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GIRLS' HOCKEY

Freshmen move Barnstable to head of the class with Cape & Islands championship

FALMOUTH — Even with perhaps Cape Cod’s youngest team, the Barnstable girls’ hockey squad entered the Cape & Islands Tournament believing it had the necessary firepower to skate with — and ultimately defeat — unbeaten Falmouth.

The Red Raiders gained a lot of confidence during their regular-season matchups with the Clippers; they suffered a one-goal loss to Falmouth in their first meeting before tying their rival on Feb. 15. By the time Sunday’s Cape & Islands Tournament final came around, Barnstable’s young roster — which includes nine freshmen — was hungry to complete an upset.

And the group of youngsters just so happened to pull it off.

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Freshmen Finley Crosby, Grace Holden and Alyssa McEneaney each scored goals while another freshman, goaltender Meili Raspante, made 20 saves to help No. 3 Barnstable hand top-seeded Falmouth its first loss of the season, 3-2, to win the Cape & Islands Tournament title.

“The future is really bright, but the future has been bright,” Barnstable coach Peter Nugnes said. “We’re young. We have nine freshmen on this team, including our goalie. I’m really proud of them.”

Junior Sam McKenzie gave Falmouth (13-1-1) a 1-0 lead when she called her own number on a 3-on-2 and ripped a low wrist shot past Raspante’s blocker with 1:22 remaining in the first period.

Crosby netted the equalizer with 4:50 to play in the second period, scoring on a power-play goal from behind the goal line that appeared to ricochet off the back of Falmouth sophomore netminder Lucy Armour (22 saves) before bouncing into the net.

That sparked a scoring spree for Barnstable (7-2-3). Just 51 seconds later, Holden buried a one-timer from junior Laura Cogswell in the slot to give the Red Raiders the lead. It grew to a 3-1 advantage 1:55 later when Crosby set up McEneaney, who buried a blast from the slot.

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“I saw Laura pass it from the corner and I just wound up to shoot it and hoped it’d go in and it did,” Holden said of her game-winner. “It was crazy at the time. I just went into [Cogswell’s] arms and I was like, ‘We did that!’”

Sophomore Abby McDonald cut Falmouth’s deficit to 3-2 when she cleaned up a loose puck in the slot and beat Raspante with 9:16 left in the third period, though that was the final hiccup the freshman goaltender made before helping Barnstable capture the Cape & Islands crown.

“It’s big for Meili,” Nugnes said. “Meili has had some really, really good games for us this year and then some not so good. Every team thinks we don’t have good goaltending — they try to shoot from everywhere. But that didn’t work tonight.”

Sandwich and Nantucket didn’t participate in the tournament for different reasons. The Blue Knights bowed out because of a positive COVID-19 test on their team, while the Whalers opted out because the tournament coincided with the school’s February vacation and they didn’t have enough skaters to play.

Regardless of the field, Nugnes said the inaugural league tournament felt like the state tournament.

“This was our state tournament,” he said. “We’re really fortunate we got to play this year.”