LEWISTON—Greely’s boys’ hockey team made sure that midnight arrived early for the Cinderella Cape Elizabeth Capers Wednesday evening in the Class B South Final at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee.

The surging Capers made things interesting for one period, but no one can break open a close game in rapid fashion like the Rangers, who scored goals in bunches in the second period to break it open.

Greely grabbed the lead at 8:32, as sophomore Mitchell Parent scored, but 47 seconds later, junior Gavin Simopoulos pulled the Capers even and after Cape Elizabeth killed off a Greely power play late in the first, it went on the power play to start the second.

There, everything changed in the Rangers’ favor, as after they killed off the power play, sophomore Alex Wallace, senior Andy Moore and Wallace again scored in a 2-minute, 26-second span to give Greely a 4-1 advantage after two periods.

In the third, a power play goal from junior Tyler Grasky and an empty net tally from sophomore Ryan Moore ended all doubt and brought the curtain down on a 6-1 victory.

Greely got goals from five different players, improved to 16-3-1, ended Cape Elizabeth’s magical run and its season at 10-11 and in the process, advanced to the state final for the third consecutive season and the seventh time overall, where it will meet the winner of tomorrow’s Old Town/Orono (14-5-1)-Presque Isle (14-5-1) Class B North Final for the big prize Saturday at 1 p.m., in Lewiston.

“It’s sweet,” said longtime Rangers’ coach Barry Mothes, after his 333rd victory with the program. “We appreciate the success we’ve had up here. It’s always special to still be playing this time of year and do it with a combination of new people. We lost some great seniors from last year, but we’ve been the favorite. We’ve worked hard day-in, day-out.”

The Greely gold standard

The 2019-20 season was just another example of Greely being the finest team in Class B and one of the very best in any class in the state.

The Rangers lost early to a Lewiston squad that will try to complete an undefeated season Saturday in the Class A state final, they played Scarborough, the other Class A finalist, to a tie, fell at Old Town/Orono in a state game rematch and lost at defending Class A champion St. Dom’s. Greely won its other 14 regular season games by a composite 76-19 margin. After earning a bye into Saturday’s regional semifinals, the Rangers handled fourth-seeded Gorham, 7-1.

Cape Elizabeth’s road to the regional final was the opposite. The Capers won just two of their first 10 contests, but they closed by winning six of eight, then, as the No. 6 seed, blanked third-ranked Yarmouth, 5-0, in the quarterfinals and went overtime to shock second-seeded Cheverus, 4-3, in Saturday’s semifinal round.

Greely won both regular season encounters decisively: 6-1 on the road back on Dec. 19 and 6-2 at home in the finale Feb. 17.

Greely entered 7-3 all-time against the Capers in the playoffs (see sidebar, above). Cape Elizabeth won the first three encounters, but the last seven had gone to the Rangers, including last year’s 9-4 triumph in the regional final, which saw the Capers hold a 2-0 lead after one period before Greely dominated behind Andy Moore’s hat trick.

Wednesday, the Rangers followed a similar script and wouldn’t be denied.

Cape Elizabeth came out guns ablazing, as senior Matt Laughlin fired a shot 13 seconds in that Rangers’ junior goalie Jared Swisher had to stop.

After Laughlin sent a back-hander just wide, Andy Moore took Greely’s first shot, but sent it just wide.

After Capers’ freshman goalie Will Depke denied senior Caleb Duff, Duff got the puck back and with 6:28 to go in the first period, fired it on net, where Parent tipped it past Depke and into the cage for a 1-0 lead.

The Capers weren’t demoralized and again went on the attack and after Laughlin missed just wide, freshman Sebastian Moon set up Simopoulos for a blast past Swisher to tie the game, 1-1, with 5:41 on the clock.

With 3:59 remaining, the Rangers went on the power play and 25 seconds later, sophomore Evan Dutil sent a shot off the post. Dutil got the rebound, but Depke made the save.

After Depke robbed Ryan Moore, Greely got another break, going on a 5-on-3 power play, but Wallace missed wide.

Then, with 34 seconds to go, Cape Elizabeth went on the power play, an advantage the Capers took into the second period.

Cape Elizabeth, which had a 9-7 edge in first period shots, couldn’t capitalize on the power play, however, and after Simopoulos had a pair of shots saved by Swisher and the goalie denied freshman Connor Goss as well, the Rangers’ offense roared to life.

With 13:02 to go in the second period, Duff passed ahead to Wallace, who skated to his left to avoid an onrushing defender, then he got Depke to slide to his right before firing a low shot to the goalie’s left and into the net to give Greely the lead for good.

“I was coming down the side and I saw the right side (of the goal) open and I tossed it into the open net,” Wallace said.

“Our plan from the first intermission was to come out and not let them score the first goal and we accomplished that, then we played our game,” Duff said. “Coach always tells us to get pucks to the net and we did that tonight. It paid off.”

“Alex really used his speed extremely well, which he’s been doing,” Mothes added. “Taking pucks wide a little more has helped. It’s great to see him playing so well.”

With 11:12 on the clock, Andy Moore got in the scoring column, pouncing on a turnover, skating in and finishing for a 3-1 lead.

If that wasn’t enough, Wallace got another breakaway goal 36 seconds later, as Dutil sent a high pass off the boards right on to his stick and Wallace put the puck past Depke for a commanding 4-1 advantage.

