ORONO, Maine — The Old Town-Orono hockey team showed off its experience, speed and balance Tuesday night — a combination that helped the Black Bears capture their first Class B North championship.
Six different players scored goals and junior Kohle Parker came up big in net as the fifth-year cooperative entry defeated Presque Isle 6-1 in the regional final at Alfond Arena on the campus of the University of Maine.
The title is the first for either school involved in the Old Town-Orono program since Old Town won back-to-back Class B state championships in 1992 and 1993.
The Black Bears lost to Waterville 6-5 in overtime in last year’s B North final, but the feeling leaving the ice was much different this time.
“We prepared a lot in the summer and I think that image of how last year ended stuck in our heads,” said Old Town-Orono senior captain Jake Dubay. “We didn’t like how it ended so we came back this year and wanted to change that image, and we did.”
Top-ranked Old Town-Orono (18-1) will face South champion Greely (17-2-1) for the state championship on Saturday afternoon at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston.
Third-ranked Presque Isle, with just four seniors on its roster, concluded its season with a 14-7 record.
“Our goal this year was to make the playoffs,” said Presque Isle coach Dr. Carl Flynn. “We’ve been telling the kids we were a year ahead of schedule, and I think once we get here we’re going to be here for a few years in a row.
“We’re really pretty happy with our performance. We would have liked to see it be a closer game, we did have a game plan but unfortunately not being the home team we weren’t able to match lines like we wanted to and that was a disadvantage.
“But (Old Town-Orono) is a fast team, they’re mature and they’re deserving of this victory.”
Old Town-Orono scored at even strength, on the power play and shorthanded while building a 3-0 lead at the end of the first period.
The Black Bears needed just 68 seconds to get on the scoreboard, with freshman Tanner Evans converting off an assist from Ben Allan-Rahill.
Senior defenseman Josh Wheeler brought the puck into the offensive end and sent it behind the goal where Allan-Rahill collected it to the right of Presque Isle goalie Andre Daigle and sent the puck to the goal crease where Evans tipped it home for his 16th goal of the year.
Wheeler made it 2-0 with a power-play goal 2:59 into the match as Presque Isle’s Noah Roy was in the penalty box serving a two-minute penalty for hooking. Again Wheeler carried the puck into the offensive zone, but this time he shot from the left circle.
Teammate Tyler McCannell twice poked at the puck, trying to nudge it past Daigle, but a replay check of the play showed that Wheeler’s original shot crossed the goal line for his sixth goal of the season.
Sophomore forward Sam Henderson added the Black Bears’ final goal of the period on a short-handed breakaway as he stole the puck in the neutral zone and went in to score his 15th goal of the winter, with a short wrist shot over Daigle’s glove side at 8:01 of the opening period.
The match was halted 11 seconds into the second period after Presque Isle junior captain Riley Kinney pursued a loose puck into the corner and as he was slipping toward the ice was checked into the right-corner boards by Henderson.
Kinney laid on the ice for several minutes while being attended to by medical personnel before being placed on a stretcher and taken by ambulance to a local hospital. Flynn and Presque Isle athletic director Mark White both indicated that Kinney had movement and was alert before he was taken from the ice.
Henderson was assessed a five-minute penalty as play resumed after a delay of approximately 20 minutes.
Daigle came up with a pair of big saves against Evans and Dubay on separate threats before Old Town-Orono finally extended its lead to 4-0 with 7:01 left in the second period as Finnish exchange student Antti Jarvicare scored on a rebound.
Presque Isle then mounted its best sustained offense to that point in the game, with Jake Stevens and Letourneau getting multiple chances only to be denied by Parker.
Dubay extended the Old Town to 5-0 with 2:30 left in the second period, taking a pass from Nate Young and carrying the puck down the left wing before beating Daigle with a low shot to the short side for his 18th goal of the year.
Presque Isle threatened again during a power play late in the second period, with Stevens feeding Conor DeMerchant for a one-timer that Parker fended off at the last second.
Young scored his first goal of the season 3:10 into the third period as Old Town-Orono’s lead grew to 6-0 before Presque Isle finally broke through offensively as sophomore Tanner Smith scored his first goal of the winter off a Letourneau assist with 10:54 left in the match.