The Houlton-Hodgdon Black Hawks have had Saturday circled on their calendars for a long time.
That is especially true for the eight seniors who have guided the team to the best start in the school's history dating back to the 1999-2000 season.
The 10-1 Black Hawks will host defending state Class B champion Brewer at Millar Arena in Houlton at 1 p.m. Saturday in what could well be a preview of the EM championship game.
Brewer is 8-0-1 and is sitting atop the Heal point standings by .386 of a point over Houlton-Hodgdon.
The Black Hawk seniors have never beaten Brewer, which has compiled a remarkable overall record of 99-18-5 over the last five and a half seasons including an 8-0-1 mark this year. They spent two seasons in Eastern Maine Class A
"We've been practicing for this Brewer game all year," said Black Hawks senior goalie Malik Abouleish. "We've had some close games with them but we've never beaten them."
"We knew this was going to be a big game," said senior right wing Logan Holmes who added that there is a definite buzz in the air.
"People have told me they can't wait to watch us play. It'll be a packed house. And the band is going to be there," said Holmes.
Brewer has outscored its opponents 58-22. The only blemish on the Witches' record was a 4-4 overtime tie at Falmouth. The Witches did have to go overtime to beat a 2-5 Hampden Academy team 4-3 on Jan. 10.
Houlton-Hodgdon's lone loss was a 9-1 setback suffered at the hands of undefeated Western Maine Class B points leader Greely of Cumberland Center last Friday. They bounced back with a 4-2 win over Lawrence of Fairfield the following night.
In their 10 wins, the Black Hawks have outscored their opponents 51-14.
"It's a pretty even matchup," said Black Hawks coach Joel Trickey. "It'll be fast-paced. Both teams like to skate.
"I'm hoping we can contain their forwards. We've got to make sure we don't give them too many good scoring chances," added Trickey. "We're really reinforcing the idea that our forwards have to come back into the defensive zone to help out. We've got to take care of our end first before we worry about scoring goals. And we can't give Brewer too many odd-man rushes."
"They're real quick so we're going to have to play physical," said Holmes. "We're going to have to play up-tempo, move the puck well and shoot when we get the chance."
Abouleish knows he will be tested and said it will be very important for him to communicate with his defense.
"I've got to talk to them a lot to let them know where the Brewer forwards are coming from," said Abouleish. "And I've got to play my game and come out and play the puck. I can't let Brewer dictate how I play."
The Black Hawks have been led by their top two lines of Ben Ward between Cody Briggs and Holmes and Parker Sanderson between Dylan Gard and Ian Gervais along with defensemen Kam Lincoln and Jordan Brown and goalie Abouleish.
Brewer has been sparked by its prolific top two lines centered by Evan Nadeau and Kyle Alexander. Tyler White and Jacob Chapman have flanked Nadeau with Spencer Valley and Lucas Lamond manning the wings around Alexander. Jake Valley and Michael Shedd have anchored the defense in front of alternating goalies Adam Cossette and Patrick Spaulding.