BANGOR, Maine — The top two teams in the Eastern Maine Class B hockey ranks squared off at Sawyer Arena Thursday night and the top-ranked John Bapst High School Crusaders and No. 2 Gardiner Tigers played with playoff-like intensity.
John Bapst senior right winger Mike Lalime’s goal 3:12 into the second period decided a scintillating goaltending duel between John Bapst junior Derek Duff and Gardiner senior Chris Howe as the Bangor-based Crusaders triumphed in the fast-paced and physical game 1-0.
Duff finished with 29 saves in posting his second shutout over the Tigers this season. The 9-1 Crusaders have dealt 8-2 Gardiner its only setbacks. John Bapst won earlier 3-0.
Howe turned aside 30 shots.
Both made at least 10 Grade-A (high-percentage) saves.
“This was one of my best games of the season. And [Howe] played real well,” said Duff. “I just tried to follow the puck.”
“Duff played very well. He did a good job controlling his rebounds,” said Howe.
“Both goalies were awesome,” said Bapst coach Gene Fadrigon.
“This was the most intense game we’ve played all year,” said Lalime, who scored off a cross-ice pass from senior center Casey Hull.
Hull and senior right wing Travis Poulin forechecked aggressively along the left-wing boards and Hull slid the puck across to the bottom of the right circle to Lalime.
“It was an excellent pass from Casey. I had time to aim it and I put it in the short side,” said Lalime, who was left unattended.
“I didn’t see it. I tried to get across but [Lalime] put it up over my pad,” said Howe, who had to scramble across from the post to post.
Gardiner coach Matt Dineen said his team worked on covering the far post because John Bapst likes to make back-door passes “but that was the one time we left a guy open.”
Hull almost expanded the lead a minute later but he rang a wrister off the short-side post.
The Crusaders were the more physical team and created several turnovers and scoring chances with their stiff checks.
But they also picked up four straight penalties in the middle period and Duff was severely tested by the Tiger power play.
Zoe Fisk had a great chance when he stole the puck and found himself alone with Duff at the base of the right circle.
“I saw the five-hole but I didn’t get my shot off quick enough and he got his pad on it,” said Fisk.
The Tigers were to have a two-man advantage for 1:08 but Gardiner’s Mike Hersom was whistled for a double-minor 24 seconds later.
Early in the third period, Duff thwarted a two-on-one by making a stick save on Cam Berthiaume, who elected to shoot from the right circle.
Moments later, it was Howe’s turn to stymie the Crusaders after Lalime poked the puck free to Hull. Hull had two opportunities from the low slot but Howe stopped both of them.
Howe said John Bapst is a “very fast team. And they played the body more than we expected.”
Both coaches thought their teams turned in good showings.
“It was a great hockey game. Both teams played well. Both had opportunities,” said Fadrigon.
“I was very happy with how we played,” said Dineen, who was without injured senior center Peter Caradonna.