During the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Old Town High School hockey program dominated Class B.
During one five-year stretch, Old Town went 94-10 and won four Eastern Maine titles and two state championships.
However, when Sockalexis Arena on Indian Island closed its doors to hockey in the fall of 1993, the program began a free-fall.
But the Coyotes are having a resurgence this season.
After going 1-17 two years ago and 4-13-1 last year, the Coyotes are 6-2 this season and are riding a four-game winning streak.
They are third in the Eastern Maine Class B Heal Point standings.
“Our goal at the beginning of the year was to make the playoffs. We haven’t made the playoffs in over 15 years,” said fourth-year coach Brett Hale.
The top five teams qualify for the playoffs.
“Old Town was such a dominant program in the past, we really want to restore it to where it once was,” said Hale. “We felt this team had a ton of potential heading into the season and, at this point, I feel the team has exceeded expectations. And we’re playing better and better every game.”
“We work real hard off the ice (as well as on the ice),” said senior center Cody Cross. “We do a lot more conditioning than we used to. And we have really bonded with each other. There’s no drama. We all love to play hockey and we didn’t have that in the past.”
“We usually practice in the mornings,” said junior left wing David Wilcox, “but I have a pond near my house and a lot of the guys will come over and play hockey on it after school.”
Wilcox and Cross are in their third season as linemates, and they have been joined by sophomore Trevor Francis, a converted defenseman.
“They have great chemistry,” said Hale.
Wilcox said he and Hale are so used to each other “we know what each other is going to do.”
Francis, according to Hale, has been a nice complement to the line because he is “the smartest player on our team and sees the ice real well.”
Hale said Cross and Wilcox have “over 25 points apiece” and Francis is also among their leading scorers.
The dynamic Cross was a third-team All-Eastern Maine Class B selection a year ago.
That line produced four of the five goals in a pointworthy 5-2 win over Lawrence of Fairfield in their last game.
Hale said they also have a very strong second line composed of sophomore Nic Nadeau between senior left wing Ryan Dubay and junior right wing Alex Leithiser.
And the Old Town coach said one of the most important developments has been the emergence of a resourceful third line featuring sophomore Jordan Pinkham between freshman left wing Ethan Harris and sophomore right wing Kyle Dubay, Ryan’s brother.
They give the top two lines a valuable breather and “they really focus on defense for us and play great positional hockey,” according to Hale.
Wilcox said the minutes turned in by the third line enabled the Coyotes to rally from a 2-0 deficit recently to beat Presque Isle 4-2 with four third-period goals.
“And any one of the guys on the third line could hop in with the first line,” said Cross. “We’ve never had depth like this before.”
The efficient and steady defense corps is headed up by seniors Zach Madden and Matt Foster, junior Peter Wilcox (David’s twin brother) and junior Sam Peabody.
Hale said Peabody’s dependable play enabled him to move Francis up front.
Eastern Maine Class B All-Rookie team goalie Patrick Spaulding transferred to Brewer, but freshman Nate Colannino hasn’t missed a beat in replacing him.
“I think he has been the best goalie in Eastern Maine Class B,” said Hale.
“He has done a great job,” said Cross. “He’s so fundamentally sound, it’s ridiculous.”
Colannino and his mates have been stingy of late, allowing just six goals during their four-game streak while scoring 21.
The come-from-behind win over Presque Isle proved to Hale that he has a team with a winning mentality.
Instead of wondering if they were going to win, Hale said his players knew they were going to find a way to pull out the victory.
“That hasn’t been an attitude I’ve seen from our kids in four years,” said Hale, who is assisted by Andrew Slefinger, Dale Cross and Ryan Daniel.
The Coyotes will look to extend the winning streak when they play a makeup game against Camden Hills on Friday at 7:40 p.m. at Sawyer Arena in Bangor.