Greely sophomore goalie Jared Swisher, left, and senior Peter Lattanzi celebrate at the culmination of the Rangers’ 9-4 win over Cape Elizabeth in Wednesday’s Class B South Final. Greely earned a rematch with Old Town/Orono in the state final Saturday.

Ben McCanna / Portland Press Herald photos.

More photos below. 

LEWISTON—For a year, Greely boys’ hockey team has pined for an opportunity to avenge its loss in last winter’s state final.

Wednesday evening at the Colisee, the Rangers earned that opportunity, but Greely’s quest was nearly derailed by Cape Elizabeth’s fast start in the Class B South Final.

A stunning first period saw top-ranked Greely start sluggishly and fall behind, 2-0, when the second-seeded Capers got goals from junior Matt Laughlin and senior Phil Tarling.

Then the second period began and the juggernaut Rangers showed up.

Goals from freshman Alexander Wallace and junior captain Andy Moore in a 43-second span tied the game and senior captain Jackson Williams struck to give Greely the lead.

Tarling tied the score, but Williams’ second goal put the Rangers on top to stay and junior Jake MacDonald scored to cap a five-goal period and make it 5-3 heading for the third period.

There, Greely ended all doubt, as Moore and freshman Evan Dutil scored early, MacDonald scored on the power play and Moore completed his hat trick and even though Cape Elizabeth got a late goal from sophomore Gavin Simopolous, the Rangers were able to close out a 9-4 victory.

Greely got goals from five different players as it improved to 18-2, won the region for the second year in a row and sixth time overall, ended the Capers’ season at 15-6 and advanced to set up a state final showdown versus defending champion Old Town/Orono (15-5) Saturday at 1 p.m., in Lewiston.

“We talked at intermission about that’s not how we play hockey or how we should play hockey,” Williams said. “We all knew we wanted to get it done and we could.” 

The two best

For the second year in a row, Greely and Cape Elizabeth were the two best regular season teams in Class B South and found their way to the regional final showdown.

The Rangers, one year removed from an agonizing 3-2 double-overtime loss to Old Town/Orono in the Class B state final, more than lived up to their favorite’s role this winter, winning 16 of 18 contests, losing only to Class A North champion St. Dom’s and two-time defending state champion Lewiston. As the top seed in the region, Greely earned a bye into Saturday’s semifinals, where it erupted for seven third period goals en route to a 10-1 victory over No. 5 Gorham.

The Capers, ranked second, had a tougher time staying alive, but held off No. 7 Yarmouth, 2-0, in the quarterfinals, and beat No. 6 Brunswick, 6-4, in Friday’s semifinal round.

The Rangers won both meetings this winter, 5-1 at home Dec. 22 and 3-1 Feb. 16 in Portland.

Greely entered 6-3 all-time against the Capers in the playoffs (see sidebar, below). Cape Elizabeth won the first three encounters, but the last six had gone to the Rangers, including last year’s regional final which was decided by a MacDonald third period goal.

Wednesday, the Capers, seeking their first regional crown in 13 years, couldn’t have asked for a better start, but the Rangers ultimately couldn’t be stopped.

Greely hoped to start fast and get the jump, but just 25 seconds in, Cape Elizabeth senior goalie Garrett Mello denied Moore, then got to a loose rebound at the last possible moment.

The Capers then began to carry play and soon broke the ice.

After Rangers sophomore goalie Jared Swisher denied both junior Jonas Moon and Simopolous, Greely couldn’t clear the puck and Laughlin got to it and buried it at 3:51 for a 1-0 lead.

The Rangers tried to equalize, but Mello denied Moore, stopped a rebound bid from freshman Ryan Moore, then a rebound attempt from MacDonald sailed wide.

After Mello robbed Andy Moore and MacDonald missed wide on a good look, Cape Elizabeth doubled its lead at 11:52.

Laughlin got the puck to Tarling, who skated up the ice, faked like he was going to try a wrap-around shot to Swisher’s right, then came back to the goalie’s left side and tucked the puck into the net to make it 2-0.

