Nick Laughlin, center, and Nate Patterson, right, of Cape Elizabeth defend in front of goalie Charlie Garvin during the Class B South boys’ hockey championship game Wednesday at Cross Insurance Arena. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Nick Laughlin said he didn’t mean to flatten a clearly hobbled opponent late in Cape Elizabeth’s 2-0 victory over York in the Class B South final Wednesday night.

But York junior Luke Douris already had blocked one shot during a Cape Elizabeth power play early in the third period, and Laughlin was taking no chances. His shove near the blue line as Douris appeared to be limping toward his bench was met with loud displeasure by the York student section at Cross Insurance Arena.

“To me, it didn’t look like he was going to the bench,” said Laughlin, a senior defenseman for Cape Elizabeth. “It looked like he was staying out to block more shots, and he just got in my way, I guess.”

Whether his action added insult to injury or simply displayed a hard-nosed edge in a sport with frequent collisions remains a matter of perspective. As Cape Elizabeth (18-2) prepares to take on Messalonskee (18-2-1) in the Class B boys’ hockey state championship game at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at Cross Arena, this much is clear:

The Capers are a veteran team with 11 seniors and a defense that gives no quarter.

Cape Elizabeth is the South champion and hasn’t allowed a goal in five periods, since the fourth minute of its regional semifinal – a 7-2 victory over No. 3 Cheverus/Yarmouth. Providing a sturdy line of defense in front of senior goalie Charlie Garvin (14-0 record, four shutouts, .938 save percentage) are classmates Laughlin, Phil Coupe, Luke Mello and Nate Patterson.


Laughlin and Coupe, starters since their freshman year, are also the team’s leading scorers. Coupe has nine goals and 25 assists, and Laughlin is one point behind with 15 goals and 18 assists.

“I think we’ve got two of the top defensemen in the state in Laughlin and Coupe,” said Jake Rutt, Cape’s head coach and a former blueliner himself at the University of Maine. “Obviously they can contribute offensively, but they’re really good stoppers in the neutral zone and they take a lot of pride in the breakouts and a lot of the small stuff that makes defensemen good at the next level. They do a really good job of that.”

Phil Coupe of Cape Elizabeth carries the puck during the Capers’ 2-0 win over York in the Class B South final on Wednesday in Portland. Coupe, a defenseman, leads the team with 34 points. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Neither Laughlin nor Coupe plan to play collegiate hockey. Laughlin will play NCAA Division I football at Maine, and Coupe said he will concentrate on studies at a to-be-determined college, likely in New England.

Both played forward in youth hockey but made the transition to defense because when they reached high school, that’s where opportunity presented itself. Generally, Coupe pairs with Mello and Laughlin with Patterson, so at least one half of Cape’s dynamic duo is on ice the entire game.

Garvin, the goalie, said having a tight-knit group of defensemen – “especially four senior boys that I’ve been playing with forever” – creates a level of trust and comfort that does wonders for his confidence. Similarly, his puck-stopping talents and perpetually optimistic attitude keep their spirits high.

Patterson said he might be upset after allowing a breakaway, but Garvin will never throw shade.


“I’ll have my head down like, ‘Shoot, I just let this guy skate right in on Charlie,'” Patterson said, “and he’ll say, ‘It’s OK, it’s all good. Just get the next one.’ Having someone like that in net is very, very helpful.”

Peter Douris, York’s head coach, encountered Cape Elizabeth’s stingy defense three times this winter. The Wildcats managed only two goals, both in the season opener back in December.

“They keep guys to the outside well, they do a good job of clearing pucks, their D are all poised and mature,” Douris said. “They don’t panic when they get the puck. (Garvin) has to stop that first one, and they clear the second and third shots out. So there’s not a lot of activity where you’re creating flurries in front of their net.”

Cape Elizabeth players skate off the ice after defeating York, 2-0, in the Class B South boys’ hockey title game. The Capers will try to capture their first state championship in 17 years on Saturday. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Garvin and Coupe used different adjectives to describe the edge their senior-dominated squad brings to the ice. “We’ve always been a chippy team,” Garvin said. Coupe, whose fraternal twin, Dmitri, plays center, prefers “gritty.”

“We work hard, and when someone is stepping in our way, a lot of times you have to go through them,” Phil Coupe said. “You definitely want a balance. I think that’s what Charlie’s getting at. We’re a tough team. We’re not going to back down.”

As freshmen three years ago, the current seniors helped Cape Elizabeth reach the regional final as a sixth seed before falling to eventual state champion Greely. On Saturday morning, they have a shot at the program’s first state title in 17 years, since the Capers won Class B in 2006.

“We’ve definitely been thinking about this team for a long time,” Laughlin said, “knowing that there’s 11 of us all in the same grade, and we’re going to make a huge push as we get older and get better and better. Now’s the time to finally get to our goal.”

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