(Ed. Note: With high school sports currently on hiatus, please join me in a look back at some of the finest teams our coverage area has produced this century. To help us get through the summer, each week, I’ll present the top 10 teams from a different sport…four honorable mentions, then our “Super Six,” These rankings are put together with help from coaches and others, including a Twitter poll each week at twitter.com/foresports, but the final decision is mine. This week it’s boys’ hockey. Girls’ basketball is on deck…)

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Boys’ hockey has produced so many unforgettable and magical moments, players and teams over the years and a walk down 20 years worth of memory lane simply reinforces that fact.

So many sensational squads won state titles over the past two decades and quite a few others were good enough to hoist a trophy themselves, only to be denied in agonizing fashion.

Narrowing this list down to 10 teams was most difficult and in reality, another 10 have a legitimate claim, but for what it’s worth, here’s one writer’s stab at the finest squads we’ve seen over the past 20 years:

Honorable mentions (in chronological order)

2000-01 Yarmouth Clippers, 19-4, Class B state champion

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The first of two consecutive breathtaking championship runs featured a breakaway goal for the ages, a shocking upset and a perfect punctuation mark to exorcise the painful ghosts of an overtime state game loss the year before. The Clippers, who fell to Winslow in the 2000 state final, weren’t expected to go all the way in 2001, but behind the sensational Ryan Delaney (31 goals, 41 assists), goalie Jay Fletcher and a superb supporting cast, including league all-stars Kris Bean, Nat Langer and Thad Rusinek, they shocked the world.

Yarmouth went 15-4 in the regular season, with two losses coming to a powerhouse Falmouth squad (4-2 and 2-1), and wound up second in Western Class B. The Clippers then saved their best for last. After rolling past Freeport in the quarterfinals (10-2, as Bean had two goals and an assist), Yarmouth was pushed by York in the semifinals, trailing, 2-1, in the third period, but it rallied for a 3-2 victory on goals from Tim Foster (who would have moment of immortality a year later) and Delaney (with 26 seconds to go in regulation) to set up a regional final showdown versus top-ranked Falmouth. The game was played in front of a huge crowd at the Cumberland County Civic Center and no one who witnessed it will ever forget it. The Clippers trailed the favored Yachtsmen, 3-2, in the third period, but drew even on Delaney’s goal. The scored remained tied through the end of regulation and through an eight-minute overtime, but early in the second OT, Delaney intercepted a pass and skated into lore, finishing on the breakaway for a 4-3 victory. As exhilarating as that triumph was, Yarmouth needed one more and it came against Gardiner in the state game. Bean scored early for a 1-0 lead, which held up into the third period when Delaney cemented his legend with a natural hat trick and the Clippers prevailed, 4-1. Yarmouth would shock Falmouth again, then survive Gardiner in overtime to repeat a year later. The program hasn’t reached such heights since, but these memories will never fade.

Coach Scott Matusovich: “(We coaches) played the Falmouth game up like it was the state final, but the players decided they weren’t leaving without a state title. The kids just wouldn’t lose. They just kept coming and kept coming. I’m so proud of every single kid on the team. We snuck up on a lot of people who didn’t give us a chance or any respect this year.”

2001-02 Falmouth Yachtsmen, 20-2, Western B runners-up

This was, simply put, the best team to not win a championship, Falmouth was a Greek tragedy on ice at the beginning of the century, finding ever more painful ways to bow out each March. The Yachtsmen, who suffering a gutwrenching double-overtime defeat to Yarmouth in the previous year’s regional final, appeared primed to avenge that loss as they ran roughshod over just about everyone during the regular season, but with a trip to the state game on the line, Falmouth’s title hopes were dashed by its nemesis again. In truth-is-stranger-than-fiction fashion.

After a 6-1 win over Winslow in the opener, the Yachtsmen got a measure of revenge with a 4-0 home win over Yarmouth. Falmouth would go 18-1 during the regular season, losing only at defending Class A champion Waterville, capping its campaign with a 2-1 overtime win at Yarmouth (on Dan Carmody’s goal) and outscoring the opposition, 122-30, behind the prolific scoring of Dan Carmody, Mike Carmody, Matt Grygiel, Pat Halligan, Jon Hutchins and Chris Tolford. The Yachtsmen, who were paced on defense by Ryan Guay, Luke Magnusson and goalie Reid Tozier, earned the top seed in Western B for the second year in a row, but once again, their title quest would end in agony.

