Lewiston’s Cody Dionne, center, receives a centering pass but can’t put it past Edward Little goalie Gage Ducharme, who recorded a shutout during 5-0 victory over Lewiston High School at The Colisee in Lewiston on Jan. 10. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

AUBURN — Scoring may come at a premium Tuesday night in the Class A boys hockey state semifinal matchup between top-seeded Edward Little and fifth-seeded Thornton Academy at Cross Insurance Arena in Portland.

Both teams have a top-flight goaltender with the first name Gage. Junior Gage Ducharme of Edward Little has compiled a 16-1 record, 1.21 goals-against-average and a .935 save percentage. At the other end of the ice will be senior Gage Tarbox-Belanger of Thornton Academy, who is 13-5 with a 1.62 GAA and a .942 save percentage.

Edward Little (17-2) coach Norm Gagne said he knows it will be a tough battle, especially as Tarbox-Belanger is coming off a 32-save performance Friday night in a 2-1 quarterfinal victory against fourth-seeded Falmouth.

“We knew Thornton was going to be tough against Falmouth because of Tarbox-Belanger is good,” Gagne said. “He’s good; there’s no question.”

Ducharme said going up against Tarbox-Belanger is nothing new for him.

“I have known (Tarbox-Belanger), since we were little playing against each other, that he was a good goalie,” Ducharme said. “It’s an honor for me to have (nearly) the same save percentage that he has, especially a good team in front of him, but I also have a good team in front of me. They make it easy for me.”


Gagne said the Golden Trojans (14-5) allow the opponents to take their chances shooting on Tarbox-Belanger.

“They know they have a good (goalie) behind them,” Gagne said. “They can do some of the things in the (defensive) zone, and he sees a lot of shots, but they are not always the quality shots in the slot. That’s the difference there, and the (shooting numbers) can be inflated. But they are doing what they need to do; they keep (the opposition) to the outside (on the perimeter).”

Gage Tarbox-Belanger of Thornton Academy makes a save as Sam Belliveau, center, and Xavier Grenier of Falmouth crash the net in the second period of a Dec. 28, 2021 game in Falmouth. Derek Davis/Portland Press Herald

Gagne said Tarbox-Belanger showed Friday night that he can stop the tough shots in the slot or near the crease. Tarbox-Belanger made a crucial save with 2.8 seconds remaining in the game against Falmouth. Ducharme made 18 saves in the Red Eddies 5-1 over Lewiston this past Saturday.

Ducharme has faced 311 shots in 17 games, which comes out to 18.29 shots per game. Tarbox-Belanger has faced 514 shots in 18 games for a 28.5 average.

The teams met once, on Feb. 10, with the Red Eddies defeating the Golden Trojans 3-2e. Edward Little had 29 shots on goal and Thornton had 24.

Senior forward Jack Keefe, who is a semifinalist for the Travis Roy Award, said the team learned Tarbox-Belanger’s strengths and weaknesses in that game.


“I picked up a few tendencies; every goalie has them,” Keefe said. “I am not going to say them, but every goalie has a few tendencies. He’s a good goalie.”

Ducharme said he saw a lot of bodies along with pucks in that first game.

“They are a hard, physical team; they like their shots,” Ducharme said. “They are good at crashing the front of the net and screens out in front. I have to be able to keep up and work around the screens and face those good shots.”

The Red Eddies know they have to do the same Tuesday (game time scheduled for 6 p.m.).

“That’s with every goalie; you take away their vision, they can’t see,” Keefe said. “No matter what, if they are the best goalie or the worst goalie. And we have to pick up the rebounds, too.”

The mentality of the Edward Little shooters won’t change because of the quality of goalie they see on a daily basis in Ducharme.


“Our Gage does a good job, (forcing us) to put shots in the corners to find the twine,” Edward Little junior forward Campbell Cassidy said. “Thornton goalie is definitely good. It’s going to be challenging.”

Ducharme is a competitive player in practice.

“Every single shot, there’s nothing much to look at, that’s for sure,” Campbell said. “He works hard for every single shot, and I have never seen a goalie try harder, that’s for sure. That’s what makes him so good.”

Gagne said having high-quality shooters on the team also helps Ducharme remain sharp.

“We have good goal scorers, Gage (Ducharme) has a lot of opportunities, and he doesn’t like to be scored on,” Gagne said. “He gets a lot of quality shots. You have Campell (Cassidy), Aiden Gonzalez, (Wesley Clements), Jack (Keefe), Tate (Morse) up front. We have guys that can shoot the puck.”

Keefe has 28 points (18 goals and 10 assists) this season, which is tied with Clements (13 goals and 15 assists) and Cassidy (12 goals and 16 assists).

“In practice, (my teammates) challenge me every day,” Ducharme said. “I know I have to be on the top of my game, no matter what, and I am trying to keep up with all my teammates who are scoring on me, left and right.”

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