Yarmouth’s boys’ hockey team celebrates a goal during Thursday’s 4-3 victory at Portland/Deering.

Chris Lambert photos.

More photos below.

PORTLAND—The Yarmouth and Portland/Deering boys’ hockey teams aren’t traditional rivals, but the squads played with the intensity of longtime foes Thursday evening in a key midseason interclass showdown at Troubh Ice Arena.

The defending Class B South champion Clippers went on top to stay with 4:38 to play in the first period, when junior Cooper May scored.

After taking a 2-0 lead on a power play goal from senior Chris Romano, Yarmouth spent much of the second period on the penalty kill as the physicality picked up. 

Portland/Deering managed to cut the deficit in half with 5:06 to go in the period, when Cam King scored on a rebound on the power play, but just over two minutes later, a rebound goal from junior Joe Truesdale made it 3-1 Clippers heading for the third period.

There, Yarmouth got an all-important insurance goal from Romano four minutes in and that was just enough to be the difference, as down the stretch Portland/Deering got a pair of goals from Dom Tocci before the Clippers were able to run out the clock on a 4-3 victory.

Yarmouth extended its win streak to three, improved to 5-3-1 and dropped Portland/Deering to 6-3 in the process.

“It was a fun one,” Romano said. “It was a heck of a game. It felt like a playoff game out there with the physicality. It came down to work ethic the whole game. We just picked it up.”

Roller coaster

Yarmouth has been up-and-down this winter as it defends its regional title. The Clippers let a late lead slip away in a 2-2 home tie versus Brunswick in the opener, then won at Maranacook (8-0), lost at home to Falmouth (9-1) and at Waterville in a state game rematch (5-0) before closing 2016 with a 5-3 win at Gorham. Yarmouth started the new year with a 5-2 home loss to Gardiner, then won at Camden Hills (5-0) and at home over Gorham (4-3, in overtime). 

Portland/Deering got off to a hot start, beating visiting Cony, 5-4, in overtime, Windham, 6-4, and Marshwood, 11-0. After suffering a 5-2 loss to Cheverus in the “City Cup,” Portland/Deering beat South Portland (2-1), won at Bangor (5-3) and upset visiting Scarborough, 1-0, before falling at York Monday by a 6-3 margin.

Last year, the host Clippers edged Portland/Deering 3-2.

Thursday, Portland/Deering sought its first win over Yarmouth since Feb. 12, 2013, but the Clippers were able to persevere.

In the first period, Portland/Deering had an 8-3 edge in shots, but only had a pair of good scoring chances.

With 8:40 to go in the period, Joe Herboldsheimer blocked a Yarmouth shot, then broke in free on Clippers junior goalie Dan Latham, but Latham made the save.

With 4:38 remaining, May gave Yarmouth the jump, taking a pass from Romano, beating a defender with a nice one-on-one move before shooting the puck between the legs of Portland/Deering goalie Sam Segal for a 1-0 lead.

With just under a minute left in the first, Tocci had a great chance after eluding a defender with a sweet move, but again Latham made the save to preserve the advantage.

After no penalties in the first 15 minutes, the penalty box was occupied much of the second.

Clippers senior Bennett Travers was sent off for slashing at 3:45 and Donnie Tocci had a couple looks to tie the score, but the first bounced off Latham and rolled just wide and the second was denied by the goalie.

The man-advantage was negated at 5:22 when Donnie Tocci was sent off for roughing and after the 4-on-4 expired, Yarmouth went on the power play and capitalized with 8:52 left, as May set up Romano for a 2-0 lead.

“(Cooper’s) a heck of a player,” said Romano. “He has great puck vision, movement and speed. He makes it easy to put the puck in the back of the net.” 

“Those two guys we put together halfway through last year,” Yarmouth coach David St. Pierre said. “The chemistry was instant. It’s been building and building. Now that they’re in lead roles you can see they take responsibility on creating goals.”

With 7:17 to go in the period, May received an interference penalty and after Latham saved a shot by Donnie Tocci, Romano received a penalty for cross-checking, giving Portland/Deering a 5-on-3 chance.

After Latham denied Mason Martel’s shot, Clippers senior Owen Ramsay was given a cross check penalty, allowing Portland/Deering to stay on the two-man advantage.

The hosts finally broke through with 5:06 remaining in the second, as after Latham stopped Martel’s shot, Herbolsheimer fed the puck to King in front and King buried it to cut the deficit to 2-1.

