GORHAM—The Rams looked like they might be finding a groove when Lucas Roop pounded home their first goal of the game on Saturday evening, Jan. 27. Roop’s tally came hot on the heels of York’s second point, and showed Gorham still possessed all the drive they needed. Alas: The Wildcats had the answers for all their hosts’ best moves – including an especially fiery third-period assault – and emerged victorious, 4-2.
“The first two periods weren’t good,” said Gorham head coach Jon Portwine. “The third period, I thought it was a good team effort. That’s what we’ll take away.”
“The first two periods, they definitely [dominated time of possession],” Portwine said, asked about the Wildcats’ early advantage. “They’re a very good team; they’ve got some dynamic forwards over there that can really control the puck. We had a hard time handling the puck ourselves – especially in the first period, we were coughing the puck up all the time…I don’t kno what that was. We talked about it in between the first and the second, and it got better as the game went on.”
York spent more time on the attack through the first period than Gorham did, though the Rams weren’t without their offensive forays. Still, the Wildcats were the first to convert, breaking out of a defensive posture, dashing up ice, and beating Gorham netminder Garrett Babineau all in the blink of an eye. Andrew Bertolucci did the honors, assisted by Spencer Pickett and Marshall Ford.
The end of the first saw a heap of penalty minutes mount up rapidly: The majority belonged to Wildcat Dalton McCann, who first earned two for cross-checking, then earned two more for unsportsmanlike conduct – he followed the initial call against him with a pretty audible expletive – then earned 10 more for, seemingly, further hot-headed displays as he entered the box. McCann got himself ejected, and tallied a game misconduct, at the end of the period, when Gorhamite Trevor Gray also picked up two minutes, his for unsportsmanlike.
McCann’s four minutes of minor time overlapped into the second period, but Gorham couldn’t capitalize on their extended man-advantage. Instead it was York who struck next, Bertolini notching another for the team just over for minutes in, this time on assists by Pickett and Mark Engholm.
The Rams promptly answered, though – and looked determined doing it. Following a Lucas Roop wrister on net from out near the point, Gorham’s forwards converged on York keeper Keenan Gamache: A couple hacking shots ensued, with Roop finally securing the point on a rebound past the left post. Assists went Alex O’Connor and Cole Perreault.
But 34 seconds after that, Bertolini completed his hat trick: Engholm won a faceoff in the Rams’ end and the puck kicked over to Bertolini, who shoveled a slider over the ice and past Babineau’s skate on the right side. The Rams’ resurgence hadn’t last long – though, nor were they ready to to cash in their chips.
Gorham logged their best stretch in the third. The Rams began the period with a pretty strike: Trevor Gray powered up the left side of the ice, paralleled by Jack Richards on the right, and ripped a shot on Gamache that rebounded straight to Richards, who capitalized with a nimble redirection. 4-2.
“I was extremely impressed with the way we played in the third period,” Portwine said. “To play that well against a team that that’s good should give us a lot of confidence. We controlled the puck, we controlled the play, and we were skating hard; it seemed like we wanted it. There haven’t been too many periods where it really looks like we want it.”
Midway through the third, Pickett picked up a five minute major for cross-checking – more a slightly late shove-from-behind that sent Gray sprawling into the York net than a simple stick-up hit; hence the beefy punishment. Less than two minutes later, Wildcat Jacob Martin earned himself two minutes for tripping. (His infraction looked fairly accidently, but an infraction is an infraction.) Thus the Rams found themselves two guys up.
They went immediately to work, whipping the puck around the offensive perimeter; they worked their passes so effectively, in fact, that they almost seemed to be dawdling, looking for just the right opportunity – too right an opportunity, even. So right, it was liable never to come.
But it’s difficult for an observer along the boards to know what a player in the midst of the action sees – and anyway, a coach has a more-expert take than almost anyone, and Portwine had encouraged his boy to be deliberate on the attack:
“That’s partly by design,” he said. “There’s a setup that I want them to have, and if we move the puck quickly, we can usually execute it. I think [York’s] penalty-kill was very good in the third period, especially on that five-minute major. And they’ve got quick kids that can move, that can play. So it was difficult for us to get the looks that we wanted.”
The Rams did shoot; their shots just never found the back of the net. So the fact that Gorham didn’t score again – neither on their extended powerplay, nor in the time that remained afterwards – says less about their hockey IQ (which is respectable) and more about York’s stalwart defense. And perhaps about bad luck as well:
“That’s the difficult thing with this team,” Portwine said. “This year, we have thrown a lot of pucks at the net. We’ve had a lot of shots; we’ve had a lot of games where we’ve outshot opponents, and not been able to bury them. So trying to set up a certain play, trying to set up a certain look, when I’ve got my first powerplay unit out there, is something we’re trying to do.”
Portwine took a moment to applaud a handful of his boys. “Garrett played really well,” he said. “He keeps us in every game; every game he’s given us a chance to win, and that’s all we can ask. Lucas had a fantastic game; he sets the pace for all the forwards. Our top two defensemen played well – Jack Richards especially; he jumped into the play, got a goal. He’s really improved this season, been a guy that we look towards for stability on the back end.”
Gorham moved to 3-8 on the result. The No. 6 Rams previously faced off with the third-ranked Wildcats (who moved to 7-4) on Jan. 9, losing 3-1. Next up on Gorham’s docket is a road bout at Kennebunk/Wells (seventh at 2-7) on Thursday, Feb. 1. They host Poland/Gray-New Gloucester/Oak Hill/Leavitt (sixth in A North at 7-4) on Saturday the 3rd.
Adam Birt can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @CurrentSportsME.
Jack Niles cuts along the boards for the Rams.
Gorham’s Dominic Lorello zips up ice in pursuit of the puck.
Gorham goalie Garrett Babineau keeps his boys in a lot of games.
Cole Perreault fires off a shot for the Rams.
Gorham pressured heavily toward the end of the game. Here, Lucas Roop powers around the outside of the attacking perimeter.
Trevor Gray, soon to shoot. The puck will rebound off York netminder Keenan Gamache, but Gray’s fellow Ram, Jack Richards, will shovel home the rebound.
Trevor Gray fires off a shot for the Rams.
York’s Mark Engholm and Gorham’s Peter Richards collide as Richards dumps the puck toward the net.
Gorhamite Joe Cureskey plays position, tracking the action.