In the quarterfinal, Falmouth had one final offensive explosion, handling Kennebunk, 8-1, as Dan Carmody produced a hat trick and Halligan scored twice. The going was much tougher against Greely and its goalie Jason Bisbing in the semifinals, but the Yachtsmen managed to get goals from each Carmody brother to advance, 2-0. Falmouth had its chances against Yarmouth in the regional final at the Cumberland County Civic Center, but couldn’t solve Clippers’ goalie Jay Fletcher. Then, with 22 seconds left, the unthinkable happened, as Yarmouth was awarded a penalty shot after a shot on goal resulted in the goal cage being dislodged. Tim Foster converted for the Clippers and just like that, the Yachtsmen were left shaking their heads again, losing, 1-0. Despite seven losses, Yarmouth went on to win a repeat title. Falmouth’s wait for an elusive championship would extend another 11 seasons.

Coach Scott Rousseau: “I’m numb. I thought the kids played great. To lose on a penalty shot and compound that with four years of 13 overtimes and I don’t know what to think. I really believed this year was our turn, but I’m really proud of the kids. This is the best team Falmouth has had. My heart bleeds for my seniors.”

2004-05 Cape Elizabeth Capers, 20-2, Class B state champion

The first of Jason Tremblay’s back-to-back champions was absolutely dominant and left no doubt it was the best team in Class B, if not the whole state. The Capers, who had been shocked by Fryeburg Academy in the previous year’s semifinals, relied on the likes of Brett Brown, Jeff Croteau, Kyle Dancause, Andrew Gibson, Bryan Holden, Dan Rautenberg and goalie Ryan Hatch to roll through a challenging slate and go on to the championship.

Cape Elizabeth outscored the opposition, 109-42, in the regular season and lost only to York (by a goal) and to Class A powerhouse St. Dom’s during a 17-2 regular season. On three different occasions, the Capers scored in double digits. They wound up first in Western B and dodged a few bullets en route to the Promised Land.

After earning a bye into the semifinals, Cape Elizabeth downed always-tough Yarmouth, 5-2, as five different players found the net and Dancause’s third period goal broke a tie. In the regional final versus Greely, the Capers again were tied in the third period, but goals from Gibson and Rautenberg (empty net) produced a 4-2 victory. That sent Cape Elizabeth to the state final versus Winslow, where Rautenberg played the hero, producing a hat trick, including the go-ahead tally in the third period, and the Capers went on to another 4-2 triumph (Zack Juliano also tickled the twine and Hatch made 20 saves) and the Capers had their championship. They’d overcome a slow start (a 6-7 record at one juncture) the following year, save their best for last, and go back-to-back for the only time in program history.

Coach Jason Tremblay: “We had some amazing talent. We took it one moment at a time and now we’re enjoying this moment. We’re a highly explosive team. We don’t panic. We’re composed. Sometimes we don’t look it, but we are. I rolled three lines and we wore on teams. Dan was a great leader, we improved on the power play and Ryan improved every day.”

2012-13 Scarborough Red Storm, 19-2, Western A runners-up

Scarborough was nearly unstoppable and appeared bound for its first Class A championship until it let a third period lead slip away in a regional final loss to Falmouth. Regardless, the Red Storm, who featured the likes of Travis Roy Award finalist Nick Bagley, Ryan Bailer, Jake Gross, Cam Loiselle, Garrett MacDonald, Trevor Murray, Jack Rousselle and goalie Dalton Finlay, had a season to remember and were stronger than some squads who went on to capture the title.

Scarborough was sensational during the regular season, scoring 99 goals while allowing a mere 19. The Red Storm suffered a 1-0 loss at St. Dom’s in their second outing, then ran off 16 wins in a row to complete the regular season at 17-1. Scarborough, which won four games by a goal, including one in overtime, earned the top seed for the Western A tournament and entertained championship dreams, but they were never realized.

