Cheverus’ boys’ hockey team kept its eye (and hands) on the prize Thursday night, rallying from a four-goal, third period deficit to shock Portland/Deering, 7-6, in overtime, in the annual “City Cup.”

Mike Strout photos.

More photos below.

PORTLAND—If the prospect of losing the “City Cup” to a fierce rival wasn’t bad enough, Cheverus’ boys’ hockey team suffered insult on top of injury when several hats floated down on the ice early in the third period Thursday evening at Troubh Ice Arena.

Portland/Deering players and fans were in high spirits when Mason Martell’s third goal essentially put the game out of reach, making the score, 6-2, with just over 12 minutes to play, sparking the aforementioned celebration.

Then the Stags figuratively said, “Put a lid on it” and produced a comeback victory that will long live in program lore.

Portland/Deering needed a signature, Heal Points-rich victory and appeared on its way when Martell and Cam King sandwiched goals around a tally from Cheverus junior Ryan McSorley for a 2-1 lead after one period.

Portland/Deering was even more prolific in the second period, as after the Stags tied the score on McSorley’s second goal, Donato Tocci, Martell and Joe Pichette all tickled the twine to make it 5-2.

When Martell completed his hat trick with 12:07 left, the competitive phase of the contest appeared over, but 10 seconds later, Cheverus got life on a goal from Chris Vallee.

With 4:15 to play, junior Sean Walsh scored on a rebound and the Stags’ cheering section began to believe.

When senior Luke Trickey found the net with 3:40 to play, all the pressure was on Portland/Deering and sure enough, with 1:53 remaining, Cheverus pulled even when sophomore Jesse Pierce set up classmate Cam Dube.

The game would go to overtime and while junior varsity goalie Luca Colinet made sure the Stags played on, Pierce ended it 4:33 into the extra session and Cheverus had a win that had to be seen to be believed.

The Stags captured their third straight “City Cup,” won their third successive contest, improved to 5-5 and dropped heartbroken Portland/Deering to 3-8 in the process.

“We wanted to play the game in their end and get one (goal) at a time and see what happened,” said Cheverus coach Dan Lucas. “It’s a big boost. The guys had to find it in themselves. They learned today they can’t quit. (The Cup’s) something to play for outside the regular scope of things. They want to see their name on the banner every year.”

Renewing acquaintances

Cheverus and Portland (now Portland/Deering) have had a strong rivalry over the years. The Stags entered Thursday’s game having won four straight meetings, including a pair of shutouts (7-0 and 5-0) a year ago.

Both teams have endured their share of frustration this winter.

Cheverus enjoyed a 5-4 home win over Falmouth in the opener, then lost at Scarborough (5-0) and beat host Brunswick, 7-1, before running into a rough stretch, closing 2015 with losses at home to Yarmouth (4-3), at Falmouth (5-1), at Biddeford (5-3) and at St. Dom’s (4-2). After starting the new year with a 3-0 win at Cape Elizabeth, the Stags blanked visiting Bangor by the same score Jan. 9. Cheverus entered play Thursday having not played a countable game in 12 days.

Portland/Deering welcomed former longtime University of Southern Maine coach Jeff Beaney as its new head man with a 7-1 win at Leavitt, but losses to visiting Lewiston (13-0), host Biddeford (7-0), host Noble/Wells (6-5 in overtime), visiting St. Dom’s (8-2), host Falmouth (7-2) and visiting Bangor (6-3) followed. After getting back in the win column last Thursday, 3-0, at South Portland/Waynflete/Freeport, Portland/Deering dropped a 5-3 decision at Thornton Academy Wednesday, then had to return to the ice less than 24 hours later for this one.

Thursday, Portland/Deering sought its first win over Cheverus since a 4-1 victory Dec. 22, 2012, but the Stags did enough to even their record and take a 4-3 all-time advantage in the “City Cup.”

A little over four minutes in, Cheverus took a penalty and that led to the game’s first goal.

It was almost scored by the Stags in short-handed fashion, but Trickey shot wide after breaking in alone on Portland/Deering goalie Alex Girsch.

Portland/Deering then set up on offense and went ahead, 1-0, when Donato Tocci fed Martell for his first goal with 10:29 to play in the opening stanza. Phil McCallum was also given an assist.

Cheverus pulled even with 3:46 left in the first, as Walsh passed to McSorley, who beat Girsch to make it 1-1.

Undaunted, back roared Portland/Deering and King beat Stags sophomore goalie Colby Benway with a rebound of Peter Barry’s shot (Dominic Tocci was also given an assist) for a 2-1 lead at 13:47.

Portland/Deering rode the confidence of its first period exploits to even bigger things in the second.

First, Cheverus drew even at 2:30, when McSorley spun and fired a shot through traffic and past Girsch to make it 2-2. Dube got an assist.

With 10:14 to play in the second, Donato Tocci (unassisted) gave Portland/Deering the lead.

With 4:11 left, playing 5-on-3, Martell scored for the second time, with Walter Lewandowski and McCallum getting assists, for a 4-2 advantage.

Portland/Deering wasn’t done yet, as after another Stags penalty, Pichette banged home the rebound of a Donato Tocci shot to make it 5-2 with 15 minutes to go.

The fun was only just beginning.

