Barnstable wins, era ends in Falmouth

BOURNE, Mass. – All Buddy wanted to talk about was his opponent.

After seeing his 33-season coaching career behind the bench of Falmouth High boys’ hockey come to a close in a playoff defeat to archrival Barnstable, the Clippers’ head coach spent a good portion of his postgame talk recollecting the finer points of one of Massachusetts’ great public school rivalries.

The Red Raiders beat Falmouth, 4-2, Thursday night at the Gallo Arena in their Division 1 South first-round tournament game. It marked the third time this season that Barnstable beat its Cape adversary.

After the game’s conclusion, a misty-eyed Buddy Ferreira told his team that it was his last. He walked down the corridor to the Red Raiders’ room, congratulating them on the victory and wishing them luck in their playoff journey. He shared a long embrace with longtime counterpart, Barnstable head coach, Scott Nickerson.

He then sat alone for a time in contemplation, as a cavalcade of well-wishers offered handshakes and pats on the back, before meeting with the assembled media. He fought back tears with each step.

While it wasn’t a fairytale ending, Ferreira maintained afterward that it couldn’t have been scripted any other way. He talked about how difficult it is to step away from something he did every day for so long. But everything he’d built led to this very moment.

“It’s not that I want to,” said Ferreira, who celebrated his 70th birthday on Sunday, “but it’s time to.”

In his career, Ferreira joined the state hockey coaching legends and exclusive company in the 400-win fraternity. He guided the Clippers to four state championships, the most recent in 1995-96. Under Ferreira, Falmouth hockey won 16 of its 22 all-time league titles.

But until the bitter end, Ferreira found teaching moments.

The Clippers found themselves in a deep hole. Goals by Eric Rogorzenski, Frank Oakley and Pat Besse built a 3-0 lead for the sixth-seeded Red Raiders (13-4-4) at the tail end of the second period. In the third, Falmouth (10-8-5) clawed their way back, making it a one-goal game with 2:21 to play on Storm Fotiu’s goal after Durham Ghelfi opened the period with the Clippers’ first.

The comeback fell short, and Barnstable defenseman Drew Kaski’s 180-foot clearing attempt, which sailed into a vacated Clippers’ net clinched it.

That’s when the lesson began.

“I told them to carry what they did in that third period into the rest of their lives,” Ferreira said. “I told them if they do that in their lives, they will be successful.”

He continued, “These kids played so hard, I’m so proud of them. For me to go out with them playing this hard … I didn’t want to tell them until after, especially going out to a team that I respect more than anybody in Barnstable. It’s a good way for our seniors to go out.”

While the sting of a loss to a rival isn’t lessened, both sides were able to bury the hatchet this time.

Ferreira and Nickerson sat side-by-side on a bench as the newly retired Falmouth coach regaled anyone within earshot with the best stories he’d collected from the rivalry. Nickerson, who led the Red Raiders to a state championship win over Falmouth on the Boston Garden ice in 1980, listened intently as Ferreira told a story of two former football players — one from Barnstable, one from Falmouth — who ended up rooming together in college and became friends.

The rivalry is a tie that binds.

“You could sit down ten years later with any Barnstable kid, I don’t care if it’s football, or basketball, or hockey,” Ferreira said, “and they’re going to talk about the Falmouth game. With any other teams you play against, you don’t have that.”

Having lived another chapter, Nickerson resounded the sentiment.

“For our kids to play Falmouth at any time is a big game. With it being the state tournament, it’s an even bigger game.”

Despite the animosity, there’s still room for reconciliation. Ferreira confirmed that while heaping praise on the offensive skill of the Red Raiders’ forwards, calling them “the better team” at each turn.

With his hockey coaching career now in the past tense, Ferreira will not retire from the rivalry.

But every so often, even for a man who is as large a reason as anybody for the building of Falmouth’s sparking new ice arena, there’s reason to call a rival a friend.

“Are you kidding me?” Ferreira darted back when asked if he’s rooting for Barnstable to win the tournament. “The only time I’m not pulling for them is when we’re playing them.”