Malik Abouleish remembers watching the Houlton-Hodgdon Black Hawks in the Eastern Maine Class B hockey final against Brewer when he was in seventh grade.
Black Hawks goalie Nic Joslyn turned in a terrific 30-save performance but Brewer triumphed 3-2 on Zach Wilson’s goal 31 seconds into overtime.
Now it’s Abouleish’s turn when his 16-3 Black Hawks face the defending State Class B champion Witches, 18-0-1, for the EM B championship at the University of Maine’s Alfond Arena Tuesday at 7 p.m.
The winner will face either Greely of Cumberland Center (15-3-1) or York (14-5) in Saturday’s 1 p.m. state championship game at The Colisee in Lewiston.
“Since seeing that game, it has been my dream (to play in an Eastern Maine championship game),” said Abouleish, who has had an exceptional four-year career. “This is going to be the biggest game of my career.”
Abouleish is coming off a 14-save performance in a 5-3 victory over Old Town in the semifinals on Saturday.
But he will see a lot more than 17 shots against a Brewer team that has six players with at least 15 goals and 26 points.
“I’m going to have to keep my feet moving,” said Abouleish. “They’re really fast and after the first shot, they keep pounding away at rebounds. I’m going to have to hold the rebounds or push them into the corners.”
The Witches, who have won 17 straight games, have beaten the Black Hawks in their two regular season meetings, 5-4 in overtime in Houlton on Jan. 22 and 7-1 in Brewer on Feb. 12.
But the Brewer players have a lot of respect for Abouleish.
“He’s a real good goalie,” said Brewer senior right wing Lucas Lamond. “We were fortunate to get under his skin the last time and put that many goals past him. The score didn’t tell the tale of that game. It was much closer than the score made it sound.”
Brewer senior center Evan Nadeau added, “He’s a great goalie. He’s always been solid. He has a phenomenal glove. It’s quick.”
Brewer senior defenseman Jake Valley said Abouleish is the type of goalie who can be very difficult to beat “if he gets hot.”
Valley said he often chats with Abouleish after their games and called him “a real nice kid.”
The Witches expect a tough tussle from the Black Hawks.
“We respect them,” said Nadeau. “They’re a bunch of workhorses. We’re going to have to match their intensity.”
Valley added, “It’ll come down to defense. We know we can score so it’ll be a matter of keeping them from scoring.”
Brewer features two of the most prolific lines in the state.
Nadeau (19 goals, 29 assists) centers one line between Tyler White (32 & 19) and Jacob Chapman (17 & 12) with Kyle Alexander (22 & 19) centering the other line between Lamond (18 & 11) and Spencer Valley (15 & 11).
Michael Shedd (0 & 14) and Jake Valley (4 & 2) headline the defense corps in front of junior goalie Adam Cossette, who was forced to make just nine saves in Brewer’s 8-0 semifinal win over Lawrence of Fairfield. Brewer outshot Lawrence 41-9.
The Black Hawks also have two high-scoring lines centered by Ben Ward and Parker Sanderson. Ward (17 & 18) is flanked by Cody Briggs (11 & 15) and Logan Holmes (11 & 12) with Sanderson’s (7 & 23) linemates being Dylan Gard (17 & 10) and Ian Gervais (12 & 9).
Kam Lincoln (5 & 5) and Jordan Brown (2 & 7) have been the keys on the blue line in front of Abouleish.
Gard, Lincoln, Briggs, Gervais and Sanderson scored for Houlton-Hodgdon in their come-from-behind win over Old Town. Gard, Gervais and Sanderson each had an assist to go with their goals.
The Black Hawks scored four third-period goals to erase a 3-1 deficit against Old Town.