As the final seconds ticked away and Portland/Deering forwards buzzed around the net desperately seeking the tying goal, Cape Elizabeth’s Will Depke reacted to a deflection by diving to poke the puck away from an opposing stick.

Moments later, the swarm of bodies multiplied as the Capers spilled from their bench to envelop their freshman goaltender after a hard-fought 5-4 boys’ hockey victory Thursday night at Troubh Ice Arena.

“That was by far his best game of the year,” Cape Elizabeth Coach Jacob Rutt said of Depke, who finished with 20 saves. “That’s the reason why we won.”

The victory was only the third of the season for Cape Elizabeth (3-8), which entered the contest looking up at the seven Class B South teams in position to qualify for playoffs. Portland/Deering, which was fifth in the Class A Heal point standings, fell to 3-6.

The Capers jumped out to a 3-0 lead and led 4-1 after two periods, only to give up three goals – two on power plays – in a little over nine minutes of the third to make it a tie game.

“I was nervous,” Depke said. “I was really nervous.”

But Cape capitalized for the third time in six power-play opportunities when sophomore Quinn Gordon’s long shot just after crossing the blue line found the net with 4:37 remaining. A Cape Elizabeth bench minor for too many skaters on the ice with 2:28 left gave Portland/Deering once more chance, but Depke and his defensemen held up to snap a three-game losing streak for a team that includes 13 freshmen.

“That was a gutty victory,” Rutt said. “We haven’t had the results that we’ve wanted, but our work ethic, our attitude, our mindset hasn’t changed from Day 1. It doesn’t matter that we gave up a three-goal lead and came back. That’s a very good team that we just played.”

Cape built its early lead on goals by Gavin Simopoulos, Matt Laughlin and Andrew Carroll, the latter on a power play. Laughlin’s was a spinning backhand while facing away from the net with 24 seconds left in the first period.

Even later in the second period, with just 14 seconds remaining, Jonas Moon of Cape Elizabeth scored on a power play to make it 4-1, not long after Whit Steele had broken up Depke’s shutout bid. Steele scored again in the opening minute of the third, and Dante Tocci added two more as the Bulldogs rallied to tie.

“We’ve been playing pretty well lately,” said Portland/Deering Coach Jeff Beaney, whose team had won its previous two games. “But you’ve got to play the full 45 minutes, and we just didn’t do it. Hopefully our guys learn a lesson that you’ve got to play hard all game long.”

In net for Portland/Deering, Ryan Becker made 15 saves – including an impressive stop with his stick on a Connor Goss breakaway – through two periods before giving way to Neal McQuarrie, who made five saves in the third.

“Once we saw that lead slip, we knew we needed to get back and start grinding,” Laughlin said. “We kind of feel like this is the start to a new season.”

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