LEWISTON—To the younger brothers go the bragging rights and to the juggernaut Greely boys’ hockey team goes another shiny piece of hardware.

Saturday afternoon at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee, the Rangers, the defending state champions, met Old Town/Orono in a rematch of the past two Class B state finals and while Greely won last year’s crown with ease, this time, it got pushed deep into the third period before finally putting it away.

The Rangers which shot to a quick 3-0 first period lead in last year’s 8-0 victory over the Black Bears, found themselves behind this time around, as Old Town/Orono senior captain Gabe Talon scored, from senior Nate Young, at 5:46 of the first period.

But Greely wasn’t rattled and at 8:39 of the opening stanza, drew even when sophomore Ryan Moore (remember that name), finished from his older brother, senior standout Andy Moore, to forge a 1-1 deadlock which held into the first intermission.

The Black Bears had a couple of chances to retake the lead on the power play in the second period, but couldn’t do so and seconds after going on a power play of their own late in the period, the Rangers went on top for good, as junior Chris Williams set up his younger brother, sophomore Brooks Williams, for a 2-1 lead.

Greely still had work to do when the third period began and it would be junior goalie Jared Swisher standing tallest, making three key saves to preserve the lead before Ryan Moore scored for the second time at 4:55 of the period for a little breathing room.

Then, with 2:46 to play, Andy Moore set up Ryan Moore for his third goal and 57 seconds later, Ryan Moore got in the assist column, setting up junior Tyler Grasky for the goal which brought the curtain down on a 5-1 victory.

The Rangers finished the season 17-3-1, ended Old Town/Orono’s campaign at 15-6-1 and won Class B for the second year in a row and the fifth time in program history.

“It’s challenging when you’re the favorite,” said longtime Greely coach/dynasty builder Barry Mothes. “Greely hockey wasn’t always the favorite, but we’ve had some really strong teams of late. It’s a challenge starting a season with a target on your back. We knew we’d get everyone’s best and people said we should win it, but it’s a long journey. We wanted to be humble and not get overconfident. There were times during the season where I’m not sure we were a championship-caliber team, but the exciting thing is we figured it out and the leaders re-set themselves with a sense of purpose and we finished strong.”

Winner and still champion

Greely  rolled to its fourth title last winter, absolutely dominating Old Town/Orono in the state final, 8-0, and this season, the Rangers didn’t miss a beat, losing only to Lewiston, Old Town/Orono and St. Dom’s, while also tying Scarborough.

Greely, as the top seed in Class B South, earned a bye into the semifinals, then handled No. 4 Gorham, 7-1, before scoring five unanswered goals in a 6-1 regional final victory over Cape Elizabeth Wednesday (see sidebar, above, for links to previous stories).

Old Town/Orono, which won the 2018 state title before losing in last year’s final, was 12-5-1 this year and as the No. 2 seed in Class B North, advanced by virtue of wins over No. 7 Brewer (3-0) in the quarterfinals, No. 6 Messalonskee (6-5) in the semifinals and No. 4 Presque Isle (6-2) in its regional final Thursday.

Old Town/Orono did beat visiting Greely in the regular season, 4-2, Jan. 20.

Saturday afternoon was a different story, as the Rangers earned their fifth state title in seven tries.

As it did a year ago in scoring two quick goals en route to the championship, Greely carried play early, but this time, the Rangers couldn’t finish.

Black Bears’ sophomore goalie Aiden Rand came up big early, denying Brooks Williams, Andy Moore and senior Caleb Duff.

Old Town/Orono then took the lead at 5:46 of the first, as Young played a perfect pass off the glass and up ahead to a streaking Talon behind the defense. Talon skated in on Swisher and fired a shot into the net for a 1-0 lead.

Not surprisingly, the Rangers quickly answered.

At 8:39, Grasky got the puck to Andy Moore, who fed Ryan Moore alone in front and Ryan Moore wristed a shot into the net to make it 1-1.

After Swisher preserved the tie by denying senior Jackson Campbell on the doorstep, then stopping a rocket by Campbell that trickled behind the goalie before being cleared, Greely went on the power play at 12:32.

