BREWER — There aren’t many athletic programs that can match the consistency of the Brewer High School hockey program.
Over the last five seasons, the Witches have gone 91-18-4. They have sandwiched a pair of state Class B championships around two semifinal appearances in the EM Class A playoffs.
They graduated two of their top three scorers in Nick Risser (27 goals, 24 assists) and Alec Pacheco (19 & 26) along with workhorse defenseman Chris Lopez (8 & 13) and goaltender Eric White, who capped a sensational career with a 24-save performance in their 3-1 win over York in the state Class B title game last March.
But the Witches should be back in the title chase this season.
“It would take a fairly significant upset for them not to repeat as state champions,” said Presque Isle coach Carl Flynn. “They’ve cut kids (down to their JV team) that would be second-liners on my team. They have two scoring lines and a third line that will be a checking line early but will be a scoring line at the end of the year.”
Houlton-Hodgdon coach Joel Trickey added, “They don’t have any weaknesses that I could see.”
Presque Isle and Houlton-Hodgdon played in a preseason tournament with Brewer.
Even second-year Brewer coach David Shedd conceded that “I’d be shocked if we didn’t make it to the state championship game this year.”
“We’re going to be a very fast, explosive team,” added Shedd. “We’re a little faster up front than we were last year.”
“We rely on our speed. We like to play a fast-paced, up-tempo game,” said senior center Evan Nadeau.
“But nothing is going to be given to us. We’re definitely going to have to work for it,” said senior defenseman Jake Valley.
Shedd may have graduated his top line of Risser, Pacheco and Jamie Williamson but his second line is intact and it will be one of the most feared lines in Class B.
Nadeau (15 & 23) will center the top line between juniors Tyler White (20 & 25) and Jacob Chapman (20 & 21).
“They played so well together last year, I’d be foolish to separate them,” said Shedd. “They’re like a brotherhood.”
Last year’s third line of Kyle Alexander with Lucas Lamond and Spencer Valley combined for eight of Brewer’s 21 playoff goals and they will be the second line. Spencer Valley had five of the goals and Lamond scored in the state championship game. Joey Fowler was also rotated in on that line, but he has been moved back to defense.
“They scored more playoff goals than any line, which no one expected,” said Jake Valley. “This year, I expect them to step it up and score a lot more goals.”
This year’s third line will also have some experience as Ian Forrest, Tyler McCormick and Nick Moore saw some playing time a year ago. Moore was a defenseman.
Sophomores Andrew Fleishman and Jonathan Shedd, one of David’s two sons on the team, will be on the fourth line with freshman Alec Wortman. Fleishman and Shedd were on the JV team last year.
Shedd’s other son, Michael, will be paired with Jake Valley on the top defense tandem.
“They’ve been defense partners since they were 6 years old,” said the Brewer coach.
“We always know where each other is going to be,” said Valley.
Brody Valley will be paired with Fowler, and sophomores Jimmy Donnelly and Jacob Caron will be the third set.
Lamond said Fowler has made a smooth transition to defense.
“It’s working out well. Joey is fast and he can get back and cover,” said Lamond.
“Their defense is solid and they’ll get better as the year goes on,” said Trickey.
Shedd admitted that it’s going to be tough to replace White in goal, but he said he has confidence in Adam Cossette, White’s backup last year, and Old Town High School transfer Patrick Spaulding, who saw a ton of action as a freshman last year.
“I’m not nervous about our goaltending. I’m comfortable with it,” said Shedd, who will be assisted by Gary Gonzales, Rob Bergman and Zach Wilson.
He said he anticipates splitting the goalies until the stretch run leading into the playoffs.
“They’re both great goaltenders,” said Lamond.
Trickey and Flynn said they were both impressed with Cossette’s play in the preseason tourney, and Nadeau said Spaulding “has got a lot of heart.”
There is no secret behind Brewer’s success, according to Flynn and Trickey.
“They have a great feeder program,” said Flynn.
“They play together for a long time, so they’re used to each other by the time they get to high school,” said Trickey.
Brewer opens against Class A Waterville on Dec. 13.