FALMOUTH—While the Yarmouth/Freeport/Gray-New Gloucester co-op girls’ ice hockey team had been very competitive this winter, the highly touted squad lacked a signature victory.

Wednesday afternoon at Family Ice Center, it went out and earned a huge one.

Yarmouth/Freeport/Gray-New Gloucester was facing a powerhouse Falmouth squad which beat it, 5-1, earlier this season in Yarmouth, but the rematch would be a different story.

Yarmouth/Freeport/Gray-New Gloucester got the jump when senior Michelle Robichaud scored on the power play in the sixth minute of the game.

Later in the first period, after killing a 5-on-3 Yachtsmen power play, Yarmouth/Freeport/Gray-New Gloucester doubled its lead when junior Keeley Arnold scored a power play goal.

After letting a two-goal lead slip away in a home loss to Greely last week, Yarmouth/Freeport/Gray-New Gloucester wasn’t about to let history repeat and with 5:51 to go in the second period, sophomore Katie Clemmer scored the latest in her series of electrifying goals for a more breathing room.

With senior goalie Hannah Williams and a superb defensive effort holding Falmouth at bay, Yarmouth/Freeport/Gray-New Gloucester put the finishing touches on its biggest win this winter and arguably its biggest regular season victory to date, 3-0.

Yarmouth/Freeport/Gray-New Gloucester improved to 5-4, dropped Falmouth to 6-2 and served notice that it has every intention of continuing to evolve into a state title threat by February.

“We talked about the revenge factor and that we had to be sure to make a statement to let Falmouth and the rest of the league know that we were better than the last game,” said Yarmouth/Freeport/Gray-New Gloucester coach Jeff Haley. “The girls rose to the occasion, they challenged themselves and I’m proud of them.”

Taking it up a notch

A year after winning a playoff game for the first time and reaching the East Region semifinals, Yarmouth/Freeport/Gray-New Gloucester found itself wearing a bulls-eye when the season commenced. After opening with a 9-0 home win over Brunswick, the 5-1 home loss to Falmouth followed. Yarmouth/Freeport/Gray-New Gloucester then blanked host Brunswick (10-0) and visiting Winslow (9-0), but lost at Lewiston (7-0), dropped a close one at Edward Little/Leavitt (2-1) and let an early lead slip away in a 5-2 home loss to Greely. Yarmouth/Freeport finally got back in the win column with a 6-1 victory over visiting St. Dom’s.

Falmouth, a regional finalist in 2013-14, opened with wins at Gorham/Bonny Eagle (8-0) and at home over Capeflete (3-2), then fell at home to Edward Little/Leavitt (3-1). The Yachtsmen bounced back and rattled off four straight victories: 5-1 at Yarmouth/Freeport/Gray-New Gloucester, 3-1 at home over Cheverus, 4-0 at Capeflete and 6-1 at York.

After not playing the past two seasons, Falmouth’s earlier win over Yarmouth/Freeport/Gray-New Gloucester improved its all-time record (since the Maine Principals’ Association began sanctioning girls’ hockey) to 8-0 in the series (see sidebar, below), with only two games being competitive to the end.

Wednesday, Yarmouth/Freeport/Gray-New Gloucester got off to a fast start, didn’t look back and finally got the better of the Yachtsmen.

Williams made a key save early in the contest, when she denied Falmouth freshman Abi Lebel.

Then, after a penalty to Falmouth senior Meg Pierce, the visitors took the lead, as on a rush, the puck dropped to Robichaud, who buried it into an open net before Yachtsmen sophomore goalie Ally Hurdman could react.

“It was extremely important (to score first) because last time they brought it to us right away,” said Robichaud. “We knew we had to get that first goal in order to win. We were kind of coming up the ice and the puck was there and I put it in. Katie, (senior) Emily (Johnson) and I work really well together. We cycle the puck around and they don’t have a chance to stop us.”

Midway through the first, Clemmer, then junior Jenny Holmquist were sent off to the penalty box and the hosts had a great chance to draw even, but they didn’t manage a shot 5-on-3.

“It was important to ice the puck and get it away from them because they’re really strong with their shots,” Clemmer said. “Michelle did an awesome job icing it.”

After the teams returned to even strength, Pierce was sent to the penalty box for tripping Clemmer and with 2:59 to go in the first, Arnold finished on the power play (Holmquist and Robichaud were given assists) and Yarmouth/Freeport/Gray-New Gloucester had a 2-0 lead, which held through the end of the period.

While the lead was encouraging, Yarmouth/Freeport/Gray-New Gloucester knew it had let a two-goal advantage slip away nine days prior to Greely and it kept up its intensity in the second period.

Where Williams sparkled.

After Hurdman kept the deficit at two with saves on bids from Robichaud and Clemmer, Falmouth junior Sarah Hutcheon had a great look, but her backhanded bid in front was saved by Williams.

Yachtsmen junior Martina St. Angelo then tried to beat Williams, but she made another stop.

“It was pretty nervewracking,” Williams said. “I just tried to stay up. I was on my game today. We talked a lot about rebounds and I focused on (not allowing those) today.”

Then, in the latest Katie-being-Katie moment, Clemmer got the puck with some room to operate, blew past a defender and skated in one-on-one with Hurdman before faking a shot, skating across the crease and tucking the puck into the goal for a 3-0 advantage.

“I like when I have space,” Clemmer said. “I knew where I was going to go with it. I practice that all the time.”

