Cape Elizabeth’s boys’ hockey team celebrates after eliminating Yarmouth, 2-0, in Wednesday’s Class B South quarterfinals.

Ben McCanna / Portland Press Herald photos.

More photos below.

PORTLAND—Nine days ago, Cape Elizabeth’s boys’ hockey team beat rival Yarmouth by six goals.

Wednesday afternoon, in a Class B South quarterfinal at Troubh Ice Arena, the second-ranked Capers knew beating the seventh-seeded Clippers again wasn’t going to be anywhere near that easy.

And they were right.

The teams played scoreless hockey into the third period, before Cape Elizabeth finally got the break it needed and sophomore Gavin Simopoulos’ goal with 7:26 remaining broke the tie.

Yarmouth did its best to answer, but Capers senior goalie Garrett Mello didn’t allow a single puck to get past him and with 15.7 seconds left, Simopoulos set up senior Phil Tarling on the power play and Cape Elizabeth was able to survive and advance, 2-0.

The Capers improved to 14-5, ended the Clippers’ season at 7-10-2 and in the process, advanced to meet sixth-seeded Brunswick (10-9) in the regional semifinals Friday at 5 p.m., at the Colisee in Lewiston.

“I was a little worried after we beat them 7-1 the other night, but kudos to the boys, they bought into the whole system,” said Cape Elizabeth first-year coach Jake Rutt. “They were frustrated coming into the third period, but I’m proud of how we dug out that victory. It wasn’t pretty, but playoff wins aren’t pretty.”

Sweep

Cape Elizabeth lost to Greely in last year’s Class B South Final, then lost coach Matt Buotte and several key contributors from that team, but this winter, the Capers have remained a power under Rutt.

Cape Elizabeth turned it on as the season progressed, starting 2-2 and 4-3 before going 9-2 down the stretch to wind up with the No. 2 seed in the region.

Yarmouth endured skids of four and three games this winter, but also played well against some top teams as it secured the seventh and final playoff spot in Class B South, punching its postseason ticket for the 10th consecutive season.

The Capers won both regular season meetings, 2-1 at home and 7-1 in Yarmouth. Gavin Simopoulos scored with two seconds left to win the game in Portland. In the game on the Clippers’ home ice, junior Andrew Carroll, Tarling and senior Jackson Woods all scored twice.

Yarmouth had won six of the nine prior postseason meetings (see sidebar, below), with a 4-1 victory in the 2017 Class B South quarterfinal the most recent.

Wednesday, the Clippers made the Capers work for it, but Cape Elizabeth made enough plays in the third period to prevail.

The first period was one of frustration for the Capers, who had a pair of power plays and put 13 shots on goal, but none got past Yarmouth freshman goalie Charles Henry Watson.

After a too-many-men-on-the-ice penalty on the Clippers, Watson denied Simopoulos on the doorstep and saved a pair of bids from Woods.

Watson then picked up a slashing penalty, but again Cape Elizabeth couldn’t convert and Yarmouth nearly got the first goal short-handed, but junior William Giese’s shot was turned aside by Mello.

Late in the period, Tarling eluded a defender, but shot just wide and a Tarling rush resulted in a shot which Watson saved to send the game to the first intermission, 0-0.

In the second period, it would be the Clippers with an edge in shots (6-5) and a pair of power plays, but they too would be left frustrated.

After Watson kept the game scoreless with a superb pad save on a Tarling breakaway, Yarmouth went man-up twice, but first senior Sam Marjerison was denied by Mello, then the goalie frustrated senior Matt Sanborn as well to send the game to the third period still scoreless.

There, Cape Elizabeth finally broke through.

The Giese nearly gave the Clippers the lead early in the third, but just missed and finally, with 7:26 to play, Simopoulos got loose, weaved through a pair of defenders, then beat Watson for a 1-0 lead.

“We had a nice defensive break out,” said Simopoulos. “I was lucky enough to make a move, then I shot high on the goalie. It was a good team goal. I honestly thought it didn’t go in, but when it did, I was excited.”

“Gavin scores a lot of big goals,” Rutt said. “He’s a special player for us. He knows what makes him effective.”

Yarmouth pushed hard for the equalizer, but Mello denied a senior Kurt Heywood’s redirect of a Marjerison shot, saved a bid by Sanborn, then made his finest save with 2:41 on the clock, robbing junior Aidan Miller in front (after Marjerison set him up).

