The Brewer High School Witches are poised for another run at a state Class B hockey championship.
But when the top-seeded Witches play fifth seed Old Town in Saturday’s 8 p.m. Eastern Maine Class B semifinal at Sukee Arena in Winslow, it will be their first game since a 9-0 win over Skowhegan on Feb. 22 and just their third game since Feb. 16.
The Witches (17-1) earned a first-round bye while Old Town (10-8-1) beat Hampden Academy 3-2 in overtime Tuesday night.
Head coach Dave Shedd and his players have mixed feelings about the bye.
“I’d rather be playing. I tried to round up some exhibition games, but one team didn’t want to play and the others were busy,” explained Shedd.
“[The layoff] could be a negative if you didn’t work hard, but we’re always working hard, we’re always doing something in practice. It gives us some good time off,” said senior defenseman Mike Shedd, Dave’s son.
“I don’t really like it. It kind of throws us off a little bit because we haven’t played a game in a while. But we should be fine,” said senior left wing Jacob Chapman.
Senior right wing Tyler White doesn’t expect it to bother them and noted that they’ve had an opportunity to work on their power play and penalty-killing in practice.
“Everyone is pretty confident after the Bangor game. The time off will help us,” said senior goalie Adam Cossette, referring to Brewer’s 6-4 triumph over the Rams at Alfond Arena on Feb. 16.
Bangor dealt Brewer its only loss, 3-1, on Jan. 4.
Brewer will enter the Old Town game with an 11-game winning streak.
Brewer won the state title two years ago with a 3-1 triumph over York in the final, but York avenged the loss last year with a 4-3 overtime win.
Third seed Presque Isle, 12-7, will face second seed Messalonskee of Oakland, 16-3, in the 5 p.m. opener.
Brewer outscored its opponents 129-43 and its 7.17 goals-per-game average included 10 games in which it scored seven or more goals. Brewer has allowed only 43 goals (2.39 per game).
Coach Shedd and his players said they have been pleased with their season to date and they’re looking forward to the playoffs.
“After beating Bangor, our spirits are up,” said White. “We feel we can do anything.”
“We’ve worked hard to get where we are,” said Cossette. “We were in a defensive slump at the beginning of the year, but we’ve changed things up and come out of it pretty good now. Everyone has been playing with a lot more discipline and we’ve become a much better team together as a whole.”
“We’ve been communicating a lot more. We’ve been picking our heads up when we get the puck and stepping back [to see the ice and make a play],” said Mike Shedd, who credited goalies Cossette and Patrick Spaulding for directing them during games.
“They’ve been giving us advice. They see much more of the ice back there than we do and [their communicating] really helps,” added the younger Shedd.
White said having eight seniors is advantageous.
“Most of us have played all four years and we’ve [always] had a good talent level. That definitely helps and puts us in a better position than the other teams,” said White.
Brewer has won 127 of its last 152 games (127-20-5) and that includes a couple of seasons in Class A.
“We’ve played well,” said Dave Shedd. “The team is energized. We have a lot of seniors and the reality that they have only a few games left has kicked in. That’s what’s driving them.”
Rams honoring Kevin Griffin
The second-seeded Bangor High School Rams, 4-1 winners over Brunswick in their EM Class A quarterfinal on Tuesday night, will have some extra motivation as they prepare to face third seed St. Dom’s of Auburn, 13-6, in Saturday’s noon semifinal at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston.
Top seed Lewiston, 14-4-1, and fourth seed Cony of Augusta, 15-4, will vie in the second game.
The Rams are wearing a sticker with the initials K.G. on their helmets in honor of Kevin Griffin, the father of Bangor senior center and co-captain Connor Griffin. The elder Griffin was diagnosed with cancer recently and is undergoing chemotherapy.
Kevin Griffin has been involved in youth sports in Bangor and lugs the Rams’ hockey equipment to away games in a snowmobile trailer.
“He has been really generous to us and the Bangor Youth Hockey organization. He brings our equipment down so we have more space on the bus,” said junior right wing Zeb Tuell. “The sticker is a way of keeping him in our heads and our hearts.”
“He has been helping me out, personally, since I was 8 years old, between youth hockey and baseball,” said Bangor senior goalie Chris Howat. “He has been a great role model and mentor for me.”
Junior center Parker Sanderson, who transferred from the Houlton-Hodgdon program, said Griffin has been a big supporter of their team.
“This is my first year here and he has done so much for me and for Bangor,” said Sanderson. “I can see why he is so loved down here.”
“For all the things he has done for us, we want to do some little things for him to help him fight through this,” added Sanderson. “I think we’re going to be putting a purple stripe down our heads for him.”
Bangor’s players already are sporting dyed yellow hair as a sign of team unity for the playoffs.
Tuell is the only exception because the chemicals in the dye can cause him irritation.
“Or else I would,” said Tuell.
“We want to back [Kevin Griffin] up as much as we can,” said junior left wing Carl Farnham. “He has been unbelievable. I’ve known him since I was 7 years old. Us winning a few more games would be good for him.”