions? Comments? Contact Managing Editor Kristen Schulze Muszynski by calling 282-1535, ext. 322, or via email at [email protected]