After Mello made a glove save on a bid from senior Peter Lattanzi, the Capers took a two-goal advantage to the first intermission.

“Credit to Cape for having a strong first period,” said longtime Greely coach Barry Mothes. “They were dangerous and moved well. We were a little loose with the puck at times. Being down 2-0 wasn’t ideal.”

Not surprisingly, Greely was a very different team in the second period and the game turned quickly.

Mello denied MacDonald and Andy Moore early, but with 11:54 remaining, Wallace finished to get the Rangers on the board (MacDonald and Andy Moore got assists).

“I moved Alex Wallace up with Andy and Jake and moved Ryan Moore back,” said Mothes. “(Ryan’s) a more natural defenseman, but he’s played forward. Alex brought some nice energy to that line and Ryan helped solidify things in the back.”

Then, 43 seconds later, Andy Moore scored on a rebound and the game was tied.

Capers first-year coach Jacob Rutt tried to stem the tide with a timeout and Cape Elizabeth got a pair of great looks, but Swisher turned aside a bid from Tarling in front, then robbed Simopolous.

After failing to score on a power play, the Rangers went on top with 7:44 left in the second, as MacDonald had a shot stopped by Mello, but Williams was there to bury the rebound and just like that, Greely had the lead.

“In the context of this game, the second period was probably the most important period of the year,” said Mothes. “We haven’t been behind a lot this year, but there wasn’t panic. We had a good re-set. The focus was short term, winning the second period. You learn a lot when you’re behind. I was very pleased we struck early in the period and we didn’t have to wait too long. Getting the three goals quickly was huge and lifted the bench. 

The lead didn’t last, as five seconds after Williams was sent to the penalty box, Tarling scored on the power play (Laughlin got the assist) to make it 3-3 with 6:39 to go in the period.

But that was plenty of time for the Rangers to regain control.

After killing another Capers’ power play, Greely went on top to stay with 2:05 on the clock, as Williams scored from a weird angle (Andy Moore and MacDonald got assists).

“In the locker room we talked about throwing (the puck) on net and seeing what happens, so I did,” Williams said. “I didn’t even see it go in, but I saw everyone go nuts and I thought I’d go nuts too.”

Then, after Swisher robbed Tarling and Laughlin sent the rebound with the net open over the bar, MacDonald skated the other way, had his initial shot saved by Mello, but then he buried the rebound with 1:08 remaining to complete the five-goal Rangers’ explosion and make it 5-3 after two periods.

“It’s been a long season and we have a lot of experienced guys on our team, so we just weren’t worried,” Moore said. “No panic. We were just waiting for the first one, then we got going.”

Greely held a commanding 18-4 shots advantage in the second period and didn’t let up when the third period began.

After Swisher stopped Tarling cold 19 seconds in, the Rangers transitioned to offense and with 14:22 to play, Andy Moore finished unassisted with the backhand on a rush to make it 6-3.

“Coach said in the locker room that we had to get the early (goal) and we went out there and got it done,” Moore said.

With 9:30 remaining, Dutil beat Mello on a breakaway (with Lattanzi and Ryan Moore getting assists).

Greely then went on the power play 23 seconds later when Laughlin was sent off for tripping and with 7:22 on the clock, MacDonald finished on the power play (with Williams getting the assist) for an 8-3 advantage.

Andy Moore nearly completed his hat trick earlier in the third period, but he hit the crossbar and later rang a shot off the post, but with 2:11 to go, he scored his third goal (MacDonald got the assist) and the Rangers had their final goal.

Thirteen seconds later, Simopolous answered for Cape Elizabeth, but it was far too little, too late and Greely finished off its 9-4 victory.

“We made some little adjustments to the way we were playing (in the third period),” Mothes said.” Our goal was still to win the period. We may have been a little more conservative, but still we scored four goals. When we’re playing well structurally, we can still be effective offensively.”

Andy Moore led the way with three goals and two assists. MacDonald had two goals and four assists and Williams scored twice and had one assist.

