Yarmouth/Freeport goalkeeper Ava Gervais celebrates after her team’s 3-1 win over Penobscot in the North regional final Wednesday. The Clippers, seeking their first girls’ hockey state championship, play the Cheverus co-op team in the state final Saturday. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Ava Gervais isn’t just the first-year starting goalie for the Yarmouth/Freeport girls’ hockey team. The Freeport High senior is a first-year hockey player, period, learning on the job for a team making a deep tournament run. What has made this new adventure easier, Gervais said, is knowing she’s surrounded by a deep and talented defensive group.

“I think we have one of the strongest defenses in the league. We have great team chemistry,” said Gervais after a 3-1 win Wednesday over Penobscot in the North final at Troubh Ice Arena. Gervais made 22 saves and was spared facing more shots by a defensive unit that does an exceptional job keeping pucks away from its net, and transitioning the Clippers from defense to offense.

Yarmouth/Freeport (17-2-1), which was the No. 1 seed in the North, is in the state championship game for the first time, facing a familiar opponent in the Cheverus/Old Orchard Beach/Kennebunk/Windham co-op team (17-3) at 3 p.m. Saturday at Troubh. The teams split a pair of close regular-season games.

“They’re a monster. They’re big, they’re strong, they’re deep. They’re a No. 1 seed for a reason,” Cheverus Coach Scott Rousseau said of Yarmouth/Freeport after his team’s 8-1 win over the Gorham co-op team in the South final Wednesday night. We are clearly the underdog and we’ll have to get ready to play the best game of the year to beat that team. They don’t have any weaknesses. None.”

Wednesday’s win over Penobscot was a microcosm of what the Yarmouth/Freeport defense has accomplished all season. The second-seeded Pioneers were averaging six goals per game, but Yarmouth/Freeport held Penobscot to one goal by blocking shots, cutting off routes to the net and controlling the puck through the neutral zone and starting the attack. That effort has helped the Clippers limit opponents to an average of just over two goals per game.

Coach David Intraversato knew he had a deep group of defensemen in the preseason.


“We had six, eight (defensemen) coming into camp, and we decided to move a couple of them to forward. If someone gets a penalty, we just throw another forward back and they can play D,” Intraversato said.

Leading the way is senior co-captain Chloe White. Late in the first period, with her team holding a 1-0 lead, White block a Penobscot shot with her stick, sending it over the head of Gervais. In the second period, White blocked a shot by Penobscot’s Jordin Williams, who scored 30 goals this season.

Now in her second season as a captain, White sets the tone for the Clippers, Intraversato said.

“Chloe’s leadership off the ice is just phenomenal, whether it’s after practice or in the locker room. She keeps everybody calm,” he said.

White said stability in the defensive pairings has been a key throughout the season. White and Ella ZurMuhlen, a junior, have been a tandem all season, as have junior Amanda Panciocco and freshman Adelaide Strout.

“We’ve had set D partners, we work really well together. I think communication is huge on our team. We’re pretty close off the ice,” White said. “Ella ZurMuhlen is my partner, and we’ve played together for a few years now. We gel pretty well.”


With Yarmouth/Freeport holding a 2-1 lead in the second period of the regional final, Strout hustled back to poke the puck away from Williams as she skated hard toward the net, preventing the Pioneers from getting off a shot. In the third period, Panciocco skated across the ice to close off the lane before Penobscot’s Paige Oakes could drive to the net.

“Communication has been the biggest thing. Whether I say ‘I’ve got it,’ or they’ve got it. If they’re in the way, they move or I move. They always support me. They always have my back,” Gervais said.

Against Cheverus, Yarmouth/Freeport faces another high-scoring offense. The Stags average just over five goals per game, with seven players averaging a point per game. Lucy Johnson leads Cheverus with 47 points (23 goals, 24 assists), while Mikayla Talbot (22-24-46), Maddie Doherty (11-14-25) and Elle Cooney (11-14-25) are also among the team’s top scorers.

“We have to go into the game calm and stay focused on what we’re doing,” said Johnson after scoring four goals in Wednesday’s win over Gorham. “If we execute everything we do really well on Saturday, I think we have a good chance.”

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