By Michael Hoffer
PORTLAND — The Scarborough girls’ hockey team ended the 2007-08 season as undefeated champions.
This winter, the first under the auspices of the Maine Principals’ Association, the Red Storm are again dreaming of a title and their championship quest got off to a promising start Wednesday afternoon at the Cumberland County Civic Center.
Facing Cape Elizabeth, Scarborough scored three times in the first period, then rode a hat trick from sophomore Abby Rutt and some timely saves from senior goalie Felicia Mazzone en route to a 6-2 victory in West Region quarterfinal action.
The victory moves the Red Storm into the semifinals Saturday where they will visit Cheverus. The puck drops at 8:30 p.m. at the Portland Ice Arena.
“We got off to a great start,” said Scarborough coach John Fortiguerra. “The girls played well. They were up to the task.”
Scarborough won all 19 of its games last winter, capped by a 2-0 victory over Falmouth in the Tier II championship game. The Red Storm then underwent a coaching change as Bre Fortiguerra stepped down and was replaced by her father.
Scarborough wasn’t quite as dominant this season, but the Red Storm have been competitive throughout, winning 12 games, tying a pair and losing only to Cheverus (twice), Biddeford and Gorham. Scarborough earned the No. 3 seed in the West Region.
Cape Elizabeth, which went 2-16 last winter, posted a solid 9-8-1 mark this season, but lost twice to Scarborough, 10-4 and 6-0. The Capers were the sixth and final team to qualify in the West.
Wednesday, the Red Storm dominated the opening period and took a 1-0 lead with 4:59 to play when junior Jackie Morin took a pass from classmate Jordan Finley and beat Capers’ senior goalie Katie Mowles. With 2:10 to go in the first, Morin struck again, this time skating past a defender before beating Mowles with a backhander. With just under a minute remaining in the period, senior Chelsea Barrett took a pass from Rutt, skated through three defenders, then shot and scored to make it 3-0 Scarborough. The Red Storm had a 9-2 edge in shots in the first 12 minutes.
The rest of the game was relatively even, but Cape Elizabeth couldn’t rally from its early deficit.
The only goal of the second period came with 2:44 to go when Rutt scored her first, skating in before beating Mowles high to her glove side.
Just 22 seconds into the third, the Capers came to life as senior Morgan Barnes scored on a rebound of classmate Margaret Rich’s shot. No sooner did Cape Elizabeth celebrate, however, than Rutt won the faceoff, raced in and scored to restore the four-goal bulge, 5-1.
With 7:42 to play, Rich (from Barnes) scored to make it 5-2. With 5:28 remaining, the Capers had a great chance to draw even closer and make things very interesting, but sophomore Emily Hollyday’s point blank bid was turned away by Mazzone. Then, with 1:34 left, Rutt scored her third goal to bring the curtain down on the 6-2 victory.
“Abby’s a player,” Fortiguerra said. “She’s very skilled. She can do it all. She’s a complete package. She’s only a freshman. She’ll only get better.”
Cape Elizabeth had a 17-15 edge in shots.
Mazzone stopped 15 shots.
“She made some nice saves,” Fortiguerra said. “She’s worked hard her whole career.”
Mowles stopped nine for the Capers, who wound up 9-9-1.
Scarborough lost 2-1 at home to No. 2 Cheverus Jan. 3 and 8-2 at the Stags 11 days later. The Red Storm hope the third time’s a charm.
“Hopefully it’s our turn,” Fortiguerra said. “These girls have been through this before. No locker room jitters. We’ll come out and play hard.”
The winner advances to meet either No. 1 Biddeford (15-2-1), No. 4 York (11-6-1) or No. 5 Falmouth (9-6-3) in the regional final Wednesday at Portland Ice Arena. The state championship game is Saturday, Feb. 14 at the Colisee in Lewiston.
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org