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Capeflete edges Cheverus in possible playoff preview

Sports

Capeflete edges Cheverus in possible playoff preview

PORTLAND—With an unaccustomed playoff trip looming, the Cape Elizabeth/Waynflete co-op girls' hockey team is starting to round into postseason form.

Wednesday afternoon at Portland Ice Arena, Capeflete hosted a Cheverus team hungry for a victory and the teams produced 45 minutes with little separation.

After a scoreless first period, which featured Capeflete junior goalie Lily Jordan and Cheverus sophomore goalkeeper Taylor Courtois stealing the show, Capeflete opened the scoring 91 seconds into the second period when junior Katie Ewald tipped home a loose puck.

The Stags drew even later in the period, on an unassisted goal from sophomore standout Jill Hannigan, but Capeflete answered less than a minute later when freshman Hannah Bosworth scored, making it 2-1 with 15 minutes to play.

Capeflete appeared in good shape starting the third, as it was on the power play, but it took Hannigan all of 11 seconds to turn things around, scoring a shorthanded goal to tie the score.

The game remained 2-2 deep into the third period and overtime appeared imminent, but with 1:24 to go, it would be a freshman, Kate Ginder, who stepped into the hero's role, tipping home the shot of junior Kathryn Clark, and that proved to be the difference as Capeflete held on for a 3-2 victory, improving to 8-7, while dropping the Stags to 6-7-1 in the process.

"We did bounce back and I think it really showed the team's mental fortitude," said Capeflete coach Bob Mills. "We kept our compsoure and kept battling. We knew Cheverus was right behind us in the Heal Points. We knew if we beat them twice, chances are good they won't leapfrog us."

A close one

Capeflete and Cheverus share Portland Ice Arena and have had similar seasons in 2013-14.

Capeflete has doubled its win total from all of last year, when it missed the playoffs. 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 Monday, beat visiting Mt. Ararat (3-1).

Cheverus, which got to the West Region semifinals a year ago before losing to Scarborough, started the year 0-2-1, losing at home to Biddeford (5-2) and at Lewiston (7-2), while tying visiting York (5-5), before getting in the win column with a 4-1 home victory over Mt. Ararat. After falling, 11-1, at Scarborough, the Stags beat host Brunswick (5-2). After a 4-3 home loss to Capeflete, Cheverus won four in a row: 3-2 at Gorham, 5-2 at Portland/Deering, 7-0 over visiting Portland/Deering and 5-1 over visiting Brunswick. The Stags came back to Earth with a couple of losses to Falmouth (4-0 on the road and 6-0 at home).

Cheverus won the first four meetings between the schools by a composite 27-1 margin (two of them came in the Stags' championship season of 2009-10). It won the next three by a 13-3 margin, but on Jan. 26, 2012, Capeflete enjoyed its first win in the series, 5-1. Last winter, Cheverus won a pair of high scoring games (6-5 and 7-5). Capeflete's win Dec. 19 was just its second in 11 meetings.

Wednesday's contest wasn't settled until the waning seconds.

In the first period, Courtois made nine saves, while Jordan stopped six shots.

The Stags' best scoring chances came with 7:44 left, when senior Katie Randall was denied in front, and with just over a minute to go, when, on the power play, both Hannigan and sophomore Caroline Ray were stymied.

The Capers saw junior Julia Ginder stopped with 5:18 left, Ewald denied with 3:36 to go and a follow-up rebound also saved and Julia Ginder being robbed in front 19 seconds later.

Capeflete outsthot Cheverus, 9-6, in the first 15 minutes.

Capeflete finally broke through early in the second period, on the power play.

A minute in, Bosworth almost broke the ice, but after taking a pass from Kate Ginder, she was robbed by Courtois.

Capeflete kept possession and with 13:29 left, finally broke through as Ewald tipped in Kate Ginder's shot for a 1-0 lead.

The Stags went on the power play seconds later and almost got on the board, but Hannigan's shot was poked away by Jordan.

After Bosworth tipped a pass from Clark over the net, Kate Bosworth had a shot saved and Clark shot high, Randall won a loose puck and broke in one-on-one on Jordan, but Jordan made the save to preserve the lead.

After Courtois returned the favor, denying a shot by Ewald and a Clark rebound, then frustrating Clark on a breakaway.

Finally, with 3:38 to go in the stanza, Cheverus tied the score, as Hannigan got free, eluded a defender, then beat Jordan to make it 1-1.

The deadlock lasted all of 53 seconds, as Clark sent a shot on net that Courtois saved, but the puck sat loose in front and Hannah Bosworth was there to bang home the rebound and Capeflete was back on top, 2-1.

"I think an assist is just as fine as a goal," said Clark. "We work really hard to move the puck around. Once we got the puck moving, it worked out well."

In the final minute, Capeflete almost extended its lead, but a shot from Kate Ginder hit the post.

As time expired, the Stags were called for a penalty, giving Capeflete a power play to start the third.

It didn't help, as Cheverus won control of the puck and junior Abby Biegel got the puck up top to Hannigan, whose shot somehow eluded Jordan and found the net to tie the game, 2-2.

"Jill is quite a talent," said Stags coach Amy McNally. "She's fun to watch. She played well. she got us some opportunities."

