Cheverus junior Alex Brewer, left, sophomore Jackson Wilson, senior Marco Giancotti, sophomore Colin Doherty and senior Cam Dube celebrate the first goal of the Stags’ 5-1 win over Cape Elizabeth Saturday evening.

Mike Strout photos.

More photos below.

PORTLAND—When two powerhouse boys’ hockey teams get together, the difference is often determined by who scores first.

Saturday evening at Troubh Ice Arena, it would Cheverus scoring first, as well as second, third and fourth and it opened up a commanding lead and had its way with host Cape Elizabeth in an intriguing interclass showdown.

Sophomore Jackson Wilson put the Stags on top at 4:32 of the first period and Cheverus wasn’t done yet.

At 7:23, junior Justin Ray added a power play goal and less than two minutes later, senior Luke Church scored on a rebound to give the Stags a 3-0 lead after one period.

Ray added to the advantage 49 seconds into the second period and while the Capers finally got on the board with 2:03 left in the stanza, when senior Gus Frankwicz scored, they couldn’t get any closer.

Wilson added an empty net goal with 1:58 to play as Cheverus went on to an impressive 5-1 victory.

The Stags made it five victories in a row, improved to 8-2-1 and in the process, dropped the Capers to 10-2-1 on the season.

“We wanted to play strong defense and keep the puck in their zone,” Wilson said. “It was very important to get off to a fast start. It helped us set the pace and play our game and kept them on their heels.”

High hopes

Both teams entered the 2017-18 season viewing themselves as title hopefuls and through late-January, there’s been nothing to change their minds.

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). The Capers’ win streak ended with a 3-3 tie at Cony, but they got back in the win column, 10-1, at Kennebunk. After a 5-1 home loss to Edward Little, Cape Elizabeth handled visiting York Thursday by an 8-1 margin.

Cheverus opened with a 7-2 home win over South Portland/Waynflete/Freeport, then fell at home to Thornton Academy (4-2). A 4-2 home win over Biddeford closed the 2017 portion of the schedule. On New Year’s Day, the Stags settled for a 2-2 tie with Portland/Deering in the “City Cup,” then avenged their earlier loss with a 2-1 overtime victory at Thornton Academy. After falling at home to two-time defending Class A champion Lewiston, Cheverus got rolling with a 7-3 win at Portland/Deering, home victories over Scarborough (3-0) and Westbrook/Windham (6-1) and a key 2-1 triumph at Lewiston Wednesday, which snapped the Blue Devils’ 22-game win streak.

Last year, Cheverus beat Cape Elizabeth in overtime, 5-4.

Saturday, the Capers were seeking their first victory over the Stags since Jan. 5, 2012 (5-3), but the Stags won their sixth in a row in the series.

Cheverus went on top to stay with 10:28 left in the first period, as Wilson finished his own rebound (senior Cam Dube got an assist).

“It was a rebound,” Wilson said. “The puck bounced around and found its way in.” 

Cape Elizabeth nearly drew even 30 seconds later, but on a rush, senior Alex Glidden was robbed by Stags senior goalie Jason Halvorsen.

After Cheverus went on the power play, Capers junior goalie Peter Haber denied Dube, but the Stags stayed at it and junior Colby Anton set up Ray in front for an easy tap in with 7:37 to go in the first (senior Mike Hatch also got an assist) and the lead was 2-0.

With 5:54 on the clock, Church rebounded Ray’s shot into the goal and Cheverus had even more breathing room.

Cape Elizabeth coach Matt Buotte called timeout to settle his team and the Capers had a couple good chances later in the first, but junior Phil Tarling was denied by Halvorsen and junior Derek Allen missed just wide, sending the game to the first intermission with the Stags holding a 3-0 advantage.

“For some reason, we took some steam out of them at the beginning,” Cheverus coach Dan Lucas said. “Last game, they pumped a lot of goals in. We knew we had to get to them early. We didn’t want to give them any confidence.”

“We had a slow start, which was disappointing,” said Buotte. “We were coming off a big win over York and we just didn’t show up tonight. We can play with that team, but we didn’t play with them for eight minutes. We dug an early grave. We lost all the 50-50 battles in the first period. They didn’t outclass us. Their goals were scored within three feet of the net.”

Cape Elizabeth hoped to rally in the second period, but 49 seconds in, a three-goal deficit turned into a 4-0 hole when Ray rebounded Anton’s shot into the net.

The Capers nearly got on the board at 8:01, but a blast from senior Sean Agrodnia found Halvorsen’s facemask.

Finally, with 2:03 to go in the second period, on the power play, Cape Elizabeth found the net, as Frankwicz finished with Agrodnia getting an assist.

The Capers then went on the power play again and had a chance to make things interesting, but Frankwicz missed just high and a wraparound attempt by Tarling was denied by Halvorsen, sending the game to the second intermission with the Stags holding a 4-1 lead.

Early in the third period, any hopes of Cape Elizabeth coming from behind were dashed by Halvorsen, who denied senior Alex Glidden.

Then, late in regulation, the Capers pulled Haber and with 1:58 to go, Dube got the puck to Wilson, who finished into the empty net.

“That was a great play by Dube,” Wilson said. “He was unselfish.”

From there, Cheverus put the finishing touches on its 5-1 victory.

“We talked about not letting them back in the game,” Wilson said. “Our defense was fantastic. We’re meshing as a team and we’re playing well.” 

“The guys are buying in,” Lucas said. “They’re seeing they have to work on the little things.”

Cape Elizabeth never could recover from its early deficit.

“I thought after we got in a hole, it was 1-1 the rest of the way,” Buotte said. “We talked about getting tougher off the puck. We fought hard the last two periods.”

Eyes on March

Cape Elizabeth (which sits first in the Class B South Heal Points standings at press time despite the loss) looks to get back on track Thursday at South Portland/Waynflete/Freeport. After going to Yarmouth, the Capers host Kennebunk, Yarmouth and Gorham to close the regular season.

“I’m confident we’ll bounce back,” Buotte said. “The schedule kind of stinks because we only play Greely and York once. We have to take care of our own business. We know Class B will be a slobberknocker and we’ll keep throwing punches and hope when the dust settles, we can get in with a high seed. I love these guys. We’re hungry.”

Cheverus (first in Class A South) plays at Marshwood Wednesday, then hosts Massabesic Saturday of next week. After going to Falmouth and hosting Falmouth, the Stags play at Biddeford, welcome York and close at Scarborough. 

“We have to keep the pressure on, keep playing our game and we can’t let anyone hang around too long,” Wilson said. 

“We have a big stretch coming up,” Lucas said. “We can’t take our foot off the gas. There’s a lot of hockey left. It’s not where you start, it’s where you finish. The standings can change in one game, one night. We only have a handful of games left, then anything is possible in the playoffs. It can be one-and-done and we don’t want to be one of those teams. We have to get stronger and finish more. It’s a 200-foot game. We need back pressure all the time to help our defense.” 

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

Cape Elizabeth sophomore Jonas Moon plays the puck.

Cheverus senior Marco Giancotti fires a shot as Cape Elizabeth senior Sean Agrodnia defends.

Cheverus senior Luke Church handles the puck as Cape Elizabeth senior Ryan Collins gives chase.

Cheverus junior Colby Anton gets tangled up with Cape Elizabeth junior Alec Riggle.

Cape Elizabeth freshman George Roy-Becker fires a shot.

Cape Elizabeth senior Alex Glidden and Cheverus junior Justin Ray battle for possession.

Cheverus junior Colby Anton, left, and senior Luke Church congratulate junior Justin Ray after Ray’s second period goal.