After dominating Noble in the quarterfinals, 9-1 (Gross and MacDonald each scored twice), the Red Storm were pushed by Cheverus in the semifinals before coming out on top, 4-2 (Gross, Bagley, Cam Brochu and Rousselle all scored on the power play). Scarborough had beaten Falmouth twice in the regular season, but the third time wouldn’t be a charm in the regional final. The Red Storm got goals from Gross, Loiselle and Bagley to lead, 3-2, but the Yachtsmen would have the last laugh, scoring twice in the third period to win, 4-3. Falmouth went on to capture its first Class A crown. Scarborough had to wait a couple more years for its date with championship destiny.

Coach Norm Gagne: “It’s a devastating end. The bounces don’t always go your way. It’s a hard lesson for young men to learn, but it’s part of the game. I think sometimes because of our record, we forget we can be beaten and there’s a lot of parity in Southern Maine. We’re a team. When we play team hockey, we’re very good. We had a good group of seniors who set a good example. ”

The Super Six

6) 2002-03 Cape Elizabeth Capers, Class B champion

The Capers had to get through two-time champion Yarmouth and perennial powerhouse Falmouth before even taking in the ice in the state final, but once they got there, there was no stopping this squad, which punctuated its championship season with a dominating performance. Cape Elizabeth, featuring brother tandems Bryan and Luke Holden (17 goals, 17 assists) and Mike and Dan Rautenberg (33 goals, 24 assists), along with goalie Tom Rowe, only got better as the season progressed and wound up atop the heap.

The Capers got it done defensively (six shutouts) and with a prolific offense (which outscored the opposition, 96-21, during the regular season). While Cape Elizabeth lost twice by a goal (to Yarmouth and eventual Class A finalist North Yarmouth Academy) and split with Falmouth (dropping a 4-1 road decision late in the year), it won 15 contests to earn the No. 2 seed for the Western B playoffs. There, the Capers simply wouldn’t be denied as they roared to the championship.

In the quarterfinals, Cape Elizabeth blanked Maranacook, 7-0, as Rowe made a dozen saves for the shutout, Dan Rautenberg scored twice and both Garrett Currier and Bryan Holden each scored once and added two assists. The Capers avenged their previous year’s playoff ouster with a 6-2 win over Yarmouth in the semifinals. Cape Elizabeth surrendered the first goal, but by the time the first period was over, it led, 4-1, thanks to tallies from Dan Rautenberg, Gregg Robinson, Chris Owens and Paul Kierstead. In the regional final, Falmouth looked to finally break through, but the Capers played a nearly flawless game, winning, 5-2, behind two goals from Dan Rautenberg, including a jawdropping tally off a highlight reel pass from Brett Gramse. Hampden Academy didn’t stand a chance against Cape Elizabeth in the state final, as the Capers unleashed an improbable 62 shots en route to a 6-2 triumph. Dan Rautenberg stole the show with four goals. Currier and Bryan Holden also scored. Cape Elizabeth had left no doubt it was a team without peer.

Coach Steve Ouellette: “We just had too much team speed. Speed is what it really came down to today. It’s easy when you have great athletes. Danny has shown people he’s just not a great Class B player, but one of the best players in the state. He can play anywhere in the state and have success. The kid’s a finisher. He knows how to put the puck in the net.”

5) 2012-13 Falmouth Yachtsmen, 18-3-1, Class A state champion

Next year finally came to Falmouth. In dramatic fashion. After years of agony and close calls, the Yachtsmen stunned Scarborough in the regional final, then handled Lewiston in the state final to reach the pinnacle for the first time. A second crown would follow the year after. Falmouth, featuring Jake Grade, Hugh Grygiel (27 goals, 17 assists), Isac Nordstrom, Jack Pike, Kris Samaras and goalie Dane Pauls, had to overcome its share of adversity, but by season’s end, the Yachtsmen had no peer.

Falmouth was stingy on defense, allowing two goals or fewer in 13 of 18 regular season games, and could light the lamp as well, outscoring the opposition, 99-30, during the regular year. While the Yachtsmen lost twice to Scarborough (both times by a goal, including once in overtime), once to Lewiston (also by a goal) and settled for a 3-3 tie versus Thornton Academy in the finale, they won every other game and were well positioned to make a run from the two seed when the Western A playoffs commenced.

