PORTLAND—It was a long, long time in coming and it didn’t arrive without a lot of anxious moments, but Cape Elizabeth’s boys’ hockey team is the class of Class B once again.


Saturday at the Cross Insurance Arena, the Capers culminated their late-season surge by building a three-goal lead, then holding on for dear life to beat a talented, determined Messalonskee squad in a back-and-forth state game.

The first period was one of near-misses for Cape Elizabeth, which put 12 shots on Eagles junior goalie Hunter Hallee and even had a power play, but wound up with nothing to show for it.

The Capers then seized control in the second period, as senior standout Nick Laughlin scored twice in a 74-second span and senior Sebastian Moon added a short-handed goal. Sophomore Owen Kirk got a goal back for Messalonskee on the power play, but Cape Elizabeth took a 3-1 advantage to the third period.

There, Eagles senior Will Durkee made things very interesting when he scored with 10:26 remaining, but on the power play, the Capers got a huge power play insurance goal from Moon with 7:01 left and even though Messalonskee junior Grayson Podey scored on a rebound with 14.2 seconds to play, Cape Elizabeth didn’t allow another shot and held on to prevail, 4-3.


The Capers got two goals apiece from Laughlin and Moon, as well as 17 saves from senior goalie Charlie Garvin and they finished the season on a 14-game win streak, ended up 19-2, dropped Messalonskee to 18-3-1 in the process and won the championship for the seventh time in program history and the first time since 2006.

“Being a high school coach is a thing of passion and I’m so proud of this group,” said Cape Elizabeth fifth-year coach Jake Rutt. “It’s unbelievable. This is years in the making. This core group went through a lot together.”


In an eight-year span between 1999 and 2006, Cape Elizabeth reached the Class B mountaintop on four occasions (see sidebar for previous state game results).

It took a long time to get back, however, as even though the Capers were in the thick of contention most seasons, they lost four regional finals to Greely (including three in a row between 2018-20) and just couldn’t take that final step.

Everything changed this winter, as Cape Elizabeth lost at early (to eventual Class A champion Thornton Academy) and at reigning Class B Brunswick, but the Capers hit their stride, closed the regular season on an 11-game win streak and as the No. 2 seed in Class B South, eliminated No. 3 Cheverus/Yarmouth (7-2) in the semifinals Monday, then ended the Cinderella run of No. 4 York in the regional final Wednesday (2-0).


“It was impressive halfway through the season, after we lost two out of three, you could see the (senior) captains, Phil Coupe and Conner Goss, and assistant captains, Nick Laughlin and Dimitri Coupe, take control of the locker room and we didn’t look back,” Rutt said.

Messalonskee, which won Class B back in 2014 and again in 2015, enjoyed a 10-game win streak to begin the year and wound up 15-2-1, good for the No. 2 seed in Class B North.

The Eagles then ousted No. 7 Gardiner (3-0) in the quarterfinals, edged third-ranked Presque Isle (3-2) in the semifinals and Thursday, eliminated No. 4 Hampden Academy (3-1) to advance.

Saturday’s contest began at an earlier than usual time due to the Cross Insurance Arena needing to be available in the evening for the Maine Mariners.

Messalonskee was seeking its third title, but instead, Cape Elizabeth improved to 7-0 all-time on the big stage and at last produced a new year to add to the school’s title banner.

The Eagles took the first shot 35 seconds in, as Durkee fired the puck in from the side, but Garvin made the stop.


Hallee then felt the pressure, as Goss, junior Colin Blackburn, Phil Coupe and junior Aidan Mansmann all ripped shots on target, but Hallee stopped them all.

Messalonskee then had a golden opportunity to go on top at 7:54 of the period, as the Capers couldn’t clear the puck and it took a wild bounce and landed right in front of the goal. Senior Jack Hammond got to the puck and sent it past Garvin, but Cape Elizabeth enjoyed some puck luck, as it hit the post and the game remained scoreless.

