Girls' hockey: Lucy Johnson's hat trick lifts Cheverus to state title
Feb. 18—When looking for the building blocks of this winter's girls' hockey season, the Cheverus co-op team first looked to a pair of losses. One was in the regional semifinals last season against Scarborough. The other was in November, when many Cheverus hockey players were on the field hockey team that lost to Skowhegan in the Class A state championship game.
Thinking of that loss last fall helped sophomore forward Lucy Johnson fight off the nerves that come with playing in a state championship game. As she took the ice at Troubh Arena on Saturday afternoon for the state final against Yarmouth/Freeport, she recognized the nerves coming and kept them at bay.
"It was going through my head a little bit, but it's a whole different game. I'm glad I'd experienced that game before, because it was definitely helpful," said Johnson, the Varsity Maine Player of the Year in field hockey.
Thanks in large part to Johnson's second-period hat trick, Cheverus/Old Orchard Beach/Kennebunk/Windham (18-3) earned its first girls' hockey state title since 2019 with a 3-2 victory. Yarmouth/Freeport, playing in its first state final, ended the season at 17-3-1.
Johnson's three goals gave her seven over the final two games, providing the Stags with the scoring punch they needed.
"We were a little too young for the moment," said Cheverus Coach Scott Rousseau, referring to the 1-0 loss to Scarborough a year ago. "They played with such composure tonight. I couldn't ask for anything more, and lord knows I am tough to play for... (Johnson) was the right player at the right place. All three of our goals came off turnovers her linemates created. She's blessed to have the talent to finish."
Cheverus trailed 1-0 after the first period, as Isabel Peters gave the Clippers the lead with a tip-in of Amanda Panciocco's shot at 8:30 of the first.
Johnson said her coaches stressed staying composted and communicating on the ice. At 5:30 of the second, Johnson tied the game off a pass from Brynn McKenney. Then she put the Stags ahead for good by converting a pass from Mikayla Talbot at 7:45.
"When (Johnson) sees the opening, she attacks it. Her first step is pretty fast, and she's a sniper. She can find the open net," said Yarmouth/Freeport Coach David Intraversato.
At 10:36, Johnson stepped out of the penalty box and into a scoring opportunity. She got the puck in the neutral zone, skated in on Clippers goalie Ava Gervais and buried the puck for a 3-1 lead.
"I just had a burst of energy. Mikayla did the work in the middle to stop the Yarmouth/Freeport player so I could get the puck," Johnson said.
While Johnson was scoring, the Stags' defense was keeping Yarmouth/Freeport without a shot in the second period.
"The main focus of the game was our defense. We worked really hard on it. It's the key of our game, really," said McKenney, a defenseman and co-captain. "We wanted to make sure shots were always blocked."
These teams split a pair of regular-season games, and Rousseau said the emphasis in practices leading up to the game was improving the breakout from the defensive zone and not allowing the Clippers a chance to set up offensively. It worked, as the Stags were able to limit scoring chances for Rosie Panenka and Sadie Carnes, the Clippers' top scorers.
"The first two times we played them, they really forechecked us. We could not get out of our zone. Brynn McKenney was just phenomenal. She was a one-player breakout," Rousseau said. "The difference in the game was we were able to get out of the zone."
The Clippers cut their deficit to 3-2 at 5:13 of the third on Emma White's power-play goal off a rebound of Panciocco's shot. Intraversato pulled Gervais (13 saves) for an extra attacker with 1:05 to play, but the Clippers were unable to slip the puck past Ella Lemieux, who finished with 13 saves.
"Third period, I thought we were going to take it. Especially in that last minute. We were all over them. But Ella Lemieux, she's a great goalie," Intraversato said.