BIDDEFORD — Scott Rousseau’s team needed to see it to believe it.
The Cheverus/Kennebunk girls’ hockey team thought it could beat St. Dominic Academy and end the Saints’ 29-game winning streak, but it wasn’t until Emma McCauley scored in the first period that the Stags believed they could win.
McCauley’s goal stood as the only score of the game and the Stags did end the Saints’ long show of successes with a 1-0 victory at Harold Alfond Forum on Saturday.
“It’s a big step for us,” Rousseau said. “They don’t win (nearly 30) games for nothing. That’s a great hockey team with some great players, and I’m just really proud of how hard my girls competed today.
“Look, I don’t think there’s a lot of teams that even want to play them. I mean, how many teams want to say, ‘Hey, you want play St. Dom’s Saturday night?’ We’re raising our hands. We had some tough games with Falmouth and Scarborough, but it’s kind of been on the calendar, and we told the girls what better opportunity than we have to end maybe the longest winning streak in the history of girls’ hockey in Maine. So it was a great opportunity and we embraced it. It’s a great day for Cheverus/Kennebunk girls’ hockey for sure.”
The Stags (6-0) came out flying, putting seven shots on goal before the Saints (3-1) could get one.
“I think they came out real strong, they were obviously real pumped up,” St. Dom’s coach Paul Gosselin said. “It took us a little bit of time to get our feet going.”
The Stags’ seventh shot was the one that broke the Saints’ back. Zoe Mazur fed freshman McCauley, whose shot in the slot eluded Saints goalie Payton Winslow.
“The first eight to 10 minutes, the girls thought they could win, but I don’t really think they believed,” Rousseau said. “So that first goal did give us a lot of confidence.”
The Stags’ offense did its part, so then it was up to the defense to do likewise on its end.
The Saints went on a power play late in the first period that spilled into the second, but senior goalie Anna Smith kept the net clean. She stopped shots by Emma Theriault and Avery Lutrzykowski, then got some help from a post on Callie Samson’s attempt.
“At this time of year, you’d like to see them drop in, but I think our power play moved well once we got in the zone,” Gosselin said. “We had a couple good power plays where we had some good passing possession, we had nice good shots.”
Winslow made a pair of sprawled-out saves at the other end once the penalty was killed off, and that’s how the second period went. Smith denied Lutrzykowski on a mini breakaway, then Abby Lamontagne was later stopped by both the post and Winslow.
“It was a good chess match,” Gosselin said.
The Saints had a big penalty kill of their own late in the second, keeping it a one-goal game heading into the final period.
“I think we were still focused. We felt 1-0, we were still in the game. It’s not by any means done with,” Gosselin said. “We felt we’re a good third-period team, and we felt if we had opportunities that we could put it in.”
Those opportunities never came for the Saints, who were held to just two shots on goal in the third. The Stags’ dominance in puck possession only grew as their depth wore down the Saints.
“We had to make sure we did not turn the puck over, that we were getting pucks deep, that we were really winning the cycle game,” Rousseau said. “I really thought that’s where we won the game. We had a lot of puck possession in their zone. We spent a lot of time below their goal line, wearing their D, working their D. And you know what, it’s good to play defense 200 feet from your goalie.”
Smith finished with 12 saves for the shutout, while Winslow stopped 26 of 27 shots.
“When you’re the St. Dom’s goalie, and you make eight saves a game, maybe everyone doesn’t know how good she was,” Rousseau said. “And I think tonight she showed a lot of people she’s a heck of a goaltender.”
Gosselin said the pressure is now off his team with the streak over — a streak he said he never put much stock in. Now the Saints can stop looking back and start looking ahead to the rest of their season.
“It’s what matters at the end of the year that counts. And we’ll definitely use that as a motivation to get better,” Gosselin said.