The Capers then went back on the attack, but Blackburn missed just wide, freshman Alex Mainville did the same and after Hallee denied Blackburn, Blackburn twice missed the mark.

At 11:50, Eagles freshman Denny Martin was sent to the penalty box for interference, but Cape Elizabeth couldn’t convert on the power play, as Laughlin had a shot saved by Hallee, Laughlin tried again and was denied, with Podey clearing the rebound for Messalonskee before Hallee saved a bid from Dimitri Coupe.

The Capers had a 12-3 shots advantage, but had no lead to show for it.

“I thought that was a great first period for a championship game,” Rutt said. “We wanted to get our legs under us and keep the game simple. We didn’t do anything crazy. We just wanted to set the pace and see if they could keep with us. I thought we imposed our will, we just didn’t have anything to show for it. The execution wasn’t quite there, but their goalie played unbelievable.”


The offense showed up in the second period.

Early on, Hallee continued to fluster Cape Elizabeth, denying a blast from Moon, stopping a shot from Laughlin, then making a tremendous pad save on a back-hander from Goss.

But at 2:31, the Capers finally struck, as Laughlin got the puck from Blackburn up top and he ripped a shot past the keeper and in to put Cape Elizabeth on top to stay.

“There was a little frustration there, but we knew we just had to get to the net,” Laughlin said. “I just saw the puck bounce out. I saw some net up top and I ripped it. I had to get it behind the goalie and it felt good to get the boys going.”

Durkee then had a chance to answer, as he got past the defense, but he couldn’t settle the puck in time to take a shot.

Then, at 3:45, Laughlin, the ultimate offensive-minded defenseman, scored for the second time, winning the puck to Hallee’s left, skating in, then beating the goalie top shelf to make it 2-0.


“That’s what (Nick) can do,” Rutt said. “He doesn’t sacrifice defensively and when he takes off, he can wire the puck. He had a terrific game. He logged a lot of ice. Whatever he does next, he’ll be very successful.”

The Eagles hoped to answer, but Garvin denied junior Garrett Card and freshman Tatum Doucette.

Laughlin was sent off for hooking at 5:17, but that only galvanized his teammates, who scored a short-handed goal a minute-plus later.

Moon won the puck in the neutral zone, skate in, appeared to have it knocked away by Card, but Moon got it back and sent it past Hallee and in to make it 3-0 at 6:36.

“I just saw the puck come to their defender and I got a stick on it,” said Moon. “I faked a shot and put it on my back-hand and got it in there.”

“Our speed, simplicity and physicality has been our identity for the last half of the season,” Rutt said.


Messalonskee did answer this time, as still on the power play, Kirk scored on a rebound of his own shot at 6:49.

The Eagles then went on the power play again and had a chance to cut into the deficit even more, but Garvin denied Martin and Doucette and at the other end, senior Alex Thayer stole the puck and nearly scored short-handed.

Late in the period, Hallee kept the game within reach by saving shots from sophomore Brady Hanisko and Blackburn, while Laughlin’s bid for a natural hat trick sailed just wide, keeping the score 3-1 heading to the second intermission.

Then, in the third period, Cape Elizabeth did just enough to put the cherry on top of its championship sundae.

Just 53 seconds in, the Capers were penalized for having too many men on the ice, but they didn’t surrender a single shot on the ensuing power play.

Garvin then made his finest save of the day, diving to rob Card.


But with 10:26 to go, after a turnover, the puck came to Durkee up top and he ripped a shot past Garvin into the net and just like that, the score was 3-2.

But Messalonskee never could pull even.

After the puck momentarily squirted free in front of the Cape Elizabeth goal, creating some palpitations, it was cleared.

Then, with 7:52 remaining, the Capers went on the power play and they took advantage and got a pivotal insurance goal.

After Hallee denied Laughlin and Goss missed just wide, Hanisko sent a shot just wide, but it bounced right out to Moon waiting by the far post and he tapped the puck home to make it 4-2 with 7:01 to play.

