PORTLAND—Cheverus’ girls’ hockey team has done pretty well this winter “flying under the radar,” as coach Scott Rousseau calls it, but the Stags’ days of sneaking up on the opposition are over.

Because they keep winning and as they near full strength, figure to continue to do so.

Wednesday afternoon at Troubh Ice Arena, Cheverus, a co-op team which also features two players from Kennebunk and one apiece from Old Orchard Beach and Windham, hosted Falmouth in a battle of South Region contenders and got contributions from players veteran and unseasoned.

Sophomore Mikayla Talbot, who is back from a wrist injury, put the Stags ahead for good in the game’s fifth minute and in the final minute of the first period, senior Olivia Bradford put on a dazzling individual show, finishing on a breakaway for a 2-0 lead.

Talbot scored for the second time and sophomore Maddie Doherty also found the net in the second period for a 4-0 advantage.

With sophomore goalie Ella Lemieux holding the Navigators in check, Cheverus put it away in the third, as freshman Lucy Johnson scored short-handed, senior Clare MacDonald found the net, then Doherty scored twice in the final minute to complete a hat trick and the Stags went on to an 8-0 victory.

Cheverus won its third game in a row, improved to 6-1-1 and in the process, dropped Falmouth to 5-3.

“We’ve all helped each other,” Doherty said. “We’ve stayed connected as a team even with COVID and people getting injured. We work really hard in practice and that seems to help us in games.”

Peaking

Cheverus opened with a 6-1 victory at Scarborough, then suffered a 4-3 loss to Cape Elizabeth/Waynflete/South Portland. After a 3-1 victory at Falmouth and a 4-0 triumph at Winslow, the Stags tied Edward Little, 1-1, then defeated visiting York (6-1) and Portland/Deering (10-5), in Saturday’s “City Cup.”

Falmouth, meanwhile, started with a 4-3 home win over Yarmouth/Freeport, then lost at home to Scarborough (4-0) and Cheverus (3-1) before hitting its stride with victories at York (4-2), Portland/Deering (9-2) and Greely (4-1). Monday, in a makeup game, the Navigators defeated visiting York, 3-0.

In the teams’ first meeting Dec. 11, Bradford, Lucy Johnson and sophomore Lily Johnson all scored once to lift the Stags to victory. Freshman Audrey Farnham had the Navigators’ goal.

Wednesday, Cheverus controlled play most of the way and kept its good times rolling.

Falmouth had its chances early, but Lemieux denied a shot from senior Kate Kinley and a rebound from senior Mallory Roy, then robbed sophomore Trinity Grenier and stopped a rebound from Kinley.

Lucy Johnson had the Stags’ first shot, but it was saved by Navigators senior goalie Whitney Adams.

Then, with 10:24 to go in the opening period, Johnson got the puck to Talbot, who sent it into the net for a 1-0 lead.

“We haven’t had Mikayla all year long,” said Rousseau. “She broke her wrist and did an amazing job rehabbing. Having her back is great.”

After Adams robbed Talbot, Cheverus went on the power play, but Adams saved shots from sophomore Brynn McKenney and junior Elle Cooney.

With 25 seconds remaining the period, freshman Elizabeth Brown threatened to pull Falmouth even, but Lemieux made the save.

“Ella is a talented goaltender,” Rousseau said. “She made the quality save every time.”

The puck then came to Bradford, who raced the other way, skated in on Adams, then got Adams to slide to her left before finishing for a 2-0 lead.

In between the first and second periods (which is just a three-minute break in girls’ hockey), Adams tried to adjust her equipment, but couldn’t do so in time and as a result, the Navigators had to protect an empty net for over two minutes, something they managed to do with just one Stags’ bid, a shot from Bradford which went just wide.

“Whitney forgot her leg pads and the rink was generous to give her some pads to try on, then her pads showed up just as the game started and she got them on as quickly as she could,” said Falmouth coach Rob Carrier. “We were still trying to fix the issue between periods, but we couldn’t do it in three minutes.”

Cheverus did get its third goal with 12:15 remaining in the second, as Johnson again set up Talbot for a one-timer that got past Adams.

Talbot then bid for a hat trick three minutes later, but hit the post and she sent a rebound bid just wide.

Doherty got in on the scoring fun with 3:32 on the clock, finishing a feed from Talbot (Johnson also was given an assist) and the Stags took a 4-0 lead to the second intermission.

“I’m very excited to have that Talbot-Lucy Johnson-Doherty line together,” Rousseau said. “That’s the line we envisioned all season. We have a lot of young talent. Ignorance is bliss. As long as they know they’re not supposed to do this, it will be OK. They’re on the team and they’re expected to perform. We could have folded the program three years ago and voila, nine freshmen showed up last year and we had a very positive year despite the pandemic. It was a strong stepping-stone for this year.”

Cheverus then ended all doubt in the third period.

Falmouth started the final stanza with an extra skater, but it would be the Stags’ special teams taking advantage, as Johnson fired a short-handed shot past Adams and in just 11 seconds into the third, to make it 5-0.

After Lemieux robbed Kinley with a glove save, then stopped Kinley again on a rush, MacDonald scored on a low shot which eluded Adams with 5:34 to play.

Cheverus wasn’t done, as after freshman Zoey Radford hit the post, Doherty rebounded Talbot’s shot home with 48.6 seconds showing.

Then, with just 15.6 seconds left, Doherty scored one final goal for the hat trick (also from Talbot) to bring the curtain down on the Stags’ 8-0 triumph.

“It was exciting to get a hat trick,” said Doherty. “It’s reassuring having a young team knowing it will be like this for awhile. We have really good chemistry. Mikayla had all my assists and I assisted Lucy and Mikayla.”

“The games are starting to have a little more excitement to them,” Rousseau said. “This is our team moving forward and this is how we play. I really like our team. We have great camaraderie.”

Cheverus out-shot Falmouth, 30-17, and got 17 saves from Lemieux.

Adams made 22 saves for the Navigators, who couldn’t put the puck in the net.

“We just don’t have the same type of quality depth that Cheverus has,” Carrier said. “The chances we got we had to capitalize on, but their defense snuffed them out and if they didn’t, their goalie was right on top of it.

“We were winning a bunch of close games. This was the only blowout of the season. Every other game has been close.”

Time to get serious

With the postseason just a month away, Falmouth and Cheverus will hope to continue to improve and remain near the top of the standings.

The Navigators (ranked fourth in the South Region) play host to Gorham Saturday.

“The kids are battling and you can’t ask for much more,” Carrier said. “We need to shore up our passing a little bit. We’ve gotten a little sloppy with that and that showed at times today. We’ll work on that. We’ve got a tough stretch and we’ll focus on the rest of the season. I like what I have.”

The Stags (ranked first in the South Region) have a big road stretch upcoming, starting with a game at Gorham Friday. After visiting St. Dom’s, Cheverus travels to Edward Little and reigning state champion Lewiston.

“I think we’re definitely one of the strongest teams, but we won’t take anyone for granted,” Doherty said. “I think we need to keep up our intensity in practice and connect and communicate and that will come as the season goes on.”

“In this year of all years, you have to be prepared to be flexible and roll with whatever comes next,” Rousseau said. “You just can’t make excuses. You have to play the cards you have to play.

“We’re anxious to see Lewiston. We might not get our full roster until the end and I’m sure there will be some more curveballs, but I think we’ll be right there at the end. Hopefully we’ll keep getting better every game.”

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

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