PORTLAND—It’s safe to say that this Cheverus/Yarmouth boys’ hockey co-op situation is working out pretty well.

Now in its second season together, third-ranked Cheverus/Yarmouth took the ice for a playoff game for the first time Wednesday afternoon at Troubh Ice Arena and wasted no time seizing control against No. 6 York in a Class B South quarterfinal.

With the game a mere 14 seconds old, senior Kevin Connolly scored on a rebound and Cheverus/Yarmouth was on its way.

Before the first period was over, sophomore Andrew Cheever and senior Matt Robichaud added goals for a 3-0 advantage.

Cheverus/Yarmouth didn’t let the Wildcats back in the game in the second period and essentially put it away when senior Oliver Prinn and junior Ryan Franceschi found the net.

While York got a goal from freshman Garrett Aceto early in the third period, it couldn’t score again and Cheverus/Yarmouth went on to a 5-1 victory.

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Five different players tickled the twine as Cheverus/Yarmouth improved to 13-5, ended York’s season at 6-11-1 and advanced to take on second-ranked Brunswick (14-4) in the Class B South semifinals Friday at 7 p.m., at Bowdoin College.

“It was a good team effort from start to finish,” Prinn said. “Everyone came to play tonight.”

Historic event

Cheverus and Yarmouth have enjoyed an abundance of postseason success over the years as stand-alone programs, but Wednesday’s contest marked the first playoff game for the schools as a co-op.

Cheverus/Yarmouth started the season slowly, with a pair of overtime losses, and was just 2-3 at one point, but went 10-2 the rest of the way (see sidebar for links to previous stories) and ended up third in Class B South.

“We’ve been confident since day one,” said Cheverus/Yarmouth coach Dave St. Pierre. “We got off to a slow start, but we’ve slowly built ourselves up, finding the right combinations.”

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Cheverus/Yarmouth closed the regular season last week with a 4-1 home win over York, which helped in preparation, according to St. Pierre.

“We hadn’t seen them all year and last week, it helped to play them to get to know them and set our game plan where we thought we could take advantage,” St. Pierre said.

York has a couple victories over Class A Portland/Deering to its credit and earned a key win over Leavitt late in the year.

When Yarmouth was a stand-alone program, it faced off against York on seven occasions between 1988 and 2017, winning four those games. The last meeting came in the 2017 Class B South semifinals, an 8-1 Wildcats’ victory.

Wednesday, Cheverus/Yarmouth did what a higher seeded team hopes to do, get the jump and advance with limited stress.

Cheverus/Yarmouth couldn’t have asked for a better start, applying immediate pressure and after Connolly took a pass from Prinn and had his shot denied by York goalie Ben Soares, Connolly got to the rebound and sent it home with the game just 14 seconds old for a quick 1-0 lead.

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“It was really important to come out fast and we jumped on them on the first shift,” said Connolly. “I shot the puck and saw it hit the defenseman and go in. That set the tone for the rest of the game.”

“We talked about the game plan being pressure, pressure, pressure and we got a great shift out of that first line, like they’ve done all year for us,” St. Pierre said. It was a great way to start the game for us.”

Cheverus/Yarmouth needed a save from junior goalie Neal McQuarrie, on a shot from sophomore Laird Masterson, to preserve the lead, then, it scored twice in 28 seconds for some breathing room.

At 7:07 of the first period, Connolly set up Cheever to make it 2-0. Robichaud also was credited with an assist.

Before that goal could be announced, Cheverus/Yarmouth struck again, this time with Robichaud finishing (from Prinn) for a 3-0 advantage which McQuarrie preserved on a nice save off a blast from Gordon Diment late in the first period.

After holding an 13-3 shots advantage in the first period, Cheverus/Yarmouth didn’t have as many scoring opportunities in the second period, but still managed to add to its lead.

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This time, York came out fast, but a quick shot on a rush from senior Joe Neal was turned aside by McQuarrie.

After Robichaud hit the post, Cheverus/Yarmouth got its fourth goal at 9:08 of the period, as Prinn scored on a rebound of a shot from senior Wyatt Header.

“It felt good to score, but it feels even better to set up my teammates,” Prinn said.

“It’s great to have great senior leadership on this team,” St. Pierre said. “We have six tremendous seniors who have done a lot for us. They’ve stepped forward today in a big, big way and I expect them to keep doing that.”

Then, after the first penalty of the game was called late in the second period, Cheverus/Yarmouth struck again on the power play, as Franceschi roofed a shot past Soares and just under the crossbar to make it 5-0 at the second intermission.

York would play hard until the final whistle and was rewarded with 10:45 to go, as Aceto skated through the defense, then fired the puck past McQuarrie to make it 5-1.

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Sophomore Brandon Briggs had a chance to draw the Wildcats even closer, but McQuarrie made the save and Cheverus/Yarmouth closed out its victory.

“We take lots of pride in our defense,” Connolly said. “The best defense is good offense and we had the puck in their zone most of the game.”

“It all goes back to our defense,” Prinn said. “We played intelligent team D from start to finish.

“Playoffs are all about defensive hockey and keeping pucks out of the net,” St. Pierre added. “I thought we did a pretty good job slowing them down in the neutral zone and once they got into our zone, we did a good job clearing the puck.

“I thought we kept the momentum up in the first period and didn’t hit the pause button. I thought in the beginning of the second period, we did pause a little bit and had to re-establish ourselves. We had a great week of practice. The boys really focused on moving the puck into dangerous places and it paid off.”

Cheverus/Yarmouth finished with a 27-9 shots advantage and got eight saves from McQuarrie.

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York got 22 saves from Soares, but couldn’t overcome its early deficit.

“(Cheverus/Yarmouth’s) a really good team,” said Wildcats coach Peter Douris. “We did what we needed to do to prepare, but as prepared as we were, we needed everything to fall into place and instead, everything kind of went the wrong way. They scored first shift and it was hard to dig out of a hole against a team like that.

“You look for those positives from these games. I told the underclassmen to remember this. We’ll leave holding our heads high.”

Ready for the roar

Cheverus/Yarmouth played two close games against Brunswick this year, winning on the road in overtime (4-3) two days before Christmas, then falling at home to the Dragons by a 4-2 margin Feb. 19.

Yarmouth beat Brunswick, 7-3, way back in the 1996 Western B quarterfinals.

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Cheverus also played Brunswick as a stand-alone program, way back in the 1994 Western B semifinals (a 4-3 Stags’ victory).

Friday’s semifinal will likely be a battle down to the wire.

“We had some big wins and that lets us feel like we can beat the best teams in the league,” said Connolly. “If we play like we did the first time we played Brunswick, I think we can take care of business. We’d love to get to the regional final.”

“I think we can make a deep run,” “said Prinn. “I believe in each and every guy in the locker room. I think we’ve bonded as the season’s goes on. We just have to play our game. It’s that simple.”

“I feel good about where we are,” St. Pierre added. “There are a lot of good teams in our league and we’re in for a battle every night. Our league is always competitive and this year, it’s really up for grabs. Brunswick’s playing extremely well. They came into our barn and beat us clean. We’ll have to show up and bring everything we’ve got. If we play like we’re supposed to play, I feel like we’ve got a decent shot at it.”

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

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