Falmouthfreshman Mitchell Ham watches the puck fly after taking a shot during the Yachtsmen’s 4-1 loss at Portland/Deering Saturday. Ben McCanna / Portland Press Herald

PORTLAND—Ryan Becker wasn’t yet born.

Colby Winship was in diapers.

Becker is now a sophomore goalie and Winship a sophomore forward for the Portland/Deering boys’ hockey team and that will give you an idea how long it had been since the Bulldogs had beaten Falmouth in boys’ hockey.

Saturday evening at Troubh Ice Arena, a victory a long time in the making, 16 years, three weeks and one day to be exact, finally came to fruition

And Portland/Deering’s win wasn’t just historic, it was a big one in the bigger Class A playoff scheme of things.

Becker set the tone early, denying several great Yachtsmen chances and the Bulldogs took a 1-0 lead nearly 11 minutes in, when senior Whit Steele scored on a rebound.

Advertisement

Falmouth drew even with 11:21 left in the second period, when freshman Aaron Higgins finished and late in the period, the Yachtsmen had a chance to take the lead on the power play, but with just 46.3 seconds to go, Winship pounced on a rebound and finished to put Portland/Deering ahead to stay.

The Bulldogs’ defense then frustrated every Falmouth’s attempt to rally and with 4:17 remaining, Winship scored his second goal for some breathing room.

Junior Max Cheever then put it away with a minute to play and Portland/Deering went on to an inspirational 4-1 victory.

The Bulldogs improved to 5-7 and in the process, dropped the Yachtsmen to 6-6-1.

“Our problem has been playing 45 minutes and our guys played 45 minutes tonight,” said Portland/Deering coach Jeff Beaney. “This was a big boost mentally. We had to beat a top team. This gives the guys confidence.”

A long time coming

Falmouth and Portland/Deering are among a plethora of contenders in Class A this winter.

Advertisement

The Yachtsmen started the campaign with a 3-3 tie at Biddeford, then beat host St. Dom’s (6-2), lost at home to St. Dom’s (3-2), fell at Thornton Academy (5-3) and finished out the old year with a 4-3 victory at Bangor. After losing at Greely in overtime in the “Dudley Cup” (4-3), Falmouth won at Yarmouth (3-0), beat visiting Marshwood (5-1) and blanked host Windham (3-0). After consecutive losses to Lewiston (3-1 in Lewiston and 5-2 in Falmouth), the Yachtsmen handled visiting Thornton Academy Thursday, 5-2.

Portland/Deering, meanwhile, opened its 2019-20 campaign with losses at home to Thornton Academy (2-0) and to South Portland/Freeport/Waynflete (5-0). The Bulldogs then beat visiting Old Town/Orono (4-3) before dropping an overtime contest to visiting Biddeford (4-3). After losses at Bangor (4-1) and at home to Scarborough (7-1), Portland/Deering downed Cheverus in the “Dudley Cup” New Year’s Day, 6-4, and edged visiting Bangor, 2-1. After a 5-4 home loss to Cape Elizabeth, the Bulldogs edged visiting Edward Little, 2-1, but Monday, Portland/Deering lost by a goal at St. Dom’s, 3-2.

Last year, Falmouth eked out a 4-3 victory at Portland.

Saturday, the Yachtsmen looked for their 17th consecutive victory over the Bulldogs, but instead, Portland/Deering beat Falmouth for the first time since Jan. 10, 2004 (2-1), when George W. Bush was still in his first term as President and the New England Patriots were in the process of beating the Tennessee Titans, 17-14, in the AFC Divisional Round, as they were working their way toward just their second Super Bowl title.

The Yachtsmen came out firing, but Becker was able to keep them off the scoreboard in the early going.

“We played well in our zone and we didn’t give them great opportunities,” said Becker. “My defense was great in front of me.  They did their job.”

Advertisement

“We’ve been a little bit up-and-down, but Ryan Becker is starting to play really well,” Beaney said. “He’s strung together a few good games for us.”

Late in the period, Portland/Deering got some offense going, but junior Dante Tocci’s rush was broken up at the last moment, junior Nick McGonagle sent a backhander just wide and Steele had a shot saved by Falmouth junior goalie Sam Kidder, but Steele got to the rebound and with 4:06 to go in the first period, sent it home for a 1-0 lead (Tocci was credited with an assist).

Portland/Deering then went on the power play and had a chance to extend the lead, but Kidder denied Cheever and sophomore Carlos Braceras.

