BANGOR — The John Bapst High School hockey team wanted to put together an impressive performance against Houlton-Hodgdon on Thursday night to build momentum for Saturday night’s showdown with undefeated Messalonskee High School of Oakland.
And they did.
Senior left wing Jacob Fletcher scored a pair of goals and senior goaltender Jaron Leonard made 19 saves as the Crusaders improved to 5-3 by topping the Blackhawks 4-1 at Sawyer Arena.
Houlton-Hodgdon fell to 1-7 after losing its fifth straight.
John Bapst outshot Houlton-Hodgdon 42-20 and the Crusaders used their superior quickness and depth to carry the play from start to finish.
Houlton-Hodgdon didn’t generate many scoring chances but, when they did have some good ones, Leonard came up with timely saves.
Fletcher gave John Bapst the lead for good with the only goal of the first period before the Crusaders added second-period goals by sophomore center Hunter Pate, senior left wing Alex LaFrance and Fletcher to build the lead to 4-0.
The second-period goals by LaFrance and Fletcher came on the power play.
Senior right wing Brandon Ward’s power-play goal with 1:26 left in regulation ruined Leonard’s shutout bid.
“We played real well. We did what coach (Gene Fadrigon) told us to do. We did everything we needed to do to get ready for the big game against Messalonskee,” said Fletcher.
Leonard was happy with his performance and credited his teammates.
“I thought I played pretty well but the defensemen did a good job keeping them to the outside and not allowing them to get second shots (off rebounds),” said Leonard.
Fletcher opened the scoring at the 9:43 mark of the first period when he pounced on a loose puck near the right-wing boards and cut smartly to the middle of the slot to give himself a better shooting angle.
“I try to shoot to the weak side a lot so we can have someone tip it in. But that one slipped in,” said Fletcher, whose wrister cleanly beat Houlton-Hodgdon goalie Payton Porter to the blocker side.
Pate expanded the lead just 1:11 into the second period thanks to a hustle play by LaFrance, who tracked a loose puck down in the right corner and centered it.
“It was a trash goal. It rebounded out to me and I poked it in,” said Pate, who was at the edge of the crease.
LaFrance made it 3-0 4:36 later.
Ethan Handley took a wrist shot from the point that was tipped by Logan Cyr-Ellis at the near post. His deflection squirted to the far post where LaFrance simply had to tap it into the open net.
Fletcher made it 4-0 with his team-high 10th goal of the season when he took the puck from Ray Hummels, broke down the right wing side and snapped a wrister into the short side corner past Porter’s glove.
“Bapst played well,” Houlton-Hodgdon coach Joel Trickey said. “They’re one of the better teams we played. They have good puck movement and they pounce on loose pucks.”
Trickey thought his team had its ups and downs.
“We have times when we play with a lot of spirit and see the ice well, and other times when we have lulls and pucks bounce off our sticks and we make poor decisions,” he said.
Ward capped the scoring with a quick wrister from the slot off a Gage Hunt faceoff win.
Porter played very well in goal, making 38 saves.