The 10th Nan Rheault invitational girls high school hockey tournament had a distinct sense of dejá vu.
Last year, the Vineyarders defeated Scituate in the opening game and lost a tightly-contested championship game with Cambridge Rindge and Latin.
This time around, the hosts opened the tourney with another win over Scituate and Cambridge defeated Peabody to set up a repeat final.
Unfortunately, the Falcons again denied the Vineyarders their first Nan Rheault title and lifted the trophy after a tense, well-played game.
M.V. twice battled back to tie the score, but Cambridge tallied three times in the final six minutes to win 6-3, Sunday afternoon at the Martha’s Vineyard Arena.
The Falcons got off to a flying start and preyed upon the Vineyarders only 22 seconds into the contest, but Celia Mercier scored her fifth goal of the weekend to tie the game at 1-1. Assists went to Callie Jackson and Emily Cimeno.
Trailing 3-1 with just over three minutes left in the second period, the Vineyarders turned the game around and ignited the crowd when Celia Mercier fired a perfect backdoor pass across the crease to Emily Cimeno who calmly potted the puck to make it 3-2.
Riding the momentum, the Islanders pressed on and Callie Jackson evened the score with five seconds left in the second frame following a goalmouth scrum that left three players and one puck in the Cambridge net. Gillian O’ Callaghan and Maggie Johnson earned the assists.
The ten-minute intermission couldn’t have come at a better time for the Falcons.
The teams battled back and forth in the final stanza until Louisa Carpenter-Winch poked the puck past Vineyard goalie Texe Craig for the eventual game winner with 5:58 to play as a host of players jostled for position in front of the Vineyard net.
The Falcons had M.V. briefly out of sorts and struck again with a shorthanded goal 57 seconds later.
With 3:30 left to play, the Vineyarders thought they had scored their fourth goal, but the referees had blown the play dead before the puck squirted from under the glove of Cambridge goalie Ruby Johnson. It was impossible to tell, however, whether the puck had completely crossed the goal-line prior to the whistle.
The Falcons added an empty netter to cap off their second straight title.
Disappointing as the final result was, the Vineyard girls have shown marked improvement this season under first year coach John Fiorito, who was pleased with his team’s effort.
“We got it back to 3-3, showed some resiliency, you couldn’t be prouder,” Coach Fiorito said following the game. “Andre (assistant coach Andre Bonnell) said ‘It’s too bad the Zamboni came on at the end of the second period,’ because we had all the momentum. But we did a good job even in the first five minutes (of the third period). I thought we carried the play. Everybody contributed, the kids are getting better.”
Coach Fiorito felt for his seniors, who came so close to winning the tournament for the first time.
“It would have been nice for the seniors, Gillian (O’ Callaghan), Angela (DeBettencourt), Emma (Forbes), and Olivia Higham. They probably played their two best games of their careers,” Coach Fiorito said.
The entire squad played well in Saturday night’s tourney opener as they beat the Scituate Lady Sailors for the second time in two weeks, 7-3.
Celia Mercier was unstoppable.
The junior center notched her third hat-trick of the season and added a fourth goal for good measure.
Her third score was one of the great goals in Vineyard girls hockey history, as she took the puck at the M.V. blue line, weaved through four Sailors, broke in alone on goal, and swept the puck into the net while sliding on her backside.
Callie Jackson finished with a goal and two assists, Gillian O’ Callaghan had one of each, Emma Forbes scored once, and Angela DeBettencourt and Lily Gazaille had one assist apiece.
Texe Craig stopped 19 Scituate shots on goal.
The Vineyarders played in Falmouth last night and host Duxbury, Saturday at 1.