The Yachtsmen nearly drew even as time wound down, but Becker robbed junior Owen Drummey to send the Bulldogs to the locker room up, 1-0.

Portland/Deering junior Nicholas Becker checks Falmouth senior Tyler Baker. Ben McCanna / Portland Press Herald

The game remained close in the second period as well.

Falmouth came out looking for the equalizer and after Becker denied a good chance by Higgins, the freshman took a feed from Drummey and scored with 11:21 on the clock to tie the game, 1-1.

Advertisement

After Tocci missed just wide and Cheever had a shot saved by Kidder, Drummey looked to put the Yachtsmen on top, but Becker made the save.

Kidder then kept the game deadlocked by denying junior Peter Gribbin.

Falmouth junior Owen Drummey and Portland/Deering senior Whit Steele vie for possession. Ben McCanna / Portland Press Herald

With 2:23 to go in the period, Tocci was sent to the penalty box and it appeared Falmouth was on the verge of taking the lead, but after Becker denied Higgins and a rebound was cleared, Portland/Deering, surprisingly, went on top.

With 46.3 seconds showing, after McGonagle fired a shot that handcuffed Kidder, Winship was waiting for the rebound and sent it into the net to put the hosts ahead to stay, 2-1.

“The puck bounced out, Kidder played it, the puck came to Nick and he put it on net,” said Winship. “I just crashed the net, the puck squirted out and I just pounced on it. It was awesome.”

“That goal was huge at the end of that period,” Beaney said.

Advertisement

Portland/Deering would take its 2-1 lead to the third period, where it had to fight off the inevitable Falmouth comeback attempt.

Becker would do his part, saving a shot from sophomore Charlie Adams and another from Drummey and he got some big-time help from his defense as well, as senior Miki Silva blocked a Higgins shot, Cheever broke up a golden opportunity in front of the Portland/Deering goal and Braceras cleared a loose puck at the last second.

With 4:17 remaining, the Bulldogs got a fortuitous bounce and Winship was again in the right place at the right time to score for a bit of insurance.

“(Falmouth) went to clear (the puck), but it hit off something and came right to me and I had an empty net and just put it in,” Winship said.

While that goal didn’t ice the victory, Cheever’s unassisted tally with exactly 60 seconds remaining did and Portland/Deering went on to a 4-1 victory, which was culminated, at 7:56 p.m., by a 16-years-in-the-making celebration at the final horn.

Portland/Deering mobs sophomore goalie Ryan Becker and celebrates the 4-1 victory. Michael Hoffer / For The Forecaster

“It’s a huge win,” said Becker. “(Falmouth’s) worth a lot of Heal Points. We’ve dropped some close games, but tonight, everybody played well and got it done. We played a full 45 minutes and played a good team game.”

Advertisement

“It’s a big win,” Beaney said. “It was a well-played game and it had a good pace. We threw one away against St. Dom’s Monday, so the guys were ready. We changed back to what we’re more comfortable with defensively in our zone and the guys were focused.”

Portland/Deering finished with a 23-19 shots advantage and got 18 saves from Becker.

Falmouth got 19 saves from Kidder, but couldn’t produce enough offense.

“We came in after a big win (over Thornton Academy Thursday) and came in here and didn’t play a game with a sense of urgency to put the puck in the net,” said Yachtsmen coach Deron Barton. “When you don’t come in 100 percent, you get behind, lose momentum, give the opposing goalie more confidence, the puck doesn’t go in and there’s an invisible glass behind their net.

“Credit to Portland. They came out and made their own breaks and rode the momentum. I thought they played a phenomenal game and made good decisions. You make your own breaks if you work hard. We didn’t fight through it and we paid the price.”

Long way to go

Falmouth (now fifth in the Class A state Heal Points standings) is in the midst of a brutal schedule stretch. After hosting Portland/Deering in a rematch next Saturday, the Yachtsmen play a home-and-away series with Scarborough, host South Portland/Freeport/Waynflete, then close at Edward Little.

Advertisement

“We’ll see (Portland/Deering) again and it’ll be a different game,” Barton said. “The guys have a bad taste in their mouths. We have serious kids on the team who get it. (Our mistakes are) correctable.”

Portland/Deering (which has moved up to seventh in Class A) has three straight on the road, at Edward Little Monday, at Lewiston Wednesday and at Falmouth Saturday.

“We have to keep the right mindset and keep getting better every week,” said Winship.

“We have to play (Falmouth) next Saturday at their place and in the meantime, we have EL and Lewiston, so it won’t get any easier,” Beaney said.

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

Comments are not available on this story.