LEWISTON, Maine — The Presque Isle Wildcats brought plenty of heart to their first-ever appearance in the Class B ice hockey state championship game Saturday afternoon.
But the Greely Rangers simply had more Hart.
Freshman forward Brian Hart scored three goals — two assisted by his older brother Kevin — as Greely of Cumberland claimed its first state title with a 5-1 victory over Presque Isle at the Colisee.
“Brian’s a very composed hockey player,” said Greely coach Barry Mothes. “He’s played a lot of high-level hockey already, and he certainly hasn’t played like whatever you’d think a freshman would be for the entire year.
“He’s been an impact player from the get-go, and he’s played tremendous hockey for the last couple of weeks.”
Brian Allyn and Justin Murphy also scored for the 20-1 Rangers, who were playing in the state final for the second time in three years.
Greely had to withstand a heroic effort in goal from Presque Isle sophomore Josh MacFarline, who kept the Wildcats within striking distance for much of the game with 47 saves on 52 shots.
“He was on fire,” said Hart of MacFarline. “He’s a really good goalie. He robbed us multiple times, but we knew if we kept throwing the puck at the net we were going to score goals.”
Presque Isle had lost to Greely 10-1 on Jan. 17 in their only meeting of the regular season, and while the Rangers also dominated the rematch, the Wildcats learned through their play that their 7-2-1 record since that game was no fluke.
“They’re a tough team, they really deserve what they got,” said Presque Isle junior forward Brennen Shaw. “I think we played hard, one of our better games, it’s just that they’re tough. We lost to them 10-1 earlier, and I think this was good improvement.”
Presque Isle managed just 15 shots on Greely sophomore goalie Matt Labbe, and only a few real close chances as the Rangers focused their defensive attention on Shaw, who entered the game with 30 goals on the season.
“They’ve got a defense that wouldn’t let, in my opinion, the best Class B player in the state, Brennen Shaw, through to get a good shot at their goalie,” said Presque Isle coach Dr. Carl Flynn. “He came down the side and down the middle countless numbers of times and had to finally give up and try to shoot it through the defenseman’s legs because he couldn’t get by them to get a Grade A shot.”
Allyn gave Greely a 1-0 lead 3:16 into the game after defenseman Carter Cyr stole the puck near the blue line and sent the senior forward in alone along the right wing.
MacFarline kept it a one-goal game with several spectacular saves until Hart gained control of a loose puck in the offensive end and lofted an uncontested shot over the Presque Isle goalie’s right shoulder to make it 2-0 with 1:26 left in the period.
Hart then broke the game open with two goals just 33 seconds apart midway through the second period in tandem with his brother Kevin – an All-Maine senior defenseman who wasn’t expected to play after suffering a back injury in the Western Maine semifinals and then sitting out the regional final.
Brian Hart’s first goal came on the first power play of the day at 8:25 of the period.
He then won a faceoff to the right of MacFarline with a pass out to his brother at the blue line and streaked toward the goal crease. Kevin Hart made a perfect pass toward the goal, and Brian crossed the crease and tucked it just inside the far post to extend Greely’s lead to 4-0 at 8:58.
“That was all Kevin,” said Brian Hart. “I just won the draw back to him, and he saw me back-door and I just caught it, went across the goalie and tucked it back in.”
Presque Isle (11-8-3) broke through for its only goal with 54 seconds left in the period on a turnover in Greely’s defensive end. Senior center Dylan Collins got the puck and took the original shot, and while Labbe blocked the attempt he couldn’t control it, leaving junior forward Zac Campbell the opportunity to score his fifth goal of the season on the rebound.
Murphy added a power play goal at 11:55 of the final period, working a perfect give-and-go with Ian Gray to score on a sharp-angled shot from the left side.
“They were a step ahead of us today, which caused us to take a couple penalties at crucial times,” said Flynn. “They took advantage of the power play, and in the end they were the better team.
I don’t think our boys played badly by any means, I just think they were the better team. I think we played at our level or above what people expected of us for the last 10 games. That was enough to get us here, but it wasn’t enough to get us over the top.”
Waterville 3, St. Dominic 2
Waterville scored three first-period goals and held on to win its 20th Class A state championship overall and first since 2001.
Goals by Eric Aldrich, Shawn Lee and Josh Gaudette staked the 21-1 Purple Panthers to their lead.
Ben Randall scored twice for 15-7 St. Dominic, once in the second period and once in the third.
Nolan MacDonnell made 31 saves in goal for Waterville, while Shayne Curtis made 28 saves for St. Dominic.