PORTLAND—Back in November, the great Lucy Johnson scored twice in the field hockey state final.

But Cheverus lost.

Saturday afternoon at Troubh Ice Arena, Johnson wanted to leave no doubt, so she scored three goals.

And that was just enough to lead the Cheverus girls’ ice hockey team to the Promised Land.

By a whisker over a fabulous Yarmouth/Freeport squad, which enjoyed the finest season in program history, but ultimately fell a single goal shy.

Yarmouth/Freeport struck first, when junior Isabel Peters scored in the first period, but Johnson would dominate the second period, scoring a natural hat trick, and Cheverus took a 3-1 advantage to the third period.


There, to no one’s surprise, Yarmouth/Freeport battled back, getting a power play rebound goal from sophomore Emma White to pull within one.

Yarmouth/Freeport had ample opportunities to tie, but Stags junior goalie Ella Lemieux refused to let it happen and Cheverus held on for a 3-2 victory.

The Stags finished 18-3, ended Yarmouth/Freeport campaign at 17-3-1 and in the process, won the third state title in program history.

“I thought about (field hockey) a little bit and the experience from that game and the nerves, but this is a completely different sport and I think our team really deserved it,” said Johnson. “I’m so proud of my team. It’s so hard to get here and win it.”

The thrill of victory

Yarmouth/Freeport entered the season believing it could be the best team in the program history and the squad exceeded the lofty expectations. Yarmouth/Freeport posted a superb 15-2-1 record (see sidebar for links to previous stories), losing only to Cheverus and Mt. Ararat (by a goal in each game) and settling for a tie against Penobscot.


As the top seed in the North Region, Yarmouth/Freeport earned a bye into the semifinals where it ousted No. 4 Brunswick (5-1). In Wednesday’s regional final, Yarmouth/Freeport shot to an early lead and held off No. 2 Penobscot (2-1) to make the state final for the first time in program history.

Cheverus, meanwhile, is accustomed to being one of the last teams standing and after being upset in triple-overtime by Scarborough last winter, the Stags weren’t about to settle for anything shy of playing on the final day this winter.

“We were a team of sophomores last year, but we didn’t quite have a enough,” said Cheverus coach Scott Rousseau. “It’s normal in sports to learn to lose before you can win. We carried that all year.”

Cheverus won its first 10 games, lost at home to Penobscot, then won four more before sandwiching losses at Yarmouth/Freeport and Penobscot around a victory at Falmouth. Despite the late-season slide, which had a lot to do with the injury absence of Lemieux and junior defendive standout Lily Johnson, the Stags wound up first in the South Region.

Cheverus then held off No. 4 York (1-0) in the semifinals before racing past No. 2 Gorham in Wednesday’s regional final, 8-1, as Lucy Johnson scored four times.

In the teams’ first meeting this winter Jan. 4, junior Mikayla Talbot scored three goals, including the decisive tally with just over two minutes left to give the Stags a 3-2 win.


In the rematch, Jan. 28, Yarmouth/Freeport returned the favor, as freshman Adelaide Strout and junior Sophie Smith scored late to break a tie and produce a 4-2 victory.

The teams had never before met in the postseason.

Saturday, in front of a full house, they finally squared off and did they ever put on a show.

Play was pretty even in the first period, as the Stags held a 6-4 edge in shots on goal, but they couldn’t dent Yarmouth/Freeport senior goalie Ava Gervais and at the 8:30 mark, Yarmouth/Freeport struck first, as White scored, from juniors Amanda Panciocco and Rosie Panenka.

Yarmouth/Freeport had a chance to extend the lead on the power play, but failed to do so and the game remained 1-0 heading to the second period.

Where Lucy Johnson stole the show.


The tying goal came at 5:30 of the second, as Johnson finished a feed from junior Brynn McKenney.

“We were still pretty confident because there were still two periods to go,” said Johnson. “It’s one of the longest games I’ve ever experienced, so we never panicked.”

A little over two minutes later, at 7:45, Johnson took a pass from Talbot and beat Gervais and Cheverus was in front to stay.

“I have to give credit to my teammates,” Johnson said. “We all work so well together. She beat a defender with her first move and sent a perfect pass to me and I just put it in.”

“Lucy is really special,” Rousseau said. “What a semifinal and final for her. Her motor doesn’t quit.”

Johnson’s third goal was ultimately the difference and it was memorable, as she came out of the penalty box, got the puck, then skated in and finished at 10:36 for a 3-1 advantage.


“I just came out of the penalty box,” Johnson said. “Mikayla stopped one of the Yarmouth players in the middle of the ice, so I just picked up the puck and went in and scored.”

“Lucy’s amazing,” said Lemieux. “It was crazy to watch her. She really helps us out.”

“They got on us in the second,” lamented Yarmouth/Freeport coach Dave Intraversato. “We had a long change. That’s tough for any team. They got us off our line a little bit and got 2-on-1s and 3-on-2s with our defense getting tired.

“Lucy sees the ice well and plays with her head up. She can move side-to-side and find openings and attack. Her first step is fast. She’s a sniper.”

