PORTLAND—The final seconds of a period can make or break a hockey game.

Saturday evening at Troubh Ice Arena, the host Cheverus Stags got the breaks and as a result, were able to make their way into the win column again, defeating Yarmouth/Freeport in a rematch of last year’s girls’ hockey state final.

Cheverus, which wasn’t tested in its first three outings, took the lead for good six minutes in, when senior Mikayla Talbot scored unassisted.

Yarmouth/Freeport then went on the power play with just over a minute left in the first period and got four great looks at a tying goal, but Stags senior goalie Ella Lemieux stopped them all.

Lemieux then preserved the lead in the second period and it appeared the teams would go to the break with a one-goal difference, but with just 8.6 seconds on the clock, Cheverus junior standout Lucy Johnson scored her latest highlight reel goal to turn momentum for good.

Yarmouth/Freeport wasn’t able to counter in the third period and an empty net goal from freshman Caroline Rosseau with 13.9 seconds remaining slammed the door and produced a 3-0 victory.


The Stags improved to 4-0, staying undefeated and unscored upon, and in the process, dropped Yarmouth/Freeport to 3-2.

“It was definitely really nice to have a game like this,” Johnson said. “It was intense, more like playoff hockey.”

Here we go again

Cheverus went 18-3 last winter, edging Yarmouth/Freeport, 3-2, to win the program’s third all-time championship. With the vast majority of top players returning this season, the Stags are considered the favorite to repeat and have excelled in the early going, defeating Falmouth/Scarborough and York by 9-0 scores and also blanking St. Dom’s, 8-0.

Yarmouth/Freeport, coming off the best season in program history at 17-3-1, is also in the title mix again and after downing Lewiston (8-3) and Falmouth/Scarborough (8-1), then losing to the newly-formed Cape Elizabeth/Portland/South Portland/Waynflete co-op squad (5-4), rebounded and beat the Gorham co-op team Wednesday, 5-4.

Last year, the teams split during the regular season, each winning at home (Cheverus by a 3-2 score and Yarmouth/Freeport by a 4-2 margin).


Saturday, it was clear that the squads are still pretty even, but the Stags managed to be more opportunistic to remain perfect.

Yarmouth/Freeport sophomore Adelaide Strout carries the puck while being chased by Cheverus senior Maddie Doherty during the Stags’ 3-0 victory Saturday. Hoffer photos.

Yarmouth/Freeport got the first chance, just 29 seconds in, but Lemieux denied senior Amanda Panciocco.

After Talbot missed wide on Cheverus’ first chance, she found the target on her second.

With 9:05 left in the first period, Talbot broke free up the right side, skated in on Yarmouth/Freeport sophomore goalie Elle Grondin and fired the puck into the net.

Two minutes later, Yarmouth/Freeport went on the power play but couldn’t generate a shot.

After Grondin denied Johnson, Yarmouth/Freeport controlled the final moments of the period.


First, with 1:28 remaining, senior standout Sophie Smith broke in alone, but Lemieux stood tall and robbed her.

Twenty-three seconds later, after a tripping penalty, Yarmouth/Freeport went back on the power play and had several great opportunities to pull even, but Lemieux denied Panciocco, sophomore Celia Zinman, sophomore Adelaide Strout and finally Strout one final time just before the horn to keep the score 1-0.

“The first three games, I didn’t get many shots,” Lemieux said. “I did this game. I was just ready at all times. My defense is really good in general and today, they really helped me out blocking shots.”

“I trust (Ella) with everything that comes at her,” Johnson said. “The defenders helped her out too.”

Yarmouth/Freeport senior Rosie Panenka and Cheverus senior Charlotte Miller meet in the faceoff circle.

Yarmouth/Freeport continued to pressure for the tying goal when the second period commenced, but Zinman’s rush was broken up by senior Brynn McKenney, then Lemieux turned aside shots from Panenka, sophomore Sophie White and Panenka again.

With 2:58 left, Panenka got to a loose puck in front and had a great look, but fired it just wide.


Then, as time wound down, Cheverus got a break and capitalized.

Talbot sent the puck ahead to Johnson and with only a sliver of room, Johnson got around a couple defenders, then sent the puck past Grondin with just 8.6 seconds showing.

“Mikayla gave me a great pass out of the zone that helped me get where I was,” said Johnson.

