FALMOUTH—It was in the middle of the afternoon, not in prime time.

It wasn’t in front of a huge crowd at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee, but at an empty Family Ice Center.

But the result of Wednesday’s contest was one the Cape Elizabeth boys’ hockey team has long awaited and one they will celebrate for awhile.

Facing Greely, the two-time defending Class B champion, which had eliminated them from the regional final three years running, the Capers came out sizzling and never trailed en route to their most impressive victory of the season.

Cape Elizabeth dominated possession and shots virtually the entire first half and struck first at 6:20, when sophomore Alex Thayer scored.

With just 1:24 to go in the half, the Capers finally broke through for a second time, when junior Quinn Gordon set up senior Oskar Frankwicz for a 2-0 lead. 

But Greely regained momentum in a big way 21 seconds later, when sophomore Matt Kennedy scored and instead of being down a pair of goals at halftime, the deficit was much more manageable 2-1. 

Momentum didn’t stay with the Rangers when the second half began, however, as again the Capers brought the energy out of the locker room and at 2:27, sophomore Connor Goss made it a two-goal game again.

Again, the Rangers answered, taking advantage of the game’s first power play to pull within 3-2 on a goal from junior Evan Dutil with 10:16 remaining, but after senior Brennan Rawnsley’s bid to tie the game hit the crossbar, the Capers got some breathing room with 8:25 to go, as sophomore Sebastian Moon finished to make it 4-2.

Senior Nick Laughlin then clinched it with an empty net goal with 1:40 remaining and Cape Elizabeth closed out its 5-2 victory.

Five different Capers tickled the twine and sophomore goalie Charlie Garvin was solid as well as Cape Elizabeth improved to 5-2-2 and in the process, dropped Greely to 7-3 while beating the Rangers for the first time in eight tries.

“This was a big one for us,” said Frankwicz. “The (postgame) locker room was very fired up. I was sick and tired of losing to Greely, so it feels amazing to do it finally. We did it as a team. It was a total team effort. I’ve thought about this game ever since it got added (to the schedule). We treated this game like it was a (regional final).”

Another March meeting

Cape Elizabeth and Greely have played in the Class B South Final, on the first Wednesday in March, three years running, with the Rangers taking all three meetings. Each of the past two seasons, Greely then went on to capture the state championship.

There is no postseason this winter, but if there had been, it’s quite likely the Capers and Rangers would have again been on a collision course.

Both teams have enjoyed their share of positive moments this season.

Cape Elizabeth opened with a 3-2 overtime win over Scarborough, then beat visiting Thornton Academy, 2-1, and blanked visiting Kennebunk, 4-0, before losing at home to Scarborough (3-2). After tying Biddeford, 3-3, the Capers tied South Portland/Freeport/Waynflete, 3-3. Cape Elizabeth defeated Cheverus/Yarmouth Saturday, 7-4, then lost at Biddeford Tuesday, 4-3.

Greely opened by defeating host St. Dom’s (5-1), visiting Cheverus/Yarmouth (4-1), visiting Gorham (3-1), Falmouth (5-3) and host Cheverus/Yarmouth (7-4). Last week, the Rangers sandwiched losses at Class A power Edward Little (4-2) and defending Class A champion Lewiston (3-0) around a 3-1 home victory over Brunswick. Tuesday, Greely held off visiting Gorham, 5-4.

Last year, Greely beat Cape Elizabeth three times, including in the regional final, by a composite 18-4 margin.

Wednesday, the Rangers looked to extend their win streak in the series to eight games, but instead, the Capers beat Greely for the first time since Dec. 16, 2017 (5-4, in overtime, in Falmouth).

Cape Elizabeth’s energy to start the contest was palpable, as its registered 10 of the game’s first 11 shots.

Initially, Greely junior goalie Spencer Osgood held the Capers at bay, saving shots from Laughlin, sophomore Dimitri Coupe and junior Brett Hetrick, but at 6:20 of the first half, on a rush, junior Ben Connolly set up Thayer for a shot that Osgood couldn’t stop and Cape Elizabeth had the jump.

Then, Osgood kept it 1-0 for a long time, denying Gordon, senior Jack Pellechia, Goss, Gordon again and Goss for a second time.

At the other end, Greely hoped to answer, but senior Tyler Grasky, junior Brooks Williams and Dutil all had shots by saved by Garvin.

With 2:40 left in the first half, Garvin saved a shot from freshman Colin Petty, but he couldn’t hold the puck and it rolled behind him before it was cleared by a defenseman.

With 1:28 remaining, Cape Elizabeth doubled its lead, as Gordon passed to Frankwicz, who roofed a shot off the underside of the crossbar and in to make it 2-0.

“We’ve struggled with slow starts all season,” Frankwicz said. “Coach (Jake Rutt) has harped on us to have a fast start and we did just that today.”

“Our (fast) start says a lot about our two senior captains, Oskar and Jack Pellechia,” Rutt said.

But a wounded Ranger is a most dangerous Ranger and a mere 25 seconds later, Greely got on the board and made things interesting.

