Thornton Academy’s Alan Verreault skates after a loose puck during the Trojans’ 2-1 victory over Edward Little in the Class A semifinals on Tuesday at Cross Insurance Arena. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

The four teams that will play for boys’ hockey state championships Saturday at Cross Insurance Arena in Portland did not get there by accident.

They weren’t the highest seeds, and certainly none of them was favored. But the coaches and players from each of the teams understood what it would take to get to this stage, then went out and did it.

“It’s really been a journey all year long,” said Thornton Academy Coach Jamie Gagnon. “We’ve just continued to try to focus on being competitive every chance we get to play. It has taken some time to fully understand what we want to do. But we saw progression throughout the year. And now we’re here.”

The fifth-seeded Trojans (15-5) will play seventh-seeded Scarborough (12-8-1) in the Class A championship game, scheduled to start at 3 p.m. It will be preceded by the Class B game between South champ Brunswick (16-4) and North champ Camden Hills (13-4) at 1 p.m.

“You want to work out the bugs and get things figured out and hit your stride at the right time,” said Brunswick Coach Mike Misner, whose Dragons have won 11 consecutive games. “We feel good where we’re at now.”

The Class B champion will be historic. Neither team has won a state championship. Camden Hills is in its first state championship game – the Windjammers lost in a regional final in 2013 – and Brunswick hasn’t been to a state final since 1976, when it lost to Lewiston in Class A.


Thornton Academy is in the Class A final for the first time since 2012, when it completed back-to-back state titles. Scarborough lost in overtime to Lewiston in the 2020 state final and has two previous state championships: 2015 (Class A) and 1995 (Class B).

This is the first time since 2010 that no Lewiston-area team is playing in the Class A state championship game. That year, Biddeford defeated Waterville.

And no top-seeded team is playing for a championship this year. In Class A, Thornton knocked off No. 1 Edward Little 2-1 in the semifinals. In Class B South, Brunswick beat top-seeded Greely 5-4 in the regional final. In Class B North, top-seeded Messalonskee lost in the quarterfinals.

Scarborough’s Jack Matthews brings the puck up the ice during the Red Storm’s double-overtime win over South Portland/Freeport/Waynflete in a Class A semifinal Tuesday at Cross Insurance Arena. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

“I think we’ve all said all year that the records and the seedings weren’t indicative of a team’s strength,” said Gagnon, who returned to the Trojans last year for his second stint as head coach. “Every team had COVID spells and times when other guys were out of the lineup.”

Now, these four teams are at full strength – and familiar with each other.

In Class B, Camden Hills defeated Brunswick 3-0 on Jan. 22. The Dragons haven’t lost since. The Windjammers haven’t done too badly since that game either, going 8-2.


In Class A, Thornton defeated Scarborough twice in the regular season: 6-0 on Dec. 30 and 2-1 on Feb. 2.

The coaches caution not to read too much into those scores.

“There’s nothing you can do to change what happened,” said Scarborough’s Eric Wirsing, in his first year as coach of the Red Storm. “It’s more about, what are we going to do now to be successful? We’ve learned from our mistakes in previous games.”

Brunswick’s Ollie Bateman, left, and Brady LaForge celebrate after Bateman’s goal in the third period during the Dragons’ 6-4 win over Greely in the Class B South championship game on Tuesday. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

For Brunswick, the loss to Camden Hills brought the team together.

“That game stung a lot,” said senior defenseman Tom Labbe. “After that, everybody started to focus more and buy into working toward the state final. Practices got more serious. Games got a lot more serious. It was just an all-around better atmosphere.”

Like Brunswick, Camden Hills learned from its losses.


“I think the boys have peaked at the right time,” said John Magri, the head coach. “We came together as a team late in the season. We’re the type of team where we’re really tough to beat when the work ethic is there. I’m not going to deny it, there were a couple of games, hence the losses, where the drive and grit wasn’t there. But they’re past that. They’re all in now and it’s paying dividends.”

Magri describes his team as gritty. Other teams call them physical. That’s OK with him.

“I don’t think we’re overtly physical,” he said. “But I am a purveyor of old-school hockey. We certainly don’t focus on the finesse side of the game. We love it when it’s a gritty game. We put a lot of pressure on people. We’re heavy on the forecheck, heavy on the backcheck. I don’t think teams like playing us. We work and don’t make it fun.”

Brunswick’s Misner said his Dragons – a speedy, deep team that gets scoring from everyone – have to keep their composure against the Windjammers, something they didn’t necessarily do in the regular season.

“If you lose your composure even just a little, it can hurt you,” he said.

The Class A game has an interesting game-within-the-game featuring Scarborough senior Sam Rumelhart, who has 28 goals and 13 assists, and Thornton goalie Gage Tarbox-Belanger, who has a 1.59 goals-against average and a .943 save percentage with four shutouts.


But each team is more than just a one-player band. Scarborough beat South Portland/Freeport/Waynflete in the semifinals, 5-4 in double overtime, and Rumelhart didn’t score.

“They were man-marking me and not allowing me to do anything with the puck,” said Rumelhart.”I told the other guys, ‘You need to step up, this is your time to shine.’ And they responded. The energy was great.”

He can probably expect more of the same treatment from the Trojans.

“He can change a game,” said Thornton senior Alex St. John. “He’s a great player. Just look what he did in the season.”

Both teams feature deep lines and strong defense in front of their goalies. Scarborough’s defensemen often get involved in the offense, which puts more pressure on the defense.

St. John said the Trojans just have to do what they do best.

“We just work hard, put our heads to it, grind and work as hard as we can,” he said. “We’re not that big, we’re not that physical. We do work hard, though.”

Rumelhart, who played in the 2020 state final, said his teammates simply have to focus on doing their jobs.

“It’s just another game of hockey, you have to know that,” he said. “You can’t let outside things affect you, just focus and play your game.”

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