ORONO — The Houlton-Hodgdon Black Hawks had to work much harder for Monday night’s win over Old Town than they did earlier this year when they posted an 8-1 victory in Houlton.
But Ben Ward’s goal 3:57 into the third period gave the Black Hawks their 13th win, 3-2, at Alfond Arena.
The game featured a goaltending duel between Houlton-Hodgdon senior Malik Abouleish and Old Town freshman Nathan Colannino.
Old Town’s David Wilcox had tied the game 2-2 on the power play 1:10 into the third period with his second of the game. Ryan Dubay’s shot off a Cody Cross drop pass bounced to Wilcox off the chest of Abouleish and he swept it home.
But Ward got the game-winner off a pretty feed from behind the net by Cody Briggs.
Briggs stickhandled neatly before passing to the middle of the slot, where Ward one-timed it between the pads of Colannino.
“Ben always stays at the top (of the slot). He knows where to score,” said Briggs. “I saw him up there and he put it home. It was a pretty easy pass.”
“I came into the high slot and they left me alone. I was wide open for a shot. Cody made a nice pass and the shot went five-hole,” said Ward.
“They’re very quick and they cycle the puck really well,” said Colannino. “They’re always moving a guy through the slot, so it’s hard to pick up, and they’re always making quick passes out to them.”
But the Coyotes (9-4) did an effective job protecting their net front, blocking shots and getting their sticks in passing lanes.
Abouleish preserved the win with 1:20 left when he scrambled off his line out to get his pad on Alex Leithiser’s shot from the right circle off a Cross pass during a three-on-one.
“I thought Cross might shoot, but he had two guys open and, being a senior, he knew what he had to do,” said Abouleish. “That made it easier for me. The shot went under my pads, but it hit my knee. I got a little lucky.”
“That was an amazing save,” said Ward.
First-period goals by Sam Fitzpatrick and Dylan Gard staked the tenacious Black Hawks (13-2) to a 2-0 lead, but Wilcox cut the lead in half with three minutes remaining in the second period.
Fitzpatrick opened the scoring three minutes into the game when he jammed home the rebound of a shot by Jordan Russell that caromed to him off the back boards after hitting Colannino’s skate.
Abouleish came up with a gem to prevent Old Town from tying it midway through the period when Dubay’s shot deflected off a Houlton-Hodgdon skate and Abouleish had to change directions to get his pad on it.
Parker Sanderson set up Gard’s goal with a nifty stickhandling exhibition in the Coyotes’ end and a precise pass. Gard found some space in the middle of the slot and one-timed Sanderson’s pass over Colannino’s blocker.
Abouleish made a couple of nice stops early in the second period off Cross’ shorthanded bid and Wilcox’s rebound attempt.
Colannino kept his team within striking distance by robbing Sanderson on the doorstep off a perfect cross-ice pass by Gard, kicking out a Logan Holmes tip off a Briggs shot and thwarting Gard, who was camped near the far post and one-timed a Sanderson pass.
Wilcox scored when he picked up a loose puck in the neutral zone, broke down the left wing in a three-on-two and roofed a wrister into the short-side corner past Abouleish’s blocker.
“It was a hard-fought game,” said Briggs. “They’re fast and smart. Cross and Wilcox are pretty good players.”
“They’ve improved in leaps and bounds,” said Abouleish.