PORTLAND—South Portland/Freeport/Waynflete coach Joe Robinson felt his squad was the team that no one wanted to play in the postseason.

And South Portland/Freeport/Waynflete has proved Robinson right, reaching a pinnacle never before attained in program history.

The state final.

Wednesday afternoon at the Cross Insurance Arena, South Portland/Freeport/Waynflete, the No. 5 seed, dispatched red-hot, top-ranked Falmouth with surprising ease in a Class A state semifinal.

South Portland/Freeport/Waynflete senior goalie Jasper Curtis held the potent Navigators at bay early and at 6:59 of the first period, senior Brady Angell scored on a rebound to put the squad ahead to stay.

Junior Hewitt Sykes doubled the lead at 9:18 of the second period, but Falmouth answered back a little over a minute later when sophomore Thomas Healey buried a rebound.


The Navigators then had a golden opportunity to tie it up late in the period, when they went on the power play, but instead, it would be South Portland/Freeport/Waynflete scoring a game-turning goal, as junior Tobey Lappin struck short-handed with just 11 seconds left for a 3-1 lead at the second intermission.

After Curtis stood tall early in the third, Lappin made it 4-1 at 3:58 and Sykes ended all doubt with a goal at 7:39 and South Portland/Freeport/Waynflete went on to a stunning 5-1 victory.

South Portland/Freeport/Waynflete improved to 12-8, ended Falmouth’s win streak at 17 games and its season at 17-3 and in the process, advanced to take on second-ranked Thornton Academy (16-4) in the Class A state final, its first ever, Saturday at 12:30 p.m., at the Cross Insurance Arena.

“I just feel like the way we’re playing now is what we expected and I think what everyone else expected,” said Robinson. “I told the guys coming into the playoffs that no one wanted to play us. We’re feared. You can look at our record, but everyone knew we’re not a bad team. We play physical and we play fast.”

Second chances

South Portland/Freeport/Waynflete dropped an agonizing double-overtime decision to Scarborough in the semifinals a year ago and expected to be back in the hunt this winter, but the squad won just three of its first eight games and sat below the .500 mark until its penultimate regular season game en route to a 10-8 mark.


“The kids just didn’t quit,” Robinson said. “We kept working. We lost (senior Dylan) Hannan to an ACL before a puck even dropped, so we had to overcome adversity.”

A four-game win streak heading into the postseason gave the squad confidence.

In Friday’s quarterfinals, South Portland/Freeport/Waynflete avenged last year’s ouster by blanking No. 4 Scarborough, 4-0.

Falmouth, which lost to Thornton Academy in the state quarterfinals last winter, started the 2022-23 campaign with one-goal losses to reigning champion Scarborough (5-4) and South Portland/Freeport/Waynflete (4-3), with the second of those setbacks happening nearly three months ago, on Dec. 13.

After Christmas, however, the Navigators cleared every hurdle, winning their final 16 regular season games by a composite 88-21 margin. Falmouth only had three one-goal games in that span, edging South Portland/Freeport/Waynflete (2-1 on Jan. 5), holding off host Edward Little (3-2) and surviving visiting Bangor in overtime (2-1).

In Saturday’s state quarterfinals, the Navigators opened up a 4-0 lead after one period, then eliminated No. 8 Lewiston by an 8-1 margin.


Wednesday, Falmouth looked to keep the good times rolling, but it ran into a squad that simply wouldn’t be denied.

Each team registered nine shots in the first period, but the only goal went to South Portland/Freeport/Waynflete.

After Curtis made early saves on shots from junior Zach Mitton and senior Aaron Higgins, South Portland/Freeport/Waynflete went on the attack, but Navigators sophomore goalie Brandon White denied seniors Ian Wright, Richard Gilboy, Liam Anderson and Roan Hopkins.

With 8:01 left in the opening period, South Portland/Freeport/Waynflete broke through as an apparent bad break, a shot from Wright which rang off the far post, instead turned into good fortune, as Angell was waiting to bury the rebound for a 1-0 lead. Senior Ben Stanley was also credited with an assist on the play.

Late in the first period, Healey had a shot saved by Curtis, Lappin was robbed by White (he raised his arms thinking he’d scored but to no avail), then senior Mitch Ham set up Higgins for a great look, but Curtis stopped that as well to preserve the South Portland/Freeport/Waynflete lead going to the second period.

“We’re notorious for having horrible first periods, so we knew if we get through the first period, we’d take them off their game, because they wanted to jump on us quick and get us down,” Robinson said.


Early in the second, Falmouth’s bid to draw even was repelled by Curtis, as he saved a shot from Ham.

South Portland/Freeport/Waynflete then looked to double its lead, but Hopkins back-handed a shot just wide, then White denied senior Seth Cloutier on a rush and stopped Anderson as well.

With 8:49 to go in the period, Cloutier was sent to the penalty box for roughing, but the Navigators failed to take advantage of the power play, as Mitton and Higgins couldn’t finish in close.

Then, with 5:42 left, Wright fired the puck on net and Sykes re-directed it past White to make it 2-0. Stanley was also credited with an assist.

Falmouth quickly responded, as with 4:34 remaining, Higgins’ bid was stopped by Curtis with his pad, but Healey sent the rebound home to cut the deficit to just one.

With 1:53 on the clock, Hopkins was sent off for interference and the Navigators had a great chance to seize momentum and tie the game.


But instead, after junior Caden Barnard missed one shot just wide and had a second saved by Curtis, South Portland/Freeport/Waynflete got the break it was looking for.

