One, hope that the Red Hornets’ freshmen — seven of them, each seeing significant ice time — get rattled by the environment. Or two, stay glued to Taylor Landry at every turn and force somebody else to beat you.
Neither approach stayed on the rails Saturday afternoon at Norway Savings Bank Arena. Six different players scored a goal, three of them first-year players in their high school postseason debut, catapulting No. 1 Leavitt Little past No. 4 Yarmouth/Freeport, 6-1, in an East semifinal.
“That’s great. We’ve never done that before,” freshman Haley Frohlich said of the six goals from six sources. “It’s an accomplishment.”
Frohlich, Mariah Vaillancourt and Angel Drouin each scored a playoff goal for the first time. Frohlich and Vaillancourt combined for five assists to complement Landry’s goal and three assists.
All the youngsters played in enough travel team tournaments while rising through the ranks that neither the louder crowd nor the win-or-else requirements made them break into a cold sweat.
“Coach (Shon Collins) asked how we were doing before the game, including me,” Vaillancourt said. “Most of us were pretty confident. We’ve played in a lot of playoff games.”
They’ll enjoy at least one more this season. Leavitt Little (16-3) is back in the regional final for the second straight year. The Red Hornets will face Saturday night’s Lewiston-Greely winner. Game time is 5 p.m. Wednesday at Portland Ice Arena.
Senior sniper Landry eased her younger teammates’ transition, delivering her goal just 94 seconds into the game. Frohlich flagged down Landry’s initial shot after it drifted wide of the net, then skated behind Yarmouth/Freeport goalie Hannah Williams before locating Landry for a one-timer.
Leavitt Little’s lead expanded to 3-0 with goals by Vaillancourt and Emma Martineau in the first 38 seconds of the second period.
“When we got those two bang-bang, then the girls felt like, OK, it’s on,” Collins said. “That was definitely huge.”
Yarmouth/Freeport (14-5-1) snapped a scoreless streak of more than seven periods this season against Leavitt Little with a power play goal at 8:46 of the second. Emily Johnson and Ariel Potter broke up two Red Hornets’ attempts to clear the zone before Potter pounced and finished.
That brought the Clippers’ sizable entourage to the feet and into the game. Johnson and Potter threatened on a 2-on-1 early in the third, forcing the toughst of freshman goalie Savannah Shaw’s 14 saves.
Just over a minute later, Frohlich restored the three-goal advantage. Landry won a puck in the Red Hornets’ zone and fed a breakaway by Vaillancourt. Yarmouth/Freeport drew a delayed penalty in bumping Vaillancourt off the play, but Frohlich cleaned up the loose puck at 6:57.
“I think the first period we were a little shaky, but I think we came back strong the second and third periods,” Frohlich said. “The third period we had a complete team effort.”
Leavitt Little applied the finishing touch with two goals in a 20-second span.
Danica Nadeau redirected the puck when it squirted out of Williams’ glove after a save at 11:23, Nadeau and Vaillancourt assisting. And with Landry providing a screen and a distraction in the slot, Drouin’s blast by way of Frohlich also found the net.
“We were caught standing around a little bit too much. We’ve seen this team a lot, tried to figure out their idiosyncrasies, but unfortunately when you focus on one person they’ve got two or three other people that you turn your back on,” Yarmouth/Freeport coach Jeff Haley said. “That team’s deep and they’re extremely good, and I’m proud of the way our girls finished.”
Abby Roy assisted Martineau’s goal, making it seven Red Hornets with at least one point.
Though she didn’t pick up an assist, Kylie Bureau, moved from defense to a forward line for the playoffs, also played a pivotal role on that shift.
“Everyone on the team really had a part of the win. We saw a lot of great things,” Collins said. “They really got their feet moving. Yarmouth is a good team. They’ve been playing hard all season. I think they ran out of gas and we took advantage, kept flying, put the pressure on them.”