It certainly played out as advertised as Greely edged out Thornton Academy, 7-5, in an offensive showdown Saturday night at the Biddeford Ice Arena.
“It’s been a busy week for us,” said Greely coach Barry Mothes “We played York on Monday, Cape on Thursday and all of sudden it was like “whoa” we have TA on Saturday. You don’t want to look ahead, but it was certainly a big match up on paper of us coming in as defending champs and of course Thornton with their consecutive state titles.”
“It’s one of the reasons why we want to play Greely,” said Thornton Academy head coach Jamie Gagnon. “They’re a phenomenal hockey team year in and year out. They have good goal scorers, quick goaltender and great coaching so we knew we’d have to match their intensity.”
“For us to complete our schedule with a team of that caliber is something that we really strive for.”
Greely, the current champion in Class B, trailed as Thornton opened a 2-0 lead on goals by Alex Lambert and Steven Comar.
The Rangers, who improve to 4-0-0 on the season, didn’t lose their composure while trailing and with 35 seconds left in the first period, Mitchel Donovan struck to pull back within a goal, 2-1.
“Down 2-0, it was great to get that goal at the end of the first period,” said Mothes. “They stuck with it. I thought we came out and played well in the second period.”
“They showed a lot resilience tonight playing against a very good hockey team.”
Greely rattled off three consecutive goals in the second period to take a 4-2 lead over Thornton.
At 3:06, just as a power play for Greely expired, Ted Hart drilled home a rebound from slot to tie the game, 2-2, after Thornton’s goaltender Andrew Huot couldn’t corral the puck.
Only 22 seconds later, Tommy Thompson gave Greely its first lead of the game as he slammed the puck in net after it trickled between Huot’s legs.
Reid Howland extended the lead for Greely, 4-2, with a power-play goal at the 5:20 mark as he fired a shot from the left circle.
“I think some timely penalties probably hurt us a little bit,” said Gagnon. “The (penalties) were able to keep them in the game or not allow to us to stretch the lead at all, but overall it was a pretty well played game, just a game of ebbs-and-flows.”
Thornton Academy, winners of back-to-back Class A titles, bounced back to even game, 4-4.
Alex Fallon fired a shot from just inside the left circle that found its way past Greely netminder Kyle Kramlich at 7:53 of the second period to trail, 4-3.
With 1:41 remaining in the period, Owen Lemoine evened the game, 4-4, as Kramlich made the first save, but couldn’t gather in the rebound.
Kramlich injured himself on play, but continued to play despite looking to be in obvious pain during the third period.
“He mentioned that he might have had done a little something to his hip after that fourth goal,” said Mothes. We told him to play it by ear, let us know. He was busy and fortunately he was able to gut it out.”
Kramlich toughed it out only allowing one more goal to finish with 24 saves as Thornton crashed the net, taking a 5-4 lead less than five minutes into the third period. Owen Elliot was credited with a goal.
“He’s a battler, a competitor and I’m sure he wasn’t happy about a couple of those goals that got by him, but I think he did a good job of let that go and being ready for the next shot,” said Mothes
The lead last 25 seconds before senior Kyle Megathlin found the back of the net to even the game at 5-5.
Greely jump back out front for third and final time with 5:40 left in the game when Jarod Lavallee fired a seeing-eye puck through a screen, needling its way past Huot.
With Huot (32 saves) pulled for an extra attacker, Megathlin fired a shot 140 feet down the ice, sealing the victory with an empty net goal.
“We got a two goal lead in the second period and that disappeared, but (the players) got back at it in the third period and we talked about sticking with the plan,” said Mothes. “I’m really proud with the way they battled and fortunately we came out with the win.”
Thornton suffers its first loss of the season, but Gagnon believes they learned a lot from the game that will prove invaluable down the road.
“I felt like at times we had a hard time stopping the bleeding,” he said. “We’re going to hit adversity like this and I’m glad with the way we responded. Hopefully, we can learn from this now and not in game 15 or 16.”