ORONO — Presque Isle has a storied tradition in basketball, but now it has begun one in hockey.
Junior center Brennen Shaw scored his 29th and 30th goals of the season and also had an assist as the Wildcats captured their first Eastern Maine Class B hockey championship Tuesday night by beating defending state champ Winslow 5-2 at Alfond Arena.
Presque Isle, the fourth seed, improved to 11-7-3, including a 7-1-1 mark over its last nine games. The Wildcats will play Cape Elizabeth or Greely of Cumberland Center in Saturday’s state title game.
Presque Isle scored three times in a span of 2:04 late in the second period to stun third-seeded Winslow (10-9-1) and take a 3-1 lead into the final period.
It was a lead the Wildcats would never relinquish.
Freshman Isaac LaJoie started the flurry when he fought off Winslow defenseman Kevin Martin after taking a pass from Mitchell Davis, broke free and pulled the puck around Winslow goalie Jesse Little before tucking a backhander into the empty net.
“I knew if I could get him back on his heels, I could turn the corner on him,” said LaJoie. “The goalie came out and I went around him.”
“Once we got the first one, I thought we’d score a bunch,” said Presque Isle coach Carl Flynn, who predicted a 5-2 PI win on the bus on the way to the game. “This was our best game of the year.”
Mark Carvell, who scored the overtime game-winner to beat archrival Houlton-Hodgdon in the quarterfinals, made it 2-1 1:05 later.
Shaw poked the puck away from a Black Raider at the top of the left faceoff circle in the offensive zone, gathered in the puck and fed it across to a wide open Carvell, who one-timed it past the helpless Little.
“Their defenseman was kind of lackadaisical, so I took it away, and Carvell was open, so I got it over to him,” said Shaw.
Shaw capped the spree by skating on to a nifty chip by LaJoie, breaking in alone on Little and converting.
“That was a great pass by LaJoie,” said Shaw. “I came in and put my backhander five-hole.”
Shaw made it 4-1 on the power play 56 seconds into the third period when he took a pass from Jason Martin, sliced into an opening and skated down the right side before roofing a backhander over Little’s glove into the upper short-side corner.
Jordan Grant got one back for Winslow by stuffing home a point-blank rebound, but the Wildcats killed off three penalties and Dylan Collins added an empty-netter to ice it.
“They did a nice job covering Brennen early, but [Collins] stepped up for us,” said Flynn. “Then Brennen began getting some space.”
Winslow struck first at the 1:04 mark of the first period when Nick Bourgoin’s shoulder check separated the puck from PI’s Steve Ford. Bourgoin tracked down the puck and beat sophomore goalie Josh MacFarline from the middle of the right circle. MacFarline got a piece of it, but it rolled into the net.
The Wildcats had the better of the play in the scoreless first period, but Little was sharp and prevented his Black Raiders from falling behind.
“We worked hard, but they worked harder. They came at us hard. They were the better team tonight,” said Winslow coach Corey Lessard. “We ran out of gas. We don’t have much depth this year.”
LaJoie said the Wildcats didn’t get frustrated after having the better of the play but being stymied by Little in the first period.
“We just tried to keep putting shots on [Little],” said LaJoie.
Ford and Martin did an exceptional job on defense for PI and MacFarline came up with several clutch third-period stops to thwart a Winslow comeback. He finished with 19 saves.
One of his best saves came with 8:10 left in regulation as he closed his pads to smother Lucas Jurdak-Roy’s quick wrister from just beyond the crease off a give-and-go with Grant.
Little wound up with 17 saves.
The Wildcats did a nice job hustling back to protect their net front. They got their sticks and bodies in the passing and shooting lanes and congested the low slot. They limited the speedy Raiders to just a few multi-shot flurries.
Shaw, Collins and LaJoie proved to be a handful for the Raiders as they created a lot of chances through their playmaking abilities.