PORTLAND—The top-ranked Cape Elizabeth/Waynflete/South Portland girls’ hockey team was frustrated during the first intermission of Wednesday evening’s South Region quarterfinal against No. 8 Portland/Deering at Troubh Ice Arena.

Despite putting 22 shots on goal, just one had found its mark, a tally from freshman Libby Hooper two minutes in.

Cape/Waynflete/SP then roared to life in the second period, as junior captain Delaney Whitten sparked a six-goal uprising, Hooper added another goal, then sophomore Keirith Gentillini and freshman Catie Lee struck for a 5-0 advantage.

Portland/Deering’s terrific freshman Jane Flynn got her team on the board, but Cape/Waynflete/SP answered behind goals from freshman Marina Bassett and Whitten to take a 7-1 lead to the third period.

There, Flynn added a second goal, but senior Katharine Blackburn countered and Cape/Waynflete/SP went on to an 8-2 victory.

Cape/Waynflete/SP improved to 12-2-2, ended Portland/Deering’s season at 2-16 and advanced to host No. 4 Falmouth (9-5-1) in the semifinals Saturday at 4:10 p.m., at Troubh Ice Arena.

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“We were coming in thinking (Portland/Deering was) just as good as us because they’re talented and I think that really benefited us,” said Whitten.

Embracing expectations

Cape/Waynflete/SP played in a state final the last time one was contested, losing a 1-0 overtime heartbreaker to Lewiston in 2020. This year’s team has the pieces in place to get back and the squad closed the regular season strong, downing Cheverus, Lewiston (in overtime) and York to lock up the top seed.

Portland/Deering, meanwhile, has steadily improved as the season progressed.

Cape/Waynflete/SP beat Portland/Deering in the regular season meeting, 10-2, back on Dec. 4.

Portland/Deering won the lone prior playoff meeting, 3-2, in the 2018 South Region semifinals.

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Wednesday, Cape/Waynflete/SP would take care of business, but there were some anxious moments.

Cape Elizabeth/Waynflete/South Portland freshman Catie Lee skates in on goal as Portland/Deering freshman Jane Flynn gives chase during the Capers’ 8-2 win in Wednesday’s South Region quarterfinals. Hoffer photos.

Cape/Waynflete/SP put Portland/Deering senior goalie Caitlin Hunyh under pressure from the game’s onset and at the 1:58 mark of the first period, broke the ice, as Bassett skated in, passed across to Hooper and Hooper buried a shot for a 1-0 lead.

Cape/Waynflete/SP junior goalie Abbey Steinhagen preserved the lead by denying Portland/Deering junior Kate Martel and each team went 0-for-1 on the power play in the first period.

Despite registering 22 shots, Cape/Waynflete/SP only led by a goal after 15 minutes, as Huynh was stellar, making 21 shots.

“My goalie’s played like that all year long,” said Portland/Deering coach Tom Clifford. “She kept us in it all game long with the saves she made.”

But you can only keep a powerhouse offense in check so long and Cape/Waynflete/SP was a far more opportunistic team in the second period.

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At 1:21, Whitten fired a long shot which eluded Huynh to double the lead.

Cape/Waynflete/SP then scored short-handed, as Bassett set up Hooper for the goal again at 3:23.

At 6:27, it was Gentillini’s turn, as she rebounded senior captain Sofia Cook’s shot into the net and at 8:49, Lee scored on the rebound of a Whitten shot, another short-handed tally.

“I think there were some nerves to start the game, but we settled in,” said Cape/Waynflete/SP coach Bob Mills. “We told the girls to keep plugging.”

At 12:32, Flynn raced in and fired a shot which Steinhagen couldn’t stop to get Portland/Deering on the board.

Cape/Waynflete/SP needed just 24 seconds to answer, as this time, Hooper set up Bassett for the goal.

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Then, at 13:50, Whitten scored for the second time, with junior Reilly Eavenson and freshman Clio Cook-Sharp getting assists.

“The offense was building,” Whitten said. “We just had to get in front of the net more to get rebounds. We were a little angry we only had one goal, so we came out stronger in the second period.”

While the game was decided, Portland/Deering fought hard in the third period and at 9:53, after taking a lead pass from Huynh, Flynn scored for the second time.

“She’s a great player and the best part about Jane is she’s a wonderful kid, so that’s a bonus,” Clifford said.

Cape/Waynflete/SP then accounted for the 8-2 final score when Blackburn scored up top through a screen at 10:24.

Cape/Waynflete/SP celebrates a goal during Wednesday’s victory.

“It wasn’t maybe our best effort over three full periods, but we got all of our girls involved in the game which is really good,” Mills said. “Portland/Deering stayed in the game a little too long for my comfort, but we managed to take care of it.”

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Cape/Waynflete/SP finished with a 50-7 shots advantage and got five saves from Steinhagen.

Portland/Deering got a whopping 42 saves from Huynh.

“That’s a super-solid team over there, but I think we got what we hoped for because I knew coming in we’d compete for 45 minutes and as a coach, that’s all you can ask for,” Clifford said. “Our growth as a group has been spectacular. We have 29 kids in the program and every single one of them has improved tremendously.”

Showdown Saturday

Cape/Waynflete/SP and Falmouth played on Jan. 27, a 3-0 home win for the top seed. The teams split two prior playoff meetings with a 4-3 Cape/Waynflete/SP victory in the 2018 South Region quarterfinals the most recent.

“We just have come prepared and play our best,” said Whitten. “We can’t treat them as an underdog because that will get us in trouble. I want to get back to states really bad.”

“Every game we play, it’s going to be harder and harder,” Mills said. “The goaltending will get better and better, so we’ll need to come out and play three full periods. Falmouth’s got a good team.

“I think there’s an expectation for us to be in that last game and I think we’ll be disappointed if we don’t. That’s motivation for us.”

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

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