LEWISTON — Ten athletes strong, the Saint Dominic Academy girls’ hockey team has given itself a chance to make the Eastern Class A playoffs.
And really, from a season that started with the death of its coach and eight losses in the first 10 games, what more could you ask?
St. Dom’s first rallied from behind Saturday evening, then stymied several comeback threats by winless but spirited Mt. Ararat to prevail, 7-4, at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee.
It was the second win over Mt. Ararat in three days and the fourth straight overall for the Saints (6-8) in this season dedicated to the late Don Boucher, who guided the program to a state title in 2011.
“They had a couple of girls missing (Thursday) due to disqualifications and it was some of their stronger players, so we knew their play was going to be better, and it was,” St. Dom’s coach Paul Gosselin said. “It made for a good game.”
Five of St. Dom’s nine skaters scored at least one goal, led by Tia Rotolico with three goals and two assists.
Kayla McLellan, Jessica Boulet, Jacqueline Schmitz and Emily Poulin each found the net. McLellan and Boulet combined for six assists.
“We knew they were going to keep fighting,” McLellan said. “It was nice to keep the puck moving and find the open players.”
Rapid responses and rebounds were recurring themes for the Saints, each factoring in the connection that put the hosts ahead to stay.
Rotolico’s initial close-range shot forced Mt. Ararat goalie Alison Nolan to make a sliding save on her stomach. That furnished plenty of room for Schmitz to stuff home the redirection and make it 3-2 at 3:51 of the second period.
Boulet also logged an assist on the goal, which came 36 seconds after a tying tally by Mt. Ararat’s Devon Hutchins.
“I know we were nervous. We didn’t start the game well, but I think we kept playing hard,” Rotolico said. “We have a lot of motivation to get to the playoffs.”
Rotolico padded the lead to a pair on the power play at 7:09, this time after Nolan initially denied McLellan on a feed from Kym Johnson.
Back stormed the Eagles (0-15). Claire Briggs scooped up the puck at the opposing blue line, stayed a half-stride in front of the Saints defender giving chase and went low to beat Taylor Fillebrown. It was a 4-3 contest with 5:09 remaining in the middle stanza.
Mt. Ararat had a chance to pull even with the man-advantage, but Poulin nixed those notions with a short-handed, breakaway goal at 13:09.
“It’s nice to have a little momentum. The girls are starting to feel good about themselves,” Gosselin said. “We don’t have many skaters, but I think we have some parity going. It’s good for us if it isn’t only Kayla scoring the goals.”
The Eagles made one more push when Kayla Pinkham clanged one in off the left piost 4:42 into the third.
Rotolico put it away by completing the hat trick, courtesy of McLellan on the power play at 7:38 and unassisted at 9:55.
“That one from Kayla to Tia, particularly, was a nice goal. It kind of took the wind out of their sails,” Gosselin said.
Mt. Ararat, beaten 8-0 Thursday by St. Dom’s on its home ice, wasted no time warding off those ghosts. Anne McIntire raced from center ice to flag down a loose puck in the left circle, then beat Fillebrown to the upper right corner of the net at 1:15 of the opening period.
St. Dom’s answered on the ensuing faceoff. Rotolico won the puck and located McLellan, who delivered the equalizer in 10 seconds.
An exchange of checking minors set up a 4-on-4 sequence that produced the Saints’ go-ahead tally.
Eagles went for a belt-high glove save on McLellan. She juggled the puck and lost control of it, leaving Boulet in perfect position for the follow-up at 7:45.
Fillebrown (17 saves) was splendid in defending that lead, denying first McIntire, then Caroline Daniel in bang-bang fashion late in the period.
St. Dom’s entered the night in the fourth and final Eastern Maine playoff slot and will face both Brunswick and Yarmouth/Freeport — the two teams directly on its heels — in the next nine days.
“We know (those games) probably are going to determine the outcome for us,” Gosselin said.