The Rangers got some good looks at taking the lead, but Dutil, Andy Moore, Dutil and Moore again were turned aside by Rand.

Old Town/Orono then went on the power play late in the period and got a good bid from Young, but Swisher made the save, sending the contest to the first intermission deadlocked, 1-1.

Greely had a 10-6 edge in shots in the first 15 minutes and in the second period,

The Black Bears began the second period on the power play, but couldn’t convert.

The Rangers then threatened for the lead, but Rand kicked aside Andy Moore’s shot, saved another Moore shot and watched as junior Brennan Rawnsley sent the rebound wide.

At 8:06, Old Town/Orono went back on the power play, but couldn’t muster a single shot.

After Rand denied sophomore Alex Wallace, Ryan Moore and Duff, Greely got a break at 13:04, as it went on the power play after Young was sent to the penalty box for hooking.

It took all of 27 seconds for the Rangers to take the lead for good, as Chris Williams got the puck up top to Brooks Williams, who fired a blast that Rand couldn’t stop and with 1:29 remaining in the second period, Greely was ahead, 2-1.

The Rangers out-shot the Black Bears, 12-2, in the second period, but couldn’t open up a comfortable lead.

That finally came in the third period.

Swisher took center stage to start the final stanza, denying shots from sophomore Adam Henderson, Young on a rebound and a back-handed bid from junior Tanner Evans.

“I just had to grind it out and get it done,” Swisher said. “It was a great team effort. The boys helped a lot clearing out their forwards and helping me see the puck. Caleb had a key clear there early in the third period too. I was really locked in and I think that helped.”

“Jared was awesome,’ Ryan Moore said. “We’re so lucky to have him net. He made huge saves and kept our hopes up.”

“Jared’s been fantastic throughout the season,” Andy Moore said. “It’s awesome to have him back there.”

Then, with 10:05 to play, Greely got some separation, as Ryan Moore finished a Grasky rush (Andy Moore also got an assist) to make it 3-1.

“Tyler had a great play,” Ryan Moore said. “He got it to the net, made a nice move, it came off the goalie’s stick out to me and I pulled it to the backhand and flicked it home.”

The Black Bears continued to threaten, but Swisher turned aside a blast from Campbell, senior Tyler McCannel flicked a shot high and with 4:38 to play, Swisher robbed Evans.

After Chris Williams hit the post for the Rangers, Greely iced it with 2:46 to play.

Dutil got the puck to Andy Moore, who raced up the ice and as the defense converged, he got the puck to his brother, who finished while being taken to the ice, making the score 4-1.

“Andy has so much speed and I was happy to be there to put that in to seal the deal,” Ryan Moore said. “I’m so happy to play this last game with my brother on the same line. It meant a lot to me. He’s so fun to play with. We’re competitive, but we’re always friends in the end.”

“(Ryan) was tremendous today,” Andy Moore said. “I love playing with him so much. I just knew he’d be there. He yelled for the puck, I whipped it there and he bodied it into the net. He was ready today. You should have seen him at the house this morning. He was fired up.”

“It’s great to have those family connections,” Mothes added. “We have some great hockey families. Ryan and Andy and Brooks and Chris are great guys. Andy and Ryan have been linemates pretty much all of this year. They play together very well. Andy gets a lot of attention, but Ryan is a very good hockey player too. Brooks and Chris contribute a lot too.”

Greely went on the power play with 1:57 to go and just eight seconds later, scored one final time, as Ryan Moore set up Grasky for a back-hander which made it 5-1.

“Those last few goals came about because of positional discipline and structure,” said Mothes. “We forced turnovers and pounced on them.”

At 2:58 p.m., the final horn sounded and the Rangers got to celebrate another state championship.

“I’m just so happy for everyone,” Ryan Moore said. “It’s a really good team win. Everyone put everything they had left in the tank into this game. I was confident with how we came together and played as a team. We just really wanted it. Everyone was happy to be here and happy to get another chance to win a state championship.”

