WINSLOW, Maine — The Presque Isle High School hockey team punched its ticket to the East Class B championship game by beating the Waterville Purple Panthers 5-4 at Sukee Arena Saturday night.
Adrenaline was flowing through the players following the game as Presque Isle had to take the long route to Alfond Arena for the championship on Tuesday night, but senior Andrew Michaud made it worth it with a two-goal night including the game-winner in the final minutes.
“It feels awesome going to Eastern Maine’s [semifinal], it’s gonna be great to go to the final,” team co-captain Andrew Michaud said. “It’s going to be a tough game and we’re going to have to get ready for it, but right now it feels awesome.”
The Purple Panthers struck first as team captain Christopher Lee was able to beat Presque Isle netminder Jillian Flynn for the first goal of the night, putting his Waterville squad up 1-0 early.
Presque Isle rallied with an aggressive forecheck while throwing the puck at the net hoping for a rebound. The strategy worked as the Wildcats were eventually able to break through with 8:11 remaining in the opening period.
Daniel Boucher found Joseph Patenaude in front of the net for the goal, tying the game at 1-1.
The Wildcats continued to pin back the Purple Panthers defense and converted again nearly 40 seconds later on Andrew Michaud’s first goal of the game while giving Presque Isle its first lead.
Michael Michaud and Dennis Young each assisted on the play.
Presque Isle’s Flynn made a nice save on a 1-on-1 with less than 30 seconds left in the period, poking the puck away from an oncoming Purple Panther.
Waterville would take advantage of the late faceoff deep in Presque Isle territory as Gunner Hann let go a shot that beat Flynn over her glove shoulder and into the back of the net.
Lee earned his second point of the night with an assist as Waterville and Presque Isle headed to the locker rooms tied at 2-2 after one period.
Presque Isle started the second period much like the first, scoring just 2:55 into the period. Senior forward Tyler Seeley gave the Wildcats its second lead of the night at 3-2.
The Purple Panthers drew even midway through the period on a goal by Nicholas Denis with 9:37 remaining.
Michael Oliveira earned the first of two assists in the period on the play. Oliveira also assisted on Thomas Samson’s goal with 3.5 seconds left in the second period.
Samson’s goal came as a surprise to the Wildcats and their fans in the stands as Waterville headed into the third period leading in shots, 20-15, and on the scoreboard 4-3.
The line of Tyler Seeley, Alex Michaud, and Cooper Madore went to work grinding on the Waterville defense. Madore gave the Wildcats hope was the clock ticked below six minutes to play, tying the game at 4-4 with 5:31 left in the game.
“Our first line of Alex Michaud, Cooper Madore, and Seeley really put the team on their back and said ‘let’s go’,” Presque Isle coach Carl Flynn said.
With overtime looming, Presque Isle defenseman Andrew Michaud scored the biggest goal of his life as a loose puck squirted out from the slot, allowing Michaud to tee up a slap shot from 40 feet away.
His shot found nothing but net as goalie Kaleb Kane found himself scrambling to get back into position.
“Well during practice, me and Alex work on that play behind the net, so we knew it was going to work,” Michaud said, “so it opened up space on the other side of the ice, I went in to take the shot, and it went in.”
Presque Isle would hold onto its third and final lead of the game, securing a spot in the championship game at Alfond Arena in Orono at 7 p.m. Tuesday against unbeaten Messalonskee..
“We were down 4-3 going on the penalty kill in the second but we were confident we were going to score a couple more, it was just a matter of not letting them score anymore,” Flynn said.