PORTLAND—The Capeflete girls’ hockey team wasn’t content just playing in the postseason Thursday evening at Portland Ice Arena.
No, the Cape Elizabeth/Waynflete co-op squad decided it was so much fun that it might as well stay awhile.
Ranked fourth, Capeflete hosted No. 5 York for a weather-delayed West Region quarterfinal and took all of 2 minutes, 40 seconds to get the only goal it would need, as junior Allison Mills scored.
Capeflete then opened it up in the second period, as junior Julia Ginder and freshman Hannah Bosworth both lit the lamp.
While the Capeflete penalty kill and junior goalie Lily Jordan were holding the Wildcats at bay, Capeflete ended all doubt when Mills skated in for her second goal with 8:19 remaining and the result was a 4-0 triumph.
Capeflete improved to 11-8, ended York’s season at 4-14-1 and advanced to play top-ranked, undefeated Scarborough (18-0) in the semifinals Saturday at 7:40 p.m., at MHG Arena in Saco.
“It’s totally awesome,” said Ginder, a captain. “We’ve been looking forward to this for ages. We were confident. We just tried to do what we do best, just play. We’ve never been to playoffs before. To do it in hockey, which we all love, is really exciting.”
While there was little buzz around Capeflete entering the season, this collection of girls and their coaches believed they could qualify for the postseason for the first time in the short history of the co-op team. One year after winning just four times in 2012-13, Capeflete overcame a slow start to make some noise.
Capeflete opened with a 5-0 loss at Leavitt/Edward Little, fell, 5-1, at home to Yarmouth/Freeport, then was blanked by host Scarborough, 6-0, but the season turned around with a 6-5 come-from-behind win over visiting Falmouth. Capeflete then won, 10-1, at Portland/Deering and 4-3 at Cheverus before losing a hard-fought 3-1 decision at Yarmouth/Freeport. Capeflete bounced back with a 4-0 win at Winslow. After a 5-2 home loss to undefeated Scarborough and an 8-2 setback at Falmouth, Capeflete downed visiting York (6-1) and Portland/Deering (10-1), lost at York (3-2), then beat visiting Mt. Ararat (3-1), visiting Cheverus (3-2) and visiting Gorham/Bonny Eagle (9-2) before falling at home to Biddeford (3-1). Capeflete closed the regular season with a 7-0 win at Gorham/Bonny Eagle and earned the No. 4 seed for the playoffs.
“We knew we had solid freshmen coming in and that’s made a huge difference,” said Ginder. “They had some experience before high school.”
York has been a postseason regular in the short time the Maine Principals’ Association has sanctioned girls’ hockey, but the Wildcats won just won four times this season and lost their last five regular season games, but still garnered the No. 5 seed.
Thursday, Capeflete made an immediate statement.
It would be Mills doing the honors, finishing a feed from junior Katie Ewald, beating York junior Emily Mahoney, and the only goal Capeflete would need was on the board.
“It was nice to score first,” said Mills. “I got a really nice pass and just put it through (the goalie’s) legs.”
Later in the first period, Jordan made an impressive save on a bid from York freshman Katherine Bertolini to preserve the lead.
The Wildcats went on the power play to start the second period, but just 49 seconds in, committed a penalty of their own to even things up and set up a 4-on-4 situation, which Capeflete took advantage of.
With 13:35 to go in the second, freshman Eliza Connolly sent a shot on net, Ginder got a piece of it and deflected it past Mahoney to make it 2-0.
Just 92 seconds later, it was 3-0 as junior Kathryn Clark fired a shot which Mahoney stopped, but the rebound fell to the ice where Bosworth poked it home.
After killing another York power play, Capeflete almost got a fourth goal, but Ginder’s shot hit the post.
In the final minute, Wildcats junior Kendall Carr rushed in one-on-one versus Jordan, but Jordan made the save.
York went on the power play just 22 seconds into the third period, but again had nothing to show for it, as Jordan made an early save, then pounced on the rebound.
“Our coaches tell us to play with heart,” Mills said. “It doesn’t always come down to who’s the better team and we pushed ourselves.”
Any comeback hopes the Wildcats might have entertained disappeared for good with 8:15 remaining, as Mills skated down a pass from freshman Kate Ginder, raced in and again beat Mahoney for a 4-0 advantage.
“I just went top shelf,” Mills said. “It felt pretty good.”
From there, Capeflete had to kill two more penalties and did so and soon got to celebrate its 4-0 victory.
“We knew if we came out and worked hard from the beginning, we’d be able to pull through and win,” Julia Ginder said. “We were really confident. We tried to stay calm and do what we do best, which is just play. Emotions run high in the playoffs, so no matter how many goals we got, we didn’t want to lose our heads. We’re down a few players, so we had to keep working hard to get more.”
“I think it validates what the team’s been feeling since day one,” said Capeflete coach Bob Mills. “Especially with some freshmen coming in who were pretty good hockey players, we knew we’d be a pretty good team. It feels good. We’re a little short-handed, but the girls played an outstanding game. We talked about setting the tone and getting the first goal, which we were lucky to do. I’m really proud of how they handled the emotion. They came out intense and ready to play, but they were focused. Most goals in hockey come on rebounds and second chances and we took advantage of that tonight.”
Jordan wound up saving all 15 shots she faced.
“Lily played a great game,” Bob Mills said. “She didn’t see a lot of shots, which are tough games for goalies, but she was solid. I don’t think she gave up one rebound.”
Mahoney stopped 17 shots for the Wildcats, who were frustrated six times on the power play.
Scarborough is the favorite to win the championship this winter, but there is one team that for half a game anyway, managed to slow the Red Storm.
That experience, combined with embracing the role of the underdog, will give Capeflete a chance Saturday.
“Scarborough’s undefeated, but we think if we push ourselves like we did tonight, we can defeat the undefeated,” said Allison Mills.
“(Tonight’s) a huge accomplishment, but the girls aren’t done,” added Coach Mills. “Scarborough will be a formidable opponent, but we have confidence, since we played them the closest this year. We have nothing to lose.”