DEXTER, Maine — It looked like a repeat performance in the Eastern Maine Class C field hockey semifinal playoff game at Dexter High School.
Earlier in the season, fourth-seeded Stearns of Millinocket scored the game’s only goal to hand top-seeded Dexter its first loss of the season.
On a picture postcard fall afternoon Wednesday, Stearns again took a 1-0 lead, this time with a goal early in the second half, but that was before the playoff game became the Shellbee Lancaster show.
Dexter’s junior center back scored the tying goal with 7:31 left in regulation and the game-winner with 3:55 to go in the second overtime to give her Tigers a 2-1 victory and send them back to the Eastern final for the third straight season.
The 13-3 Tigers will take on third-seeded Foxcroft Academy (13-3) at the Weatherbee Athletic Complex in Hampden Saturday at a time to be determined. Stearns winds up 10-6.
“I didn’t expect to get this far after losing so many seniors last year and having only three this year. It’s a very young group,” said Stearns coach Lori Lincoln, whose Minutemen lost by the same score to Dexter in last year’s EM final, but have now advanced at least as far as the semis six straight seasons.
Lancaster said her team owed the win to determination and depth, which is a bit ironic considering she’s one of only three players who are hardly ever substituted for.
“We probably play 16 players continuously,” said Dexter head coach Margaret Veazie. “The only ones I don’t take out are the three girls in the middle and Shelby’ll keep running until she’s blue in the face.”
Veazie almost sang the blues after watching the Minutemen thoroughly outplay her Tigers and outshoot them 3-0 in the first overtime period, but goalie Maicee Gustin saved two of the shots and the other was turned aside by a defender to thwart a 3-on-1 surge midway though the 8-minute extra period.
“When they had three people coming down and I only had one defensive player in front of me, I was worried, but we have a good defense and I was able to get my stick on the other good shot they had on me,” said Gustin, who made seven saves on eight shots.
While the offensive flurry may have been Stearns’ last gasp, escaping it without a score seemed to give the Tigers a second wind.
“We just knew we had to get the ball up the field and section ourselves out more and partition the field,” said Lancaster. “We were tired and they were tired, but we knew we had a deeper bench and were faster, and we had to get up the field.”
Lancaster scored the game-winner of a give-and-go with Callie Mountain, who put a through pass to Lancaster just outside the circle. Lancaster stick-handled the ball once and then slapped it through goalie Kristen Marter’s legs into the right middle side of the goal.
Her first goal came on a hard shot from 10 feet outside the net and off an assist by Crissy Mountain from the right side.
“We have a young offense, but a tenacious defense. We win on defense,” Veazie said. “We even get a lot of our scoring from our defense.”
Stearns’ goal came from sophomore Ashley Rollins, who took a hard pass from Angela Levesque and ripped it past Gustin to the right side with 18:03 left in regulation. Marter made four saves on eight shots.