GORHAM—The Rams looked especially sharp in the third period vs. visiting Gardiner on Saturday afternoon, Jan. 6: Midway through the stretch, Cole Perreault broke a lengthy, 1-1 stalemate on a slick feed from behind the Tigers’ net, and Trevor Gray and Alex O’Connor added insurance goals as time ticked away.
4-1 the final, then, as Gorham picked up their first win of the winter.
“I thought we played well,” Rams head coach Jon Portwine said. “Third period we played really well. It was good to see us come out and look like there was a little bit of passion, a want; I hadn’t seen that for a while.”
The opening period passed without score, but not exactly to Portwine’s satisfaction, not even on defense.
“Defensively, we were giving up a lot of good scoring chances,” he said. “Grade-A chances right in front of the net. We had to kind of push things from the inside out. We tried to pack things in a little bit more and force them out to not-as-desirable shooting angles.”
The Tigers lit the lamp roughly three minutes into the second, Jake Weston doing the honors. But Weston’s strike seemed simply to juice Gorham’s resolve, and following the next faceoff, they cranked up their own pressure: Dashing forward up the middle, Joe Curesky grabbed a feed inward from wide on the right side and volleyed a breakaway attempt at Gardiner keeper Quinn Verrage. Verrage blocked the shot, to be sure, but he couldn’t repeat the feat when Curesky soon knock-knock-knocked once more. Cureskey converted when, lingering on Verrage’s doorstep, he shoveled home a rebound after Ben Eichner swooped in from the right side to deposit the initial puck. 1-1.
Late in the second, a pair of Rams picked up overlapping penalties; their sentences carried over into the third, a circumstance that left Portwine nervous at the break.
“I was very worried at the end of that second period, with the penalties,” he said. “That very well could’ve turned the wrong way for us.”
Luckily, Gorham boasts a number of veterans – boys Portwine can trust to successfully navigate some ugly predicaments, and the team escaped their two-man disadvantage unscathed.
“I go to my older guys, I go to my seniors: Lucas Roop, Jack Richards, Ben Eichner. Those guys do a good job, penalty-killing; they know what they’re doing, they’ve done it for years now. It’s good to have those kind of players to turn to when you need a big kill.”
Then, with 7:24 remaining, Perreault took up watch in the slot out front of Verrage; Curesky, slicing behind the net, powered the puck past Verrage’s post and onto Perreault’s stick. Perreault punched home the go-ahead goal.
A mere 13 seconds later, Gray made it 3-1, and 29 seconds after that, he generated a breakaway and nearly – but not quite – beat Verrage to earn himself a second tally. No, the Rams’ fourth and final goal of the afternoon wouldn’t come until 2:13, when O’Connor, loitering at one side of Verrage’s net, was able to shunt the puck home after it slid his way out of a melee on the other side. Credit for the assist went to Roop.
“The third period, especially, looked good,” Portwine said. “These guys know how to play; we just haven’t clicked yet. Today was a step towards that. Next week, we’ve got a big week; I think we’ve got three games. Things will start to make sense to guys, guys will start to play with confidence. That’s what we need right now.”
The win advanced Gorham to 1-4. The team certainly doesn’t look bad; their record belies their level of play. Two of their losses came against two top teams – Cape Elizabeth and Edward Little – while two others came against venerable programs – Yarmouth and Scarborough – having respectable, if not stellar, seasons thus far.
“Things have been difficult,” Portwine said. “And we still weren’t full-strength tonight; we’ve still got guys that are sick, guys that are injured. But I was proud of the effort. Everybody: [Garrett Babineau, our goalie] played well; defensively, we did a pretty good job – first period was a little weak; offensively, it was encouraging – there was offensive production in that third period than we’ve had all season. I was very happy with that.”
Portwine took a moment to applaud, in particular, one of his lines: “I thought Tanner Garand played well. That line is kind of a new group, with Tanner, Joe Curesky and Cole Perreault. I thought they did really well. All three lines did, but those guys were a new group that I put together, and they looked pretty good.”
The Rams travel to York on Tuesday the 9th, Brunswick on Thursday the 11th, and Kennebunk/Wells on Saturday the 13th.
Gardiner slipped to 0-3 on the loss. The Tigers’ record perhaps also belies the threat they present, and Portwine complimented their efforts.
“I know they lost a lot of seniors last year,” Portwine said of Gardiner. “They’re a strong program, so I knew that they would come in and have guys that could play – and they did. They were much more physical than I had thought, because I know they’re a younger team. It was about what I expected: I knew it was going to be a tough game, and if we could hold on, and want it, and not make bad decisions, turn the puck over, we would have a chance.”
Adam Birt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @CurrentSportsME.
The Gorham Rams celebrate Cole Perreault’s (13) goal.
Lucas Roop carries for Gorham vs. Gardiner.
Tanner Garand battles for the Rams vs. the Tigers.
Joe Cureskey fends off a Gardiner opponent.
Cole Perreault cuts along the boards for Gorham.
Ram Nolan Gava vies with a Gardiner opponent.