The Stags held that lead heading into the second intermission after completely stymieing the Yarmouth/Freeport attack, not allowing a single shot in the second period.

Yarmouth/Freeport’s offense would awaken in the third period.


After junior Smith missed high, senior Sadie Carnes shot just wide after a turnover and Peters was robbed by Lemieux in front.

With 10:45 to play, Yarmouth/Freeport went on the power play again and this time, the opportunity resulted in a goal.

After Lemieux denied freshman Celia Zinman, she saved a Panciocco shot, but White pounced on the rebound and sent it in to cut the deficit to 3-2.

Yarmouth/Freeport then pushed hard for the equalizer, but it never came.

First, Carnes sent a one-timer just wide and Panenka missed just high.

After winning the puck behind the goal, Smith attempted a wraparound shot, but Lemieux stood tall.


With under six minutes remaining, freshman Sophie White shot twice, but both times, Lemieux saved the puck with her pads.

After Smith missed just wide, she had a shot saved by Lemieux’s glove.

“After our tough (quarterfinal round) game with York, I said to my assistants, ‘We have the best goalie’ and in hockey, that matters,” Rousseau said. “I knew she’d make a difference. Forty minutes into the game, she hadn’t had to do much, but when she had to make saves, she was there.”

“At the end there, I thought we were going to get one when we were all over them, but Ella’s quite a goalie,” Intraversato said.

Cheverus had chances to ice it, but Johnson was denied by Gervais on a rush, Lily Johnson’s shot  was deflected and slid just wide and Talbot had a great look after a turnover, but Gervais saved that shot as well.

Yarmouth/Freeport pulled Gervais with a minute to go and on a couple of occasions, the puck squirted loose, but a shot never resulted.


With 11 seconds left, Talbot poked the puck out of harm’s way and at 4:29 p.m., the final horn sounded and the Stags celebrated their 3-2 victory.

“It’s amazing,” said Lemieux. “It hasn’t really hit me yet, but I know it will. I never want to be over-confident, but I knew if we played our best, we could do it. It was really nervewracking at the end, but I had to stay calm to see those shots. I didn’t hear the horn because everyone was cheering so long. I was focused on the puck, then everyone came over to me and it didn’t seem real.”

“We had to play our game and do what we do in practice,” Lucy Johnson said. “I was very stressed out, but we’ve worked on 6-on-5 in practice. It felt very long at the end, but we stayed composed.”

“It’s sweet beyond compare,” Rousseau added. “(Yarmouth/Freeport) is phenomenal. They beat us up the first two times we played them. Physically took it to us. We couldn’t get out of our zone. I took a big gamble and completely changed our break-out in the last game of the year. Our defense tonight was amazing. (Sophomore) Zoe (Radford) was terrific. Lily’s impact coming back from injury can’t be understated and Brynn McKenney was the best player on the ice tonight. She was a one-person breakout, defender, shot-blocker. A stunning performer.

“It’s very satisfying for me as a coach because it’s a new generation. (A few years ago), we didn’t have enough kids to field a team. We went through the hallways begging kids to play to keep the program going. To win with this group, I’m so thrilled.”

Each team had 16 shots on goal. Lemieux made 14 huge saves, with 11 coming in the third period.


“Ella played great,” Lucy Johnson said. “She stayed in it the whole game.”

Cheverus loses seniors Sadie Vancelette and Elle Cooney, who made a huge impact on the program.

“Elle Cooney’s a tremendous leader,” Rousseau said. “She never played travel hockey. Through will and determination, she’s become a top player. She’ll be tough to replace in the locker room.”

“I really hope we can come back and do this again,” Lucy Johnson said.

“It would be really fun to do it again, so we’ll try for that,” said Lemieux.

“We have some new players coming in, but right now. I’m just going to enjoy this,” Rousseau added. “They were an amazing group.”


The agony of defeat

Gervais made 13 saves for Yarmouth/Freeport,

“We didn’t know what we’d have for a goalie, but Chloe White, our senior captain, recruited Ava to come in and play,” said Intraversato. “They were captains together on Freeport field hockey’s team. She came in and did a great job for us.”

Yarmouth/Freeport had a magical run which ultimately fell just short of the big prize.

“We put the program on the map this year,” Intraversato said. “We returned the same players we had last year. We have great senior leadership. I started the same time they did and they created a great team culture. They welcomed the freshmen and they really stepped up for us.

“The season was phenomenal, winning 17 games after winning six last year.”

Eight players will graduate, but a solid nucleus will return and we haven’t heard the last of Yarmouth/Freeport playing for a championship.

“We build from the middle school up, so we have some younger kids coming in,” said Intraversato. “There’s a lot of athletes in the two towns we represent. The girls are upset in (the locker room), but I reminded them that a good crew is coming back next year and our junior class is our core. They’ll be one year older next year and having this experience will help them push the younger players.

“I had a blast this year. Hockey was the game I grew up playing. It’s a great sport. We have great camaraderie and chemistry. These two towns battle it out in the fall, but we love each other. It’s amazing what hockey can do.”

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net.

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