The goal was set up by sophomore Jack McIntyre, who passed the puck up top to Kennedy, whose long shot eluded Garvin and made it a 2-1 contest at intermission.

“I thought we made a few adjustments to the lines late in the first half and we got something going,” said Greely coach Barry Mothes. “Matt’s goal got us looking forward to the second half.”

In the first half, the Capers out-shot the Rangers, 14-5, but Osgood made a dozen saves to keep things close.

Cape Elizabeth then seized momentum right back at the start of the second half, starting strongly again.

After freshman Colin Blackburn was denied by sophomore Keji Wiessner, who came on to replace Osgood to start the second half, Greely nearly drew even, but Garvin made a save on a back-handed bid in front from Rangers junior Gage Cooney.

The Capers then transitioned to offense and with 20:23 left, Laughlin passed to Goss, who got a shot to sneak past Wiessner for a 3-1 lead.

“We’ve worked all year on protecting leads in the second half,” Rutt said. “We’ve found ways to not win games, but the message in the locker room was that good teams find a way to get the next goal and we did that.”

Again, Greely answered as after Dutil was denied in front and Petty had a shot saved by Garvin, the Rangers went on the power play for the first time, when Moon was sent to the penalty box for holding at 12:24 of the second half.

It took all of 20 seconds for the Rangers to take advantage, as junior Ryan Moore set up Dutil for a low shot that eluded Garvin and cut Cape Elizabeth’s lead to 3-2.

With 9:59 left, Greely came within inches of tying it up, as Rawnsley fired a shot Garvin couldn’t stop, but the puck ricocheted off the post, keeping the Capers on top.

After Garvin denied Grasky’s bid to tie it, Cape Elizabeth went back ahead by two with 8:25 on the clock, as Laughlin found Moon right in front and Moon finished to make it 4-2.

“We have great depth,’ Frankwicz said. “We got strong games from all three lines. We couldn’t have won if we didn’t.”

“Our balance was good to see and we scored in different ways,” Rutt said. “We played well defensively and that’s why we played as well as we did offensively.”

After Garvin preserved the two-goal lead by robbing Cooney and saving a long shot from Williams, Mothes called timeout and pulled Wiessner with 1:48 to play.

It backfired, as Laughlin won the puck in front of his goal, then sent it length of the ice and right on target, into the net, to end all doubt.

The Capers then ran out the clock and celebrated their long-awaited 5-2 victory.

“Greely’s a great second half team,” Frankwicz said. “We expected them to come out firing, but we kept our foot on the gas pedal.”

“We’ve treated our last week as a playoff atmosphere,” Rutt said. “I’m really proud of how the boys played. We played a complete game. We managed the puck in the second half, Charlie made some big saves and a lot of guys stepped up. This is a group that’s dedicated to winning and willing to sacrifice to win. It doesn’t matter if there’s a trophy on the line or not.”

Cape Elizabeth out-shot Greely, 27-17, and got 15 saves from Garvin.

“Charlie’s played well,” Frankwicz said. “He’s really stepped up.”

The Rangers got a dozen saves from Osgood and 10 from Wiessner, but could never dig out of their early hole.

“We were excited to have a game with Cape,” Mothes said. “We’ve played them three times a year for several years. It seemed odd to not have them on the schedule. I’m glad we worked something out to play. Credit to Cape. They played well. They were quick and took care of the puck better than we did. They created their own breaks and that’s what happens when you work hard. It was tough to give up that third goal for them, but we got a power play goal from Evan and then we hit a crossbar. Unfortunately, there were just times we didn’t get pucks out of our zone at important times. We just need to make those plays and they were opportunistic.”

Finale

Each team will get to take the ice for two practices and one more game before the abbreviated season comes to a close.

Greely finishes Saturday versus longtime Dudley Cup rival Falmouth.

“We’ve played some good teams the last couple weeks and that’s the way you get better,” said Mothes. “It’s how you measure yourself. I’ve been calling this a championship week with the slate of games we’ve had. We’ve got one more ahead of us. It should be another really competitive game. We know the quality of the opponent and there will be a lot of pride on the line.

“It’s hard to believe this is really it for the seniors. I’m optimistic about next year. We’ve got a lot of young guys still. It’s been a difficult year to get as many guys into games as we would have liked. We have a great freshman class. We’ve got a strong and improving sophomore class. The juniors are a strong group too. We’ll see how it all shakes out. I feel like we have a very good nucleus and we have three very good goaltenders.”

Cape Elizabeth’s final game is Saturday against SP/Freeport/Waynflete.

“We’ve treated every game like it’s our last,” Frankwicz said. “We treated our last games like playoff games. (Saturday’s) the last game I’m going to play in. I think the (program’s) future’s extremely bright. Our sophomore class brings so much to the team, so we have a great future.”

“We have another big game Saturday and we’ll treat that game like today’s,” Rutt said. “We’re growing our competitive culture. I really wish we could have gotten a playoff (tournament) done. I just don’t think the urgency was there. That being said, the Cape hockey community got the most out of this season. We needed experience because we have a young team.”

Michael Hoffer can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

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