Biddeford was up first in the quarterfinals and Falmouth rolled, 7-1, thanks to a hat trick from Grygiel and two goals from Brandon Peters. In the semifinals, the Yachtsmen handled Gorham, 6-3, as Grygiel produced another hat trick and a four-goal third period flurry opened it up. Falmouth was the underdog against top-ranked Scarborough in the regional final and despite trailing in the third period, the Yachtsmen wouldn’t be denied. Nordstrom tied the game with a rebound goal and with 3;09 left, Grygiel produced the winner in a 4-3 victory. Falmouth had to face Lewiston in Lewiston in the state final, but with Pauls stopping all 17 shots he faced, Andre Clement scoring twice and Nordstrom and Andrew Emple adding one goal each, the Yachtsmen prevailed, 4-0. The wait was interminable, but Falmouth had finally reached the pinnacle and it was glorious.

Coach Deron Barton: “It’s extra-special. I’m so happy for the kids. We set our goals in November. I drew it up and said, ‘This is what it’s going to take.’ The guys bought in. We had our highs, we had our lows, as everybody does during the season, but the best thing about these guys is they came together as a family. It’s huge for the program and the community. The Falmouth community has always wanted to define themselves with a championship and a tradition. I think this is the beginning of that.”

4) 2018-19 Greely Rangers, 19-2, Class B state champion

An utter powerhouse that steamrolled its way to a championship, the Rangers erased the foul taste of an overtime state final loss the year before. Greely, which featured such standouts as Caleb Duff (league Defenseman of the Year), Peter Lattanzi, Jake MacDonald, Andy Moore (league Forward of the Year), Ryan Moore and Jackson Williams, along with goalie Jared Swisher, gave their longtime coach a landmark victory, didn’t lose to a Class B foe all season and staked its claim as the best team in program history (although another, from a decade before, had one fewer loss).

The Rangers started with wins at York (8-4) and Kennebunk (6-1), with the latter giving Barry Mothes his 300th with the program. Five more lopsided victories followed, as Greely handled Yarmouth (6-1), Cape Elizabeth (5-1), Falmouth (8-3), Biddeford (8-3) and Brunswick (11-4) before finally getting pushed by Gorham (prevailing, 3-2). The Rangers then beat Gardiner (7-2) before running into their only adversity of the season. After a 6-2 home loss to eventual Class A champion St. Dom’s, Greely fell at perennial powerhouse Lewiston (6-3). The Rangers then closed the regular season on a seven-game surge, outscoring the opposition, 42-8, in the process to lock up the top seed for the Class B South playoffs. The postseason would prove to be Greely’s playground.

After earning a bye into the semifinals, the Rangers dominated Gorham, 10-1, as Andy Moore scored three goals, MacDonald and Williams both added a pair and Swisher made 25 saves. In the regional final, Greely dug a 2-0 hole against Cape Elizabeth, then erupted for nine goals and advanced, 9-4, behind another hat trick from Andy Moore and two goals apiece from MacDonald and Williams. That sent the Rangers back to the state final for a rematch with Old Town/Orono, which shocked them, 3-2, in overtime, in the 2018 contest. This time around, Greely got its revenge and then some. Goals from freshman Evan Dutil, Williams and MacDonald spelled a commanding 3-0 lead after one period, but after letting a two-goal advantage slip away the year before, the Rangers weren’t about to rest on their laurels. After MacDonald and another freshman, Ryan Moore, scored to make it 5-0 after two periods, goals from Lattanzi, MacDonald (giving him a hat trick) and Andy Moore brought the curtain down on an emphatic and palate-cleansing 8-0 triumph. Greely had its title and will be long remembered as a team for the ages and oh by the way, the Rangers went right out and repeated in 2019-20. That was a powerhouse team too. With many of the same characters.

