BREWER, Maine — Few athletic teams can boast a record during a 157-game span of 131-21-5 like the Brewer High School hockey team can.
And the Witches haven’t lost a regular-season game to a Class B opponent since the team returned from Class A following the 2008-2009 season.
But after losing nine players off last year’s 18-2 team, the Witches aren’t as dominant as they once were.
Instead of triumphing by lopsided scores, the 4-0 Witches have won three of their games by two goals and one by three.
Coach Dave Shedd and his players were prepared for the tighter contests and are embracing the challenge.
“Every game has been close, and I think most of our games will continue to be close,” said Shedd. “I like the fact that on any given night, we’re going to be in a very competitive game against a good team. That’s good hockey, and that’s what everybody wants to see. We have a lot of kids without much varsity experience.”
“It’s kind of nice to be in closer games, actually,” said senior defenseman and tri-captain Jake Caron. “We’re a blue-collar, hard-working team. We’re going to have to get better and learn from our mistakes.
“We’ve got some younger players who were never called upon last year or the year before, and now they’re really going to have to step up and make a difference.”
Brewer opened with a 4-2 win over Hampden Academy, beat John Bapst of Bangor 5-3, then topped Presque Isle 3-1 last Saturday before earning a 4-1 road triumph over Houlton-Hodgdon on Wednesday.
And the Witches needed third-period goals to pull out their first three wins.
“It isn’t going to be like it was in past seasons,” said senior goalie Patrick Spaulding, who has spearheaded the defensive effort with his stellar play. “The games are going to be close, and that’s going to be fun. It’s not always fun winning 6-0. It’s nice to win 1-0. You feel more rewarded for it.”
Junior right wing Gehrig White concurred.
“We had a lot of boring games last season, but we’ve had to work hard for our wins this season. We have potential, but we’re going to have to continue to work hard for our wins. Nothing is going to be given to us,” said White.
The Witches do have a formidable top line featuring senior center Spencer Valley between his cousin, sophomore Gabe Valley, and White.
The rest of the forwards with any varsity experience were “fourth-liners a year ago,” according to Shedd.
The second line is an all-senior line comprised of Andrew Collins between Jonathan Shedd and Andrew Fleishman. Collins and Shedd saw limited duty last season and Fleishman didn’t play hockey.
Junior Zach Torrey centers the third line between senior Mike Armstrong and freshman Dylan Severance.
Seniors Caron and Brody Valley are the only defensemen with significant experience meaning seniors Josh McNally and Jimmy Donnelly, junior Avery Hileman and freshman Jack Schroder will be works in progress.
The Brewer coach has been happy with his team to date.
“I like their attitudes, and I like the team harmony,” said Shedd, who guided the Witches to a state Class B title in 2010, an EM Class B championship in 2011 and a berth in last year’s EM B title game where it lost to Messalonskee of Oakland 5-2.
“We think about that loss to Messalonskee a lot. It never leaves our minds,” said Caron.
The Witches play again Saturday when they host the archrival Class A Bangor Rams in a battle of 4-0 teams beginning at 5 p.m. at Penobscot Ice Arena.
“That’s going to be a big game. We’re looking forward to it. Hopefully, everybody will come out ready to play. The cold rink will be in our favor,” said Shedd.