Greely’s boys’ hockey team celebrates its 7-3 win at Cheverus/Yarmouth Saturday night. Michael Hoffer / For The Forecaster

PORTLAND—If it’s late February, the Greely boys’ hockey team must be rounding into championship form.

Even if there is no championship to play for this year, due to the postseason being scrapped by COVID-19.

The Rangers, the two-time Class B champion, figured to get a test Saturday night when it took on the newly-formed Cheverus/Yarmouth co-op team at Troubh Ice Arena, and Greely, which always gets the opponent’s ‘A’ game, was on its heels in the early moments before striking to take control of the contest.

After Rangers junior Spencer Osgood stood tall to keep Cheverus/Yarmouth off the board, Greely transitioned to offense and junior Evan Dutil set up classmate Alex Wallace for a 1-0 lead.

The hosts tied things up, as senior Jackson Header scored on a rebound off the power play, but Dutil struck right back and the Rangers were ahead to stay.

By the end of the first half, Greely had opened up a commanding 5-1 lead, thanks to goals from junior Ryan Moore, junior Mitchell Parent and senior Tyler Grasky.

Cheverus/Yarmouth looked to answer as sophomore Truman Peters scored just 13 seconds into the second half, but again, the relentless Rangers answered, as Moore scored for a second time and junior Gage Cooney became the sixth player to score for his team.

Cheverus/Yarmouth got a late goal from Header, but Greely went on to a 7-3 victory to improve to 5-0 on the season and in the process, drop Cheverus/Yarmouth to 3-3.

“Greely hockey’s the best,” Moore said. “We’re just happy to be playing. State championship or not, we’ll battle as hard as we can.”

Chasing the Rangers

Greely has long been the gold standard program in Class B, having won seven regional and five state titles in the past 14 seasons.

Last year, the Rangers went 17-3-1, repeating as champions with a 5-1 victory over Old Town/Orono. Had this been a normal winter with a postseason, it’s likely Greely would have been the favorite again.

The Rangers have certainly played like champions so far, defeating host St. Dom’s (5-1), visiting Cheverus/Yarmouth (4-1), visiting Gorham (3-1) and Falmouth (5-3).

Cheverus/Yarmouth, meanwhile, formed a co-op team in the offseason and after dominating St. Dom’s, 11-2, in the opener, it lost at Greely (4-1) and Falmouth (5-2), before capturing the City Cup last Saturday, 3-1, over Portland/Deering. Thursday, Cheverus/Yarmouth defeated visiting Brunswick, 6-2.

In the teams’ first meeting, Feb. 13, Dutil scored twice to spark the Rangers’ victory.

Saturday, Greely won emphatically again.

The early going saw Cheverus/Yarmouth pepper Osgood, but he made numerous saves before the Rangers struck quickly to take the lead.

With 20:07 to go in the first half, Dutil rushed down the right side, then fed the puck in front to Wallace, who finished on Greely’s first shot for a 1-0 advantage.

“We went out and we executed out the game plan in the first 10 minutes, but they have some players who are game-breakers and if they get loose, they’re hard to defend,” said Dave St. Pierre, who is co-coaching Cheverus/Yarmouth this winter along with Marco Giancotti.

After Osgood saved the first 10 shots he saw, Cheverus/Yarmouth managed to draw even on the power play midway through the first half, as junior Cam Miller had a shot saved, but Header banged home the rebound to make it 1-1 with 10:15 remaining before halftime.

Exactly a minute later, the Rangers retook the lead.

This time for good.

After a turnover, Dutil skated in and beat Cheverus/Yarmouth senior Bryson Pomerleau for a 2-1 advantage.

“Cheverus/Yarmouth is as good as anyone in our league,” said longtime Greely coach Barry Mothes. “They’re quick and they have athletic guys and they like to bring the forecheck. It was a little like the first half the last time we played them. I was pleased how we moved pucks out. Spencer helped us settle down, then we seemed to get a little extra gear going on offense. It’s great to see the quick puck movement and see us bury some chances. It’s the best quick-shooting we’ve had this year.”

The Rangers’ offense was just getting warmed up, as with 6:07 left in the half, on the power play, Moore scored his first goal (from Grasky), with 3:06 on the clock, Parent rebounded home a shot from junior Cam Mallette and with 1:50 to go, senior Luke Stetson set up Grasky for a 5-1 lead.