Both teams would have ample chances to take the lead, but it took over 13 minutes for someone to tickle the twine again.

Right after the tying goal, Capeflete junior Allison Mills redirected the puck on goal, but Courtois made the save. Clark then broke in for a shot, but it too was saved.

The Stags went on the power play with 10:18 to go and with 8:53 left, Cheverus got an opportunity to play 5-on-3, but it couldn't convert. A shot from sophomore Caroline Ray went just wide and Randall also sent a shot wide as the game remained even.

After Julia Ginder and Clark both had shots saved, Katie Ginder set up Hannah Bosworth for a great opportunity, but with 5:02 remaining, Courtois made the save.

Jordan then denied senior Emma Engelman and Hannigan before Capeflete went on the power play with just under two minutes to go.

Mills called timeout.

"We talked about getting the puck back to the point and getting traffic in front of the goalie," Mills said. "When that goalie can see the puck, she makes every save. We needed to get some screens, tips, rebounds."

His charges then went out and got the go-ahead tally.

It came with 1:24 to play, when Clark sent a shot on the net, the puck came to Katie Ginder, and Ginder fired a shot past Courtois for a 3-2 lead.

"I kind of just shot it," said Ginder. "Kathryn passed it to me, I saw the five hole and just shot it. It felt good. Coach just told us to screen the goalie and shoot. (Playing varsity is) fun. The upperclassmen are really nice. It's been a great experience."

"Kate's a diverse player," said Mills. "She can play well at any position. We have an injury, so right now, she's playing at forward and playing very well. She and (fellow freshmen) Hannah Bosworth and Eliza Connolly, all three of them, have had big, big impacts on this team."

Cheverus didn't help its cause when it was called for a penalty with 36.4 seconds showing, but Capeflete was whistled for a penalty seven seconds later, The Stags had a chance with a faceoff in the Capeflete zone, but couldn't control the puck and after Kate Ginder played the puck into the Cheverus zone, time ran out and Capeflete held on, 3-2.

"It's a very nice win," Clark said. "They're a really good team. We knew it wouldn't be an easy game. We knew (Hannigan) is very gifted with her skating ability. We knew we had to watch her. I think we did a very good job trying to shut her down. We sometimes have a difficult time going into the third period. Sometimes we come out flat. Luckily, we got back into it."

"I thought we played really well in all three periods, that shorthanded goal notwithstanding," Mills said.

Cheverus was left frustrated.

"We had some good chances, but we look at this as a missed opportunity," said McNally. "I thought that goal to start the third was a good omen for us, but I think at the end, we were worn down. I had the same group out killing that penalty until the end."

Capeflete finished with a 31-15 advantage in shots on goal. Courtois made 28 saves, while Jordan stopped 13 shots.

"Taylor played a great game," McNally said. "She was fantastic."

"We threw a lot of pucks at (Courtois), but she played an outstanding game," said Mills.

The Stags were 0-for-3 on the power play, while Capeflete converted twice in four opportunities.

Hoping to host

Capeflete and Cheverus could possibly meet in the quarterfinals, but that's still a couple weeks off.

Cheverus (now sixth in the West Region Heal Points standings, where six teams make the postseason) will likely make the playoffs, although it has a tough closing stretch. The Stags host Scarborough Saturday, welcome Gorham/Bonny Eagle Thursday of next week, then close two days later at dangerous Yarmouth/Freeport. Cheverus also has to make up a game at Biddeford.

"We've got to beat Gorham or Biddeford to have a chance at playoffs," McNally said. "We have Scarborough and Yarmouth also. It's a tough closing stretch. Our goal is to make the playoffs."

As for Capeflete (ranked third), bound for its postseason berth in five years, if it finishes third or fourth, it will host a quarterfinal round playoff game. All that's left is a home game against Gorham/Bonny Eagle Thursday, a home tilt versus Biddeford next Thursday and a game at Gorham/Bonny Eagle to close the season Feb. 1.

This team is dreaming big.

"We're hoping to win all three games so we can have home ice advantage," Clark said. "We want to go into playoffs second or third seed. We want to play Scarborough in the regional final. We'll work on improving. We're not the best we can be yet.""

"It would be good to have home ice for playoffs," Ginder said. "It would be exciting."

"We have to beat Biddeford next week," Mills added. "We haven't seen them yet. If we beat them, we'll be in good standing to have a home playoff game. I think this group has believed for the past month-and-a-half that they can do special things. If we can stay healthy and rested, I think we can do some damage."

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

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Capeflete junior Kathryn Clark plays the puck up the ice.

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Capeflete junior Katie Ewald prepares a shot on goal.

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Cheverus sophomore Sophia Giancotti sends the puck past Capeflete junior Kathryn Clark.

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Cheverus sophomore Caroline Ray and Capeflete freshman Kate Ginder fight for the puck.

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Cheverus sophomore Jill Hannigan races past Capeflete junior Kathryn Clark.

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Capeflete freshman Hannah Bosworth is denied by Cheverus sophomore goalie Taylor Courtois.

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Cheverus senior Katie Randall goes one-on-one with Capeflete junior goalie Lily Jordan.