PORTLAND—For two periods, Portland/Deering’s girls’ hockey team had everything go its way in Wednesday afternoon’s South Region quarterfinal against the York/Traip/Marshwood co-op team.

And then came intermission, followed by a third period the Bulldogs would rather forget.

And now, they’ll have all offseason to think about it.

Fourth-ranked Portland/Deering, which went up, 1-0, after one period behind a goal from sophomore Jordan King, then took a 2-0 advantage on a second period tally from junior Caroline Lerch, saw the fifth-seeded Wildcats come flying out of the locker room, get on the board on a goal from freshman Maggie Hanlon with 12:34 to play, tie it on a goal from sophomore Zoe Jellison with 11:09 left, then with 3:42 remaining, get a power play goal from junior Meagan Wentworth to completely flip the script and shock the Bulldogs, 3-2.

York/Traip/Marshwood improved to 9-10, ended Portland/Deering’s fine season at 11-8 and in the processs, advanced to take on top-ranked Scarborough (15-1-2) in the semifinals Saturday at 5:20 p.m., at the University of Southern Maine in Gorham.

“We just rallied together,” said Wentworth. “The seniors gave us a very good speech about wanting to win what might be their last game. We knew 2-0 was a dangerous lead. We just hyped each other up and gave our all.”



Portland/Deering started the season 5-2, but was just 8-7 after a 5-3 home loss to Winslow Jan. 18. The Bulldogs then closed the year strong with victories over host Biddeford (4-3), visiting Mt. Ararat (5-3) and host Winslow (9-5) to lock up the No. 4 seed in the South Region and with it, an opportunity to host Wednesday.

York, meanwhile, started the season with six straight losses and was even 3-9 at one juncture, but victories in five of its final six games sent it into the playoffs on a high note as well.

The teams played twice earlier in the campaign, as Portland/Deering won at York, 3-1, Nov. 30, then prevailed in Portland, 5-4 Dec. 5. Lerch had a hat trick for the Bulldogs in both meetings.

Entering play Wednesday, the teams had never squared off in the postseason.

The first meeting proved to be memorable.

The first sign that it might not be Portland/Deering’s night came a minute in, when Lerch had a great look, but Wildcats’ senior goalie Erin Gray made the save.


Each team then had a breakaway chance go for naught, as York freshman Liz Buckley shot high and Bulldogs’ junior Margaret Smith had a shot denied by Gray.

After Portland/Deering couldn’t score on the power play, as Gray denied Smith twice, the hosts broke through with 8:21 left in the first period.

The goal was set up by junior Lucy Howe, who fed King for a shot which found the net for a 1-0 lead.

Bulldogs’ junior goalie Anna Gannon preserved the lead by saving shots from sophomore Anna Cohen, freshman Ella Moon and senior Sophia Santamaria.

Portland/Deering then had a chance to double the lead as time wound down, but Gray came up huge to deny a Lerch breakaway and keep the score 1-0 after one period.

The Bulldogs had a 12-5 shots advantage in the first 15 minutes, but Gray kept them from opening it up.


The second period, which saw each team register seven shots on goal, was more of the same.

After Gannon stopped a shot from Hanlon, Lerch went one-on-one with Gray, but missed wide.

With 4:57 remaining in the period, Portland/Deering went on the power play, but Gray stopped shots from Howe, Lerch and junior Zoe Cheever.

After Gannon preserved the lead with a diving save on a Wentworth shot, Lerch finally broke through with 1:12 on the clock, scooping up a loose puck along the boards, then beating Gray for a 2-0 lead, which the Bulldogs took to intermission.

And that’s where everything changed.

York came out with a spring in its step and just 45 seconds in, Gannon had to deny a shot from sophomore Charlotte Grimes and a rebound from Jellison.


Then, with 12:34 to play, Gannon stopped a shot from Buckley, but Hanlon was able to direct the rebound into the goal, giving the Wildcats life and cutting Portland/Deering’s lead to 2-1.

“We started cheering more for each other after that first goal,” Wentworth said.

“I said (in the locker room), ‘Next goal is huge,” said York coach Kevin Purdy. “I said, ‘If we score, they’ll play not to lose and if they score, it’ll be a tough battle.’ The girls turned it on. That’s how we’ve played the last few games.”

After Gannon stopped a shot by Buckley, the Wildcats tied it with 11:09 remaining, as Jellison finished out front (from senior Ashley Carney, with Santamaria also getting an assist).

“(York) had a work ethic the whole game and my goalie made some key saves the first two periods to keep it 2-0, but they worked even harder in the third,” said Portland/Deering coach Tom Clifford. “We talked about being ready the first five minutes, but we didn’t meet what they brought.”

Each team then jockeyed for the lead.


After Gannon saved a shot from Santamaria, Lerch missed just wide.

A Wentworth shot with 8:57 to go deflected off the stick of Cheever, but Gannon was able to make the save.

After Gannon denied Santamaria, freshman Emma Cleary, Buckley and Carney, York went on the power play with 4:46 remaining and took advantage.

With 3:42 to go, Wentworth took the puck behind the goal, skated around to the other side and before Gannon could react, she tucked it into the cage for a 3-2 lead (Grimes was credited with an assist).

“I had a close call earlier and I just wanted redemption,” said Wentworth. “I was trying to look for either a wrap-around goal or an open teammate. What happens happens and thank God, it happened. I cheered louder than I have in my entire life.”

“Our first line is all freshman and our second line is two sophomores and a senior, so it’s been a process, but they’ve worked hard,” said Purdy. “Meagan did a great job there. She’s a very heads-up player. She did the right thing.”


Portland/Deering had time to rally and pulled Gannon with 1:15 on the clock, but Howe missed wide and the Bulldogs never seriously tested Gray the rest of way, allowing York to run out the clock and celebrate its 3-2 win.

“The anxiety was going through the roof at the end,” Wentworth said. “We just had to chill out and keep working.”

The Wildcats finished with a 28-25 shots advantage, scored on their lone power play, denied Portland/Deering’s two power play chances and got 23 key saves from Gray.

“(York’s) two star players were fabulous, (Sophia Santamaria) and the goalie,” Clifford said. “We had multiple chances to score and Erin just stood on her head.”

Next up for York is a Scarborough squad that lost to Lewiston (2-0) and tied Edward Little (0-0) and Lewiston (1-1) while winning every other game.

Scarborough blanked York twice, 4-0 at home Dec. 7 and 1-0 on the road Jan. 2. The Red Storm are 4-1 all-time in the playoffs versus the Wildcats, with a 3-0 victory in the 2016 semifinals the most recent.


“We have what it takes to give (Scarborough) a good game,” Wentworth said. “We just need to keep cheering each other on and hyping each other up and we’ll have a chance.”

“We’ll have to go to Scarborough, which will be very tough on the bigger rink,” said Purdy. “The girls are ready to go there and they want to win it.”

Stronger next year

Portland/Deering got 25 saves from Gannon, but had its successful season cut short in an abrupt manner.

“We talked about where we started November 4th,” said Clifford. “We put first- or second-year skaters in different roles and they showed tremendous improvement.”

Portland/Deering only graduates one player, but defender Elena Clifford’s presence will be missed.

The Bulldogs will be starting from a much stronger place next year, however, and should be very much in contention in the South Region.

“Elena’s shoes will be big to fill,” Tom Clifford said. “I said to the juniors coming back, ‘If you can do a little bit more, we’ll fill them.’ We have a couple kids coming in who will contribute. We’ll see where it takes us. None of the girls like losing. I think they’ll be ready to compete.”

Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

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