Bangor High School’s hockey team would love to finish as the top seed in the Eastern Maine Class A Heal Points standings.
Archrival Brewer is going to finish first in the Eastern Maine Class B standings but would love to avenge its only loss.
They will square off on Thursday night at 7:30 in the fifth Alfond Arena game between the cross-river rivals. Bangor is 12-4 while the Witches are 15-1.
Bangor has lost three of its last five while Brewer has won nine straight since the Jan. 4 loss (3-1) at Sawyer Arena.
Bangor won the first two Alfond Arena games, but Brewer has won the last two, including a 7-4 triumph a year ago.
Bangor’s seniors posted their first-ever win over Brewer this season after going 0-5-1 in their first three years.
“We’re focused on the points more than anything else right now,” said Bangor senior goalie Chris Howat. “It’s always a fun game.”
Bangor held a nine-point lead over second-place Lewiston (11-3-1) in the Heal Points standings, but Lewiston was in position to leapfrog over the Rams with a Wednesday night win over Western Maine A leader Thornton Academy of Saco (12-1-1).
Bangor will have just one game left after the Brewer game and that’s against 4-12 Waterville. After the Thornton game, Lewiston has games left with 9-7 Hall-Dale/Winthrop/Maranacook and Waterville.
“We know we have to beat Brewer to have any shot at finishing first,” said Bangor senior left winger Connor Griffin.
“Finishing first would make the road easier for us,” said junior winger Zeb Tuell.
St. Dom’s of Auburn, 10-5, is in third place and is likely to finish there.
Barring quarterfinal-round upsets, St. Dom’s would be the semifinal opponent of the second seed.
Bangor and Lewiston have both split one-goal games with St. Dom’s.
The top seed would likely draw Hall-Dale/Winthrop/Maranacook in the semis.
“It’s like a state championship game against a team across the [Penobscot] River,” said Brewer junior center Kyle Alexander. “You couldn’t ask for anything better. There will probably be more fans than at a state championship game.”
Brewer senior left wing Jacob Chapman said the Witches were overconfident before the January meeting.
“We had beaten them every year the past three years and we were a little bit cocky,” said Chapman. “We thought it was going to be a piece of cake. That was our problem. We didn’t get many shots on goal and our passing wasn’t all that great. We’re definitely taking this game more seriously.”
Chapman said it is a “huge game” because it will be his last against the Rams.
“I’ve been working extra hard in practice,” said Chapman. “I’m going to give it all I have. This will be my last year of competitive hockey.”
And the atmosphere is always special at Alfond Arena, he said.
“It’s amazing. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I’ll be lucky enough to play in three of them,” said Chapman.
There is mutual respect between the teams.
“I have a lot of respect for everyone on that team. I’ve been playing with them them since I was 3 years old,” said Chapman. “But we’re going to do whatever we can to win the game.”
“I’m friends with half of their team and we can talk after the game,” said Brewer senior right wing Tyler White. “But we won’t be friends on the ice.”
Griffin called Brewer a “real good team.”
“They’d be a top-three or -four team in Class A,” said Griffin. “This will be a good warm-up for the playoffs.”
“We’re all going to have to play at the top of our game,” said Griffin. “They’re a real fast team and we’re going to have to play real fast, too, and move the puck quickly.”
“We have to play strong team defense,” said Howat. “We have to backcheck hard, and I have to be on top of my game.”
Alexander said the Witches average 40-45 shots on goal per game but were held under 20 by the Rams in January.
“We’ve got to put more pucks on net. Howat’s a great goalie, but if you put the puck on net, good things will happen,” said Alexander.