PORTLAND—It wasn’t a thing of beauty, but the Capeflete girls’ hockey team didn’t need pretty, it just needed a win.
Saturday afternoon at the Portland Ice Arena, Capeflete got its much-needed victory, downing Cheverus, 3-0.
It certainly didn’t come easily, as Stags junior Taylor Courtois turned aside nine shots in a scoreless first period, but with 6:08 to play in the second, Capeflete finally broke through as senior Kathryn Clark scored on a rebound.
In the final minute of the second period, Capeflete struck again, as senior captain Julia Ginder scored on a rebound for a 2-0 lead.
Ginder scored again on a rebound in the third period and that was enough to produce a 3-0 victory.
Capeflete snapped a three-game skid, improved to 3-3 and dropped Cheverus to 2-4 in the process.
“I think this is a turning point,” Ginder said. “The first few games were about figuring out chemistry and how to play as a team. I think we’ve gotten the kinks out. Other teams know who we are. It’s a little more difficult in that we can’t sneak up on anyone this year. We have to work harder. The program is going up.”
Capeflete stole headlines a year ago, reaching the West Region semifinals. This winter, the team faced expectations for the first time, but passed its first two tests, downing Portland/Deering (6-0) and Gorham/Bonny Eagle (7-1). Capeflete then hit a rough patch, falling to perennial contender Falmouth (3-2), defending state champion Scarborough (2-1, in overtime) and to East Region power Edward Little/Leavitt (5-3).
Cheverus, meanwhile, missed the playoffs last year, but has been competitive this winter, The Stags lost at Biddeford in the opener (6-0), but downed Mt. Ararat (5-3) and Portland/Deering (8-2) before losing to York (4-0) and Falmouth (3-1).
Last year, Capeflete beat Cheverus twice, 4-3 and 3-2.
Saturday, the Stags sought their first win over Capeflete since Jan. 14, 2013 (7-5), but despite a strong effort, it wasn’t to be.
Courtois set the tone in the second minute when she denied Clark’s backhanded shot after a rush up the ice. Later in the first, Clark was robbed again, sophomore Hannah Bosworth shot just wide and Clark was stopped after weaving through the defense, keeping the game 0-0 after 15 minutes.
Capeflete had a 14-3 edge in shots, but nine Courtois shots kept the game scoreless.
“I don’t know if frustration was the right word,” Capeflete coach Bob Mills said. “The girls realized what they needed to do better. Hockey’s a funny game. On the ice, you just go on adrenaline.”
Early in the second period, Capeflete senior goalie Lily Jordan matched Courtois by denying Cheverus junior Caroline Ray after a turnover and junior Jill Hannigan right in front.
Capeflete then went back on the attack, but Courtois stopped shots from senior Allison Mills and Bosworth.
Finally, with 6:08 left in the second, Capeflete solved Courtois, but not on a first shot. Courtois stopped a bid from sophomore Kate Ginder, but Clark dug and poked at the rebound and finally put it into the net for a 1-0 lead.
Capeflete’s second goal was nearly identical.
With 36.5 seconds to go in the second, after Courtois saved senior Maddie Pellow’s bid, Julia Ginder managed to push the puck into the net and the score was 2-0.
“We had a lot more shots in this game than we’ve had in previous games,” Ginder said. “We had shots that were so close. Then, we started finishing. I don’t think our intensity was quite there at the beginning. As the game progressed, we improved. It’s very important to crash the goal. In the Scarborough game, that’s something we could have improved on. A lot of goalies in this league will give up rebounds. The first priority is to get there. If you get time, you want to open up and get the best opportunity to aim.”
“All of our goals came in front,” Coach Mills said. “That was good intensity. Finding the balance between playing aggressively and staying out of the penalty box is a process.”
Jordan denied any Cheverus comeback hopes when she stymied back-to-back Hannigan shots early in the third period.
Then, with 10:24 to go, even though Courtois was knocked down and out of the play, Ginder was able to score on another rebound for a commanding 3-0 lead.
Penalties were prevelant down the stretch, but neither squad tickled the twine again and Capeflete went on to a 3-0 triumph.
“We needed a win,” Mills said. “It’s good to be back on track. Their goalie played very, very well, but I thought our intensity level was better than last game. As long as we’re making improvements, I’m happy.”
Capeflete finished with a 34-17 shots advantage, but Courtois stood tall, making 20 saves in defeat.
“(Taylor) did a nice job,” said Cheverus coach Amy McNally. “I’ve gotten compliments about her from all over the league. Coaches are so impressed with her. She’s doing great.
“We were hoping to frustrate and tire them. “They’re in the same boat we are in regards to numbers. That was our game plan. We had some chances. If we take our team from November 1st to today, it’s black and white. We’re really building. Our players our getting experience in our system. I’m really impressed.”
Jordan stopped 10 shots for Capeflete.
Cheverus is back in action Thursday at home versus Gorham/Bonny Eagle, then finishes the 2014 portion of its schedule Saturday at home against Mt. Ararat.
“The next part of our schedule is pretty good,” McNally said. “I’m hoping to get more confidence. We need to get more aggressive on our forecheck and generate more chances. If we can give our defense more rest, we’ll get more offense.”
Capeflete visits York Monday, then closes the year with a home tilt versus Falmouth Wednesday.
That’s a win that this team really wants.
“We have to work on puck movement,” Ginder said. “Today wasn’t pretty because we didn’t move it as effectively as we could have. We have to get it up the ice against top teams. We’ll make adjustments and hopefully break through against a top team.”
“We don’t want to look beyond our next game, but we’re really looking forward to our game with Falmouth,” Mills said. “We’re getting where we want to be. If we can keep the injuries at bay, we’ll be good.”