“We tried to keep it tight as long as we could and hoped we’d get opportunistic,” said Clippers coach Dave St. Pierre. “We got a couple looks, but couldn’t find the back of the net. We didn’t get the bounce we needed.”

With just under two minutes to play, St. Pierre pulled Watson and Cape Elizabeth appeared to take a 2-0 lead on an empty net tally from junior Matt Laughlin, but the Clippers touched the puck first on a delayed penalty and the goal was waved off.

That proved a moot point, as with 15.7 seconds remaining, Simopoulos set up Tarling for the clincher on the power play and the Capers closed out their 2-0 victory.

“We knew their goalie was hot, but we knew we had to stick to our game plan,” said Simopoulos. “We knew if we kept shooting, we’d get one in. We knew they’d bring a different mindset this time, but we knew we’d win as a team if we worked hard.”

“I thought we had the better of play, so I just wanted us to do the stuff we were doing a little bit better,” Rutt said. “There weren’t any major adjustments. Yarmouth played a great game overall. They had a game plan and they stuck to it and made it a game. I just love how we were resilient and fought through.”

Cape Elizabeth enjoyed a 29-16 shots advantage and got 16 saves from Mello. The Capers went 0-for-3 on the power play.

Strong showing

The Clippers’ fought valiantly for 45 minutes, but their season came to a close.

“I’m proud of the way we worked tonight,” St. Pierre said. “We set up a game plan and the boys committed to it extremely well. They executed everything I asked of them. Thankfully we competed tonight. We showed (Cape) that we’re capable of going toe-to-toe with them. Even after they got one (goal), we got some looks to tie it up. I didn’t want to pull (Watson) too early. We just couldn’t convert. 

Yarmouth went 0 for 2 on the power play, but got 27 saves from Watson.

“‘C.H.’ came in as a freshman and saw a lot of pucks this year,” St. Pierre said. “He worked hard every day. He was known as a good goalie coming in, but he didn’t rest on laurels and really put his best foot forward. He got better as a result. I look forward to having him back next year.”

The Clippers expect to be back in contention next winter.

“We’re losing a lot of seniors, but we have a good group of freshmen coming in next year,” said St. Pierre. “We’ll be a little young, but we have good talent. Our seniors will have to help them along the way and we’ll see where we end up at the end of the season.”

Back to Lewiston

Cape Elizabeth enjoyed a 4-2 home victory over Brunswick on Valentine’s Day. The teams have split two prior playoff meetings, with the Dragons prevailing, 2-1, in the 1994 Western B quarterfinals and the Capers winning, 5-2, in the 2016 Class B South quarterfinals.

“We knew we were good enough to get back (to Lewiston),” Simopoulos said. “Brunswick’s a great team. We have to bring our best and if we do, we can get it done.”

“It’s going to be very similar to this game, physical, up-and-down hockey,” Rutt said. “I think it’ll come down to the wire like this one. (Brunswick’s) well-coached, they have a good goaltender and a couple forwards who can score. We have to do our job. We have a new coaching staff and we lost a lot of guys from last year. Nobody gave us a chance, but the boys have embraced the underdog role. I want the guys to play their best hockey at the end of the year and I think we’re doing that.”

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

Cape Elizabeth senior Jackson Woods skates around the goal, leaving Yarmouth senior Kurt Heywood in his wake.

Cape Elizabeth senior Phil Tarling handles the puck. Tarling scored the game’s second goal.

Cape Elizabeth sophomore Gavin Simopoulos and Yarmouth freshman Matt Robichaud collide.

Yarmouth freshman goalie Charles Henry Watson denies Cape Elizabeth senior Phil Tarling.

Yarmouth junior William Giese shoots on Cape Elizabeth senior goalie Garrett Mello.

Previous Cape Elizabeth-Yarmouth playoff results

2017 Class B South quarterfinals
Yarmouth 4 Cape Elizabeth 1

2013 Western B quarterfinals
Cape Elizabeth 4 Yarmouth 3

2005 Western B semifinals
Cape Elizabeth 5 Yarmouth 2

2003 Western B semifinals
Cape Elizabeth 6 Yarmouth 2 

2002 Western B semifinals
Yarmouth 4 Cape Elizabeth 3

2000 Western B Final
Yarmouth 5 Cape Elizabeth 4 

1993 Western B quarterfinals
Yarmouth 12 Cape Elizabeth 2 

1987 Western B Final
Yarmouth 4 Cape Elizabeth 2

1984 Class C semifinal
Yarmouth 3 Cape Elizabeth 1