There is a sports adage that says, “There is no substitute for speed.”
Speed is what second-year Bangor High School hockey coach Denis Collins and his Rams will be relying on to carry them further than last season when they lost to Saint Dominic of Auburn 3-0 in their Eastern Maine Class A semifinal.
“Usually, we’re big and people are intimidated when we come to the rink,” said senior center Connor Griffin. “This year we’re going to be small but very fast. And we’re deep. You can put any line on the ice and we’ll be fine.”
“I think we’re going to be among the top three teams in the east,” predicted Collins, whose Rams were the sixth seed last year.
The Rams will be young, especially on defense, but Collins, Griffin and senior goalie Chris Howat said their freshmen don’t play like freshmen.
“Our freshmen are unbelievable,” said Griffin.
“They’ve played a lot of hockey. Most of them play year-round,” said Howat.
Bangor has just one returning defenseman who played in more than nine regular-season games a year ago, sophomore Cam Dickson (0 goals, 1 assist in 18 games). Nic Cota (6 & 13) passed up his senior year to play for the Portland Junior Pirates, Adam King (5 & 8) graduated and Anthony Capuano (0 & 4) transferred to a Connecticut prep school.
Junior Dakota Williams played in nine regular-season games a year ago, sophomore Kyle Farley played in five and sophomore Galen Perry dressed for four games.
They have been joined by highly-touted freshmen Sam Huston and Sam Kenny. Kenny played for the Junior Pirates last year, according to Collins.
“We’re very skilled on defense. But we’re young,” said Collins.
The Rams graduated their leading scorer in Phil Frost (16 & 9). Hungarian exchange student Adam Toth-Javor (9 goals) and Tom Bearor (6) are also gone.
So Collins will be looking for production from from veterans Zach Papsadora (9 & 9), Griffin (8 & 7), Zeb Tuell (4 & 9) and Wyatt Frost (4 & 4) along with Carl Farnham (6 & 2).
Griffin and Frost are seniors while Papsadora, Tuell and Farnham are juniors.
Bangor’s attack will be bolstered by junior transfer Parker Sanderson, who had 7 & 23 for Houlton-Hodgdon in Class B a year ago.
Papsadora and Tuell have been joined on a line by freshman Jordan Tracy. Griffin is flanked by freshmen Nick Graham and Jake Fournier; Sanderson is on a line with Frost and Farnham and the fourth line features junior Ally Vanidestine with freshmen Owen Trundy and Nate Boch.
“Nate is one of our fastest skaters and Ally is very fast. Nate and Ally will do a lot of forechecking,” said Collins.
Collins said Griffin should benefit from having two players on his line who “mimic his style of play.”
Griffin is fast and tenacious.
“We still have to find guys who can put the puck in the net,” said Collins. “We won’t have problems getting to the puck. But we still have to put it in the net.”
“I’m not too worried about (scoring),” said Griffin. “All of our lines are meshing now. I think we’ll score a lot of goals.”
Howat, a senior, played 14 of 18 regular-season games and was 6-8 with a 3.93 goals-against average and a .870 save percentage. Another senior, Bobby Winchell, was 4-0 with a 1.50 GAA and a .910 save percentage. Sophomore Rye Powell is also in the picture.
Howat is looking forward to his senior year.
“I feel very good,” said Howat. “I worked out a lot in the offseason and put on a lot of muscle. I’m very excited.”
Collins said his special teams are a “work in progress” but he indicated that he will probably “stick to our upperclassmen.
“Our speed is going to help us on our special teams,” said Collins, who poined out that Griffin scored five shorthanded goals last season.
Collins said the Rams will have a “very tough schedule” this year that includes Western Maine powers Biddeford, Thornton Academy of Saco and Falmouth in addition to perennial EM title contenders Lewiston and St. Dom’s.
Bangor opens against Brunswick on Dec. 10.