Greely senior Courtney Sullivan is denied by St. Dom’s senior goalie Payton Winslow during the Saints’ 7-5 victory Thursday night.

Mike Strout photos.

More photos below.

FALMOUTH—If goals are your thing, Family Ice Center was the place to be Thursday evening when two of the state’s best girls’ hockey teams, two-time defending champion St. Dom’s and perennial contender Greely, did battle for the first of two times in a 24-hour span to end the regular season.

It took all of eight seconds for the game’s first goal to be scored, as Saints junior standout Avery Lutrzykowski found the net off the opening faceoff, but a dozen seconds later, Rangers senior star Courtney Sullivan answered.

St. Dom’s went back on top when junior Addie Suckow scored on a rush, but again, Sullivan answered and after one period, the contest was deadlocked, 2-2.

If the first period was exciting, the second was downright palpitating as the goals continued to come fast and furious.

Again, the Saints struck quickly, as 18 seconds in, Lutrzykowski scored and this time, Greely couldn’t answer and the visitors made it 4-2 when Lutrzykowski completed her hat trick.

The Rangers cut the deficit to one on a pretty backhander from senior Dani Holt, but Suckow answered on a rebound.

After Sullivan completed her hat trick to draw Greely within a goal again, junior Emma Theriault scored for St. Dom’s.

The Rangers cut the deficit to 6-5 on a second Holt goal with 5:25 left in the second, but despite a power play opportunity, Greely couldn’t pull even.

The Saints would score one more quick goal, 35 seconds into the third period, when senior Callie Samson did the honors, and they would hold on, thanks to a series of huge saves from senior goalie Payton Winslow, and prevail, 7-5. 

St. Dom’s improved to 15-2, dropped Greely to 14-3 and set the stage for what should be a compelling regular season finale Friday night in Auburn.

“We wanted to come out on top, but it was great competition,” said Rangers coach Nate Guerin. “(St. Dom’s is) a strong team. It was fun.”

Part I

Greely (which includes one player, freshman Madison Pelletier, from Gray-New Gloucester this winter) and St. Dom’s got through nearly 90 percent of their schedule without playing the other, but the perennial contenders got to cap the regular season with a pair of showdowns with a lot of Heal Points at stake.

St. Dom’s won its first three games to extend its three-year win streak to 29, but a 1-0 loss at Cheverus/Kennebunk, followed by a 5-0 loss to Lewiston, hinted that nothing would come easily this winter for the two-time defending state champions. The Saints did regroup and had won 11 straight, by a composite 71-8 margin, including a 3-2 victory over Lewiston to avenge a previous loss.

Greely, meanwhile, won its first five: 5-1 over visiting Scarborough, 12-1 at Portland/Deering, 11-1 at home over Edward Little/Leavitt, 5-0 at home over Mt. Ararat/Morse and 4-2 at Cape Elizabeth/Waynflete/South Portland. After falling at home to Lewiston, 3-2, the Rangers returned to their winning ways, downing visiting Winslow/Gardiner (10-3), host Yarmouth/Freeport (9-0), host Edward Little/Leavitt (8-2), visiting Falmouth (6-2), host Mt. Ararat/Morse (7-0), host Winslow/Gardiner (8-0), host York (5-1) and visiting Brunswick (5-0) before falling again to Lewiston, 6-1, last Friday. Tuesday, Greely got back on track, handling visiting Yarmouth/Freeport (7-1).

Last winter, St. Dom’s took both regular season meetings, 9-2 in Falmouth and 3-2 at home before eliminating the Rangers, 4-0, in the North Region Final.

Thursday, Greely hoped to snap a four-game skid in the series and beat the Saints for the first time since an 8-4 road triumph Jan. 25, 2016, but St. Dom’s led most of the way and refused to leave town without a victory.

Before many fans were even settled into the seats, Lutrzykowski won control of the puck, skated in and beat Rangers sophomore goalie Jordyn Owens for a 1-0 lead just eight seconds into the contest.

Not to be outdone, 12 seconds later, Sullivan got her first chance and fired a shot past Winslow to make it 1-1 just 20 seconds into the game.

The Saints retook the lead with 8:53 remaining in the first period, when Suckow scored on a rush with Lutrzykowski getting an assist.

Again, Greely would draw even, as with 5:32 left in the first, Sullivan rebounded her own shot while falling to the ice to make it 2-2.

“(Courtney’s) unbelievable,” Guerin said. “Her strength and determination. The second goal she scored on her back. She’s one-of-a-kind. She and Avery are in a class of their own in the state.” 

Late in the first period, the Rangers tried to take the lead, but Winslow denied junior Jayme Morrison, senior Nettie Cunningham and Pelletier and the game went to the first intermission deadlocked.

It took a little longer at the onset of the second period, but again, St. Dom’s struck quickly.

This time it took 18 seconds before Lutrzykowski scored on a rush (Samson got the assist) and the Saints had the lead for good.

“Avery is a gamer, a natural goal-scorer,” said St. Dom’s coach Paul Gosselin. “She draws a lot of attention, so the other girls get room. We had varied scoring tonight.”

