St. Thomas Aquinas 6, Somersworth/Coe-Brown 2
St. Thomas Aquinas sophomore Gage Spagna’s four-goal third period propelled the undefeated, top seeded, St Thomas Saints to a 6-2 win over fifth-seed Somersworth-Coe Brown in a Division 2 semifinal game. The Bearcats controlled much of the first two periods opening up a two-goal lead while dominating the shot count by a margin of 30-14 including a 15-5 shot differential in the second period. The Saints had only trailed for a total of 14 minutes in total over their previous 21 games, and never by two goals, so they were firmly in uncharted waters. They would respond in a huge way.
The Bearcats got on the board with 1:23 left in the first when Johnny Pelletier capitalized on a turnover in the Saints end and beat Saints junior goaltender, Britton Dunbar. Somersworth/CB had some golden opportunities early in the second while on multiple power plays but Dunbar rose to the challenge. With 6:54 left in the second period, the Bearcats struck again and this time it was the brother combination that got it done. Senior Jake Pelletier put one home on a chaotic scramble in front of the net with his brother, Johnny Pelletier getting the assist. After being outshot 15-5 in the second period, the Saints looked for answers.
STA Goaltender, Britton Dunbar, was electric between the pipes while facing a barrage of shots from the Bearcats including at least seven shots during a 2-minute penalty kill. Dunbar would shut the door in the third and give his high-powered offense a chance to get back in the game but they would need a spark. That spark came from the only senior on the team, Lincoln Stone. Just 1:22 into the third, Stone fired a shot from the left point that found the inside, back crossbar of the net and the Saints were just getting started. With the monkey off their back, the Saints appeared to play looser and the Bearcats started to feel the pressure.
With 11:54 left in the third, Spagna began his assault. Spagna was able to dance through two defenders and slid a backhand past Bearcats goalie Rhyle Coe and tie the game at two apiece. The game would remain 2-2 for much of the period but the floodgates were about to open. Somersworth/CB took two penalties in a thirty-second time frame that put the Saints on a 5-on-3 advantage and the Saints would make them pay.
Only 13 seconds into the 2-man advantage, Spagna knocked home a rebound from Brendan Chrisom’s shot and gave them their first lead of the game. STA Junior Finn Connor, got in on the scoring only 27 seconds later getting one past Coe on the short side and giving the Saints a 4-2 lead. Spagna would pour in his third and fourth goals of the game in the final 2:59 to seal the game and send the Saints to the championship. STA outshot the Bearcats 18-4 in the final frame. Coe turned away 25 of 30 shots while Dunbar stopped 33 of 35 in the win.
Saint Thomas moves on to the state final where they will face third-seed Portsmouth/Newmarket. The Saints will be playing for their third title in four years while the Portsmouth squad will be making their first trip to the big show. The teams faced off once during the season with the Saints winning decisively, 6-0.
Portsmouth/Newmarket 5, Oyster River 4
Third-seeded Portsmouth/Newmarket’s remarkable season continued Wednesday night when they upset second-seeded Oyster River in the Division 2 semifinal, 5-4. Caleb Pendleton’s goal with 1:22 left in regulation helped the Clippermules reach the first championship game in school history. In a back-and-forth game, the only thing that seemed certain was that this game was going to come down to the wire.
Portsmouth’s Johnny Forrest scored the first of his two goals early in the opening stanza followed up about a minute later by Finn Bussiere’s first of his two goals and the Clippermules held an early 2-0 lead. The stunned Oyster River squad kept up their pressure and eventually were able to solve Portsmouth keeper, Jack Bussiere when Bobcats’ Jack Poitras connected on the power play. With 24 seconds left in the period, Poitras’ laser went top corner from the left point. Andy Carlson (2G 1A) and Jack Caldicott (2A) registered the assists. Portsmouth led 2-1 at the end of the first despite being outshot 8-6.
In the second period, Division 2’s leading scorer, Carlson, tallied back-to-back goals less than two minutes apart but Portsmouth would answer right back. Just 34 seconds later, Forrest’s second goal of the game from Travis Perkins tied the game back up at 3. As the teams headed to their locker rooms at the end the second period and the score tied at three, the nervous excitement continued to build in Everett Arena.
It wasn’t until about halfway through the third period that the teams would break the deadlock. That’s when Finn Bussiere scored his second goal of the night to put Portsmouth on top yet again with 8:39 left to go. Less than two minutes later in a mad scramble in front of the net, the Bobcats Lance Abbott tucked a rebound in just off the left post to tie the score as the raucous Oyster River fans cheered on overhead.
The tension would continue to build and overtime looked inevitable as the clock ticked under two minutes but that’s when Portsmouth did what they have done all year long, they rose to the occasion. Portsmouth won the faceoff in the right circle and got the puck to Pendleton and he let go a wrister from the slot that just slid under the blocker of Oyster River goaltender, Claden Daubney with just 1:22 left in the game. Portsmouth was able to hold off the Oyster River attempts in the final minute and secure the win. Jack Bussiere made 22 saves in the win while Daubney suffered the loss while making 15 saves.
** Story by Brett Ricci