“This one honestly feels better than last year,” Andy Moore said. “We all worked so hard at all points of the year. (Old Town/Orono’s) a great team and we knew it would be hard, but we stayed confident. There’s just something about Greely. That’s all I can say. We stuck to our game plan, listened to our coaches and went from there. It was more challenging than last year, but we were up for the challenge.”

“We were ready and I think it showed,” said Swisher. “We were able to finish it off in the third period. Hard work from all of us helped us get over the top and finish it off with a win.”

“I thought it was a high-caliber, intense, dramatic state championship game,” Mothes added. “A one-goal game until deep into the third (period). We worked hard in all three zones. It was a fun game. Fun to be in the moment-to-moment, shift-by-shift intensity of a close game. We knew they’re a very good team. We knew it would take a lot to get past them. Fortunately, we brought a lot of speed today and played very smart.”

Greely finished with a 32-16 shots advantage, scored on 2-of-3 power play opportunities and got 15 saves from Swisher.

“Jared looked comfortable and he made some saves in the first on some bang-bang plays that helped keep the game 1-1,” Mothes said. “I felt confident with him in there in the second and third. He didn’t face a gazillion shots, but he tied up pucks well and was square on some shots and made saves.

“We were smart Wednesday against Cape and we forechecked really well today. To hold (the Black Bears) to 16 shots is great. We’re a team known for up-and-down offense, but what won this game today was a lot of hard work defensively and battling hard on pucks keeping the puck safe at important times. They have two very dangerous lines, but our speed was good and I think we contained Tanner Evans and McCannel and Henderson and (junior Zach) Needham, who is very fast, and even Nate Young, who is super-dangerous as a puck-carrier. He killed us when we played up there in January. Our forecheck got a lot better in the last month or so. We were on the right side of the puck and didn’t let them get going like they can through mid-ice and into our zone. They’re opportunistic on loose pucks. We saw that in the first period when we dodged a couple bullets and we did a good job tightening up around our net.”

Old Town/Orono had four power play chances, but couldn’t convert on any of them. Rand made 27 saves in defeat.

“We didn’t generate as much offense as we can,” said Black Bears’ coach Chris Thurlow. “They didn’t give us much. You can’t win many games with that many shots. We’ve come back this year from being down and we thought we could again, but we didn’t have that jump in our step. We had a couple good looks and if we tied it up, it would have been a different game.

“We knew Greely would be different this time. They’re tough. They’re a powerhouse down here. They were clicking. We tried to eliminate their time and space, but their players created their own time and space.

“I’m extremely proud of these guys. We started out 0-2 with losses to Class A teams Portland and Bangor. We play a hard schedule on purpose to make us better down the stretch. The guys bought into that. We got better and better. I think our sophomore defensemen really improved through the year and that was big and it will be big for us going forward.”

One final hurdle

For all of Greely’s greatness over the past decade-plus, one thing the Rangers have never accomplished is winning three consecutive state titles.

While Andy Moore, Duff and Richard Walker will be missed, Greely will return a ton of talent next winter and like it or not, will be viewed as the favorite once more.

“We have a lot of key components coming back and I think we’ll be good next year too,” Swisher said.

“The seniors are great guys,” Ryan Moore said. “They’re all great teammates. They all care so much. They’ll be missed, but I’m excited for next year. Hopefully we’ll get here. We’ll have to work hard.”

“The seniors are a great group of guys and hockey players,” Mothes added. “They were very proud to play for Greely. They’ve been interested in the history of Greely hockey. They wanted to be successful and wanted to win a Dudley Cup (the annual Greely-Falmouth countable game on New Year’s Day) and they’ve won three in a row. They wanted to play big games up here and we’ve done that for three years. I can’t think of a senior group that has a four-year resume like this group has. We’ll miss them a lot.

“I think we’ll have a promising core of returning guys. We had some great freshmen this year who got a little varsity experience. They’ll be hungry to step in and we have a good-sized eighth grade group coming in. Other teams will get better too, so we’ll start the journey again in the summer and get going for real in November and do our best to see if we can get back up here.”

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

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