Falmouth High School’s bid for a third straight trip to the Division 2 championship game was denied on Tuesday night at Gallo Ice Arena. Wellesley High School (20-1-3) built a one-goal lead early in the second period and made it stand up, thanks to an otherworldly performance by goaltender Meghan King. The junior goaltender faced 39 shots by the Clippers, including 22 in the third period alone, but stopped 37 of them to earn her team a trip to the TD Garden on Sunday morning with a 3-2 win over the Clippers (15-3-4).
Tied at 1-1 after one period, Wellesley dominated the first few minutes of period two and got the go-ahead goal just 40 seconds into the frame. A shot by WHS star Cecily Docktor from out front in the low slot was stopped by FHS junior goalie Maddie Scavotto, but the puck fell to the ice just to the keeper’s right. Scavotto got a piece of a follow-up shot by Carley Boyle, but Boyle’s second effort found the back of the cage.
From about the eight-minute mark on in the second period, it was all Clippers. Falmouth had trailed in shots 7-0 early in the period, but finished the second with an 11-9 edge. In the third they outfired the Red Raiders by a 22-2 margin. WHS had just one shot on net during the first 14 minutes of the third period, a harmless wrister in the first few minutes. They didn’t get another until Keely Corscadden filled an empty net with 41 seconds left in the game to make it 3-1.
Corscadden’s empty-netter seemingly iced the game, but Falmouth scored a miraculous goal right after it to keep hope temporarily alive as Kelly Ferreira whipped one from the neutral zone that skipped over the seemingly unbeatable King with 25 seconds left to make it 3-2. Falmouth went right back on the attack following the goal and put more shots to the net, with Maddie Haberl poking away furiously at a loose puck just before time expired, along with the Clippers’ hopes of keeping their season going.
Falmouth head coach Erin Hunt smiled when assessing her team’s efforts in the second half of the game. She hated the end result, but beamed with pride regarding their efforts.
“We brought the heat. She was a hot goalie, I don’t know what you can do,” Hunt said. “I think (King) was the difference tonight. We worked hard until the very end, even when Ferreira scored that one at the end, she kept making saves. We battled to the end, but she kept them in the game.”
George Campbell, Wellesley’s head coach, had nothing but praise for his keeper that stole the game. “She’s totally under control all of the time,” he said. “She’s calm, she supports what’s going on in front of her and there’s never a sense of panic with her and she kind of sits back and controls everything.”
King took it all in stride. She credited her defense for allowing her to see the puck and clearing out the rebounds. “It was definitely stressful, but I have such a good team in front of me. I wasn’t worried,” she said. “We knew that they could come back any time, so we couldn’t let up at all.”
The third period onslaught by the Clippers saw numerous high quality scoring chances. The best one came on the power play on a wrist shot from the hash marks by Ferreira, who one-timed a feed from the side for the near post with 3:55 to play. King slid to her right and just got a piece of the puck, shooing it out of the way.
Right from the start of the third it was obvious that the Clippers had found another gear. FHS’s first line of Maddi Haberl, Maggie MacDonald and Ericka Meissner produced four shots on net on the first shift of the period alone. The Ferreira, Alexa Scribner and Emily Sanidas combo then continued to pound away. Falmouth went on two power plays in the third period, with Wellesley in full scramble mode throughout the entire period, but could not cash in any of their multiple chances.
“It is frustrating and the stakes are on the line and everyone wants to get to the next round. I’m real proud of the way our girls played, they battled to the end and you can’t ask for more as a coach,” Hunt said.
Wellesley was the first team to score and never had to play from behind in the game. The Red Raiders popped one past Scavotto at the 2:30 mark of the first period on a wrap-around by Docktor, who spun behind the cage and sneaked one inside the post. “We didn’t do a great job in our defensive zone on that one,” Hunt said.
Falmouth rallied back to tie it up at 11:58 on the prettiest play of the night. Just a few minutes after getting shaken up on a big mid-ice collision, MacDonald came back to knot things up. FHS was working the puck down low, where Meissner tipped it onward to Haberl on the left side inside the circle. The center spied MacDonald filling the slot and feathered a pass across where MacDonald roofed one just under the iron to make it 1-1.
That line nearly produced a tying goal in the second period when Haberl channeled her inner-Bobby Orr. The center picked up a puck behind her own net and skated straight up the middle of the ice, going coast to coast for a snap shot to King’s right. The goalie flashed her leg pad and got just enough of the shot to keep it out.
Campbell said he knew that Falmouth was capable of putting a lot of pressure on his club and that the game plan was to keep things simple and try to weather the storm. “You can’t really target anyone because their talent is so diverse. We just tried to play total team defense out in front of the goalie,” Campbell said. “Our kids stayed playing until the end, and Falmouth did too.
“Even in our league this year, we had eight or nine games in league play that were decided by a goal or less and six games where we had to come from behind. Our kids understand pressure and they came through,” Campbell said.