PORTLAND — Thornton Academy goalie Gage Tarbox-Belanger was nearly perfect Tuesday night.

The senior made 28 saves to lead fifth-seeded Thornton Academy to a 2-1 win over top-seeded Edward Little in a Class A boys hockey state semifinal at Cross Insurance Arena.

“Gage Tarbox-Belanger stole the game for them,” Edward Little coach Norm Gagne said. “He’s a first-class goalie.”

The Red Eddies (17-3) put the most pressure on Tarbox-Belanger in the second and third periods.

“It was a stressful period, but I knew I had to stay in it,” Tarbox-Belanger said of the second period. “I knew I had to keep working hard.”

The Golden Trojans (15-5) will now face seventh-seeded Scarborough — which won 5-4 in double overtime against No. 3 South Portland/Waynflete/Freeport in Tuesday’s other semifinal — in the state championship game Saturday at Cross Insurance Arena.


Wesley Clements had a solid chance for Edward Little early in the first period as he skated into the offensive zone on a partial breakaway, but Tarbox-Belanger stopped him.

“That would have been a big difference right there,” Gagne said. “Aiden Gonzalez had another good (chance) and he missed the open net. Trey (Coloumbe) had another one in the first period.”

The save gave Thornton Academy momentum, and the Golden Trojans had the puck in Edward Little’s defensive zone for a good portion of the first period.

Red Eddies goalie Gage Ducharme kept the game 0-0 after making four saves in a 15-second span.

Freshman Gavin Pellerin broke the deadlock 8:25 into the first period when Alex St. John had the initial shot and Pellerin, standing near the crease, put home the rebound. Lucas Hubbard had the secondary assist.

“Even without the goal, I thought we were getting good offensive pressure,” Thornton coach Jamie Gagnon said. “We tilt the ice a little bit for us in the first period and I thought it created some belief for us. We knew (Edward Little) was going to come out strong in the second period.”


Thornton outshot the Red Eddies 12-7 in the opening period.

The Golden Trojans started the second period with a scoring chance when the puck bounced off the glass at the Golden Trojans’ offensive blue line to Thornton’s Shane Bergeron, but he put the shot wide.

Thornton had a couple of shots on net, but Ducharme made the saves. The Golden Trojans had six shots on goal for the period.

The Red Eddies flipped the ice for most of the second period, and they peppered 13 shots on Tarbox-Belanger. Edward Little’s best chance, though, came with 3:14 remaining in the second post when Clements rang the post.

“It was amazing, it was a big sigh of relief,” Tarbox-Belanger said of hearing the puck hit the post.

Gagne thought momentum was on their side in the second period.


“We had some very good shifts, but we couldn’t put one behind (Tarbox-Belanger),” Gagne said.

Midway through the third period, Clements finally solved Tarbox-Belanger by going forehand-backhand to slip the puck in the goal. Gonzalez had the assist.

A tripping minor was called on Coloumbe at the 8:41 mark and a little over a minute later, a shot by Thornton’s Colby Bilodeau fluttered in the air past Ducharme for a 2-1 lead.

“I thought I was going to whiff it,” Bilodeau said. “My teammates said it was a knuckle-puck. I am glad it went in.”

Edward Little pulled Ducharme with 1:38 remaining and had three shots to end the game. The Red Eddies had nine shots in the third and Thornton had eight.

“We play hard and we played to the end, it wasn’t our night,” Gagne said.

Thornton called a timeout with 13 seconds left to prepare for the Red Eddies’ final push. Edward Little couldn’t get a shot on net.

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