LEWISTON — The Greely Rangers have grown from fledgling varsity skaters to state champions in a single season.
Sarah Kurland, Monica Howland and Etta Copenhagen scored two goals each and Ceci Hodgkins added another as the Rangers shot out to an early lead and cruised to a 7-1 victory over Falmouth to earn the 2012 Girls Ice Hockey Championship at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee on Saturday.
“We knew we could skate with them,” Greely coach Nate Guerin said. “The last game we played against them in the regular season, it was 1-1 after two. They had an excellent regular-season record, but we consider ourselves pretty closely matched. We knew it was going to be a team game. They came together and just worked so hard.”
Falmouth nearly ran the table in the regular season, losing only once to Brunswick, the No. 1 seed in Eastern Maine. Paced by one of the top skaters in Maine, Megan Fortier, the Yachtsmen were as dominant as any team has been in recent seasons.
Stopping Fortier, in fact, was one of Greely’s top priorities on Saturday.
“We worked on trying to angle her to the boards,” Guerin said. “Everyone on the team has to play a part. It can’t just be a one-on-one thing, you can’t shadow her. You have to shut her down with five players playing their hardest. And that’s what they did.”
After toppling Edward Little/Leavitt in the Eastern semifinal, Greely vanquished Brunswick in grand fashion in the Eastern final. Falmouth reached the state game with wins over Portland and York, but was no match for the Rangers.
“We went through some ups and downs, realized what was important,” Guerin said. “Once they jelled together, they were just unstoppable.”
Kurland’s first of the game gave the Rangers a 1-0 advantage in the first, and then back-to-back goals at the tail end of the first frame from Hodgkins and Kurland gave them some breathing room.
They ran the lead to 5-0 in the second with strikes from Howland and Copenhagen before Fortier tried to spark the Yachtsmen with a goal late in the second.
“They made it 5-1, and at that point I’m thinking, if they score again, and then pop two more in,” Guerin said. “Things can change so quickly. That happened for us, and if that happens the other way, we’re in trouble. That sixth goal was big.”
The Rangers’ sixth tally followed Fortier’s within two minutes. They tacked on another in the seventh to provide keeper Emma Seymour with plenty of cushion.
“We got a couple of huge, very timely saves, and then we got some good bounces around the defensive net,” Guerin said. “That kind of snowballs, then they get fired up and we keep punching them in the net.” The championship is Greely’s first in the four years of MPA-sanctioned girls’ hockey, following titles by Lewiston, Cheverus and St. Dom’s.