GORHAM—Aidan Enck put Gorham out front of Windham/Westbrook/Bonny Eagle for the last time on Friday night, Jan. 3: Enck redirected a one-timer feed from teammate Nolan Gava past Trailblazers netminder Porter Krause for the 3-2 strike late in third period. Soon, a Peter Richards empty-netter bumped the scoreboard forward once more for a 4-2 final.

The W aside, Gorham head coach Jon Portwine was thoroughly displeased with his boys’ work. “It was terrible; we played awful. Most of the game, it looked like it was our first time on the ice together. We didn’t communicate well, we didn’t support the puck well, we didn’t forecheck well, we didn’t play on the powerplay well – which is something we’ve done really well all season. It was just unlike anything else I’ve seen this season out of this group.”

Trailblazers head coach Greg Leclair was equally unhappy with his team’s efforts. “It’s a tough game. We didn’t play our best; I don’t think Jon’s team played its best either. It came down to little things here and there. A puck battle here, a footrace there. The gamewinning goal was a miscommunication between a forward and defensemen that allowed them to pick up the puck and – back of the net.”

The Rams got on the board first, roughly two minutes into the opening period. Aiden Owens did the honors, though seconds later he also picked up two minutes in the box for roughing, delivering the Trailblazers the first power-play opportunity of the evening. Shortly after that, Gorhamite Jonah Bird joined Owens in the box on a tripping call, and the TBs settled in for a two-man-advantage assault.

The Rams killed off the TBs’ powerplay push. Through the remainder of the period, the Trailblazers handed Gorham a couple man-up chances of their own, the first on a Tayte Harris cross-checking minor, and the second on a Keegan Watts cross-checking minor. The TBs applied a bit of solid short-handed pressure during the second of their penalty-kills, but the score remained lodged at 1-0.

“We just came through the Christmas tournament, where we played really well for the most part,” Portwine said, still baffled by his boys’ sub-par efforts vs. the Trailblazers. “I think we had one bad period. And we’ve scored 24 goals in 10 games on the powerplay. Our powerplay was at about 89 percent. Tonight, same group of guys…and it just looked like it was our first time on the ice together.”

Gorham sent another man – this time, Nolan Gava – to the sin bin early in the second. Then the Trailblazers, following a faceoff at the Rams’ left dot, scrapped and scrapped for a goal – and got one. Holden Anderson fed for Travis Brown on the strike, and Brown put the puck past Gorham netminder Jasper Crane on a rebound at the right post. 1-1.

But the Rams wasted no time jetting ahead again. Bird picked up the puck, dashed up the left side of the ice with it, ducked around a TBs defender as he entered their zone, and sent the puck at the net. It ended up airborne, tumbling in an arc over Krause’s head; at the other side, Enck tapped it out of the air and into the net with his stick. 2-1.

Moments later, Gorham suffered a waved goal; Harris picked up a TBs minor on the play, which also knocked Krause’s net off its moorings. Both sides earned further minors as the minutes elapsed, but neither could convert on their man-up chances. Jordan Cantz logged a solid opportunity for the Trailblazers around 4:15, zipping up one side, juking past Rams defender Thad Shain, and shoving the puck at Crane. Crane, though, made the grab.

Portwine may not have loved his team’s game on the whole, but he readily applauded Crane: “Jasper did a really good job; he’s stepped up for us. As a freshman, you don’t really know what you’re going to get, but Jasper has been solid back there for the past three, four weeks. He’s done a great job. He keeps us in games, gives us a chance to win. Things weren’t very good in front of him.”

Gorhamite Peter Richards picked up a major penalty – five minutes for hitting from behind – with 2:26 to play before break No. 2. Richards saved a solid scoring opportunity for Trailblazer Chris Westgate, sure, but the contact didn’t look pretty and it cost him.

The Rams killed Richards’ sentence, which extended into the final period. Still, not long after Gorham returned to full-strength, the Trailblazers managed to score again: Following another faceoff at the left Rams dot, Anderson slid through the slot, picked up a Westgate pass and fired, beating Crane. 2-2.

Soon, the TBs threatened to take the lead: Lingering on Crane’s doorstep, Austin White one-timed a feed from behind the net; White’s shot bulleted just high.

Portwine nodded at Leclair’s squad: “I think his team outworked us. I don’t think we were hungry for the puck. We may have come in a little nonchalant and taken the game lightly. They beat us to pucks, they were aggressive on the forecheck and we didn’t compensate very well.”

Gorham ramped up their pressure as the end of regulation drew nigh, but Krause answered the call with seeming ease. Krause turned in a nimble skate save on a hard Enck wrister from off the left post around 5:55, then a sleight-of-hand glove save on a Cam Sawyer left-to-right wrister a couple minutes later. Seconds after that, Krause dropped into a slick pad save on a sliding shot up the middle through traffic – a puck that couldn’t have been easy to see and track.

Still, peppered like that, Krause was bound to eventually face a shot he just couldn’t get to in time, and that happened at 3:33. Over at the right, where a melee unfolded, Gava somehow managed to dump a feed across for Enck; Enck one-timed. Krause had zero chance of diving in front of the attempt – he tried, but no…zero chance. 3-2.

“Porter couldn’t do anything on that last goal,” Leclair said. “In the first period, he kept us in the game. They had a couple very good scoring opportunities that, when I saw the play developing, you start thinking, ‘Uh oh.’ There was one post-to-post save he made that…the Gorham kids are going back to the bench saying, ‘I can’t believe he made that save.’”

Leclair yanked Krause as the clock dwindled, but even with an extra man on the ice, the Trailblazers didn’t have it in them to tie things up a third time and send the game into OT. Richards added an empty-netter with eight seconds to go for the 4-2 result.

“There were a couple individual efforts at times that just put us over the top,” Portwine said, asked what allowed his boys to take the victory while playing poorly. “It wasn’t because we played well as a team, it wasn’t because we were doing the little things, it wasn’t because we were disciplined. At the right moments, we had a good individual effort out of [different guys], but nobody played the entire game well.”

The win pushed Gorham to 4-1-1 on the season – good enough for second in Class B, a slot back from 5-1-1 Greely a and slot ahead of 6-0 Cheverus. The Rams host Leavitt/Gray-New Gloucester/Oak Hill/Poland on Saturday, Jan. 11.

Windham/Westbrook/Bonny Eagle, meanwhile, slid to 1-5. The Trailblazers sit in 11th in Class A at the moment; just back from Lake Region/Fryeburg/Oxford Hills and just out front of Edward Little. W/W/BE welcomes the Ice Cats on Saturday.

Cam Sawyer controls for the Rams. Adam Birt / American Journal

Peyton Oertel battles for the TBs. Adam Birt / American Journal

Travis Brown (left) celebrates with his teammates after scoring for the TBs. Adam Birt / American Journal

Grayson Krause tracks the action. Adam Birt / American Journal

Tayte Harris stick-handles for BE/Windam/Westbrook. Adam Birt / American Journal

Gorham’s freshman goalie, Jasper Crane, turned in a standout game. Adam Birt / American Journal

Aidan Enck added two goals for Gorham in their win. Adam Birt / American Journal

Trailblazer Chris Westgate lunges after an opponent. Adam Birt / American Journal

Rob Doherty powers up-ice for the TBs. Adam Birt / American Journal

 

Peter Richards digs through the corner. Adam Birt / American Journal

Austin White turned in some good offensive pressure for the Trailblazers. Adam Birt / American Journal

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