BANGOR, Maine — The Bangor High School hockey team has never won an Eastern Maine Class A championship.
Could this be the season?
Bangor coach Denis Collins isn’t making any predictions but admits that he likes his team.
Lewiston coach Jamie Belleau and St. Dom’s of Auburn coach Steve Ouellette think the Rams will be in the thick of it and that their teams will also be vying for the title despite heavy graduation losses.
“I think we’re going to be extremely good,” said Collins, who guided Bangor to a 14-6 record last year. “We’re fast and physical. We have three extremely skilled lines and our defense is powerful. Our defensemen can score and play defense.”
“We have high expectations, especially if we can put pucks in the net,” said senior center Carl Farnham. “We definitely have the talent to get the job done.”
“Our first three sets of defense all have varsity experience, which is really key,” said junior defenseman Cam Dickson, an All-Eastern Maine Class A second team pick a year ago. “It gets them used to the speed of the game.”
The question mark will be in goal where junior Rye Powell inherits the job from the graduated Chris Howat, a first teamer and Travis Roy finalist (best senior hockey player) last season.
Powell was the JV goalie a year ago.
“We have a lot of faith in him,” said senior center Parker Sanderson, an all-EM Class A first team pick in his first season at Bangor after playing for two seasons at Houlton-Hodgdon. “He can stop pucks. He has won a state championship before in youth hockey [for the Maine Freeze].”
“And he has played in a national tournament in New Jersey,” pointed out Dickson. “We know we can trust him to make saves and that makes us a lot more comfortable on defense.”
Sanderson, who had 17 goals and 10 assists in 18 regular-season games, will center the top line between senior Zach Papsadora (10 and 8), an All-EM second teamer, and sophomore Jordan Tracy (5 and 3).
Farnham (7 and 8) centers the second line between senior Zeb Tuell (5 and 4) and sophomore Jake Fournier (1 and 1), although Fournier may be sidelined with a collarbone injury, according to Collins.
An all-sophomore line of Nick Graham (0 and 1), Owen Trundy (1 and 0) and Alec Coleman-Prey has promise, said Collins, and a fourth line will feature senior Ally Vanidestine with sophomore Nate Bach and junior Ben Thyer.
Dickson had 5 and 7 a year ago and headlines the young but experienced defense corps.
“He is very skilled. He has good hands, he’s smart and very physical,” said Collins.
Juniors Galen Perry (1 and 2), Justin Courtney (1 and 1) and Kyle Farley and sophomores Sam Kenny (1 and 2) and Sam Huston (0 and 1) all played in every regular-season game a year ago and should step up their games thanks to their experience. Senior Adam Hodge provides depth.
Collins said he expects the defense corps to significantly improve its point total from a year ago.
“They have a nice nucleus returning, and Sanderson is quite a force out there. He showed he’s a top-quality Class A player,” said Ouellette.
Ouellette and Belleau lost the majority of their scorers, but their tradition-rich programs always reload and both teams have impressive goalie tandems.
Grant Carrier and Austin Christopher led the Saints to the EM championship as juniors last season and will be imposing figures between the pipes.
“They were both All-State goalies last year and a neat thing for us is we’ll have five defensemen with some kind of [varsity] experience,” said Ouellette. “We were in a lot of low-scoring games last year and I think we’ll still be in that situation because we’ll be a little young up front.”
St. Dom’s, 15-7 a year ago, allowed just one goal in its semifinal and EM title game wins over Bangor (2-1 in overtime) and Lewiston (1-0), respectively. Thornton Academy of Saco beat the Saints in the state title game 5-1.
Ouellette, who graduated his top five scorers, has decided to move point-producing senior defenseman Will Desmarais (5 and 9) up front to supply some offensive punch. He is their leading scorer among the returnees.
Sophomore Brad Berube (4 and 9) and senior Kyle Holtet (4 and 7) are the only returning forwards with more than one goal and will be called upon to spark the offense along with Desmarais. Holtet’s shorthanded goal beat Lewiston in the EM final.
Senior Zack DeBlois (1 and 8) will anchor the defense corps along with sophomores Bryan Bonenfant (0 and 4) and Matt Chasse (0 and 4). Junior Avery Jones (0 and 2) also saw a lot of duty on the blue line.
Lewiston’s Blue Devils, 15-5-1 a year ago, graduated six of their top eight scorers but have two gems returning in junior center Kyle Lemelin (8 and 6), the team’s second-leading scorer, and junior defenseman Patrick DeBlois (3 and 10), who was tied for third in points.
“Kyle is very talented and Patrick should be dominant this year,” said Belleau.
Juniors Matt Poulin (4 and 1) and Evan Gosselin will play on a line with Lemelin, and Belleau expects to receive some production from an all-senior line comprised of Cam Marquis (3 and 2), Bryan Hall (1 and 0) and Tanner Hubbard.
Joining DeBlois on the blue line will be juniors Ethan Melvin (0 and 1), Max Bolduc and Nick Perreault along with sophomore Joey Frechette.
Seniors Brian Wigant and Evan Bourassa will give Lewiston reliable goaltending.
“We’ve got two good scoring lines and and both goaltenders are back,” said Belleau. “I’ve learned over the years that it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Hopefully, our young players will have adjusted well by the end of the year and we’ll be clicking.”
Cony of Augusta was one of the most improved teams in the state last year, going 15-5 and reaching the semifinals after a 4-13-1 campaign in 2010-11.
“Our strength is our forwards and our defense should be OK. But we’ll be young in net,” said Cony coach Chad Foye, who will have freshman Tom Small between the pipes.
Senior Dallas Clark (10 and 8), junior Austin Davis (6 and 4) and senior Tyler Leet (6 and 3) are the top returning forwards with junior Zach Gagne (5 and 5) leading a young but seasoned defense corps that will also include sophomore Spenser Buck (1 and 6) and juniors Aaron Manter (3 and 3), Sean Zubrod (0 and 3) and Chris Murphy (0 and 2).
Brunswick, 7-11-1 and a loser to Bangor in the quarterfinals, had just two seniors a year ago and should also be in the playoff mix along with a Maranacook/Hall-Dale/Winthrop team that returns six players who were among its top 10 scorers. The Hawks were 9-10 last year.
Edward Little of Auburn, Gray-New Gloucester/Poland, Mount Ararat/Lisbon, Skowhegan, Waterville and Sacopee Valley/Windham will also vie for playoff spots.