PORTLAND—You would have thought that Cape Elizabeth’s boys’ hockey team winning an elusive regional title would have set off a raucous celebration.

And while the second-ranked Capers were certainly pleased after blanking No. 4 York in the Class B South Final Wednesday evening at the Cross Insurance Arena, they still have unfinished business.

And if they keep playing the way they have been over the past two months, the biggest party is yet to come.

Cape Elizabeth got the lone goal of the first period when sophomore Brady Hanisko scored at 7:04.

The Capers then went up by two at 6:25 of the second period, on a goal from junior Colin Blackburn.

From there, Cape Elizabeth’s defense and senior goalie Charlie Garvin slammed the door and the end result was a 2-0 victory.


The Capers won their 13th straight game, improved to 18-2, won a regional title for the first time in 17 seasons, ended York’s campaign at 12-7-1 and best of all, earned a date in the Class B state final Saturday at 10:30 a.m., at the Cross Insurance Arena against either Messalonskee (17-2-1) or Hampden Academy (12-7-1).

“Coach (Jake Rutt) put up three boxes (signifying playoff victories) and we’ve only checked two of them so far,” said Blackburn. “We still have one to go.”

The next step

Since winning the second of its back-to-back Class B state titles in 2006, Cape Elizabeth reached the regional final on four occasions (2009, 2018, 2019 and 2020), but lost to Greely each time.

This winter, the Capers have surged as the season has progressed and by the time the playoffs arrived, were the favorite in Class B South despite finishing behind reigning champion Brunswick in the Heal Points standings.

Cape Elizabeth lost early in the season to Class A finalist Thornton Academy (2-0) and at Brunswick (4-1), but after that loss to the Dragons, the Capers won their final 11 contests, by a composite 59-13 margin.


After earning a bye into the semifinals, Cape Elizabeth found itself down two goals early to No. 3 Cheverus/Yarmouth Monday, but roared back with seven unanswered tallies, from seven different players, to advance, 7-2.

While the Capers were expected to be in the regional final, York was not.

The Wildcats started the year 0-2 and were just 6-6 before going 4-1-1 down the stretch. After eliminating No. 5 Leavitt (4-1) in the quarterfinals, York pulled off the shocker of the tournament Monday, taking a quick 3-0 lead at top-ranked Brunswick, then holding off a Dragons’ rally before going on to a 5-2 upset victory to advance.

The teams met twice this season, with Cape Elizabeth winning at home (6-2) and at York (2-0).

The Capers had won three of five prior playoff meetings, with a 4-2 victory in the 2018 semifinals the most recent.

Wednesday, in its first tournament appearance at the biggest hockey rink in the state since a 2003 regional final win over Falmouth, Cape Elizabeth wasn’t its usual dominant self, but still had enough to move on.


The Capers produced a lot of pressure early, but no great scoring chances.

Five minutes in, York junior James Neal had a good look, but Garvin snared it with his glove.

Then, at 7:04, Cape Elizabeth went on top for good, as Hanisko stole the puck in the slot, fired and beat Wildcats junior goalie Aidan McQuaide through the five-hole for a 1-0 lead.

“Playing from ahead is huge,” Rutt said. “Especially with our D and our goaltending, to get the first goal gives us a lot of confidence. That was a great shot by Brady.”

Garvin then came up big, denying a great shot from senior Tyler Conant.

After McQuaide stopped a shot from senior Nick Laughlin, the Wildcats went on the power play when Laughlin was sent to the penalty box for roughing.


At 11:11, junior Brandon Briggs got a pass out front from sophomore Garrett Aceto, but his bid to tie the score was stopped by Garvin.

Nine seconds later, Aceto looked to equalize, but again, Garvin stood tall.

York went right back on the power play 38 seconds into the second period, but again came up empty, thanks to some near misses and a nice Garvin save on a shot from junior Luke Douris.

At 4:08, the Capers had their turn to go man-up, but couldn’t convert, as McQuaide saved a Laughlin shot that was redirected by senior Connor Goss, then he denied Laughlin on a rush.

But at 6:25, Cape Elizabeth doubled its lead, as Blackburn took a pass from senior Phil Coupe and wristed a shot into the net to make it 2-0.

“Coach tells me to take the ice they give us and I did that,” said Blackburn. “A lot of the time, I don’t even look at the net, but this time, I just shot high.”


“Getting the second goal was huge too,” Rutt said. “That’s another huge goal for Colin. He’s done a great job and takes up a lot of space. (Senior) Dimitri (Coupe) and (junior) Aidan (Mansmann) do a really job on that line.”

McQuaide prevented the Capers from pulling away, as he denied senior Alex Thayer, stopped freshman Alex Mainville on a shot in front and Mainville again on the rebound.

At the other end, Garvin stopped sophomore Shea Buckley on a breakaway, poked away a bid from Douris with his stick, then denied Aceto after a turnover.

