PORTLAND—Courage and character are what championship teams are made of.

And Cheverus’ reigning state champion girls’ hockey team proved Thursday evening at Troubh Ice Arena that they have no shortage of those title-winning elements.

Facing the newly formed Cape Elizabeth/Portland/South Portland/Waynflete Beacons co-op team, the Stags were staggered in the first period, as juniors Marina Bassett and Libby Hooper both scored twice and after not surrendering a single goal in its first four outings, Cheverus found itself down, 4-1, after just nine-plus minutes of play.

But the Stags played the long game, settled in and made things interesting in the second period, as goals from seniors Mikayla Talbot and Lucy Johnson made it a one-goal contest.

Then, with just 5:16 remaining in regulation, senior Brynn McKenney scored to tie the score and the game would go to overtime.

And there, after near-misses at both ends, with a tie appearing imminent, Cheverus found a way to win it, as Talbot set up Johnson with just 19.4 seconds on the clock, and the Stags prevailed, 5-4.


Cheverus improved to 5-0 on the season and in the process, handed the Beacons their first loss in five outings.

“I’m not happy with how we played, but I’m so proud,” said Stags coach Scott Rousseau. “It’s not our best game, but I’m not sure there are a lot of teams that could have looked at 3-0 and 4-1 (deficits) and had enough courage and character to keep with it all game long.”

A battle of unbeatens

After winning the championship a year ago, Cheverus came into this winter highly touted and was utterly dominant in the early going. The Stags opened by beating Falmouth/Scarborough and York by 9-0 scores, then blanking St. Dom’s, 8-0, and shutting out Yarmouth/Freeport in a state final rematch, 3-0.

The former Cape Elizabeth/South Portland/Waynflete co-op squad, which has been very successful in recent seasons, added Portland players this season and has also impressed, defeating Greely (8-1), Winslow (7-4), Yarmouth/Freeport (5-4) and York (13-5).

Last year, Cheverus beat Portland/Deering (8-0) and twice downed Cape/Waynflete/SP, 4-1 and 9-0.


Thursday, the Stags’ veneer of invincibility was erased early, but they didn’t panic and rallied for their sweetest win of the season to date.

Just 2 minutes, 15 seconds in, the Beacons struck first, as Hooper fired a shot which Cheverus senior goalie Ella Lemieux managed to save, but Bassett was there to pounce on the rebound and finish for a quick 1-0 lead.

At 3:46, the Beacons struck again, as Hooper got the puck to Bassett, whose initial wraparound shot was stopped by Lemieux, but Bassett stayed with the puck and sent it home.

Senior Lily Johnson then registered the Stags’ initial shot, but it was saved by Beacons senior goalie Erin Winship.

Then, at 6:49 of the first period, Hooper got in on the fun, firing a one-timer into the net (junior Becca Good and Jane Flynn got assists) to stunningly make the score, 3-0, forcing Rousseau to call timeout.

“It was definitely a wakeup call for us,” said McKenney. “We had to get it together. When we got down, Coach told us we could either hang our heads or compete.”


“I had to remind them that you’re not going to score four goals in one shift and we had to peck away,” Rousseau said. “We just couldn’t panic or get emotional. There was a bad bounce on the first goal. Marina is a great player. Her second goal was really artful.”

Thirty-three seconds out of the timeout, Cheverus got on the board, as Lucy Johnson was denied by Winship, but freshman Caroline Rousseau scored on the rebound.

Then, with 5:55 to go in the first period, Hooper scored her second goal, from Bassett, to make the score 4-1.

The Stags started to tilt the ice late in the period, but Winship denied Lucy Johnson on a rush, saved a shot from McKenney with senior defender Kierith Gentilini clearing the rebound, then Winship saved shots from senior Maddie Doherty and McKenney.

Cheverus began its comeback 3:47 into the second period, as Talbot scored (from Rousseau and Lily Johnson).

Then, with 43.7 seconds left, Lucy Johnson got the puck from junior Zoey Radford and fired a shot off the post and in (Talbot also got an assist) to make it a one-goal game.