“There’s no doubt that Avery is one of the strongest players in the state,” Guerin said. “She’s grown three or four inches and the reach is there. She played great.” 

With 13:11 left in the second period, St. Dom’s stretched its lead to 4-2 as Lutrzykowski completed her hat trick (Suckow got the assist), but Greely came right back and after Winslow denied Sullivan and senior Bridget Roberts, Holt took a pass from Roberts and swept the puck into the goal with the backhand to cut the deficit to 4-3 with 9:31 on the clock.

The Rangers didn’t have momentum for long, however, as with 7:57 remaining, Suckow got her stick on a loose puck in front and sent it into the net.

A mere 35 seconds later, Sullivan completed her hat trick, again banging home her own rebound, and again, Greely trailed by just one, 5-4.

The scoring frenzy continued with 5:49 left, as seconds after hitting the post, Theriault buried a shot from just inside the blue line for an unassisted goal.

The Rangers answered 24 seconds later, as Holt rebounded a Sullivan shot past Winslow (Roberts also got an assist) and for the fifth time, the hosts trailed by one, 6-5.

With 3:32 left in the second period, Lutrzykowski was sent to the penalty box for two minutes, giving Greely a great chance to pull even, but Winslow denied sophomore Leah Walker and Sullivan and the game went to the third period with the Saints clinging to a 6-5 lead.

After the ice was resurfaced, St. Dom’s opened the third period the same way it did the first two, with a quick goal.

This time, 35 seconds elapsed before Samson found the net (Theriault and Lutrzykowski had assists) and the visitors again had a little breathing room.

They would need it, as the Rangers threatened until the final horn.

After getting beaten five times, Winslow was at her best in the biggest moments, robbing Roberts three times and Sullivan and Walker once.

With 8:38 to play, Greely’s hopes appeared even more slim when Holt was given a pair of two-minute roughing penalties and had to sit for four minutes.

Instead of falling behind by even more, however, the Rangers nearly cut the deficit to one and almost regained momentum.

But Winslow didn’t allow it.

With 5:34 to play, Sullivan broke free and with most on hand expecting the score to change to 7-6, Winslow came out and poked the puck away for her biggest save of the night.

“I knew if I let in a goal, they’d get more confidence, so I had to make sure they didn’t score,” Winslow said. “We do a lot of breakaway work in practice, so I knew how to do it. I knew I had an opportunity to poke-check it and I did. A big sigh of relief.”

After Owens kept Greely alive by denying Lutrzykowski, the Rangers tried again to pull within one, but both Morrison and Sullivan were denied and Winslow made a diving save on a rebound attempt from Pelletier.

From there, St. Dom’s missed a few attempts at an open net, but was content to run out the clock on its 7-5 victory.

“It was really crazy,” said Lutrzykowski. “We scored, then they scored, it was a typical game against them. We knew we had to keep skating until the last whistle and that’s what we did.”

“It lived up to what we thought it would be,” Gosselin said. “You have probably the two best centers in the state going head-to-head and this is what we got. We work hard and grind. Whether we’re ahead or behind, we come to play.” 

The Rangers finished with a 35-28 shots advantage, but Winslow made 30 saves.

“Payton played excellent,’ Guerin said. “She made huge saves all night. We have to do a better job getting to rebounds.”

Owens stopped 21 shots for Greely, which went 0-for-1 on the power play.

“We hung in there and competed,” Guerin said. “We look forward to doing it again (Friday) night.”

Part II

The final North Region standings are still very much in the air (they read St. Dom’s, Lewiston and Greely in that order at press time), but Friday’s rematch will provide some clarity.

Regardless of who wins, both teams feel like they can outlast the other, Lewiston, Cheverus/Kennebunk and any other contenders and go on and capture the state championship later this month.

“We have to come into (Friday’s) game like we do every game,” said Lutrzykowski. “We need to remain focused throughout the game.”

“We’re ready to go,” said Winslow. “We want to do our best and try and make it all the way. We just need teamwork to get that goal.”

“We’ll see them again (Friday), Senior Night, and I think if we win, we’ll wind up in first, so a lot is at stake,” Gosselin said. “Our goal is to get better as the year goes on. We’ve improved well. We still have room to grow. We’ll work hard.”

“I feel like we’re playing for second or third now,” Guerin said. “Second would be nice. We’re less concerned with the bye than with the home game in the next round. We have to fine-tune simple things. We have to get pucks deep and turnovers have been killing us. We’ll work on that moving forward.”

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

Greely sophomore goalie Jordyn Owens tries to get the puck away from St. Dom’s junior Addie Suckow.

Greely freshman Madison Pelletier, the team’s lone player from Gray-New Gloucester, brings the puck up the ice as St. Dom’s junior Avery Lutrzykowski keeps pace.

Greely senior captain Bridget Roberts races into the offensive zone.

Greely senior Dani Holt plays the puck along the boards.

Greely junior Jayme Morrison finds room to operate.

Greely sophomore Leah Walker keeps the puck away from St. Dom’s junior Addie Suckow.

Greely senior Courtney Sullivan is congratulated by classmate Dani Holt after scoring her third goal of the game in the second period.

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