LEWISTON, Maine — Jake Grade wasn’t always in the right place during overtime of Saturday night’s Class A ice hockey state championship game.
First he was in the penalty box, then he was on the ice courtesy of a good hit by a St. Dominic of Auburn defender.
But moments later he was in the perfect place — with his shot from the right point 6:43 into the extra period lifting Falmouth to a dramatic 3-2 victory and its second straight state crown.
“I have no idea what to even say, I’m speechless,” said the junior defenseman after scoring his second goal of the match. “Either team could have won that game. It could have gone either way and we were lucky to kill that penalty and get a goal at the end.”
Grade’s goal provided the Yachtsmen their only lead of the game, which was played before a crowd of 3,450 at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee.
“Tonight’s game was anybody’s game,” said Falmouth coach Deron Barton, whose team finished with a 17-5 record. “It was a rollercoaster ride, what every coach dreads and can’t wait for at the same time.
“Even if we had lost this game I would still be just as happy with these kids because in my opinion there’s no loser out there.”
St. Dominic, which was seeking the school’s 25th state championship, ended its season at 13-8-1.
The end came suddenly, with the puck emerging from the left corner to Falmouth’s Hunter Low at the left point. Low sent the puck across the ice to Grade, whose blistering slap shot sailed past St. Dominic goalie Caleb Dostie and under the crossbar.
“I came out of the penalty box and was in the [far] end and got laid out,” said Grade. “I was going to get off the ice and then I thought, ‘I’m gonna stay out.’ Then Hunter made a nice pass over and I just put my head down and the next thing I knew it was in the net.”
Falmouth outshot St. Dom’s 26-22, with Dane Pauls making 20 saves for the Yachtsmen and Dostie 23 stops for the Saints.
Pauls’ biggest moment came during the final seconds of regulation, when St. Dominic’s Cameron Stewart fed the puck ahead to Dillon Pratt for a shot that looked to be ticketed for the upper right corner of the goal.
“I just saw the shot go high glove side and luckily I got a tiny, tiny piece of it with my arm and saw it go over the net,” said Pauls. “It was kind of a relief but then I thought, ‘Oh, no, we’ve got overtime,’ and I could barely stand skating out to the crease for overtime.”
Falmouth had the better of play in the opening minutes of the match, but St. Dominic found its groove midway through the period before Caleb Labrie’s 23rd goal of the season on a shot from the top of the right faceoff circle gave the Saints a 1-0 lead at 12:12.
Falmouth endured a stretch of 14 minutes without a shot on goal before Isac Nordstrom scored on a rebound to tie the match 5:46 into the second period.
Matching power-play goals left the teams stalemated at 2-2 through two periods.
Labrie scored his second goal of the match at 8:16 while Falmouth’s Andre Clement was sitting out a hooking penalty. Pratt again was the assist maker, working the puck into the left corner before dropping it back to Labrie, whose quick shot from the back of the faceoff circle whistled under the crossbar.
Falmouth re-tied the game at 10:28 while St. Dominic’s Avery Jones was serving two minutes for roughing.
The equalizer, assisted by Clement and Tyler Jordan, found Grade open at the right point for a shot that caromed in off the inside of the left goalpost.
Clement nearly provided Falmouth a go-ahead goal in the final minute of regulation, beating a defender to a loose puck near the blue line and getting off an uncontested shot that deflected wide off Dostie’s right toe.
Then St. Dominic got an even better chance, only to be denied by the slightest of goalie deflections.
“Without Dane we don’t get to overtime, that was clear to anybody in the building,” said Barton. “He’s been that way for us all year long, you look back at our season and he’s in the mix of every single win.
St. Dominic earned its fourth power play of the night 2:48 into overtime when the Saints’ Chase Hainey made a 1-on-3 rush and drew a tripping penalty from Grade. But the Saints managed just one shot on goal and when Grade came out of the penalty box, he was poised to etch his name into Falmouth hockey history.
“I didn’t even watch that penalty kill, I had my head down and I trusted the boys to kill it off,” said Grade. “They killed it off and we had the momentum and got that goal.”