“I think that goal gave us momentum,” Lucy Johnson said.

The Beacons were able to protect the slim lead for much of the third period, as Winship denied Lucy Johnson, McKenney, Lucy Johnson twice more and Caroline Rousseau with Talbot also hitting the post.

But just when it appeared the Stags might fall short, McKenney came up huge with 5:16 on the clock.

McKenney got the puck from Rousseau at the blue line and lifted a long shot through traffic and the puck got past Winship and found the net to even the game.

“Caroline passed it and I released it as fast as I could,” said McKenney. “Briella (Doherty) was in front of the net and it just went in. It felt good.”

Late in regulation, Johnson was sent off for slashing and the Beacons had a chance to win it on the power play, but they weren’t able to generate a shot.


Then, as time wound down, Talbot’s rush was broken up and that sent the game to an eight-minute, “sudden victory” overtime session.

Bassett had the first look in OT, just 22 seconds in, but Lemieux made the save.

After Talbot hit the post, McKenney broke up a Bassett rush, then Bassett had another shot saved by Lemieux.

With 3;11 left, Talbot nearly ended it, taking a pass from Lily Johnson and shooting, but Winship made the stop.

After Rousseau was denied, Cheverus went on the power play, but couldn’t end it.

And then, with a tie seeming imminent, the Stags finished it off.


With just 19.4 seconds to go, Talbot skated behind the goal, then passed in front to Lucy Johnson, who lifted a shot around a defender and into the net to win it, 5-4.

“I was worried because I didn’t think we’d get another shot on net, but our cycling helped us out,” Johnson said. “Mikayla came around the net and she passed me the puck and I just shot. I was just trying to get it past the defense.”

“Lucy is an outstanding player,” said McKenney. “She’s an amazing athlete. She knows what it takes to win the game.”

“The game had become so long at that point, we were trying to stay in the moment,” Scott Rousseau added. “We had chances. Caroline had great looks, Mikayla hit the post. Their goalie made good saves too. We just have kids who know how to win.”

Johnson’s goal set off a celebration as the Stags remained undefeated in exhilarating fashion.

“This was a lesson for us for sure,” Johnson said. “We kept our heads in the game and didn’t doubt ourselves whatsoever. It was very nervewracking early, but Ella’s a great goalie and we settled down a little bit. The timeout brought us together. The defense helped us out.”


“I think this shows how much we’ve come together as a team,” McKenney said. “I felt like we had momentum going to overtime. We had to play like it was our last game in a sense. We had to persevere.”

“For a December 14th game, this was pretty good,” added Scott Rousseau. “We showed ourselves something. We can take body blows and get off the canvas and come back. To have four goals in less than 10 minutes, then not to give up any after that, we made a few changes tactically and thankfully it worked.”

The Stags finished with a 24-21 advantage in shots on goal and got 17 saves from Lemieux.

The Beacons got 19 saves from Winship and two goals apiece from Bassett and Hooper, but it wasn’t enough.

“I thought we won the first period, they won the second, the third was a draw, then anything can happen in overtime,” said Beacons coach Bob Mills. “(Cheverus) won the state championship for a reason. That’s a very, very good team and I think we gave them a great game. I think we’ll end up seeing them a couple more times this season.”

No rest


The Beacons are back in action Wednesday, at home versus Biddeford. They go to Penobscot two days before Christmas.

“We know we can play with the best of the best now,” said Mills. “The lesson we take from this game is we let go of the loss and rebound get ready for practice tomorrow and get ready for the next game. The team has been wonderful. There’s been a lot of great bonding. You’re never sure how a co-op will go, especially when it’s put together in August, but it’s a really nice group of players. We have to keep our shifts as short as we can and try not to be exhausted in the third period.”

Cheverus, meanwhile, will be tested at Brunswick Monday. The Stags then go to the Gorham co-op team Wedneday of next week.

“We know that we can’t take teams lightly and our next games will be tough,” Lucy Johnson said.

“It won’t get any easier from here,” McKenney said. “Tonight’s competition will help us.”

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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