Their time finally came.
The Cape Cod Storm U19 team’s players had been to the USA Hockey national championships before, but had come up short. The bulk of the roster played for high school teams that flirted with state championships this past spring, but fell just shy of the title.
Last weekend they put it all together and no longer have to take a back seat to anyone. With a 2-1 victory in the national title game, the Storm U19 ladies captured the 2014 USA Hockey Tier II national championship as they vanquished Keweenah, Michigan, to win it all.
Behind a 29-save performance by goalie Maddie Scavotto of Falmouth and two goals by Maddi Haberl, also of Falmouth, the Storm accomplished its mission. The Storm held off a late charge by the team from Michigan, which included a 6-on-3 power play in the final minutes, to clinch the title.
With championship hats and T-shirts being handed around, and smiles on the faces of the girls he’s coached for the past five years, head coach Scott Ghelfi of Falmouth drank it all in and couldn’t get the smile off his face.
“It’s pretty awesome,” he said. “Everyone was playing so well, so going there, I was feeling pretty confident, but then I started doubting it a bit.”
As the Storm was preparing to playing its first games of the tournament, Ghelfi saw Team Alaska practice and he said he was “blown away.” “I wasn’t sure. I started to doubt if we were that good, and in the first game we didn’t play that great. I didn’t want to lose that first game, but we squeaked it out.”
Next up was Team Alaska, the squad that impressed the coach so much. The girls from the Upper Cape dominated, winning by a 5-1 score. “After that game, I told them, ‘I believe now,’ ” Ghelfi said.
They all seemed to believe. The Storm finished pool play with another lopsided win and then ran through the elimination rounds with relative ease. They dominated the quarterfinals, winning 9-1 over Naperville. Haberl and Claire Gauthier, of Sandwich, got the first-period goals. Kelly Ferreira scored the second-period goal and in the third, it was all Cape Cod, with six more. They came on shots by Hannah Ghelfi, Maggie Layo, Alyssa Garneau, Nicole Martin and then two more by Layo.
The semifinals was another shellacking by the Storm as they smoked the defending national champs from Chazy, New York, by a score of 7-0. Rogorzenski and Layo scored in the first period. In the second, it was Maggie MacDonald, Rogorzenski and Haberl who lit the lamp. In the third, Kylie Hallam and Hannah Ghelfi both added on.
That sent the Storm to the national title game, where they took care of business, winning a close one against a very good team from Michigan. “They gave us everything in that championship game,” coach Ghelfi said. “We came out flying and they didn’t know what to do with us, but in the second period, they tied it up. They got a spark and we were back on our heels.”
The game was tied, 1-1, going into the third, when Haberl made the play of the tournament to score the winner for Cape Cod. All week long the Storm had made its name by being aggressive on the forecheck, and no one was more aggressive than Maddie Haberl. The Falmouth resident attacked the puck carrier just as she crossed the blue line and pilfered the puck away from her as the Keweenah player attempted to spin away from danger. Haberl, who skated on a line with her high school linemates Ferreira and Alexa Scribner, then had a clean lane to the net, and she skated hard at it, roofing the eventual game-winner just under the crossbar with a little more than seven minutes left to play.
From there it was up to Scavotto, who played some of her best hockey ever, according to her coach, and the defense to make that lead stand up. They were able to do that, holding off a late charge. Playing D for the Storm were Hannah Ghelfi and Kendall Stouffer, of Falmouth, Nicole Martin, of Sandwich; and Barnstable’s Kylie Hallam and Morgan Richard.
“(Scavotto) got into a zone, and got really, really confident,” coach Ghelfi said. “In the third period, with our backs against the wall, she was just awesome.”
And awesome is just how the players are going to remember one of the best weeks of their lives.
“It was a blast and a great way to end my high school hockey career,” Sandwich senior Maggie Layo said. “Coming off a heart-breaking semifinal loss this was another chance. You can’t be nervous in a big game like this, you have to be composed. Just getting to the national championship round was a surreal feeling.”
“It was really a great experience,” Sandwich junior Nicole Martin said. “It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play for a national championship against some great competition. It broadened our horizons to see such good teams from around the country. Everyone on our team came together. Who would have thought that a little place like Cape Cod would have a team finish number-one in the country.”