Falmouth tried to cut into the deficit, but Lebel was denied in front, on the power play, Hutcheon hit the outside of the near post, and junior Camden Carrier had a shot saved by Williams.

Clemmer almost put it out of reach in the waning seconds, but Hurdman made a save to keep the score 3-0 heading for the final period.

There, the Yachtsmen hoped to get a goal and create some momentum, but simply didn’t have many opportunities.

In fact, Clemmer three times had a chance to ice the victory, but Hurdman stopped her twice and the third bid went wide.

After a Falmouth penalty, Holmquist fired a blast that Hurdman saved and Robichaud was stopped on a rush.

Williams did have to fall on a loose puck in front with 3:53 to play, but for the most part, her defense completely flustered the Yachtsmen down the stretch and Yarmouth/Freeport/Gray-New Gloucester went on to a 3-0 victory.

“It’s extremely important for the program,” Robichaud said. “Last year we beat Greely for the first time in program history. This is the same thing.”

“This really boosts our confidence,” Clemmer said. “(A lot of top teams are) on the same level. We proved today we deserve to be there too.”

“Our stats show that we score early, but we seem to let up in the second and third periods,” Haley added. “Today, we maintained it the whole game. I asked the girls today for 14 shifts and they gave me all they had. We’re learning from earlier games. Last year, we had the luxury of an easier schedule. Now, we learn how to regroup and the girls have done a great job. That’s the leadership we have. We talk about character and leadership.”

Falmouth had a 24-20 edge in shots, but Yarmouth/Freeport/Gray-New Gloucester put more shots on goal (16-14). Hurdman made 14 saves, while Williams finished with 13.

“It was all about pressure,” Haley said. “We talked about taking away the neutral zone. Strong teams control the neutral zone, but we took it away. We’ve worked on our penalty kill and power play in practice. We talked about the goalie needing to see the puck. Hannah did a phenomenal job tonight limiting rebounds. That was key. She’s the quarterback, she sees the whole ice.  We went to the net a lot more too. When there was traffic in front, we didn’t take penalties and played like we were supposed to. Falmouth and Greely and Lewiston can do those things and we had to do them to win.”

The Yachtsmen were frustrated throughout.

“We were put back on our heels early and we stayed there,” said Falmouth coach Rob Carrier. “They pinned us down. We never really got any momentum. They stuffed us on the power play. We caught them up there on an off night. We came in and took control. Roles were reversed down here. We couldn’t do much after they got the first two goals. They were in control. We couldn’t do enough to put anything by their goalie.”

February nears

The regular season is effectively half over and while both teams have reason for optimism, they both have work to do as well if they hope to be there at the end.

Falmouth (first in the West Region Heal Points standings) faces Greely Thursday in the non-countable (but try telling that to the participants) Dudley Cup. The Yachtsmen are at Portland/Deering Saturday, then have a showdown at defending state champion Scarborough Tuesday of next week.

“There’s no real rest for us,” Carrier said. “We have to keep plugging along and hope for the best.”

Yarmouth/Freeport/Gray-New Gloucester (fourth in the loaded East Region) won’t rest on its laurels and hopes to build on this confidence-inspiring victory. It hosts Edward Little/Leavitt Friday and plays at Biddeford Tuesday of next week.

“We have to keep believing in ourselves and start out strong,” Williams said.

“Going forward, it shows other teams that we have what it takes to win,” Robichaud said. “But we still have to prove every single game that we have what it takes.”

“We had to figure out our chemistry and we’ve done that,” Haley added. “We’ve all come together. We have some injuries and illness, but we’ve overcome that. We have another big test Friday. I think that this will be a springboard and we’ll carry the momentum.”

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

Yarmouth/Freeport/Gray-New Gloucester junior Keeley Arnold hammers away at a rebound as sophomore Katie Clemmer looks on and Falmouth sophomore goalie Ally Hurdman stands tall.

Yarmouth/Freeport/Gray-New Gloucester senior goalie Hannah Williams reaches out to knock the puck away from Falmouth freshman Stone Carmichael.

Yarmouth/Freeport/Gray-New Gloucester senior Emily Johnson splits Falmouth junior Martina St. Angelo (19) and junior Sarah Hutcheon.

Falmouth freshman Abi Lebel is denied by Yarmouth/Freeport/Gray-New Gloucester senior goalie Hannah Williams in the first period.

Yarmouth/Freeport/Gray-New Gloucester freshman Emma Matusovich and Falmouth junior Sarah Hutcheon battle for the puck.

Falmouth sophomore goalie Ally Hurdman and Yarmouth/Freeport/Gray-New Gloucester senior Emily Johnson watch as a shot sails high.

Previous Falmouth-Yarmouth results

Falmouth 5 @ Yarmouth/Freeport/Gray-New Gloucester 1

@ Falmouth 5 Yarmouth 0
Falmouth 6 @ Yarmouth 1

Falmouth 4 @ Yarmouth 3 (OT)
@ Falmouth 4 Yarmouth 2

Falmouth 7 @ Yarmouth 0
@ Falmouth 7 Yarmouth 0

Falmouth 4 @ Yarmouth 0

Sidebar Elements

Yarmouth/Freeport/Gray-New Gloucester celebrates a goal during Wednesday’s 3-0 win at Falmouth.

Joe Carpine/365digitalphotography.com photos.

More photos below.