BANGOR, Maine — The Bangor High School hockey team is off to a strong start with three consecutive wins.
One of the ingredients in the Rams’ success is an ambitious schedule of exhibition games.
By week’s end, the Rams will have played 10 exhibition games, including one against the Ram alumni, since Thanksgiving.
The Rams hosted a high school team from Nova Scotia a week ago and found those two games extremely useful, along with the other exhibitions.
“I had never seen a team move the puck that well,” said Bangor senior center Connor Griffin. “Those were great games to play in. We learned a lot from [the Nova Scotians]. We talked about it in the locker room and took it to the ice in practice.”
“They knew where the puck was going to be before it had even been released,” said Griffin. “You have to be aware of where everyone is and who’s open before you even get the puck. You have to be thinking before the puck even reaches you.”
Bangor had also played western Maine powers Thornton Academy of Saco and Biddeford as well as Gorham in a post-Thanksgiving tournament.
“Playing great competition makes you stronger,” said Griffin.
“You can learn a lot from teams you don’t normally play,” said senior right wing Wyatt Frost. “You can take something from each team. You find things you need to work on. Every exhibition game we play is beneficial.”
Bangor coach Denis Collins said he and his coaching staff used the post-Thanksgiving tournament to “put our lines and defense tandems together.”
In the Nova Scotia games, “we worked on our systems,” he said.
Zach Papsadora is off to a great start with four goals and two assists in the three games. He had nine goals and nine assists a year ago.
“I’ve got good linemates,” said Papsadora, referring to junior left wing Zeb Tuell (2 goals, 2 assists) and freshman right wing Jordan Tracy (1 & 1).
He also said he played summer hockey with the New Hampshire Junior Monarchs’ team in Hookset, N.H. The Junior Monarchs play in the Eastern Junior Hockey League.
“That helped me out a lot,” said Papsadora. “That gave me confidence and it carried over to this season.”
Tracy is one of a talented group of freshmen who have played an important role in Bangor’s start, which included an impressive 4-3 overtime road win over perennial state championship contender St. Dom’s of Auburn.
Freshman Jake Fournier (1 & 0) and Nick Graham (no points) flank Griffin on that line.
“They play like they’ve been on the team forever,” said Griffin, who has one goal. “Right after the first game, our confidence went sky-high. It’s a fast line.”
Nate Bach has played in all three games on the fourth line, and Sam Kenny and Sam Huston have played in all three games on defense.
“Our freshmen play like seniors,” said Papsadora.
Bangor’s win over St. Dom’s was particularly satisfying because St. Dom’s ousted Bangor 3-0 in the Eastern Maine Class A semifinals a year ago.
“That was sweet. We were all pumped up about that,” said Griffin.
“That was definitely a huge game for us,” said Frost, who scored the game-winner. “We really needed those [Heal] points. It was really exciting.”
He called his game-winner one of the biggest thrills of his career.
Frost already has a goal and four assists after notching four goals and four assists last year.
“Our line is really clicking right now,” said Frost, who is on a line with with Houlton-Hodgdon transfer Parker Sanderson (2 & 2) and Carl Farnham (1 & 0). “We’re seeing each other [well] on the ice.”
Frost said he’s glad Sanderson transferred to Bangor.
“He is helping us out a lot,” said Frost.
Senior goalie Chris Howat said the positive team chemistry has been vital to their success.
“The team is working hard and is bonding really well,” said Howat. “We’ve molded into a cohesive unit.”
“It’s like a family this year,” said Griffin.
The Rams will have a busy week next week.
They have a makeup game with Edward Little on Tuesday, they face Brewer on Wednesday and square off with Lewiston on Jan. 6.
“That will test our endurance, but I think we can handle it,” said Howat.
“They’re all very good teams and we play them in a short span of time, so we’re going to have to be disciplined and make sure we bring our best to every game,” said Frost.
Fadrigon glad he’s back
Gene Fadrigon is glad to be back behind the bench.
Fadrigon returned to be the head hockey coach at Bangor’s John Bapst Memorial High School after stepping down after the 2008-2009 season.
He led the Crusaders to their best season ever, 16-2 in 2008-2009, and their first top seed in the Eastern Maine Class B Heal Points standings.
He assisted at Old Town two years ago but didn’t coach last year.
The five-time coach of the year, who won four Eastern Maine titles and two state championships at Old Town High, has led the Crusaders to a 3-2 start so far.
“I love being back. It’s fun. The kids are awesome,” said Fadrigon. “I love being part of it.”
He is also getting a chance to coach with his grandson Tyler, who is one of his assistants along with Josh Lander.
Alex Beals and Nick Doucette, two of the seniors who played for him when they were freshmen, are glad to have him back.
“It’s great. He has taught us a lot,” said Beals. “We have really good systems and we work on them. We go into every game prepared.”
“We believe in him,” said Doucette. “We had a fantastic year our freshman year and we think we can have another great year this season.”
Doucette said the Crusaders began turning their fortunes around under departed coach Greg Stone last season when they rebounded from a 1-14-3 season two years ago to go 6-12 last year.
“We started to turn it around last year and now everyone knows what it takes to win and we’re all ready to do it,” said Doucette.