PORTLAND—The Cheverus/Yarmouth co-op boys’ hockey team refused to lose Thursday afternoon at Troubh Ice Arena.

And on three separate occasions, it erased a deficit against visiting Falmouth.

Before earning arguably its most exhilarating win of the season.

After the Navigators went ahead in the first period on a goal from senior Sean MacDonald, Cheverus/Yarmouth answered in just 28 seconds, when junior Truman Peters finished.

In the final minute of the first, freshman Isaac Laliberte gave Falmouth the lead back, but it appeared the hosts had answered at the horn when senior Kevin Connolly celebrated an apparent goal, only to have it waved off for coming too late.

The Navigators then stretched their lead to 3-1 early in the second period, as sophomore John Carpenter scored, but Cheverus/Yarmouth came to life, pulled within one on a rebound goal from senior Oliver Prinn, then tied it up again on a power play tally from Connolly with just over a minute left.

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Falmouth took a lead for the third time with just over 11 minutes to play, when junior Mitch Ham finished on a rush, but three minutes later, senior Wyatt Header tied the score anew and after Cheverus/Yarmouth killed a late Navigators power play, the game went to overtime.

Where this time, Cheverus/Yarmouth scored first, as sophomore Brian Connolly played the hero, scoring 4-minutes, 7-seconds into the “sudden victory” session to produce a 5-4 victory.

Cheverus/Yarmouth won its fourth game in a row, improved to 6-3 and in the process, dropped Falmouth to 4-6-1.

“To our credit, we came back and that’s a testament to the kids in the locker room who just don’t want to lose,” said Cheverus/Yarmouth coach Dave St. Pierre. “We talked about staying positive and staying together as a family, working and grinding and good things would happen and we found our way.”

Old friends

Falmouth and Yarmouth once upon a time had as intense a boys’ hockey rivalry as you’ll find and Falmouth and Cheverus have had their share of battles over the years as well.

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This season, both teams have had their fits and starts.

The Navigators dropped their opener, 3-1, at South Portland/Freeport/Waynflete, then downed host Biddeford, 5-2, before falling at home to Bangor, 3-2. After a 2-1 home win over Thornton Academy, Falmouth won at Biddeford (8-3), then fell at Greely (6-3), at Edward Little (3-0) and at home to reigning Class A champion Lewiston (4-1) before settling for a 5-5 home tie versus Cape Elizabeth and winning at Thornton Academy, 2-1.

Cheverus/Yarmouth, in its first full-length season as a co-op, went to overtime in each of its first three outings, losing at Greely (3-2) and Scarborough (4-3) and winning at Brunswick (4-3). After an 8-1 win over Portland/Deering in the “City Cup,” Cheverus/Yarmouth lost at home to the state’s best team, Edward Little (2-1), then eked out one-goal wins at Leavitt (2-1) and at home over St. Dom’s (6-5) before enjoying a 3-0 victory at Gorham in its most recent outing, last Thursday.

The teams split two meetings last year, with Falmouth prevailing at home, 5-2, and Cheverus/Yarmouth also winning on its home ice, 3-2.

Thursday, the Navigators appeared en route to victory on multiple occasions, but Cheverus/Yarmouth had an answer every time.

Just two minutes into the game, Falmouth went on the power play, but in a game-long theme, it couldn’t capitalize, managing just one good look, a blast from senior Nick Fischetto in front, which was denied by Cheverus/Yarmouth junior goalie Neal McQuarrie.

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With 9:30 to go in the first period, Cheverus/Yarmouth threatened to strike first, but Navigators junior goalie Chase Bevan first saved a shot by Header, then denied two rebound attempts from Kevin Connolly.

Falmouth then raced into the offensive zone and broke the ice, as MacDonald skated in on McQuarrie and roofed a shot past the goalie for a 1-0 lead with 9:18 on the clock.

It took all of 28 seconds for Cheverus/Yarmouth to answer, as Peters got the puck past Bevan.

The Navigators went on another power play three minutes later, but McQuarrie denied a shot from Ham.

Falmouth did go on top, 2-1, with 21.1 seconds to go, as senior Xavier Grenier set up Laliberte for a wrister that got past McQuarrie. Ham also was credited with an assist.

It appeared the Navigators would go into the first intermission with that lead, but Cheverus/Yarmouth pushed for the equalizer and appeared to have it at the horn, when Kevin Connolly scored, but after a consultation, the officials waved off the goal.

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Falmouth came out strong to start the second period, as sophomore Caden Barnard had a good look that was saved by McQuarrie before Carpenter took a pass from senior Rory Skillin-Lanou and finished with 11:14 on the clock for a two-goal advantage.

But instead of burying Cheverus/Yarmouth, that goal awakened the hosts, who immediately began pressuring the Navigators zone.

Bevan held serve initially, stopped shots by sophomore David Swift and Brian Connolly, but with 4:28 to go, Prinn scored on the rebound (junior Ethan St. Pierre and senior Matt Robichaud were given assists) and Cheverus/Yarmouth was back in it.

