Two important Eastern Maine Class B hockey games will be played Saturday with one looming as a potential regional championship game and the other playing an important role in determining the fourth and fifth seeds.
The 14-0-1 Brewer High School Witches, the defending state Class B champs, will bring a 13-game winning streak into Saturday’s 5:20 p.m. game at the Penobscot Ice Arena against 13-2 Houlton-Hodgdon. They are the top two seeds in Eastern B and are likely to remain there.
Meanwhile, 6-10 John Bapst of Bangor travels to play 6-9 Presque Isle at 1 p.m. in the Northern Maine Forum.
The resurgent Crusaders are holding down the fourth spot while Presque Isle is in the fifth and final playoff spot, approximately 6.3 Heal points behind John Bapst. But nipping at their heels are Lawrence of Fairfield, 1.5 points behind Presque Isle, and Winslow, 3.7 points behind the Wildcats.
Old Town is 10-4 and appears to have the third seed locked up.
“I’ve never seen it this tight,” said PI coach Carl Flynn. “I think the team that loses this game is out (of the playoffs).”
Presque Isle beat John Bapst in Bangor 5-2 on Jan. 14 but Flynn expects to see a different John Bapst team.
“We controlled the first game but things have changed since then,” said Flynn referring to the improvement shown by the Crusaders. “It should be a good game. Historically, we have had good luck against them.
“But we’re going to have to get a lot of shots on them. We’ve got to get rebounds and create screens,” said Flynn.
Presque Isle is led by the line of Isaac Lajoie between Connor Shaw and Adam Flynn. Lajoie and Shaw have more than 30 points each and Flynn has 25. Jake Buck and Jordan Hallett anchor the defense in front of Josh MacFarline.
John Bapst has been led by Joe Pate, Alex Beals, Jacob Leonard, Devon Romain, Matt Youngblood and goalie Jaron Leonard.
The Crusaders are coming off an important 3-2 win over Lawrence after taking Brewer to overtime last Saturday before losing 5-4.
The Witches have won three overtime games including a come-from-behind 5-4 win over Houlton-Hodgdon on Jan. 22.
Brewer rallied from a 4-2 third-period deficit to force overtime and then won it on Lucas Lamond’s goal.
“We ran out of gas,” said Black Hawks coach Joel Trickey. “I should have played my third line more. I plan to do that on Saturday.”
He added that “we needed to be in better shape and I think we are now.”
His third line consists of Jordan Russell, Sam Fitzpatrick and Lucas Grant.
The Black Hawks have been led by center Ben Ward (15 goals, 15 assists), whose next point will be the 100th of his career. Linemates Cody Briggs (10 & 13) and Logan Holmes (9 & 11) have also had outstanding seasons as have the forwards on the second line: Dylan Gard (13 & 7), Ian Gervais (10 & 7) and Parker Sanderson (6 & 16). Malik Abouleish has been stellar between the pipes.
Brewer has been led by Evan Nadeau, Tyler White, Jacob Chapman, Lamond and Kyle Alexander along with defensemen Michael Shedd and Jake Valley and goalies Patrick Spaulding and Adam Cossette.