The Old Town-Orono Black Bears didn’t have many wins in their first season as a cooperative program but there were plenty of positives and head coach Denis Collins said the future looks bright.
The Black Bears went 2-16 but seven of their losses were by two goals or less and they graduate just five players.
“I thought it went very well,” said Old Town High School athletic director Brett Hoogterp. “The two schools got along very well and Denis did an outstanding job making it one team. We were very happy with it. Denis did a great job.”
Collins said it was a pleasure to coach them.
“They always showed an interest. They were always eager to learn,” said Collins. “I was very happy with the season. It was special. They’re good kids. They mingled very well together.
“We were in a lot of games. We seemed to have one bad period every game. I think we won 16 periods, lost 21 and tied 15,” added Collins.
“I thought Denis did a very good job with that team,” said Messalonskee coach Mike Latendresse. “Bringing players from two different schools together isn’t an easy thing to do. They improved every day and that’s all you could ask for. And they worked hard.”
Latendresse also said they played clean hockey, they weren’t “chippy.”
“They made huge progress,” said Hampden Academy coach Bill Schwarz. “They really improved. I told Denis he did an unbelievable job with them.”
Goal scoring was their most glaring weakness. The Black Bears scored only 29 goals in 18 games.
The list of returnees is headlined by offensive-minded defenseman Austin Sheehan, who was a freshman this season.
“He’s a very good skater, he’s physical and he has a great shot. We also played him up front,” said Collins.
Junior Tyler Byther and sophomore Lucas Shorette logged lots of ice time and will join Sheehan on a promising defense corps. Sophomore Chase Albert had an impressive campaign in goal and John Kenneway is a capable backup.
Up front, Collins will look for more goal production from the likes of current juniors Damien Spencer and Seamus McKaig; sophomores Chris Hoxie, Lance Roy, Cam Sullivan and Mikayla Brown and freshmen Nick Boutin, Jacob Gallon and Matt Fowler.
“We should be significantly better next year because a lot of our practice time was devoted to skill development,” said Collins. “So they should have a better understanding of what we’re trying to do. You saw that [better understanding] at the end of the year.”
He pointed out that he has some potentially good freshmen coming in next season and that their JV team won a state tournament that included Class A teams by going 5-0-1, although they did use juniors, not just freshmen and sophomores.
Old Town and Orono merged after last season because the numbers were so low at Orono they probably weren’t going to be able to put a team on the ice.