After Bevan denied Robichaud, he twice robbed Peters, but with 1:58 remaining, Cheverus/Yarmouth went on the power play and 57 seconds later, the score was tied after Kevin Connolly redirected a shot from junior Colin Hines.

“I wasn’t pleased and I think the boys weren’t pleased either with the way we started,” Dave St. Pierre said. “We were lethargic, but we picked it up.”

Kevin Connolly nearly gave his team the lead on a rush in the final minute, but Bevan made the save and the contest would go to the third period tied, 3-3.

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But it didn’t stay deadlocked for long.

With 11:22 to go, Ham skated in and finished a goal similar to MacDonald’s, roofing the puck past McQuarrie for a 4-3 lead.

But that wouldn’t put it away either.

After Bevan denied Ethan St. Pierre and Robichaud, Header tied it on a rebound with 8:08 to play, with Prinn getting the assist.

After Fischetto was stopped by McQuarrie on a rush, Falmouth went on the power play with 7:21 remaining, but the only good scoring chance went to Cheverus/Yarmouth, as sophomore Andrew Cheever broke in short-handed only to have his shot saved by Bevan.

After Cheverus/Yarmouth’s Ben Moll hit the post, Kevin Connolly had a shot saved by Bevan.

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With 1:44 left, Grenier broke in and looked for the tiebreaker, but his shot was saved by McQuarrie. Grenier was brought down on the play, however, and that penalty put the Navigators on the power play.

Robichaud then had a chance to win it short-handed, but Bevan made the save.

At the other end, with 30 seconds on the clock, MacDonald set up senior Charlie Adams for a great look, but McQuarrie made the stop.

In the final seconds, McQuarrie saved a shot from Ham and Ham sent another good look just wide and the game would go to overtime.

“Our PK has been great all year,’ Brian Connolly said. “We just tried to take away their space and get the puck out.”

“I think we did a really good job on defending their power play and that gave us a boost,” said Dave St. Pierre.

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“We work way too hard on power plays to not win the game there,” lamented Falmouth coach Deron Barton. “We’re capable of it, but it doesn’t matter if you don’t do it when it counts.”

Each team would have chances in the extra session, but it was Cheverus/Yarmouth which finished.

Just 40 seconds in, Robichaud sent a shot on goal which was deflected but ultimately saved by Bevan.

At the other end, Fischetto had two looks, but both were denied by McQuarrie before Grenier shot just wide.

With 4:51 to play, Robichaud set up Swift for a great look, but Bevan made the stop.

Then, with 3:53 to go, Header sent a seemingly innocuous shot on goal and in the blink of an eye, the puck was in the net, as Brian Connolly managed to redirect it past Bevan.

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“I was just trying to get inside position and get a tip and the puck went in,” Connolly said. “I was just getting in front. I couldn’t really see it, but I turned and I saw it in the back of the net.”

“We’ve worked a lot about getting pucks to the net and getting inside for rebounds,” said Dave St. Pierre. “That was a simple job of getting the puck on net and Brian did a fantastic job of getting inside and getting a stick on the puck ,which is all it took.”

At 6:07 p.m., Cheverus/Yarmouth was able to celebrate its hard-fought 5-4 victory.

“We just got pucks deep and tried to get pucks on net,” Brian Connolly said. “We didn’t panic. We stayed positive. It feels great.”

“It’s fun to play good hockey like that against a good team,” said Dave St. Pierre. “I thought it was a fantastic, fun game tonight. We have a little too much overtime experience for my liking, but we know how to play tough games, which is good for us down the stretch.”

Cheverus/Yarmouth had a 33-28 shots advantage and got 24 saves from McQuarrie.

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Falmouth got 28 saves from Bevan, but couldn’t close out a game it appeared to have won on multiple occasions.

“It’s completely frustrating,” Barton said. “You earn the lead, you give it back, you earn the lead and you give it back and it wears you down. These guys have to learn. We have a lot of inexperience on the team and we have to take this as a learning experience. We showed some good signs of turning the corner, but when you have letdowns like this, it overshadows everything.”

A postseason feel

Both teams will be tested frequently in the weeks to come, as the postseason draws ever closer.

Falmouth (fourth in the Class A Heal Points standings at press time) will go to Lewiston Monday, then returns home next Saturday to host currently unbeaten Edward Little.

“We have guys coming back that even though they’re back it doesn’t mean they have their hockey heads yet,” Barton said. “They have to work into that and you only get that through game time. The more game time we have and the less COVID we have, the hope is we turn the corner and make a run at the playoffs. We’re in every game and we know we can play with everybody. We just have to execute when it matters.”

Cheverus/Yarmouth (ranked fifth in Class B South) is scheduled to meet Cape Elizabeth Saturday, but that game could be postponed by bad weather. Cheverus/Yarmouth will host Greely in a pivotal showdown next Wednesday, then welcomes Brunswick and Leavitt on consecutive days.

“This starts our momentum because we have a lot of games coming up,” said Brian Connolly. “Hopefully we’ll keep this going. We have a really good team.”

“We’ve got a big grind coming up,” said Dave St. Pierre. “Six games in the next 14 days with a lot of good opponents. We’re still nowhere near we need to be and have a lot of work to do.”

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

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