Portland/Deering remained on the power play and looked to pull even, but Latham saved a shot by Donnie Tocci.

Then, with 2:52 left in the second, Yarmouth restored its two-goal advantage, as Truesdale scored on a rebound (Ramsay was given an assist) and the Clippers went to the second intermission ahead, 3-1.

Shots were even, 8-8, in that period.

Both teams knew entering the final stanza that the next goal would be critical and it would be Yarmouth that got it.

Romano skated into the zone, got around a defender, then fired from in front and beat Segal to make it 4-1 with 10:59 to play.

After the Clippers killed a penalty, Portland/Deering got another man-up chance with 5:17 left, when Travers went off for roughing and with 3:50 to go, King set up Dom Tocci for a goal which cut the deficit to two and gave the hosts life.

Dom Tocci made things very interesting with 2:27 remaining, finishing a feed from Alex McGonagle, to make it 4-3.

“Dom’s been All-State for two years,” said Portland/Deering coach Jeff Beaney. “He’s had to learn to play through adversity. He competed. He’s a team leader. He makes a big difference on and off the ice for us.”

Yarmouth was able to turn up the defensive intensity down the stretch, however, never allowing Portland/Deering a look at the tying goal and closed the door on its victory.

“We got pucks deep and battled,” Romano said. “It comes down to moving past penalties. We had to do our best and grind.”

“We’ve played Portland the past three, four years and it’s always a tough game for us,” said St. Pierre. “Tonight felt like a playoff game, to be honest. I’m proud of how the guys kept their heads facing adversity. We kept our cool. I didn’t have to say much. The guys knew what was at stake and they knew what they had to do to finish. They put their hard hats on and went out and did it. We won’t win by four- or five-goals this year. We have to execute the little things well and if we do, we’ll pull out one-goal games.”

Portland/Deering had a 26-18 edge in shots, but Latham came up with 23 saves.

“Dan comes up big all the time,” Romano said. “We had games we wouldn’t have even been in if it wasn’t for his solid play.”

“Dan stepped up for us last year in his first year as a varsity goalie,” St. Pierre said. “He backstopped us all the way to the state final. He’s become a leader and carried us through. We count on him for quite a bit.”

Segal stopped 14 shots for Portland/Deering, which suffered consecutive losses for the first time this winter.

“Their goalie played well and they were a little more competitive in front of the two nets, defending theirs and in front of ours,” Beaney said. “We kind of lost our focus as the game was going on. When you get off to a good start, all of a sudden, it gets harder. We’ve had some people out sick, not to use that as an excuse, and it’s juggled things around. We played better than we did Monday, but not as well as we did before. It’s easy to go 5-13 (like last year). It’s harder to win.”

Second half

Portland/Deering (second to Falmouth in the Class A South Heal Points standings) starts the second half of its season next Thursday when it battles Cheverus. 

“Starting next Thursday, we have five games in 10 days,” said Beaney. “We’ll get through finals and have good practices, so I think our focus will get better. I’m still excited. I think we’ll be fine moving forward.”

Yarmouth (which jumped to fourth in Class B South by virtue of Thursday’s victory) has a key showdown at Greely Saturday, then has home tilts versus Cheverus Tuesday and Kennebunk Jan. 28.

“I could see all week in practice that we were competing,” Romano said. “It was best week of practice all year. It was reminiscent of last year. It comes down to working hard every day, every shift, every second. This was a nice preview of what’s to come.”

“We’re starting to get there,” said St. Pierre. “We have inexperience and guys are learning the hard way, but they’re learning. We have a huge rivalry game coming up and we have to make sure we’re still in a good place. We have a lot of (Heal) Points in front of us. That will be extremely important for us down the stretch. There’s still a lot of hockey left to play.”

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

Yarmouth junior Cooper May shoots the puck past Portland/Deering goalie Sam Segal for the game’s first goal.

Portland/Deering’s Donnie Tocci shoots the puck as Yarmouth senior Chris Romano defends.

Yarmouth senior Owen Ramsay shoots the puck past Portland/Deering’s Walter Lewondowski.

Portland/Deering’s Sam Shaw skates past Yarmouth senior Tyler Veilleux.

Yarmouth senior Owen Ramsay breaks up a Portland/Deering scoring chance.

Yarmouth senior Bill Jacobs races up the ice as Portland/Deering’s Jake Luce tries to keep pace.

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