Edward Little sophomore goalie Gavin Toussaint robs Cape Elizabeth junior Phil Tarling during the Red Eddies’ 5-1 victory Thursday afternoon which brought an end to the Capers’ 10-game unbeaten streak.

Joe Carpine / 365digitalphotography.com photos.

More photos below.

PORTLAND—It wasn’t your typical battle between an undefeated squad and a .500 team when the Cape Elizabeth Capers hosted Edward Little in a boys’ hockey showdown Thursday afternoon at Troubh Ice Arena.

While the Capers had yet to lose in 10 outings, they knew that nothing would come easily against the Red Eddies, who have played everyone on their schedule tough and who just happened to be coached by the most storied coach in state history, Norm Gagne.

And sure enough, it wasn’t the Capers’ day, as Edward Little controlled play much of the way en route to an impressive victory.

Neither team could break through until the Red Eddies went on the power play late in the first period and they took advantage, as senior Eli Thibodeau scored to break the ice.

Thibodeau scored again with just 7.3 seconds on the clock and Cape Elizabeth was in a steep hole.

The Capers played much better in the second period and had their chances to get back in the game, but on two occasions, junior standout Phil Tarling was robbed by Edward Little sophomore goalie Gavin Toussaint.

A minute into the third period, Thibodeau scored to complete his hat trick and with 4:41 remaining, after Cape Elizabeth went on the power play and pulled junior goalie Peter Haber, the Red Eddies scored short-handed, as sophomore Cam Sturgis finished.

The Capers finally broke through late in the game, when Tarling scored, but one final tally from sophomore Gunnar Winslow helped Edward Little go on to a 5-1 victory.

The Red Eddies improved to 5-4 and dropped the Capers to 9-1-1 in the process.

“We were a complacent hockey team,” said Cape Elizabeth coach Matt Buotte. “We’ve said all along, the longer we go undefeated, the bigger the bulls-eye would get and apparently, we couldn’t handle the bulls-eye. That team wanted it more than us in all three zones. They wanted it more than us coming out of the locker room. Their locker room sounds like they won the Stanley Cup and our locker room sounds like a morgue.” 

Special season

While Cape Elizabeth has been competitive in recent years, the Capers have suffered disappointing playoff ousters in the quarterfinal or semifinal rounds.

This season, Cape Elizabeth expected to be among the top teams in Class B South again, but it has surpassed expectations through the first half of the season.

The Capers opened with a 3-1 victory at Gorham, then downed visiting St. Dom’s (4-2). A key overtime victory at Greely (5-4) kept the good times rolling and Cape Elizabeth then won at Maranacook (9-1), at home over Brunswick (5-4), at Scarborough (5-1), at home over Maranacook (4-0) and at Gardiner (7-1). Saturday, the Capers’ win streak ended with a 3-3 tie at Cony, but they got back in the win column Monday, 10-1, at Kennebunk.

Edward Little split its first eight contests, defeating Windham/Westbrook, Gorham, Bangor and Poland and losing twice to two-time defending Class A champion Lewiston and once each to St. Dom’s and Bangor.

The teams last met two years ago, in Auburn (a 3-2 Edward Little win).

Thursday, Cape Elizabeth looked to remain unbeaten, but the Red Eddies came in and made quite a statement.

There weren’t many good chances in the first period.

The first went to the hosts, as senior Alex Glidden had a good look, but Toussaint turned his bid aside.

Edward Little then had a breakaway opportunity, but junior Ben Cassidy was denied by Haber.

After Toussaint kept the game scoreless by saving shots from Glidden and junior Brenden Goss, Capers sophomore Benjamin Payson was sent to the penalty box for tripping with 2:21 to go and that led to the game’s first goal.

With 1:48 remaining, Thibodeau managed to get the puck past Haber, as sophomore Dylan Campbell and Cassidy were credited with assists.

While that goal hurt Cape Elizabeth, the second goal really turned momentum in the Red Eddies’ favor, as with just 7.3 seconds on the clock, Thibodeau fired a shot which Haber slowed but couldn’t stop and the margin was 2-0 after 15 minutes.

The Capers came out with more intensity in the second period, but couldn’t cut into the deficit.