Coach Barry Mothes: “This team, start to finish, has been an outstanding team. We had a lot of respect for what we needed to do. I’m very pleased for the guys. Last year stuck with us. It wasn’t an ongoing theme I hammered on, but we learned a few things in that loss. It’s very rewarding. I’m very happy for the players. I feel lucky enough to have been part of this as a coach a few times. I know how hard the guys worked. They started in late November. We were a heavy target all year. To come up here and score 27 goals in three games, that’s the way to finish.”

3) 2005-06 Cheverus Stags, 21-2-1, Class A state champion

One year after finally breaking through and winning a Class A state tile, Cheverus managed to do it again and while the Stags again boasted a terrific record, this time, the championship came with some anxious moments. The Stags, who featured Jon Anton, Mike Antoniou, Alex Arthur (29 goals, 24 assists), Geno DiMillo, Eugene Fitzpatrick, Sam Johnson (18 goals, 24 assists), John Keneborus, Paul Morrison, Sam Napolitano, Andrew Pochebit, Topher Pochebit and goalie Casey Cox, were at their best against the toughest foes and managed to win the program’s most recent state title.

Cheverus wore the bulls-eye throughout the campaign and after four relatively easy wins to start the season, encountered some adversity. First, the Stags lost in overtime at Waterville. Then, after a 2-2 tie at Scarborough and an overtime win at Bangor, they lost at St. Dom’s (3-1). Cheverus would close the regular season on a 12-game win streak, however, outscoring the opposition, 64-15, while enjoying victories over the likes of Lewiston (twice), Falmouth, Scarborough (5-0) and St. Dom’s. The Stags again earned the top seed for the Western A tournament and had to overcome one mighty hurdle on their road back to the state game.

Cheverus had the daunting task of taking on St. Dom’s in the quarterfinals, but took care of business, winning, 7-1, as seven different players scored. Dangerous Falmouth loomed in the semifinals, but a pair of goals from Fitzpatrick and single tallies from Antoniou, Arthur and Morrison produced a 5-2 victory. That set up a marathon, epic regional final versus unheralded Scarborough. The contest began two hours late, thanks to the Lewiston-Brunswick Eastern A Final needing five overtimes before the Blue Devils prevailed. The Stags then fell behind the Red Storm early before drawing even on a goal from Keneborus. The contest remained 1-1 into the third period, where Antoniou scored to seemingly send Cheverus back to the state final. Except the Red Storm weren’t willing to go quietly, tying the game with just five seconds left in regulation. One eight-minute overtime period didn’t produce a winner. Forty-five seconds into the second OT, however, at 12:30 a.m., Antoniou finally scored to end it and the Stags advanced with an exhausting 3-2 triumph. That set up another state final versus Lewiston in Lewiston and this time, only 45 minutes were needed. While the state game wasn’t quite as dramatic as the regional final, there was drama. Johnson’s power play goal put Cheverus ahead to stay and Arthur and Morrison found the net as well. Cox stopped 20 shots and the Stags had their repeat crown, 3-1. For a fleeting moment, Cheverus was the state’s gold standard and that era won’t soon be forgotten.

Coach Jack Lowry: “The regional final was a great night of hockey and Lewiston has so much pride and tradition. It’s what high school sports are all about. We knew playing here on Lewiston’s home ice, we were going to have to take advantage of every opportunity that was presented us. We needed to be patient, get it to the point and then work it down low and that’s what we did. We didn’t change what made us successful. We don’t rely on one or two people. That makes us tough to defend. There’s balance and there’s depth.”

2) 2008-09 Greely Rangers, 20-1, Class B state champion

After many near-misses, the Rangers finally climbed the mountain and did so with an all-time special team. Greely, featuring stars like Brian Hart, Kevin Hart, Brian Allyn, Jake Downey, Ian Gray, Ryan Howland, Kyle Selig, Jesse Shavel and goalie Matt Labbe, lost just one countable game, early in the regular season, then ran the table and capped their championship run with a three impressive playoff victories.

The Rangers eked out a 2-1 win at Kennebunk in the opener, then fell at home to Class A contender Thornton Academy (6-3). The next 19 decisions then went their way. Greely beat Class A powers Biddeford, Falmouth (in overtime) and Scarborough (in overtime) and handled their Class B foes as well, sweeping rivals Cape Elizabeth, Yarmouth and York outscoring the opposition by a 112-33 margin. The Rangers earned the top seed for the Western B tournament and dispatched two nemeses en route to the state game.