“That goal gave us a little breathing room,” Stags coach Scott Rousseau said.

“I had just said to one of my assistants, ‘We have to keep this 1-0,’ then they scored with eight seconds left,” lamented Yarmouth/Freeport coach Dave Intraversato. “Then we were down 2-0 and Ella Lemieux is on the other side and we knew it would be hard to score. We had 15 minutes to score three goals against her to win and that’s tough.”

Even though his team was up two goals, Scott Rousseau wasn’t happy during the intermission.


“I wasn’t pleased after the second period,” Rousseau said. “We weren’t very patient. We should have gotten pucks deep, but we held on to them. Yarmouth won the battle of the red line and we got pinned a lot and we got fatigued.”

Yarmouth/Freeport hoped to get a goal back in the third period and possibly turn momentum in its favor, but Lemieux and her talented defense weren’t able to let that happen.

After Lemieux saved a Zinman shot, she got another opportunity off the ensuing faceoff, but sent the puck just wide.

After Grondin kept her team in it by robbing Talbot on a rush, Lemieux saved a shot from Strout.

The Stags went on the power play at 5:30 but only mustered one shot, from sophomore Briella Doherty, which was denied by Grondin.

Lemieux then made a kick save on a shot by Panciocco, stopped a long shot from senior Isabel Peters, gloved a shot from Panciocco and after Intraversato pulled Grondin for an extra skater, Lemieux robbed Panenka.


With 49 seconds to go, Cheverus senior defender Lily Johnson cleared a loose puck from the goal mouth and five seconds later, Lemieux made her final save, on a shot from freshman Erica O’Connor.

The Stags then put it away with 13.9 seconds on the clock, as Caroline Rousseau tucked the puck into the empty net.

Cheverus ran out the clock from there and celebrated its 3-0 victory.

Cheverus senior goalie Ella Lemieux, right, is mobbed by her teammates at the final horn.

“I think we showed heart and confidence even though we hadn’t had a game like this yet,” said Lucy Johnson.

“We made a lot of mistakes today because we played a team that made us make mistakes, but (the girls) knew we could be better and that makes them easy to coach,” Scott Rousseau said. “We did a better job in the third period.”

Lemieux dazzled with 20 saves, many of them point blank.


“(Ella) makes it look easy,” Scott Rousseau said. “She gives everyone confidence. She makes difficult saves look routine and it makes the bench feel like, ‘We’ve got this.’ She erases mistakes. Our defense was really good today too. Brynn was a little under the weather, but she played hard and (junior) Zoey (Radford) played hard. Lily was fantastic. She never gets tired. We have two mature, All-State kids in Brynn and Lily who don’t make many errors. Then there’s (senior) Charlotte Miller, who doesn’t get enough credit for all she does. She doesn’t care about stats. She just wins.”

Yarmouth/Freeport had a 20-19 edge in shots and got 16 saves from Grondin, but wound up with nothing to show for it.

“I thought we had a great first period,” said Intraversato. “We were buzzing around the goalie, but we couldn’t get the puck past her. We’ll keep shooting. At the end of the day, these early games don’t mean a heck of a lot. When we play them again, it really counts. Competition like this makes us get better.”

Until next time

The teams meet again Jan. 13 in Yarmouth, but both squads will be tested on multiple occasions in the meantime.

Yarmouth/Freeport hopes to bounce back Tuesday when it visits Brunswick.


“We’re playing great,” Intraversato said. “Practices have been good. There’s still a lot of work to do. Brunswick will be tough on the road. It’s a tough turnaround, but we’re a confident team and I think we’ll be OK.”

Cheverus will take on Cape Elizabeth/Portland/South Portland/Waynflete in a showdown of unbeaten teams Thursday evening.

“I think we have a lot of potential,’ Lemieux said. “There are other teams that will challenge us, but mentally, we’re strong.”

“We have tough games coming,” Lucy Johnson said. “We won’t get big heads and we’ll take it one game at a time.”

“The Portland team looks fantastic,” Scott Rousseau added. “We get playoff teams in Brunswick and Gorham. It’s odd how our schedule is set up, but through the holidays, we don’t get any games off. We’ve got a target, but the girls are used it. They play with a lot of composure.”

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net. For game updates and links to game stories, follow him on Threads: @foresports2023

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