WINSLOW, Maine — Sure, they were the No. 4 seed and possessors of a 9-7-3 record compared to the top-seeded 16-2 John Bapst Crusaders, but that was all on paper.
On the ice, the No. 4 Presque Isle Wildcats had already split a regular-season series with Bapst and were sure they had the number of Crusaders’ standout goalie Derek Duff.
The Wildcats’ quiet confidence was evident throughout Saturday night’s Eastern Maine Class B hockey semifinal at Sukee Arena as they took a 1-0 lead despite a 10-4 shots advantage in the first period for Bapst and went on to a 5-1 victory.
“We know them, they know us, and we went into this game not necessarily confident, but thinking we had a better than 50-50 chance of winning this game,” said PI coach Carl Flynn.
Flynn’s 10-7-3 Wildcats take on No. 3 Winslow (10-8-1), a 3-0 victor over No. 2 Gardiner, for the East B title Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Alfond Arena in Orono.
Sophomore goaltender Josh MacFarline set the tone early for PI by coming up with several saves, the biggest of which may have been a stop on Nicky Mitchell’s breakaway midway through the first period.
“The first shot, if I make a good save, I’m going to have a good night and they tested me early tonight,” said MacFarline, who stopped 22 of 23 shots.
It was the fourth straight start for MacFarline, who was sharing time in net with freshman Nic Davis.
“Neither of our guys were playing well early this season, but both have really improved and we’ve been going with the hot hand,” said Flynn. “Davis was sick three games ago so I went with Josh. He had a good game and I’ve been going with him ever since.”
“Our biggest problem early on was goaltending, but he came up huge for us in the first period,” Flynn added. “That’s the difference between that first game we played them, when Josh gave up goals on their first two shots, and tonight.”
Another difference was the play of junior forward Brennen Shaw, who erased Bapst’s considerable first-period momentum by scoring on a rush from the left faceoff circle with a shot into the upper right corner of the net with 31 seconds left.
“I thought we dominated that first period, so to go into the break being down 1-0 kind of got us down,” said Bapst coach Gene Fadrigon.
The 16-3 Crusaders wound up outshooting PI 23-17.
“Scoring has been our Achilles’ heel all year. We beat Winslow 2-1 after getting 54 shots,” Fadrigon said. “We generate good opportunities, but have trouble putting it in the net.”
Those troubles continued as Shaw set up PI’s next goal with a pass to Isaac LaJoie, who scored on a slap shot from the left near PI’s bench three minutes into the second period after a delay during which Sukee employees fixed a faulty bench gate.
Steve Ford made it 3-0 Wildcats on a slap shot from the blue line on the left side into a crowd of bodies in front of the net. The unassisted goal came with 3:04 left in the second.
“I think the third goal we scored, Steve Ford’s goal, was the biggest one for us,” said Shaw, who wound up with two goals and one assist. “That was the one that really kind of gave us momentum for good.”
Fadrigon called timeout, and Bapst responded 12 seconds later as Andrew Casey scored unassisted by sliding through a gap in the defense near the left circle and shooting high into the right corner of the net. But that would be it as the Wildcats scored two unanswered goals in the third, the last of which came off Zac Campbell’s shot from behind the net that deflected into the goal off a defenseman’s skate or stick.
Duff ended up with 12 saves.
In the late game, Jordan Grant scored two goals, one of which was a shorthanded score in the third period, to lead the Black Raiders past Gardiner.
Dan Clark scored Winslow’s other goal. Todd Brow and Devon Guptil each had assists. Jesse Little made 27 saves.
Chris Howe saved 22 of 25 shots for the 14-5 Tigers.