FALMOUTH—Falmouth’s boys’ hockey team has more than held its own in the early phase of the 2021-22 season, but scoring timely goals has been a problem.

Not anymore.

Tuesday afternoon at Family Ice Center, the Navigators hosted undefeated Thornton Academy and for two periods, their frustrating ways continued.

And then, the offense finally came to life.

Falmouth had ample chances to go on top in the first period, but couldn’t finish. Then, in the second period, after the Navigators couldn’t produce on the power play, Thornton Academy went on top with 3:45 remaining, when junior Evan Beaudette scored.

Falmouth came out fired up for the third period and just 56 seconds in, was rewarded when senior Xavier Grenier scored 4-on-4 to tie it.


Then, on the power play, the Navigators struck again with 8:24 remaining, as sophomore Caden Barnard finished for the lead.

Falmouth’s staunch defense slammed the door from there and the end result was a 2-1 victory.

The Navigators evened their record at 2-2 and in the process, dropped the Golden Trojans to 2-1.

“We needed that one,” said Falmouth coach Deron Barton. “We dominated the first period, had a letdown in the second and I told the kids, ‘This is how every game this year is going to be. It’s going to come down to has the biggest heart and who wants it the most’ and that’s what happened.”

Coming to life

Falmouth lost its opener, 3-1, at South Portland/Freeport/Waynflete, then downed host Biddeford, 5-2, before falling at home to Bangor, 3-2, in its most recent game, last Thursday.


Thornton Academy, meanwhile, won its first two games, 7-2 over Kennebunk and 4-3 over St. Dom’s.

The teams last met two years ago, when each prevailed at home, the Golden Trojans by a 5-2 margin and Falmouth by a 5-3 score.

Tuesday, the Navigators were stymied for much of the day, but they awakened when it mattered most.

Falmouth enjoyed a big edge in possession and shots on goal (9-3) in the first period, but Thornton Academy senior goalie Gage Tarbox-Belanger kept the Navigators off the board, with his most impressive work coming just over a minute in, when he robbed Grenier one-on-one.

After the Golden Trojans’ first shot, from senior Alan Verreault, was saved by Falmouth freshman goalie Brandon White, the Navigators got a pair of good looks from senior Sean MacDonald and another from Barnard, but Tarbox-Belanger stood tall.

In the final minute, after Thornton Academy senior Alex St. John had a shot saved by White, the Navigators went on the power play with 15 seconds to go. They couldn’t produce a shot, but carried the man-advantage over the second period.


Falmouth couldn’t capitalize on the power play, however, and it was the Golden Trojans who had the best scoring chances, as White had to deny St. John and Beaudette.

Later in the period, the Navigators threatened to go on top, but Tarbox-Belanger denied Grenier, junior Sam Bellievau sent a rebound wide and after a turnover, Adams was stopped by Tarbox-Belanger.

With 3:45 left in the second, Thornton Academy finally broke the scoring ice.

The Golden Trojans got the puck deep, where junior Kyle Lesieur fought for it with MacDonald. Lesieur managed to get possession and centered the puck where Beaudette was waiting to one-time it past White, to the goalie’s right and into the net for a 1-0 lead.

Falmouth tried to answer, but Tarbox-Belanger stymied Adams and senior Rory Skillin-Lanou.

The third period began with the teams playing four-on-four and the Navigators, thanks to some inspiration in the locker room, quickly rediscovered the goal.


Just 56 seconds into the third period, after Adams won a faceoff, the puck came up top to Grenier, who spun, then launched a shot through traffic which Tarbox-Belanger couldn’t stop and the game was deadlocked, 1-1.

“Coach definitely got us going in the locker room and the captains got us going too,” said Grenier. “We were dominating, but we couldn’t put it in the net. Charlie’s not a center, but he won the faceoff right to me, I brought it over the slot and put it on net. Good placement. Charlie got in front and other players were in front there too. That really changed the momentum and we were just rolling.”

“Xavier’s a great player and he got us going,” Barnard said.

“(Xavier’s) our goal guy,” Barton added. “That’s what he does. He was a little gassed out there, but he wasn’t coming off.”

With Thornton Academy unable to generate any offense, Falmouth looked to go on top and after Tarbox-Belanger made a kick save on a shot by MacDonald and saved two more MacDonald shots, the Navigators went on the power play with 9:02 on the clock.

And 38 seconds later, they got the game-winner.


Falmouth worked the puck in front where Barnard wouldn’t be denied, flicking it into the goal with 8:24 to play for a 2-1 lead.

“I was just sitting in the slot, the puck came to me and I fought for it,” Barnard said. “It was all set up by my teammates. That effort explains our whole game.”

“Our power play was looking good,” Grenier said. “I kept seeing Caden open. Thankfully Charlie got it to the slot and Caden had great placement on the shot. That’s what we needed.”

“(Special teams have) always been one of my focuses and it’s always paid dividends for us,” Barton added. “We work a lot on it. It wins hockey games. Our power play and penalty kill wins at any level.”

The Golden Trojans went on the power play midway through the third period, but couldn’t generate a single shot, as MacDonald broke up several rushes and Adams blocked a shot from senior Alan Verreault.

With 2:17 to play, Lesieur got to a loose puck and sent it on target, but White made his final save.


In the final minute, Thornton Academy pulled Tarbox-Belanger, but couldn’t produce another shot and Falmouth closed out its 2-1 victory.

Falmouth celebrates with freshman goalie Brandon White at the final horn. Hoffer photo.

“Our captains brought energy in the locker room and got the team going and we were able to come back,” said Barnard. “Our defense was just heart. We knew we could do it the whole game.”

“Once we got the lead, we stayed defensive and made sure we kept guys back and that they didn’t have chances to go on rushes,” Grenier said.

“We’re capable of this every night,” Barton added. “If we don’t have COVID issues and if we have our whole team, that’s our look. A game like this builds confidence for the young guys.”

Falmouth out-shot Thornton Academy, 30-14, and got 13 saves from White.

The Golden Trojans got 28 saves from Tarbox-Belanger, but couldn’t generate enough offense to prevail.


“I thought we did a lot of things we wanted to do defensive zone-wise, but we didn’t get out in transition,” lamented Thornton Academy coach Jamie Gagnon. “We couldn’t exit cleanly and that showed in the shots. I thought we did a good job competing in the second period, but our penalties in the third period threw us off a little bit and we got gassed. We haven’t had much game play, especially against an opponent like that. Falmouth’s a good hockey team. They’re well-coached and quick and good in transition. For us being in our third game, I thought it was a good effort. I love our ability to compete. We don’t give up until the final buzzer. I just hope we’re able to compete up and down the roster and we did that today.”

Road trip

While Thornton Academy returns to action Thursday at Scarborough, Falmouth will play its first of four consecutive games away from home, at Biddeford. The Navigators then travel to Greely, Edward Little and Bangor.

“If we stay healthy and put shots on net, we can make a good run,” Grenier said.

“I think we all know we can do it,” Barnard said. “We want to make that playoff run.”

“Knock on wood, we’ll be a full team,” Barton added. “These are important games. Biddeford will be a gritty game too. They always play us hard.”

Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

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