LEWISTON — Barry Mothes kept his pre-game speech short and sweet. His Greely High School hockey team took care of the rest.

No. 4 Greely won for the 11th time in its last 12 outings, ousting top-seeded Gardiner Area High School out of the Class B South tournament with a 5-2 win Friday night at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee. Five different players scored goals for the Rangers, who advance to meet No. 2 York in the regional finals on Wednesday. Senior Josh Lawless made 28 saves to backbone the victory.

“I think I basically said, ‘I think you guys know what you need to do. You know how to play tonight, right?’ and that was it,” Mothes said. “I think they proved that. It was a great, smart, solid effort.”

Greely built up a 2-0 lead in the first minute of the second period, adding a Ryan Megathlin goal to Jake MacDonald’s first-period score. That deficit only seemed to light a fire along the Gardiner bench, which responded with its most sustained round of pressure until Connor Manter stepped into an errant Ranger clearing pass and blistered home his goal at the 4:54 mark to cut the Tiger deficit to a single goal.

That deficit didn’t stay that way for long.

Matt Kramlich shoveled a backhand by Gardiner goalie Michael Poirier (26 saves) just 48 seconds later, and the lead was back to two. Greely then took consecutive penalties that might otherwise have given Gardiner some momentum — but Tiger defenseman Sloan Berthaiume was whistled off for a major penalty for hitting from behind, with a 10-minute misconduct slapped on top of it.

Greely captain Jack Saffian scored a 4-on-3 power play goal that made it 4-1, and though the Rangers couldn’t score again on their lengthy advantage, enough damage was done with Berthiaume — arguably Gardiner’s best defenseman — spending a total of 15 minutes in the box.

“That was huge,” Saffian said. “When they made it 2-1, they had all of the momentum. We were able to grab one right there and another one later in the period. We were able to roll from there. We’ve been playing well lately… and once we get rolling, it’s hard to stop us.”

“That five-minute penalty totally killed us,” Gardiner coach Sam Moore said. “That kind of set us on our heels, and when you lose a guy like Sloan for a whole period, it kills you.”

Greely dropped deeper to protect the neutral zone throughout the third period, nursing the three-goal lead, until Ranger Andrew Moore and Tiger Cam Bourassa swapped goals in the final 61 seconds of regulation.

“We just got beat by a better team,” Moore said. “They came in with a great game plan, they executed it, and the puck went that way for them.”

Part of Greely’s game plan relied on a speedy forecheck, and the Rangers used it liberally in the first two periods to keep Gardiner pegged in its own zone for long stretches. For a Tiger team that’s relied on the play of its defensemen to transition the puck quickly, Greely was able to limit much of the flow out of the Gardiner end — particularly in the first period.

It set a tone for how the rest of the night would go.

“They definitely deserved this win,” Moore said of Greely. “Our forwards weren’t really looking up and paying attention to where they were putting that puck. They weren’t moving their feet enough, but a lot of that had to do with what Greely was doing.”

And what they were doing was much of what they’ve been doing over the last month.

“The key behind it is the effort,” Mothes said. “It’s using our speed and our foot-speed to just pressure and pursue the puck hard and get on people and force them to make multiple plays. It took us a while to get this pressure (on the forecheck) this season, but it’s been growing and it’s exciting to see.”

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC


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