After earning a bye into the semifinals, Greely ousted a York squad which had beaten it in the previous year’s regional final, 8-0, as Shavel had a hat trick and Allyn scored twice. After losing to Cape Elizabeth in the 2005 and 2006 regional finals, the Rangers were happy to deliver some revenge to the Capers in the Western B Final, but first, they had to dig out of a 3-1 hole. Greely did so, with five unanswered goals, and won its second regional crown, 6-3, behind two goals apiece from Gray, Brian Hart and Shavel. Only Presque Isle stood between the Rangers and their date with destiny and Greely left no doubt, rolling to a 5-1 victory. Brian Hart scored three goals, Kevin Hart returned from a back injury to provide an inspirational lift, Allyn and Justin Murphy added a goal apiece and Labbe slammed the door with 14 saves. The Rangers had finally emerged as a team without peer and it wouldn’t be the last time. There would be many more times in fact, but the first one will always stand above the others.

Coach Barry Mothes: “This team will always have a special place in my heart. It’s been a tremendous four months of hockey. It feels good. I’m very, very happy for the players and I’m very happy for the seniors who have worked hard all season. It’s been quite a journey. I’m very proud of them. They deserve a lot of credit. The seniors are a great group.It’s very satisfying to win this for the first time in the history of the school. This is the best team I’ve had in terms of the caliber of the schedule we faced and the breadth of contributions.”

1) 2004-05 Cheverus Stags, 21-1, Class A state champion

After years of knocking at the championship door, the Stags finally kicked it in. With a superb, deep, talented team which only stumbled once against the best competition in the state. Cheverus, which boasted standouts like Jon Anton, Michael Antoniou, Alex Arthur, Adam Horgan (13 goals, 18 assists), Sam Johnson (24 goals, 25 assists), Bryan Lavoie, Topher Pochebit, Christian Scarpelli, James Tolan, Tim Webber and goalie Mason St. Hilaire, got the most votes in our Twitter poll and in light of its overall resume, gets our nod as well.

The Stags left no doubt that they were the team to beat by opening with emphatic victories over Bonny Eagle (11-0) and Westbrook (13-0). A hard-fought 3-2 loss at Bangor followed (the winning goal came with 44 seconds left), then Cheverus didn’t stumble again. The Stags closed the regular season on a 15-game surge, scored in double figures on eight occasions, went 4-1 in one-goal games and outscored the opposition, 145-23, during the regular year. Cheverus earned the top seed for the Western A playoffs and this time, wouldn’t be stopped in its quest for an elusive championship.

In the quarterfinals, the Stags rolled past Kennebunk, 8-1, as Horgan and Johnson both scored twice and St. Hilaire made 19 saves. In the semifinals, Cheverus got pushed to the limit by Falmouth, but survived, 6-5, thanks to Johnson’s hat trick. The Stags won again by a 6-5 margin in the regional final, edging St. Dom’s, as Bryan Lavoie scored the winner on the power play with 1:51 to go and St. Hilaire stopped 24 shots. Cheverus then played in the state final for the just the second time, against a Lewiston squad which beat it in a triple-overtime epic three years prior. This time, the Stags wouldn’t be denied. Johnson (from Arthur) set the tone scoring off the opening faceoff (11 seconds in) and Arthur added a goal for a quick 2-0 Cheverus lead. After surrendering a goal, the Stags got a tally from Lavoie, then put it away in the second period behind goals from Arthur and Anton. St. Hilaire gave up one more goal, but made 16 saves, Horgan had three assists and Cheverus finished off its decisive run to the crown, 5-2. A sensational team playing at the height of its powers had ascended to the pinnacle and its performance resonates to this day.

Coach Jack Lowry: “We proved we were the best team in the state. I think we were a little bit more prepared mentally (than in 2002). I think this team is a little bit more mature and I think that the quick start is what really made the difference. We worked on building our team chemistry and becoming a real team. Our kids did a great job. I’m really happy with our effort. We were able to stick together and be a top team. Mason was able to put us on his shoulders. He came up big for us.”

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

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