With the boys’ hockey season at the halfway point, the most improved team in the state is undoubtedly Greely High. After winning two games last season, the Rangers closed the first half with a 7-2 record, and sit in first place in the Class B South Heal Point standings.

Both of Greely’s losses were by one goal to Class A opponents: 2-1 to Falmouth and 3-2 in OT to Portland/South Portland. Coach Barry Mothes credited the team’s six seniors for setting the tone in the offseason.

“I think we had a committed, determined core of seniors who faced a lot of challenges last season,” Mothes said.

Two of those seniors, Sean Allen and Finn Murphy, switched positions this season, moving from forward to defense to help solidify the Rangers’ blue line. Those two, combined with senior Cullen Rafford and junior Alex Wharton, have helped Greely hold opponents to just over two goals per game.

“These guys are playing every other shift and have done a great job strengthening us in the back,” Mothes said.

Another improvement has been in the play of senior goalie Will Klein. A hockey newcomer last season, Klein joined the team when the Rangers had no returning goalies, and learned on the job. In six games, Klein has been solid, with an .819 save percentage and 2.17 goals-against average. Freshman Tucker Goddu (.898 save percentage, 1.91 goals against) has also been solid in net.

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“Will’s come a long way from last year,” Mothes said. “He still wants to get better, and knows it’s a process.”

Offensively, the Rangers are led by Lucas Martin (eight goals, six assists), Charlie Moore (eight goals, five assists) and Allen (two goals, eight assists).

The schedule over the second half will be tough for Greely. The Rangers will play two games against PLOG (Poland/Leavitt/Oak Hill/Gray-New Gloucester), the team in second place in the region and just 1 1/2 points behind Greely in Heal Points. The Rangers also face rival Gorham twice, defending state champion Cape Elizabeth twice and have games against contenders York and Cheverus/Yarmouth to close the regular season.

“I think there’s a lot of parity in our league. The any-given-night expression seems true if you’ve paid attention to the scores,” Mothes said.

Rosie Panenka of Yarmouth/Freeport takes a shot after getting past Lucy Johnson of Cheverus during the 2023 girls’ hockey state championship game. The teams met again last week, with Yarmouth/Freeport winning, 2-1. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

COMING OFF A regional title, the Yarmouth/Freeport girls’ hockey team expected to contend again. After going 3-2 over its first five games, Yarmouth/Freeport has found its rhythm, winning six of its last seven games to improve to 9-3 and vault into first place in the North Division.

“We realized, you’ve got to work a little extra hard when you’re the defending regional champs,” Coach David Intraversato said. “I’d say over the past few weeks, our practices were more game speed.”

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The Clippers’ hot streak includes a 2-1 win over Cheverus last week in a state championship game rematch. Earlier in the season, Intraversato tinkered with the lines. Over the past five games, he’s kept them together.

“The chemistry is there now,” he said.

The return of senior Ella Zur Muhlen from injury gives a boost to Yarmouth/Freeport’s strong defense. The young goalies – freshman Lexi Wiles and sophomore Elle Grondin – have played well. Intraversato credited goalie coach Nate Stoddard for getting the two young netminders ready for varsity play.

Offensively, the Clippers are deep. Each of the 15 skaters on the varsity roster has scored at least one goal. Rosie Panenka (11 goals, 10 assists), Sophie Smith (10 goals, six assists) and Adelaide Strout (seven goals, nine assists) lead the offense. Yarmouth/Freeport has been strong on the power play, scoring 12 goals.

Yarmouth/Freeport has yet to play Penobscot (10-2), its biggest challenger for the North regional title. The two contenders are scheduled to face each other twice, on Jan. 23 and Jan. 30. They met in last season’s regional final, with Yarmouth/Freeport winning, 3-1.

“We want to play Penobscot. Last year, we were the only team that didn’t lose to them,” Intraversato said. “We’re going to end up playing them, hopefully three times.”

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SCORING IS UP across the state in girls’ hockey this season. According to stats compiled at mainehshockey.com, 15 players are averaging more than a point-and-a-half per game. Four players have already reached the 40-point mark: Marina Bassett of the Portland/South Portland/Cape Elizabeth co-op (26 goals, 20 assists, 46 points), Emerson Homa of the Gorham co-op (30-13-43), Jordin Williams of Penobscot (24-19-43) and Katie Berard (31-11-42) of the Winslow-Gardiner co-op.

By comparison, the leading scorer on the Varsity Maine All-State team last year was Cheverus’ Lucy Johnson with 26 goals, 24 assists and 50 points. This season she has 24 points in 13 games.

The high scoring this winter is less an indication of offensive prowess than an indication of the wide gap between the strong and weak teams, said Cheverus Coach Scott Rousseau. Often, the difference between teams comes down to skating ability. The stronger teams have rosters full of players who grew up playing hockey, while weaker teams have players relatively new to the ice.

“We have some really, really weak teams this year that are defenseless to stop the top teams and players,” Rousseau said.

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