“Jake, Andy and Jackson have been huge parts of this team for three, four years and have a lot of experience in these games,” Mothes said. “They find a way. I’m very happy for the whole team, but especially for those guys for finding another gear.”

Swisher overcame early jitters to stop 13 shots, several of them at key junctures.

“It was important that (Cape) didn’t get a third (goal) when it was 2-0, then it was important they didn’t get a fourth, so Jared did a good job,” Mothes said. “His approach was to make the next save and fortunately, he made some important saves.”

Greely enjoyed a 37-17 shots advantage (28-9 over the final two periods). The Rangers scored once in three power play opportunities.

No answers

Cape Elizabeth got two goals and an assist from Tarling in his swan song and one apiece from Laughlin (who had three assists) and Simopolous. 

Mello made 28 saves.

The Capers went 1-for-2 on the power play.

“(Greely’s) a deep team and a very good team,” Rutt said. “I thought we outplayed them (in the first period) and the score showed it. Then we gave them a little slack, we strayed from the game plan we drew up and they took advantage. That’s what good teams do. They caught their mojo. Whatever Barry and his coaching staff said between the first and second periods worked. That last goal in the second period really stung us.

“I thought we had a great season. Not a lot of people gave us a chance and these boys played their hearts out. All the credit to the captains. We’re building a culture here and we’ll be back next year. We have 14 freshmen coming in who are pretty good skaters. I’m ready for that group.”

Redemption?

Greely will seek its fourth championship Saturday and will be the favorite. The Rangers didn’t face Old Town/Orono in the regular season.

In last year’s game, Greely took a quick 2-0 lead, but never scored again and Old Town/Orono rallied to stun the Rangers in the second OT.

This time around, Greely is bound and determined to finish the job.

“I’m happy we get another chance as a team to play together,” Moore said. “We’ll play hard.” 

“(Last year’s state final) has been on my mind all year,” Williams said. “As cliche as it sounds, I’ve thought about it every day and regretted not getting it done. I’m so glad we get to see them again. We just have to play a full 45 (minutes) and do the stuff we know how to do and I have faith we’ll get it done.”

“It means a lot to get one more game,” Mothes added. “We’ve extended the season to the max. We’ll have two more practices and a team dinner together. We look forward to coming back here Saturday and playing in front of a big crowd. For the guys who were here last year, it’s an opportunity to get another crack at it and maybe have a different finish. We know they’re a good hockey team. They’re the defending champs. They’ve been at or near the top of the North standings all year. We know we’re going to have to be ready. We won’t take anything for granted, but it is exciting.”

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

Cape Elizabeth junior Matt Laughlin sends Greely junior Jake MacDonald flying.

Greely freshman Evan Dutil battles Cape Elizabeth senior Brenden Goss for the puck. 

Greely junior Andy Moore gets past Cape Elizabeth senior Stephen Murray. Moore had a hat trick in the victory.

Cape Elizabeth junior Matt Laughlin scores the game’s first goal.

Cape Elizabeth senior Phil Tarling celebrates one of his two goals.

Greely freshman Alexander Wallace is congratulated by his teammates after scoring the Rangers’ first goal.

Greely senior captain Jackson Williams and his teammates receive the regional championship plaque.

Previous Cape Elizabeth-Greely playoff results

2018 Class B South Final
Greely 3 Cape Elizabeth 2

2014 Western B quarterfinal
Greely 5 Cape Elizabeth 2

2013 Western B semifinal
Greely 7 Cape Elizabeth 2

2009 Western B Final
Greely 6 Cape Elizabeth 3 

2008 Western B semifinal
Greely 6 Cape Elizabeth 1

2007 Western B semifinal 
Greely 4 Cape Elizabeth 0

2006 Western B Final
Cape Elizabeth 2 Greely 1 (OT)

2005 Western B Final
Cape Elizabeth 4 Greely 2

1986 Western B semifinal
Cape Elizabeth 10 Greely 2