PORTSMOUTH — Over the past several years, Portsmouth Abbey’s rink has been a house of horrors for Cumberland High, a building that has been as cold to the Clippers as the frigid temperatures inside its confines.
On Sunday afternoon, the Clippers endured their latest nightmare at the arena, and it resulted in a swift exit from the Division II playoffs.
The third-seeded Clippers dropped the third and deciding game of their best-of-three semifinal-round series to second-seeded Portsmouth High in the form of a 5-3 defeat that wasn’t nearly as close as the score indicates.
For the first two periods, the defending Division II champion Patriots (18-4-1), who will face off with top-seeded Coventry High in the best-of-three title series, had their way with the Clippers (16-6-2) and found themselves owning a 5-0 command with 4½ minutes still to play in the second period.
“(Portsmouth) came ready to play and we didn’t,” added Cumberland coach Mark Andreozzi. “And that’s taking nothing away from them. They’re good, they’re well-coached, they play disciplined hockey, and they came ready to play and they took it to us. We just couldn’t rally ourselves.”
Cumberland played much better in the final period, and when the Pats began to play sloppy and undisciplined in the second half of the period, the Clippers responded by scoring their three goals (all power-play tallies) in a span of less than two minutes to make it a 5-3 game with 3:05 still to play.
Unfortunately for the Clippers, time ran out on their comeback. They pulled goalie Patrick Noke for a sixth attacker with 1:31 to play, but only managed to take two shots the rest of the way.
“The third period was better for us,” remarked Andreozzi. “We skated better, played better, almost made a game out of it. We made a nice comeback at the end, and I’ll toot my kids’ horn. Down 5-0, nine out of 10 teams would pack it in, but we made it 5-3 and put some pressure on them.”
Noke, a junior backup, was inserted into the game after the Patriots produced their final goal. That’s when Andreozzi pulled his longtime starter and three-time division all-star, senior Michaelangelo Federici, who only stopped 11 of the 16 shots he faced.
“Worst decision I ever had to make,” said Andreozzi. “But what was I going to do? I didn’t have a choice at that point. He knew it. … He meant so much to me and this program and it wasn’t an easy decision.”
The Patriots wasted little time netting their first goal. Less than three minutes into the game, Mike Maggiacomo scored on a wristshot just outside the right faceoff circle that sailed over Federici’s glove and into the twines.
With 5:55 left in the first period, Matt Abraham made it a 2-0 game by rifling a shot deep in the slot that zipped over Federici’s right shoulder.
And then things went from bad to worse.
Just 19 seconds into the middle period, Mackenzie McDonald scored the first of his two goals by flicking a pass from Abraham past Federici.
At 9:27, Abraham scored a power-play goal off a sharp pass from McDonald, and less than two minutes later, McDonald netted his other goal.
With exactly five minutes to go in the game, the Clippers avoided the shutout by producing their first two goals less than 31 seconds apart from each other. Michael Ray notched the first goal off an assist from Andrew Dulac, and team captain T.J. Salisbury lit the lamp on a setup by Joshua Engels.
When Joshua Pora made it a two-goal contest at 11:55 by flipping in a pass from Salisbury, the Patriots and their fans began to feel a little uneasy, but the hosts clamped down defensively and eventually held on for the win.
The loss ends a truly outstanding year for the Clippers, who behind a veteran roster that included 10 seniors, won the Division II-North regular-season title and again established themselves as one of the league’s top defensive clubs.
“We probably did more that what most people expected us to do at the start of the year,” said Andreozzi. “Our senior class has had a pretty good run and I’m proud of them and the rest of this team. We had a great season, and we’ll come back next year and try it again.”
Cumberland 0 - 0 - 3 -- 3
Portsmouth 2 - 3 - 0 -- 5
First period: P -- Mike Maggiacomo (Kyle Alvanas), 2:45; P -- Matt Abraham (Chris Oliveira), 9:05. Penalties: None.
Second period: P -- Mackenzie McDonald (Matt Abraham), :19. P -- Matt Abraham (Mackenzie McDonald), power play, 9:26; P -- Mackenzie McDonald (Matt Abraham), 11:21. Penalties: C, 2-4; P, 1-2.
Third period: C -- Michael Ray (Andrew Dulac), power play, 10:00; C -- T.J. Salisbury (Joshua Engels), power play, 10:31; C -- Josh Pora (T.J. Salisbury), power play, 11:55. Penalties: P, 3-9.
Shots on goal: Cumberland 19, Portsmouth 25. Goalie saves: C -- Michaelangelo Federici (12 saves-16 shots), Patrick Noke (11:21, second period, 9 saves-9 shots), P -- Matt Maggiacomo (16 saves).