LEWISTON – The South Portland High basketball teams have received the deserved spotlight all season, but the boys’ hockey team reached its own historic level Friday night.

South Portland/Waynflete/Freeport scored two goals in the third period to beat Thornton Academy 5-4 Friday night in a Class A boys’ hockey quarterfinal at the Colisee. The Red Riots are in the semifinals, their first final-four appearance, on Tuesday night.

“This is the furthest this program has ever gone. This is huge for us,” said Joe Robinson, in his 13th season as head coach of South Portland, which added players from Waynflete and Freeport in recent years.

South Portland (12-6-1) will play in the 8 p.m. semifinal game Tuesday night against Saturday’s winner of the quarterfinal between No. 1 Lewiston (18-0) and No. 8 Bangor (8-11). Fifth-seeded Thornton is done at 11-9.

Owen Anderson scored two goals for the Red Riots and Dylan Hannan recorded three assists, including a perfect pass to Cullen Adams in the slot, for the game-winner at 7:31 of the third period.

Eli Pendergrass paced Thornton with a goal and three assists.

“We knew it was going to be a great game, and it was,” Thornton Coach Michael Roux said, “a battle back and forth.”

Thornton outshot the Red Riots 35-22, including 15 shots in the third period. South Portland goalie Liam McGibbon made 32 saves.

The Red Riots and McGibbon were behind most of the game, starting when a soft shot fooled McGibbon gave Thornton a 1-0 lead just 50 seconds into the game.

“He was stellar after that,” Robinson said. “At the end (in the third perod), I thought three of those pucks were in the net, and they weren’t.”

Thornton came out in the first period with a strong forecheck and it paid off quickly. Liam Nash stole the puck in South Portland’s zone and sent it in where Eli Pendergrass stuffed it in.

Brady Frank’s rebound goal for South Portland at 11:28 tied it, but Thornton was not done.

On their first power play, the Trojans put two quick shots on net. Alex St. John was there for the second rebound and a 2-1 lead at 13:48.

Thirteen seconds later, Thornton made it 3-1 on a Thomas Gonneville goal.

In the locker room, the Red Riots gathered themselves and reset. They were in a similar hole in their final regular-season game before beating Falmouth 3-2.
“We were down 3-1 going into the second,” said Adams, a sophomore forward. “We did the same thing (and came back against Falmouth). We knew the whole game we could do it. We had confidence.”

In the second period. Anderson’s one-timer on Hannan’s pass closed the score to 3-2 at 2:20. But Thornton made it 2 for 2 on the power play as Chris Balzano converted St. John’s crossing pass at 5:30.

South Portland got it back to one when Eric Walker skated in for an unassisted rocket at 14:43, making it 4-3 before the third period.

Gus Lappin tied it at 6:36 from the right circle. That got the Red Riots jumping, and Hannan got the puck again behind Thornton’s net.

“It came from a good forecheck from by brother Deven (Hannan),” Dylan said. “Got the puck down low, had some patience, and Cullen had a nice drive to the goal and tipped it in.”

The Trojans picked up the pace and kept firing. But the Red Riots held on for the comeback win.

“I just knew if they just kept battling and stayed positive that they could claw their way back,” Robinson said.

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