June 21, 2018
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Bangor-Brewer game highlights growth of Maine hockey

By Larry Mahoney, BDN Staff

It was Dec. 5, 1983. That's when it all started.

That's when the Bangor-Brewer rivalry added a new sport to its schedule: ice hockey.

It was only fitting their first varsity game was against each other.

It was at Alfond Arena in Orono and they have returned to the Alfond Arena in recent years to play a game against each other.

And the inaugural game lived up to expectations. In fact, it exceeded expectations.

Brewer won 6-5 after Bangor had rallied from a 5-2 deficit to tie it.

The Witches were led by co-captains John Valley and Danny Begin.

Valley had a hat trick and Begin scored twice, including the game-winner. Wally Cammack scored the other Witch goal and Billy Van Peursem finished with 36 saves.

Bangor's goals were scored by Steve Malvesta (2), Chris Russell, Troy Wilson and Aaron Dunn. Mike Davis made 19 saves.

You went to the game now knowing what to expect and you came away marveling at the level of play.

A lot of the passes were crisp, there were some bone-rattling body checks, pretty goals, and superb stops made by the two goalies.

Alfond Arena was built in 1976, the first University of Maine team became a reality in 1977 and the Bangor-Brewer players, along with those at Old Town High School, were the first beneficiaries in the Eastern Maine expansion.

Former Black Bear star sniper Gary Conn was Old Town's coach.

Tim McDougal was Bangor's coach and Dan Gillis coached Brewer.

That was the first swell of hockey expansion which was jumpstarted by the start of the University of Maine program and the American Hockey League's Maine Mariners the same year in Portland.

There had previously been just five schools playing high school hockey in the state and, as of today, there are 45 varsity boys teams and 15 varsity girls teams.

Eight of the boys teams and three of the girls teams are co-op teams involving at least two schools combining up to put together a team.

It has taken a remarkable amount of dedication and sacrifice on behalf of people across the state to enable hockey to become a vibrant winter sport.

Rinks had to be built. Booster clubs had to raise money to fund varsity programs in their initial stages.

Hockey is an expensive sport.

And nobody has contributed more to the success of coffee franchises across the state than hockey moms and dads, who get up long before dawn to scrape their windshields, start the car and take their sons and daughters to 5 a.m. practices.

Don't forget the moms and dads who have built their own little backyard rinks for their sons and daughters and friends. 

Some of those very parents will be on hand Wednesday night when Bangor and Brewer renew their rivalry at the Penobscot Ice Arena in Brewer. Game time is 5.

Both teams are off to good starts.

Brewer is 4-0-1 and in second place in the Eastern Maine Class B Heal points standings while Bangor is 4-1 and in third place in the EM Class A standings.

The Witches are fast and deep with two dangerous scoring lines and a third line that can also skate. The Rams have good balance with six players averaging a point per game and another, Phil Frost, leading them in goals with four. Brewer is quicker and might have a little edge in depth.

Bangor has a decided size advantage.

It should be a dandy and there should be a packed house.

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