With 22.9 seconds left, Coupe was sent to the penalty box for interference and York began the third period on the power play, down two goals.

Cape Elizabeth nearly put the game away short-handed a mere 26 seconds in to the third period, but Goss was robbed in front.

McQuaide then denied Blackburn after a nice spin move.


With 9:52 to play, York nearly cut the deficit in half, but Garvin stopped a shot from Aceto, then stonewalled Briggs on a rebound attempt.

“I wouldn’t say I was nervous, but I definitely was uncomfortable,” Garvin said. “I’ve learned as a goalie to tune out the distractions, but in a building this big, with a crowd this big, it’s difficult. I’m just like glad I had the team’s back, because they always have mine. Last game, we went down 2-0 in the first period and luckily, that woke us up and we scored seven. This game, I wasn’t going to let it happen again. I was going to do everything in my power to not let a goal in. To go out and have a really good game and lead the team like that, it’s just a great feeling.”

Forty-four seconds later, the Capers went on the power play, but McQuaide stopped a shot from Laughlin and the rebound was cleared and Laughlin had another shot saved and senior Sebastian Moon’s rebound was denied as well.

With 8:23 left, the Wildcats had a look short-handed, but Garvin turned aside a shot from Douris.

York’s last good chance came with 3:51 on the clock, but Garvin saved a long shot from Briggs.

A late Cape Elizabeth penalty allowed the Wildcats to play final minute 6-on-4, but they couldn’t capitalize and at 10 p.m., the horn sounded and the Capers had at last prevailed in the regional final, 2-0.


“It feels amazing,” said Blackburn. “We’ve been working for this for awhile. When playoffs were cancelled freshman year, that was a really big blow. Last year, we lost in the semifinals, so it feels good to win this year in the playoffs. We realized (York) upset Brunswick, at (Brunswick), so we just focused on them in practice. It felt like a home ice advantage because we had practiced here many times. First period was slow, but we adjusted. We didn’t have our legs on offense, but we were good on defense.”

“It’s a really good feeling,” said Garvin. “I remember my freshman year, when we lost to Greely in this same game. This year, we know it’s our year. There’s been a lot of upsets, so it got our attention and we’ve been focused on this game. We knew (York would) come in with confidence, but we just wanted to skate them out of the building.”

“I think the boys worked hard,” added Rutt. “That’s a really good team we just played. They had a good game plan. They got a lot better over the course of the year. I think we just had a little bit more. In the first period, we didn’t have our legs. In the second period, we were a little better in the offensive zone and it wore on them. Overall, it wasn’t our best game and again, that goes to the opponent. It’s comforting to play a team like York where we weren’t at our best and we were still able to control play the majority of the game and get a ‘W.'”

Cape Elizabeth finished with a 23-18 advantage in shots on goal and got 18 saves from Garvin.

“Since last year, my main two defenseman, Phil Coupe and Laughlin, when they have the puck, I feel like I can relax,” Garvin said. “This year, (seniors) Luke Mello and Nate Patterson joined that group and I feel comfortable with them too. I’m close with all of them and they help me out.”

“Charlie came up big when we needed him,” Blackburn said. “He made big saves.”


“Our defense takes a lot of stuff that doesn’t show up on the highlight reel or game sheet with pride,” Rutt added. “The breakouts, our gaps, the neutral zone. They put in a lot of work. When we did have lapses, Charlie was able to make saves and that’s what great goalies do. We’ve got two of the top defenseman in the state in Laughlin and Coupe. Obviously, they can contribute offensively, but they’re really good stoppers in the neutral zone. Our other two D with Mello and Patterson aren’t far behind. They log quality minutes and are hard to play against.”

McQuaide made 21 saves for York.

Forty-five minutes to glory

Hampden Academy and Messalonskee meet in the Class B North Final Thursday night.

Cape Elizabeth didn’t play either prospective state game foe this season. The Capers have never faced Messalonskee in the tournament. They downed Hampden Academy, 6-2, to win the championship back in 2003.

At this rate, Cape Elizabeth’s destiny is in its hands and if the Capers play up to their potential Saturday morning, a title drought will come to an exhilarating end.

“We’ve only played a couple teams from the North all season, so we really don’t know them,” Blackburn said. “We just have to get pucks in deep and forecheck hard. Our senior class has worked hard and it would be awesome to win it for them this year.”

“I want to win states so badly,” said Garvin. “It’s been on everyone’s mind since the start of the season. We don’t want to go in too confident. We’ll respect our opponent, but I don’t think there’s another team that puts in as much conditioning as we do.”

“We’re a tough matchup for anyone,” Rutt added. “I think our experience is a factor. This core group has been here before. We just have to play to our identity. We have to stay simple, fast and physical and when we have the puck inside the dots, we have to execute.”

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

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