At 5:47, Glidden eluded a defender, then fed Tarling on the doorstep, but Toussaint was a brick wall and made the clutch save.

Cape Elizabeth then went on the power play at 8:48 and the faceoff came right to Tarling, who fired another promising shot, but Toussaint cradled it to again frustrate the Capers.

Later in the second, a Glidden shot was blocked and Edward Little took a 2-0 lead in the third period.

There, the Red Eddies put it away.

Just 49 seconds in, Cassidy broke in, but hat his shot saved by Haber. Sophomore Logan Alexander kept control of the puck, got it to Cassidy and Cassidy fed Thibodeau for his third goal with exactly 14 minutes to play, stretching the lead to 3-0.

After Toussaint denied freshman Gavin Simopoulos and Glidden, the Capers got their last, best chance to rally with 6:22 on the clock, when they went on the power play.

Buotte called a timeout and out of the timeout, Haber got pulled in a calculated risk which backfired when Sturgis broke in and finished short-handed into an empty net for a 4-0 lead with 4:41 to play.

Cape Elizabeth finally broke through at 12:38, as Tarling finished (senior Ryan Collins and Glidden were credited with assists), but with 47.6 seconds to go, sophomore Ben Lane-Robichaud set up Winslow for the goal which brought the curtain down on the 5-1 victory.

“We played a really good first period,” Gagne said. “The second period we were running around. My goalie was solid and made big saves. We have trouble with success, but we regrouped in the third and answered the call and that’s a good thing. Cape’s a good team. The guys were fired up to play them.” 

Edward Little finished with a 23-15 shots advantage, went 1-for-3 on the power play and got 14 saves from Toussaint.

Haber made 19 saves for the Capers, who were 0-for-2 on the power play.

“It was an amalgamation of attitude and execution,” Buotte said. “We know they’re a tight checking team. Norm has been around and we know how he likes to play. They like to win 2-1 and we’re a high-powered team. They slowed us down and we couldn’t create chances. Systematically, they’re different than what we’ve seen, but it doesn’t matter how prepared you are, if you can’t make an eight-foot pass, you can’t win. We couldn’t find our feet or put the puck in the net. You have to work hard for 45 minutes in any game and you have to work twice as hard when you dig a two-goal hole. Unfortunately, we dug that hole, then we kept shoveling dirt on ourselves.”

The ultimate goal

Edward Little, which is back on the ice Saturday at Thornton Academy, figures to only keep improving and be a serious thorn in side of teams like Bangor, Lewiston and St. Dom’s when the postseason rolls around.

“We’re building,” Gagne said. “We still need more depth. It’s been a difficult road. They’ve had to learn mental toughness and discipline and my system. My system works. When the kids buy in, it works well and we can play with anybody. We’ve beaten three undefeated teams.”

While winning games in December and January is nice, Cape Elizabeth is hoping to be the last team standing come March.

To be in position to do so, the Capers still have several tough hills to climb.

Cape Elizabeth next takes the ice Thursday of next week for a key home game versus York. After hosting Cheverus, the Capers go to South Portland and Yarmouth and close with home games versus Kennebunk, Yarmouth and Gorham.

“We’ll bounce back,” Buotte said. “We were humbled tonight. Hard work always beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard. We got beat in every single aspect tonight. We have to make the adjustments. I believe in the guys in that room. It’s a hiccup, but it’s an unacceptable hiccup. We have high aspirations. We have two huge games next week. I don’t expect, but I demand that we rebound. York will want it just as badly as Edward Little and that will be the case in every game. We know we have the guys to do it. You never want to lose, but maybe this was the humbling we needed to get back on track.”

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

Cape Elizabeth junior goalie Peter Haber makes one of his 19 saves.

Cape Elizabeth senior Gus Frankwicz races up the ice as Edward Little sophomore Ben Lane-Robichaud gives chase.

Cape Elizabeth junior Jackson Woods prepares to shoot the puck.

Edward Little senior Aaron Kane knocks the puck away from Cape Elizabeth junior Phil Tarling.

Cape Elizabeth freshman Gavin Simopoulos shoots the puck as Edward Little sophomore Dylan Campbell defends.

Cape Elizabeth senior Alex Glidden fires a shot.

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