“That was a great play by Evan,” said Wallace. “He did it all. I just had to put it in the back of the net.

“We started out a little slow, but we came into the locker room, regrouped and talked about what we needed to do. We had to take our time and we went out and put a few in and that got us going. We expected a tough game. Cape’s a tough team with fast guys, but we came to the rink to play. We’re experienced. A lot of us have played in high level games as freshmen and sophomores and that helped us in this game.”

“(Cape) got a big lift from tying it up, then they were on the power play and they were probably pleased (going into the second period), but we knew we had to kill the power play, then we had good individual effort to score goals,” Mothes said. “That stretch had an enormous impact.”

The Capers hoped to answer, but Swisher denied junior John Pellechia.

Depke then kept his team within hailing distance late in the period, saving shots by Duff, Ryan Moore and junior Brennan Rawnsley to keep Greely ahead by three heading for the final period.

There, the Rangers put it away with relative ease, holding Cape Elizabeth to just two shots.

Greely got a power play goal at 8:50, as Dutil skated around the net twice, then fed Grasky in front for the finish. The goal was reviewed, but allowed to stand.

Then, with 2:40 to play and Depke pulled in favor of an extra attacker, Ryan Moore finished into the empty net (Devdan Young and Andy Moore got assists) to account for the final score.

At 7:48 p.m., the final horn sounded and Greely celebrated its 6-1 victory and another trip to the state final.

“We kept our composure and stayed strong tonight,” said Mothes. “Cape’s been playing as well as anyone in our league. They won a tough first round game on the road, then came in here and were poised and composed and knocked off the 2 seed. They have dangerous forwards, so we took them extremely seriously. We knew it would take smart hockey tonight to help us win. Tonight, especially in the second and third periods, we settled down and settled in and played a strong game in all three zones.”

The Rangers finished with a 24-16 advantage in shots, converted 1-of-3 power play opportunities and got 15 saves from Swisher.

“I’m most impressed and pleased with holding (Cape) to 16 shots, just seven after the first period,” Mothes said. “It was a lot of good work structurally. We played smartly. It was a good defensive effort. The message was to stay on our toes. We needed to understand being smart without the puck. We weren’t flying up and down the way we can, but we still had chances to score.”

A run to remember

The Capers went 0-for-2 on the power play and Depke made 18 saves.

“(Greely’s) top players really showed up today and they were the difference,” said Cape Elizabeth second-year coach Jake Rutt. “Their top guys stood out. I thought in the second and third periods, we strayed away from what made us successful the last half of the season and that’s because of the opponent. Greely played a very good game and they were the better team tonight for sure. We couldn’t generate much going to the net. They made changes and we couldn’t match them. I think we lost our focus and got frustrated after they got one and they had that spurt and ran away with it. We challenged (Swisher) at times. Not enough, but he played well and their defense played well too.”

Despite falling short, Cape Elizabeth impressed its foe.

“They battled hard all season and took down two of the top teams in Class B South, so credit to them for making it here,” Duff said.

“Jake and his staff work really hard and Cape has a lot of pride in their program and always has,” Mothes said. “To their great credit, they had a lot of freshmen and they really trusted in the wisdom of playing them early. They took some lumps, then grew into a fine team. They’ll be very very dangerous for years.”

While disappointed with the outcome, the Capers accomplished a ton in a short time and should be even stronger in the 2020-21 season.

“We always want to hoist the plaque at the end of the season, but we have to recognize the success we had,” Rutt said. “We had a great run and credit for that goes to our leaders. We put some wins together and had an opportunity to play in this game. We had a great locker room and we’ll carry our momentum into next season. We’ll miss our leaders, but we’re still a young team.”

One more time

Greely last won back-to-back Class B crowns in 2012 and 2013 and will be seeking its fifth all-time championship Saturday.

The Rangers lost, 4-2, at Old Town/Orono Jan. 20 and if the teams meet in the final, it would mark the third straight time they’ve squared off in the state final.

Old Town/Orono stunned Greely, 3-2, in overtime two years ago, but the Rangers got their revenge last season, 8-0.

Greely and Presque Isle didn’t play this year.

The Rangers beat the Wildcats for their first championship, 6-3, in the 2009 Class B state game.

Regardless of the foe, Greely will be up for the challenge and will be confident when it takes the ice Saturday afternoon.

“It’s going to be fun,” Wallace said. “I’m very fortunate to be a young hockey player who gets to come back to states. We have to come ready to play Saturday. We have to get the puck deep, play like we did tonight in the second and third periods and we should have a good outcome.”

“Every guy in our locker room wants to win,” Duff said. “That’s our culture at Greely. It feels great to go back to states. We want to win one more. We just have to play our game.”

“Both (potential foes) are very dangerous,” Mothes added. “They both skate well and like to attack. I expect it will be an up-and-down game, which will be entertaining. Old Town is a dangerous team. They have skill and fore-check hard. We know them better. Presque Isle surprised people, but they move the puck well and play smart.

“We have to worry about ourselves. We like what we have, our line combinations, our defense and our goaltending. We have to stay focused and leave it all out there. I believe we’ll come up here and play our guts out Saturday. That’s what it will take to win.”

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