With just 11.3 seconds remaining, senior Casey MacVane won the puck along the right boards, fought his way through a defender, then passed in front to Lappin, who also had to get the better of a defenseman and after doing so, he flicked the puck home for a short-handed goal and a 3-1 advantage.

“Casey battled and did all the hard work and I just finished it off,” said Lappin.

“Casey had fresh legs and he’s fast and strong,” Robinson said. “He used his speed to get in the corner, he used his strong body to shield off the defender and made that pass out front. It was beautiful. That was a huge turning point.”

Falmouth, not surprisingly, had a different opinion of the goal.

“That was a game-changer right there,” lamented Navigators coach Deron Barton. “We do have some leadership on the team, but Falmouth hasn’t been in this game in a long, long time and that showed tonight. Out of our starting lineup, we only have four seniors and even they don’t have the experience. I think that played into it a little bit.”


The Navigators hoped to get right back in the game when the third period commenced and got a great look 19 seconds in, but Curtis robbed Higgins.

Then, with 11:02 to play, Lappin struck again, burying a loose puck with Cloutier getting the assist and after the goal was reviewed and upheld, South Portland/Freeport/Waynflete had a 4-1 advantage.

“We’ve had a lot of games this year where we came back, so we knew they could do it too,” Lappin said. “We didn’t get too happy. We just kept working and it paid off. That fourth goal was big. It was a good goal. It helped put it away.”

Now desperate, Falmouth got three more good looks, but Curtis saved a shot by Higgins, robbed Higgins with his glove, then denied Mitton with his glove as well.

“The defense shut them down today and did great,” Curtis said. “They got in front of shots and had good approaches on angles and really helped me.”

With 7:21 to go, South Portland/Freeport/Waynflete ended any lingering doubt as Sykes scored for the second time, with Stanley picking up his third assist in the process.


“I get pretty excited when the guys score,” Curtis said. “It means a lot to me.”

“The scoring was spread out nicely,” Robinson said. “To have two goals apiece from your first and second line is huge.”

Down the stretch, Higgins hit the post and Higgins had a shot saved by Curtis.

At 5:36 p.m., the final horn sounded and South Portland/Freeport/Waynflete was finally able to do something it had always dreamed of, celebrate a trip to the state final after a most impressive 5-1 victory.

“This means everything,” said Lappin. “We had a rough start to the season and had a lot of losses, but we worked hard every practice and it’s just an unreal feeling that we get to play on the biggest stage in the state of Maine. We just kind of flipped the switch. We realized we had three games left and we knew we couldn’t lose any of them and it’s paid off.”

“I’ve never hit the weights harder than after (last year’s loss), so it feels really good to get back here and to win,” Curtis said. “We beat them before and the other game, we kept it close, so we knew we had it in us.”


“It’s a lot of emotion,” Robinson added. “It means the world to me and I know it means the world to the guys. I’m so happy for them and proud of them. It’s my 16th season as the head coach at South Portland. We’ve had a lot of good times, we’ve had some down times. I told them before the game that a lot of famous athletes don’t get a second chance and you guys got one.”

South Portland/Freeport/Waynflete didn’t have a power play chance, but scored on one of Falmouth’s. Curtis dazzled with 32 saves.

“Jasper just played out of his mind,” Robinson said. “He’s so good. When he’s on, in my opinion, he’s the best.”

Sudden end

Falmouth finished with a 33-28 shots advantage and got 23 saves from White, but a first trip to the state final in six seasons wasn’t to be.

“They were the better team tonight and there’s no other way to frame it,” Barton said. “They got the bounces. They worked hard and executed their game plan and they were successful with it. We knew they’d play heavy. We needed to score early on them and that didn’t happen. They got the first goal and caught us. They played to win.


“We didn’t anticipate (our win streak) happening, honestly. You show up and try to get better every day. We had a great group of kids. We had leadership emerge. The success speaks for itself. There’s a lot to learn from this season and this experience will be a lesson for next year’s kids. It’s reminiscent of my first Falmouth team losing to TA in the (2012) regional final. Those guys came back galvanized and (won two state titles in a row).

“Our goaltending is strong. We have four of our starting five D back. We’ll lose a lot of scoring, so we’ll have to replace that, but our youth is getting stronger. The future is bright for us.”

Date with destiny

South Portland/Freeport/Waynflete and Thornton Academy split during the regular season, as the Golden Trojans rolled in Portland, 8-1, four days before Christmas before South Portland/Freeport/Waynflete returned the favor with a 5-1 victory Jan. 28 on the road.

Thornton Academy held off No. 6 Bangor, 3-2, in its semifinal Wednesday and will play in the state game for a second year in a row, hoping to finish what last year’s team started before losing in overtime to Scarborough.

South Portland/Freeport/Waynflete isn’t just happy getting to the state game.


It hopes to save its absolute best for last.

“Winning (Saturday) would mean everything,” said Lappin. “We have maybe two practices to go. I know we’ll work hard and do what we can to make sure we get that win and come out of here with a championship.”

“I’ve wanted to get here my whole life,” said Curtis, who has won state titles with the Waynflete boys’ soccer and boys’ lacrosse teams. “We’ve got one more to go. We have to keep working hard in practice and come out flying on Saturday.”

“I’ve always wanted this and thought about it and now it’s here and it feels good,” Robinson added. “I told the guys to enjoy this because they’ve earned it. After tonight, we have to turn it around and start over and come ready to battle.”

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

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