“Laughlin dumped it in, then Brady shoved it over to me and I was able to finish for us,” Moon said.


“Sebastian played an unbelievable game,” said Rutt. “Once he got his legs underneath him, he was a threat. He got a lot of shots on goal tonight, but he’s such a two-way player. He logs a lot of ice on the PK and power play. He’s been a tremendous player for us the whole season.”

The Eagles kept pushing, but Garvin saved bids from senior Bryce Crowell and Podey and Durkee rang a shot off the far post.

Cape Elizabeth hoped to add a fifth goal, but Blackburn was robbed one-on-one by Hallee, then Hallee denied both Thayer and Laughlin.

With 1:34 to play, Messalonskee took a timeout, pulled Hallee for an extra skater and went back on the attack.

Garvin initially was able to deny Durkee, Kirk and Crowell, but with 14.2 seconds remaining, after a shot from Crowell was saved by Garvin, Podey poked home the rebound (Card also got an assist) and the Eagles pulled within one.

Messalonskee even won the ensuing faceoff and managed to get the puck in the offensive zone, but once Moon tied it up on the side boards, that drained the clock and at 12:24 p.m., for the first time in 17 years (to the very day), the Capers were able to celebrate a 4-3 victory and their status as the best Class B boys’ hockey team in the state.


“It means everything for us to get to this win,” Moon said. “It’s an undescribable feeling. Four years in the making. It’s awesome to get this for the boys, the team, the coaches. We knew their forwards were fast. We just had to take them out of the game and take it to their defenders and their goalie. There were some nerves but with Charlie in net, we knew we could hold our own.”

“It’s the best feeling,” Garvin said. “I’m so happy for me and all the boys. We’ve worked toward this since we were freshmen. This is the year we knew we could do it. I’m filled with so much emotion that we could take it home. The last five minutes, I was just so dialed in, I barely looked at the clock. I’m glad I could make some key stops. It’s a really good team win. I’m still having trouble processing we actually won. I don’t think I will until I look up in our gym and I see the 2023 banner. I’m happy we could bring this home not just for our team but for the players who came before us as well.”

“It means a lot,” said Laughlin, who has already won a football state title and a pair of lacrosse championships during his high school career. “It’s a great feeling. It brought me back to when we won football (in 2021), but it was different with this group of guys. A lot of fun. We’ve been working for this since we won a middle school championship. We just got better and better as we grew older. I think it was just our maturity that made the difference. We lost a lot of tight games last year. Going down 2-0 against Cheverus/Yarmouth and bouncing back from that showed our maturity and willingness not to lose. (Messalonskee) kept fighting. Congrats to them. They’re a great team.”

Cape Elizabeth finished with a 40-20 shots advantage, converted 1-of-2 power play opportunities and got 17 saves from Garvin in his swan song.

“I couldn’t have done it without my D boys and the offense was scoring,” Garvin said. “We were all clicking and I’m happy we could pull through.”

“Charlie gave up a couple, but he made some some big saves for us and that’s what a championship goalie does,” Rutt said.


Hallee finished with a whopping 36 saves for the Eagles, who went 1-for-3 on the power play.

“That game could have been stretched out, but (Hallee) kept them in it and he made some great saves,” Rutt said.

Run it back

If there is a bittersweet element to the Capers’ championship, it’s that so many top players will be lost to graduation.

Rest assured the seniors’ impact will long be hailed.

“The seniors set the tone for years to come for Cape hockey,” Rutt said. “There’s a reason why we’re having a rink being built in our community. The way those guys played, it’s very contagious and it was a tremendous honor to coach them.”

With that being said, the cupboard is far from bare and after earning an elusive title, know that the 2023-24 Capers will do everything in their power to win it all again.

“This (title is) inspiration for (the returning guys),” said Rutt. “We’ll have a younger group, but if we keep the same attitude where we outwork our opponents, keep it simple and put in the work off the ice, good things will continue to happen.”

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

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