YARMOUTH—A little over a month ago, Cape Elizabeth’s boys’ hockey team suffered a one-goal loss at Yarmouth, fell to 2-8 and it appeared that a postseason berth might not be in the offing.

What a difference a month makes.

Tuesday evening, the Capers returned to Travis Roy Arena and the circumstances couldn’t have been more opposite.

Cape Elizabeth did make the playoffs, as the No. 6 seed in Class B South, and as the third-ranked Clippers learned, the Capers aren’t ready to hang up their skates just yet.

In a quarterfinal round contest between longtime rivals, everyone expected another down-to-the-wire contest, but instead, Cape Elizabeth carried play most of the way and went on to a surprisingly decisive victory.

The Capers got the only goal they would need when freshman Sebastian Moon scored 10 minutes in.

Then, in a 25-second span in the second period, goals from seniors Andrew Carroll and Matt Laughlin provided breathing room.

When Laughlin scored again late in the second, Cape Elizabeth appeared home free, but the Capers, mindful of letting a late two-goal lead slip away in the teams’ last meeting, made a point of finishing strong and just 47 seconds into the third period, junior Gavin Simopoulos scored and that was enough to send Cape Elizabeth on to a 5-0 victory.

Laughlin led a balanced attack with two goals and one assist as the Capers improved to 9-10, blanked the Clippers in the playoffs for the second year in a row, ended Yarmouth’s season at 10-9 and advanced to set up a semifinal round showdown against No. 2 Cheverus (17-2) either Friday or Saturday in Lewiston.

“We were a young team and it took some time, but we’re playing our best hockey right now,” Laughlin said. “We lost some games we shouldn’t have, but we rallied together.”

Here we go again

Cape Elizabeth and Yarmouth have squared off plenty over the years in the postseason. In fact, Tuesday’s meeting marked the third meeting in four seasons (see sidebar, above, for previous results). The Capers’ 2-0 quarterfinal win in 2019 cut the Clippers’ all-time lead to 6-4.

While both squads have spent the winter chasing defending champion Greely, both have accomplished some positive things over the course of the season.

Yarmouth enjoyed a five-game win streak earlier in the season, but went just 3-5 down the stretch. The Clippers were competitive in virtually every contest, as five of their eight losses came by two goals or less.

Cape Elizabeth took the opposite approach, overcoming a 2-8 start by going 6-2 in its final eight contests, which included wins over Portland/Deering (a victory the Capers cited as a turning point), Scarborough and Biddeford.

Yarmouth won both regular season meetings by a goal, 3-2 at home Jan. 20 and 4-3, in overtime, Feb. 10 in Portland.

Tuesday, in front of an overflow, energetic crowd, Cape Elizabeth continued to soar, at the Clippers’ expense.

Yarmouth sophomore goalie Charles Henry Watson was tested early and was up to the challenge, denying shots from Moon, Simopoulos and sophomore Quinn Gordon.

After Moon just missed on a great chance with 5:08 to go in the first period, he got another chance, taking a pass from freshman Dimitri Coupe and while falling to the ice, beating Watson for a 1-0 lead with 4:54 on the first period clock (freshman Philip Coupe also was given an assist).

The Clippers nearly tied it with 2:13 remaining, but Capers’ freshman Will Depke denied a good look from sophomore Oliver Prinn, and Cape Elizabeth took its one-goal advantage to the first intermission.

The Capers then opened it up in the second period.

After Yarmouth failed to generate a tying goal, Carroll put the visitors up 2-0 at 3:53 of the second period, scoring unassisted.

If that wasn’t enough, just 25 seconds later, Simopoulos got the puck to Laughlin, who finished to make the score 3-0.

“We had to keep grinding and not let down,” Laughlin said. “We were in good shape, but we knew we had to keep adding goals.”

The Clippers twice went on the power play with a chance to rally, but Depke denied senior Aidan Miller, then made saves on shots from sophomore Isaac Grondin and sophomore Cam Miller.

“I thought we got some looks on the power play, but Will made some nice saves to keep us at bay,” said Yarmouth coach Dave St. Pierre.

Then, with 1:28 on the second period clock, after Watson saved a shot by senior Jonas Moon, Laughlin was there to bang home the rebound for a commanding 4-0 lead.

Any remaining doubt was quickly squashed 47 seconds into the third period, as Simopoulos finished (from freshman Connor Goss and Laughlin).

“We needed our best players to give us quality minutes and our best players were our best players tonight,” said Cape Elizabeth coach Jake Rutt.

The Clippers never could generate a response and the Capers closed out an impressive 5-0 victory.

“We made mistakes in the first two games, so we knew if we came in confident and skated hard, we could win,” said Laughlin.

“It’s a good road victory,” Rutt said. “The last time we played (Yarmouth), we gave up a late two-goal lead. We knew what was at stake and we kept our nose to the grindstone. It’s a good victory, but we know we can improve.”

Cape Elizabeth finished with a 32-19 shots advantage, converted 1-of-3 power play opportunities and got 19 saves from Depke.

“Will had another outstanding game,” said Rutt. “He didn’t face too many shots, but we played really well defensively in front of him.”

Yarmouth got 27 saves from Watson, but went 0-for-4 on power play as its season concluded sooner than hoped.

“It’s not the finish we expected after the season we had,” St. Pierre said. “They got the first goal and that was big. We hoped to get it. (Cape) kept charging at us. They’ve peaked at the end of the year the way teams want to. We played well in two tight games at the end of the year. I thought we were peaking too, but it wasn’t our night. Our boys battled hard. To their credit, they never quit and played the right way at the end.

“I told the boys to be proud of the season we put together. We’ve got a young team and we knew we’d have ups-and-downs. It was a learning year for us. I think we did really well with the team we had and I’m confident going forward that we’re in the right position.”

First time, long time

Cape Elizabeth and Cheverus met once before in the playoffs and it came 29 years ago, a 9-2 Stags’ win in the 1991 Western B quarterfinals. Cheverus took the regular season meeting, 6-3, on Jan. 2.

The Capers don’t believe that result has much merit considering they’re a vastly improved squad now.

“We don’t give up and everyone is buying in,” Laughlin said. “We have to play like we did today. We were a whole different team the last time we played them. It should be fun.”

“We have a pretty good idea what (Cheverus’) tendencies are,” Rutt said. “We’ll draw up a game plan and go to work. We’re still a hungry team and I think we can still play better. Everyone is buying in. It’s a good group of kids. You want to play your best hockey in the playoffs and we’re doing that right now.”

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

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