AUBURN — Down two goals on the scoreboard and one player on the ice midway through the third period, Edward Little/Leavitt/Poland had little choice but to be aggressive on its penalty kill.

That necessary riskiness paid off in the form of two shorthanded goals, which gave the Red Hornets all the momentum they needed for a 4-2, comeback victory over rival St. Dom’s/Winthrop/Gray-New Gloucester in a North region girls hockey semifinal at Norway Savings Bank Arena on Saturday. 

The third-seeded Red Hornets (11-6-3) now face another rival, top-seeded Lewiston, in the regional final on Wednesday at Troubh Ice Arena in Portland. 

Trailing 2-0 and at a 5-on-4 disadvantage starting with 8:16 left in regulation, the Red Hornets got unassisted goals from Sophia Hartley and Caroline Tracey to tie the game 2-2 with 6:16 remaining. 

“The time and location and everything dictated that we take a few chances,” Red Hornets coach Dana Berube said. “And when you got Caroline Tracey out there — a girl that’s smart and makes the right decisions — she took a couple opportunities and one of them paid off. So we really didn’t have a choice. That’s not how you draw it up, but we’ll take it.” 

Hartley said she “just saw an opening and I just wanted to push to (try and score).” 

“We were all really down on ourselves, and then once (Sophia) scored that we all were like, ‘We got this,’ and take every shot we can. It motivated us a lot,” Tracey said. “Without that goal, I don’t think we could have gotten the win.” 

Tracey said she also saw “the smallest opening” on her goal and admittedly filled with adrenaline thought, ‘I just have to shoot.'” 

“I don’t think (the Red Hornets’ penalty kill) was any more or less (aggressive) than it was before, we just lost possession of the puck, and it resulted in a couple goals,” said St. Dom’s coach Paul Gosselin, who used his timeout after Tracey’s tying goal. 

The second-seeded Saints (11-8) had a couple chances to get the lead back, but they were denied by Red Hornets goalie Manny Guimond, who made 32 saves. 

Tracey then scored the game-winner with 3:09 left, redirecting Eve Martineau’s feed from the boards past Saints goalie Mady Boulet (13 saves). 

“I didn’t know if I should have tipped it or not because sometimes you tip and you miss the net, but then I knew I was more in front of the net so I just decided to tip it,” Tracey said. 

Hartley put the game away for good on an empty-net goal with 18.9 seconds left. 

It was a stunning turnaround from the beginning of the game. 

A Maddie Weymouth point shot less than one minute into the contest left a tantalizing rebound for the Saints, but they couldn’t send the puck back at Guimond. Weymouth had another chance from the point 1:21 in, and her shot was redirected over Guimond to give the Saints a goal that they couldn’t get in the two rivals’ most recent regular-season meeting, a 1-0 Red Hornets win. Emma Roy assisted. 

“Once you get to this point in the year, all the teams have good goalies, and (Manny) is no different,” Gosselin said. “We knew she’s a good goalie, we needed to get shots on, and I thought we did a pretty good job of it.” 

Weymouth hit the crossbar with another point shot eight minutes in. 

The Saints held an 11-8 advantage in shots on goal in the first period, then stretched that to a 14-2 disparity in the second, when Madi Pelletier doubled the lead off an assist from West Duffy. 

“I thought that we controlled play fairly well,” Gosselin said. “I think we gave up like maybe one shot in the second period, so I figured if we could keep that intensity up it would work well for us.” 

“Manny is — in our opinion — the best goalie in the state, and she kept us in there, especially in that second period because they had a few chances to run away with it, and she gave us an opportunity,” Berube said. 

“What we talked about between periods was, ‘Let’s try to kill this (earlier) penalty off and stick with it, get the next goal and give ourselves a chance,’ because we all know a two-goal lead in hockey can change in momentum, especially in playoffs, right?” Berube added. “When your bench is quiet and all of a sudden you pop one in, all of a sudden everything changes, and we kind of rode that momentum and it was great to see.” 

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