“They had us in the first five minutes, but we rallied,” said Moore. “We’re working well together and it paid off tonight.”

“(The Rangers) know how to take advantage of mistakes and they can bury the puck,” Giancotti said.

“That was probably the best half we’ve played all year,” Mothes added.

Sophomore Keji Wiessner replaced Osgood in net for the second half and he didn’t see near as many shots as Osgood faced early, but a mere 13 seconds in, Peters found himself wide open in front and he buried a pass from freshman Brian Connolly (senior Brady Cormier was also credit with an assist) to cut the deficit to 5-2 and seemingly give Cheverus/Yarmouth momentum.

It didn’t last, as with 17:50 remaining, Moore buried a long shot from the blue line and Greely was in control again.

“We’re missing (senior) Dawson (Jowett) and that’s a big loss on the back end, so I tried to help out,” Moore said. “Before high school, I played a lot of D, so I’m kind of used to it. As far as the offensive zone goes, we’re really clicking together.”

“We had Ryan more on defense tonight because I was a little concerned about (Cheverus/Yarmouth’s) attack and he was phenomenal,” said Mothes. “It was his first game on defense in a long time and he played great D and scored two goals.

“Second half, I knew (Cheverus/Yarmouth would) come hard. It was disappointing to give up that early goal, but we weren’t sharp enough. I’m glad we could answer and that put the lid on things.”

Moore then set up junior Gage Cooney for a power play goal with 16:20 left, making it 7-2.

“Our power play, for the truncated season’s it’s been, I’m impressed and proud of how the guys are moving the puck,” Mothes said. “We worked on some things this week for getting things going on the power play and it happened twice tonight leading to goals. I’m pleased with that.”

“We came out and I was proud of the boys for sending a statement right away in the second half, but then we had some mental lapses and the puck was in the back of the net and you can’t do that against them,” St. Pierre lamented.

Cheverus/Yarmouth fought hard to the end and on the power play, with 1:54 remaining, Header scored for a second time.

That’s as close as the hosts would get, however, and Greely closed out its 7-3 victory.

The Rangers produced six different goal scorers and Moore put the puck in the net twice.

“Our balance has been great,” Mothes said. “I thought we’d have some good depth, but we have even better depth than I thought. It’s fun to see different people contributing every game.”

Greely got 20 saves from Osgood and seven from Wiessner.

“The goalies have done a great job,” Mothes said. “I know it’s not ideal to start a game halfway through, but they’ve responded and have done some good things.”

Cheverus/Yarmouth got 24 saves from Pomerleau, but couldn’t match the Rangers’ high-powered attack.

“We have not done a good job of scoring,” Giancotti said. “Competing against a team like that makes us better. We want to play great teams and know where our weaknesses are so we can improve. ”

“I think (the Rangers) play like they’re the champs,” St. Pierre said. “They have a mentality of how to compete and how to win and they demonstrated that again tonight. They have some skilled players and Barry’s a great coach. They’ve had some depth and high-end talent to help them sustain it.”

Final games

Cheverus/Yarmouth’s debut season has four games remaining. After hosting Gorham Wednesday and Cape Elizabeth next Saturday, the squad has one more home game against Falmouth before closing at Portland/Deering.

“It’s still a learning process for us, but we’re a much better team now than we were the first time (we played Greely) and we’re getting better all the time,” Giancotti said.

“We have to keep learning and growing and building our culture and set the stage for what we want to be next year,” St. Pierre said. “The boys have to learn to battle back and keep building. We just have to learn how to put it together and I can see us right there with (Greely).”

As for Greely, it goes to Edward Little Tuesday, welcomes Brunswick Thursday, plays at Lewiston next Saturday in a battle of reigning champions, then closes with a home game versus Gorham and a game at Falmouth.

“The goal is to go undefeated and to show everyone if there was a championship, we’d win it,” Moore said.

“This would have (normally) been the first weekend of the playoffs in Lewiston and we talked a little about that,” said Mothes. “We very lucky to be playing at all. We know we’re playing good teams. Many of us hoped to have a late-March tourney. I had a proposal for an eight-team round-robin tournament, but the (Maine Principals’ Association) said no. In our own minds, we’re trying to hold ourselves to championship standards. We know we would have been tough to beat. We’ve still got some stuff to look forward to, like playing EL and Lewiston.

“It’s a great group of guys and I wish we had a couple more months together.”

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

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