Brewer High School senior defenseman Jake Valley remembers his first “Fill the Alfond” game vividly.
Last season, Brewer and archrival Bangor met at the University of Maine’s Alfond Arena for the third “Fill the Alfond” game.
“We went out for the warmups and our legs were shaking. We couldn’t even warm up. I was so nervous,” recalled Valley. “But it was a fun game.”
Brewer triumphed 10-4 and went on to win the State Class B championship.
The 15-0-1 Witches will look to even the series — Bangor won the first two “Fill the Alfond” games 6-1 in 2004 and 3-1 on New Year’s Day in 2005 — Thursday night beginning at 8.
The game was originally scheduled for a 7 o’clock start but has been pushed back to accommodate the University of Maine women’s hockey team.
“We’ve been looking forward to this game all year,” said Bangor senior defenseman Adam King. “We really want to win. It would give us momentum going into the playoffs.”
Bangor is 10-7 in Eastern Maine Class A and enters its last regular-season game with a three-game winning streak and four wins in its last five games.
Brewer still has a game remaining with Presque Isle.
“In a lot of people’s minds, this is the biggest game of the regular season,” said Bangor senior left wing Phil Frost. “Everyone knows the date of the game at the beginning of the season.”
“It’s awesome to have a high school game with a crowd like that. It’s a different experience,” added Frost.
The crowds have exceeded 1,500 at all three “Fill the Alfond” games.
“It’s fun to lace up the skates and have the fans going crazy. You walk out of the locker room and all you see is orange (Brewer’s primary color) and maroon (Bangor’s color),” said Brewer senior right wing Lucas Lamond, who had two first-period goals last season as Brewer built a 7-0 lead after two periods.
For Bangor senior center Tyler Shanklin, the game has even more meaning.
“It’s a family rivalry,” said Shanklin who pointed out that the three Valleys who play for the Witches, Jake, Spencer and Brody, are his cousins.
Brewer has dominated the rivalry in recent years.
The Witches are 7-1-1 in the last nine meetings, including a 9-3 triumph earlier this season.
“I expect a much better game,” said Bangor coach Denis Collins. “I’m just going to throw the clipboard out and tell the kids to have fun and relax.”
“We’ve got to cover the front of our net well,” said Shanklin. “They scored a lot of goals off rebounds (in the 9-3 loss). We’ve got to clean that up.”
Frost said they can’t get overwhelmed by the environment or the importance of the game.
“If we play our game, which is hustling and moving the puck well, we’ll be fine,” said Frost.
King said they have to play “hard, fast hockey and hit them.”
Brewer has a decided speed advantage.
Junior right wing Tyler White leads the Witches with 29 goals and 14 assists. His linemate, Evan Nadeau (17 & 24) is second and the third member of the line, Jacob Chapman, haas 12 & 9. Brewer has an equally prolific second line with Kyle Alexander (15 & 15) sandwiched by Lamond (12 & 8) and Spencer Valley (14 & 8). Michael Shedd (0 & 12) and Jake Valley (2 & 1) anchor the defense corps in front of goalie Adam Cossette.
Bangor has been led by Nic Cota (5 & 11), whose move from forward to defense has been one of the keys to Bangor’s resurgence. Frost (14 & 6), Connor Griffin (9 & 6), Zach Papsadora (7 & 6), Adam Toth-Javor (8 & 4) and Zeb Tuell (4 & 9) have been the other primary point-producers, while King (4 & 6) has been an important cog on the blue line along with Cota. Chris Howat will man the pipes.
Bangor athletic director Steve Vanidestine said they have a number of activities between periods to make the evening even more special. One fan will have their ticket number drawn to try to shoot the puck through a hole in a board to win a Chevy Camaro.
Other ticketholders could win the 50-50 drawing or 15 other prizes.
Vanidestine said the activity, like the boys and girls basketball games between the two schools at the Bangor Auditorium, is designed to foster good sportsmanship between the two schools and communities.