With 12:07 remaining, Martell completed his hat trick, with Pichette getting the assist, and it looked like Portland/Deering was going to regain the “City Cup” as hats flew in celebration of the goal.

Cheverus replaced Benway with the unheralded Luca Colinet, the program’s JV goalie, then answered immediately and that opened the door to an improbable comeback.

Just 10 seconds after Martell’s third goal, Vallee beat Girsch (Trickey got an assist) to make it 6-3.

After the Stags twice failed to capitalize on the power play, Portland/Deering was on the brink of putting it away, but with 4:15 to play, Walsh sent a rebound of senior Garrett Dion’s shot past Girsch to cut the deficit to 6-4 (sophomore Mike Hatch also got an assist).

Beaney called timeout to settle his charges, but 35 seconds later, Trickey (from Vallee) struck to make it 6-5.

With trepidation reigning on the Portland/Deering side, Cheverus had all the momentum and with 1:53 remaining, after a turnover, Pierce passed to Dube, who finished to tie the score, 6-6, capping a three-goal surge in just 2:22.

“We didn’t give up,” Trickey said. “That goal to bring it back within three right away was the big one, then we finished the comeback. I knew we were in the game the whole time.”

Martell almost salvaged the night for Portland/Deering, but his potential game-winner with 33.6 seconds to go in regulation went just wide and it was on to overtime.

In the regular season, teams play an eight-minute, “sudden victory” OT and if no one scores, the game goes in the books as a tie.

There was no way there wasn’t going to be resolution on this night, however.

Cheverus had the first look, but Girsch stopped Vallee’s shot. 

Colinet then had to make a save with 4:11 left in OT and he denied King.

“He came out and proved he can play at this level,” Trickey said.

“Luca played outstanding for the shots he faced,” Pierce said. “I feel good for him.”

“Luca stepped up,” Lucas added. “Give him credit. He came in cold, but he was smart and didn’t overthink it.”

The Stags ended it with 3:27 to go in OT. 

In transition, with a delayed penalty on Portland/Deering imminent, Dube carried the puck across the blue line and got it to Pierce and Pierce’s shot ended the game and the comeback and gave Cheverus one of its most inspirational regular victories in memory, 7-6.

“It was great to get the team the win,” Pierce said. “Cam Dube made a great play through the neutral zone to get the puck in. I was just lucky to pick it up and put it in the net. Given the circumstances of how many goals we were down and to come back was cool. Everyone had a great attitude on the bench that we’d come back and pull it off.”

“We had the momentum going into overtime,” Trickey said. “That’s always big. This is one of the best games I’ve ever been a part of. We wanted to keep the Cup. We were ecstatic when (Jesse) scored. It was almost unbelievable to win it in overtime.”

“It was a grind right to the end,” Lucas added. “Portland played strong. They rolled two lines. I kept thinking  if I could roll three, maybe four lines out there maybe we could grind them down since they played yesterday.”

Portland/Deering was left to lick its wounds and lament what-if.

“It was a great game for Maine high school hockey,” Beaney said. “It was fun. I’m awfully proud of the guys. We’ve come an awfully long way. We aren’t used to being in that position. For a lot of the game, they were chasing us. They got a little momentum and played well. I called timeout and reminded them that they’d been in that situation before. Some of the plays they made at the end, we were tired, but it’s not an excuse.”

Big tests to come

Portland/Deering (which is clinging to the eighth and final playoff spot in Class A South) goes to Cony Saturday, then meets Cheverus again Thursday of next week. Home showdowns with defending Class A champion Scarborough, Falmouth and Thornton Academy and visits to Yarmouth and Cape Elizabeth also remain.

“Most of my primary players are freshmen and sophomores and as a program, we’re hopefully taking steps forward,” Beaney said. “We have to build from this. The guys are disappointed, but I think they can use it to go forward. You can see the improvement. We’re making plays. Teams have to play hard against us the whole time. We have players who have the makeup to build on this. We’ve got to win some games and get more (Heal Points).”

Cheverus (third in Class A South) welcomes Scarborough Saturday, then meets Portland/Deering again Thursday. Home games against Biddeford, Thornton Academy, South Portland/Waynflete/Freeport and Noble/Wells and trips to Lewiston and Thornton Academy also remain.

“We can learn from this,” Trickey said. “We came out slow. We came back and won, but we have to come out and play like that the whole time.”

“We don’t have any time to catch our breath because we have Scarborough Saturday,” Lucas said. “They’re 9-0 for a reason. We’ll have to come up with our best effort to hang tight with those guys. We hope to keep grinding.”

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

Portland/Deering’s Phil McCallum tries to hold off Cheverus sophomore Lucas Church.

Portland/Deering’s Sam Shaw and Cheverus senior Garrett Dion chase the puck.

Portland/Deering’s Donato Tocci launches a shot as Cheverus senior Phil Hawley defends.

Portland/Deering’s Dominic Tocci brings the puck behind the net as Cheverus sophomore Mike Hatch gives chase and goalie Luca Colinet casts a wary eye.

Cheverus junior Kieran Conley is chased by Portland/Deering’s Walter Lewandowski.

Portland/Deering’s Mason Martell, left, is congratulated by teammates Donato Tocci and Sam Shaw after scoring one of his three goals.

Cheverus sophomore Jesse Pierce celebrates with his teammates during the Stags’ third period rally. Pierce scored the winner in overtime.

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