GORHAM—Jack Richards propelled the Rams from two goals down vs. visiting Poland/Oak Hill/Gray-New Gloucester/Leavitt on Saturday night, Feb. 3: Richards put together a hat trick – the entirety of Gorham’s scoring – and ultimately clinched a 3-2 victory over the Kings.
“That’s a big deal,” Gorham head coach Jon Portwine said of the win. “That’s a lot of points. That’s a good team over there; they’ve had a really good season, and they played us really hard tonight.”
“Hats off to my guys,” Portwine said. “Garrett Babineau (goalie) played his heart out…And then Jack with the hat trick – it’s a testament to how hard he has worked and how far he has come. He has made himself into a very good hockey player.”
“I got a lot of help from the rest of the boys,” Richards said. “The puck just bounced up, and we’ve been preaching all year that we’ve got to get the puck to the net, so I was just shooting it, and it just kept clicking.”
The Kings possessed for the bigger chunk of the opening period, but Gorham fired off a few quality licks as well. Still, the Kings threatened early, and scored first. They tested Babineau in a one-defender rush situation at 11:40 after Richards, pursuing an offensive opportunity high in the Kings’ zone, lost control, lost his footing and got caught forward. Then, the Kings turned in a shorthanded goal after interrupting the Rams’ passing near the point – King Connor Cyr deflected the puck into neutral territory, grabbed it, and carried into Gorham’s end. Zooming closer to Babineau, he dished cross-ice to Austin Taylor, who wristed a hard puck just inside the far post for 1-0.
Not 30 seconds later, Gorhamite Lucas Roop nearly tied things up – but his shot narrowly missed its mark, clanging off a pipe. On the upside: The Rams, now on the powerplay, finally settled into an aggressive posture. They batted the puck around the Kings’ defensive perimeter, ripping shots when shots presented themselves.
Momentarily, Gorham caught another break: The Kings went two men down. But the Rams couldn’t capitalize, and just as Cyr – the Kings’ first sinner to escape the penalty box – stepped onto the ice again, the puck squirted his way. He snatched it up. Gorham’s Trevor Gray dashed forward to hound Cyr from behind, but Cyr converted on the breakaway, deking past Babineau for 2-0.
A mere 18 seconds on, though, Richards notched his first: The puck kicked back to him – following a faceoff in the Kings’ end – and he fired high from the top of the circle. The shot zipped past Kings goalie Dakota Soucy and bumped the scoreboard to 2-1; it stuck there for the remainder of the period.
“I had to make up for my mistake,” Richards said, referring to that moment near the start of the contest when he lost his edge, lost the puck and couldn’t get back in time to defend.
“It’s hard to believe how far he’s come,” Portwine said of Richards, “and it’s really in a very short time. Last year – he’s been a three-year varsity player, but this season, man, he’s one of the best defensemen in Class B. And he has worked hard for it. It means a lot to him, and I’m happy for him.”
Midway through the second, Kings Garrett Derocher and Jayson Martin doubled-up in the penalty box – both for tripping – and the Rams took advantage. Richards, lingering wide on one side, scored again, relaying a Ben Eicher pass from wide on the other side and beating Soucy. 2-2.
“Eich gave me a good backhand on that one,” Richards said. “I had all the time in the world. That was good on his part.”
Gorham continued to look sharp in the third: They played aggressive puck, and controlled the attack for long stretches. Finally, with 4:03 left on the clock, Richards capped his hat trick, pulling the trigger on a wrister from near the left Kings point. The shot slipped through heavy traffic and snuck just inside Soucy’s post. 3-2.
Three minutes later, the Kings – now, naturally, desperate – yanked Soucy. The extra man availed them naught, however. In fact, Gorham nearly secured an empty-netter insurance goal at 55 seconds, but King Nate Marcotte deflected the attempt with a dive and a reach. Unfortunately, time ran out on the Kings’ hopes, and the Rams secured themselves a major W.
Gorham frequently excels in the third, it seems. “That’s where the depth comes in,” Portwine said. “This team, we don’t score a lot of goals, and we’re not going to score a lot of goals. I don’t have one ‘goal-scorer,’ a guy that’s going to score every game. I have to rely on other people, and the strength of our team is depth. So the third period should be our time.”
“We have a lot of depth,” Richards said, “so we seem to beat teams because we can wear them down. Everybody on the team can put the puck in the net if they need to.”
The outcome bumped Gorham to 6-8. The Rams sit fifth in B South at the moment. They clash with Massabesic/Bonny Eagle/Old Orchard Beach (ninth in A South, at 3-10) on Saturday the 10th.
“This is good. After beating Greely, we’ve really seemed to find it, and turn our season around,” Richards said. “So I hope we can keep going in the same direction. We started off struggling, and we found a way, and we’ve just kept rolling since. We’ve got a lot of energy, and we’ve found how to motivate ourselves before every game, and it’s really paying off.”
Gorham knocked off Greely in late December, 3-2. The Rangers occupy the No. 1 slot in B South at present, having dropped just two games thus far – one to the Rams, and another to Cape Elizabeth, the second-place outfit.
The Kings moved to 8-5 on the result. The team, currently ranked sixth in A North, hosts Lawrence/Skowhegan/MCI (ninth, at 0-10) on Wednesday the 4th, and travels to Edward Little (second, at 9-5) a week later.
Adam Birt can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @CurrentSportsME.
G-NG’s Garrett Haskins tracks the action.
G-NG senior Brandon Pelton cuts up-ice for the Kings.
Trevor Gray surveys his pass options.
Cole Perreault shovels a pass cross-ice, high in the Kings’ zone.
Peter Richards dumps a puck toward the Kings’ net.
Jack Richards zips – celebrating his third goal – along the boards, toward the Gorham student section, going wild in the stands.
Gorham’s Ben Eichner unwinds into a shot.
Gorhamite Joe Curesky vies along the boards.
Gorham’s Joe Curesky (left) and the Kings’ Andrew Topham – a G-NG junior – clash on the faceoff.