BOURNE, Mass. -- Back in December when the Falmouth girls’ ice hockey team convened for its first practice, there were far more answers than questions. With a rookie head coach and 10 freshmen in the lineup, a trip to the TD Garden for the state championship seemed like a pretty far-fetched concept.
It became a reality Saturday though.
Two of those freshmen scored goals and another stopped 12 of 14 shots on goal to lead the Clippers to their first-ever appearance in the Division 2 state championship game. Falmouth, the No. 7 seed, knocked off No. 6 Westwood 3-2 to advance to the finals, which will be held next Sunday.
“It’s all on the [players], they’ve worked hard all year, they’ve earned it,” Falmouth head coach Erin Blood said.
After a scoreless first period, the Wolverines scored first, snapping one under Clippers keeper Maddie Scavotto, who has been stellar throughout the season for the Clippers. Falmouth’s defense did not make a lot of mistakes in the game, but the Clippers had a hard time clearing the puck out of its own end and Westwood made them pay as Liz Stuehr rode one along the ice from the middle of the right faceoff circle that beat Scavotto through the 5-hole for a 1-0 lead for Westwood at the 5:06 mark of the middle period.
Ironically, Westwood's goal seemed to do more for the Clippers’ outlook on the game. Falmouth rallied from that point on and took it to the Wolverines.
“We’re young and we’ve got lots of nerves. A lot of the girls have never experience something like this before. We had to settle down, we came out nervous but then we got down to business, we took care of it,” Blood said.
Senior captain and defenseman Brenna Callahan echoed her coach’s sentiments. “It just hit us that we wanted this and that we couldn’t let our nerves get us."
Just three minutes after the Wolverines grabbed the lead, Falmouth struck for a pair of goals in a 14-second span. Falmouth knotted it up on a goal by Callahan and then took the lead on a breakaway off the ensuing faceoff that saw freshman Kelly Ferreira pot the go-ahead goal.
Callahan, a defenseman, let a shot fly that missed the mark. The senior followed the puck and forward Amy Wilson, a junior co-captain, covered Callahan’s position on the left point. The puck found its way back to Wilson, who spied Callahan sneaking through the back door on the far side and she whistled a perfect feed to the far post where Callahan tipped it behind Siobhan Burke to knot things up at 8:15.
Callahan said that the goal came off of a broken play that saw two experienced players make the most out of what was presented to them. “She sent it to me wide and I was there on the back post,” Callahan said. “It was totally improv.”
Before Westwood knew what had hit them the Clippers struck again. Falmouth won the draw back to freshman defenseman Hannah Ghelfi, who threaded a perfect lead pass to fellow rookie Ferreira, who broke for the slot. The puck found Ferreira a step ahead of the blue line and she walked in alone on Burke, besting the keeper with a snap shot to the glove side to make it a 2-1 game just 14 seconds later.
“We let down a little bit, and they picked it up,” Westwood head coach Rick Chrusciel said. “We had one bad shift, we gave up a couple of quick goals…after that I thought we did a nice job regrouping and carried a lot of it the rest of the second period.”
Ferreira, who has scored in each of the Clippers’ postseason games, helped give her team a little breathing room in the third period when she set up another of the Clippers’ fantastic freshmen, Maddie Haberl. Ferreira got the puck behind the Westwood cage and sent a pretty backhand pass from the left of Burke to the high slot for Haberl. The forward ripped a blast to the glove side to the top shelf for a 3-1 lead just 1:59 into the third.
Westwood came right back after that to make it a one-goal game again. Kim Egizi, the Wolverines’ second-leading goal scorer during the regular season, sniped one from the right faceoff dot under Scavotto’s stick side arm to cut the deficit to a single goal with 11:18 left in the semifinal game.
After that, though, the Falmouth defense clamped down. Scavotto was not as busy as she'd been in the previous two postseason games for Falmouth, making 30 or more saves in each. But the Clippers defense, led by Callahan, Alexx Good and Ghelfi, did not allow Westwood to get much going throughout the game. Westwood was held to just two shots on goal in the third period, and just one in the final five minutes, a nice bid by Egizi that was kicked aside.
“We kept them on the outside all game. We spent a lot of time on the D zone in practice. I think defense wins games, so that’s where that comes from,” Blood, a former Boston College defenseman, said. “(Our defense) really kept them to the outside, all game long they were blocking shots…it was just a one-goal game (at the end). We’ve come back from one goal before, so we told them that they couldn’t give up until that final whistle.”
An icing call against the Clippers with 1:22 left to go gave the Wolverines one last hope at a flurry, but they were unable to throw anything at the net. Falmouth cleared the zone and never allowed WHS to set up shop in the offensive end again, nor get Burke off the ice for an extra attacker.
Scavotto was her own toughest critic. The first-year starter, who entered the game with a 1.26 goals against average, said that her teammates picked her up this time around.
“I don’t think that I had my best game, and my team rallied. The third period was probably the best period I’ve seen them play,” Scavotto said. “They kept the puck down the other end of the ice pretty much the whole period, and they shut them down.”