The Brewer High School hockey team allowed 14 goals in its first three games. But all three were wins as the Witches lit the goal lamp 27 times.
After a 12-3 victory over Houlton-Hodgdon, Brewer rallied to beat Messalonskee of Oakland 7-5 and Western Class A title contender Falmouth 8-6.
Over the next eight games, the Witches surrendered just 13 goals entering Wednesday night’s game against Winslow. Brewer went 7-1 in that stretch to top the Eastern Maine Class B standings at 10-1.
The only loss was a 3-1 setback to archrival Bangor, the Eastern Maine Class A leader.
“We’ve tightened it up,” said Brewer coach Dave Shedd. “The goaltenders have improved and our defense corps has settled in. [The defensemen] have realized it’s a long season and that they had to be disciplined and mind their own zone. And the forwards have worked hard on backchecking and that has definitely minimized our goals-against.
“It has been a six-man deal right from the goaltenders to the defensemen to the forwards.”
”We’ve worked a lot on our [team] defense,” said senior defenseman Michael Shedd, who is David’s son and is the most experienced blue-liner.
Michael Shedd also said that in the first three games, the defensemen were too offense-minded and as a result surrendered too many three-on-twos and two-on-ones.
“We’re communicating more with the forwards now so we know when to step up. And our forwards are very quick, so they’re able to get back and help us out,” added the younger Shedd, who usually is paired with fellow senior Nick Moore but also sees time with Ian Forrest, another senior.
Juniors Brody Valley and Jake Caron comprise the other defense tandem.
The Witches have a veteran goalie rotation with senior Adam Cossette and junior Patrick Spaulding. They have contrasting styles.
Cossette is the taller of the two, eats up a lot of net and catches with his left hand like most goalies.
Spaulding has his glove on his right hand and relies on his quickness and athleticism.
“Adam covers a lot of the ice, has a great glove and has improved his work ethic,” said David Shedd. “Patrick has a great work ethic and plays his angles very well. When there’s activity in front of the net with two or three [rapid-fire] shots, Patrick shines.”
Michael Shedd pointed out that Cossette is very good at moving the puck and Spaulding is a very good communicator who is “always talking to us.”
“And they both practice very hard,” said Michael Shedd.
Another reason the two-time Eastern Maine B champion Witches haven’t given up many goals is the fact several teams have placed their primary focus on defense and protecting their net front against Brewer to try to stay close.
“When they pack everyone in front of their net, it creates a shooting gallery for us,” said David Shedd. “Hats off to them. It can be very effective against a team like us that is capable of scoring a lot of goals. It minimizes our goal scoring as well as their offensive abilities. But it makes for a boring game.”
Brewer has scored 43 goals over the eight-game span.
David Shedd said he will continue to rotate his goalies, but if one emerges, he will go with him in the playoffs.
Messalonskee enjoying Class B
The team that looms as the top challenge to Brewer’s supremacy is Messalonskee of Oakland, in its first season in B after dropping down from Class A.
The Eagles took an 8-1 record into a Wednesday night game against Class A Brunswick.
“They’re very good,” said Shedd, whose Witches rallied from a 3-0 deficit to beat Messalonskee 7-5 in the second game of the season for both teams.
The teams will meet again on Saturday night at the Sukee Arena in Winslow.
“I like [senior right wing] Sam Dexter. He’s a very good player. They have a very good top line. And they have [Nate] Delgiudice in goal. He’s a class act,” said Shedd.
Tenth-year Messalonskee coach Mike Latendresse said this is the deepest team he’s ever had at Messalonskee.
“It’s also probably one of the best teams I’ve had,” said Latendresse. “I’ve had some good teams in the past, but they weren’t as deep as this one. I think this team would be successful in Class A, no doubt about it.”
Latendresse said his team has an “extremely high hockey IQ.”
“That allows us to work on different things, different systems, which we couldn’t do in the past,” said Latendresse.
The top line is a prolific one and has combined for approximately 100 points.
Dexter is joined on the top line by left wing Chase Cunningham and center James Varney, who are both sophomores.
“They elevate everyone else’s game,” said Latendresse, a former University of Maine star.
He said he has six more quality forwards on his second and third lines and he “mixes and matches them” depending upon the situation.
Seniors Shaun Veilleux and Billy Blake, junior Corey Foye, sophomores J.T. Towle and Kalib Bernatchez and freshman Jake Dexter, Sam’s brother, are the six forwards who compose the second and third lines.
“All three lines are able to produce,” said Latendresse.
The defense corps is headlined by senior Travis St. Pierre, who returned to Messalonskee after previously attending Kents Hill, junior Dominic Dexter and sophomore Tyler Simpson.
Varney, Foye and Bernatchez also will rotate back and play defense and sophomore Peter Littlefield gets some ice time.
Delgiudice is a four-year starter between the pipes.
“He had been one of the top one or two goalies in Class A the last three years,” said Latendresse. “He can steal a game if we need him to. He’s very sound and his ability to play the puck has made a big difference back there.”
Latendresse said one nice thing for Delgiudice this season is he “isn’t facing 40 shots a game [like he was in A]. He’s facing 20 to 25. It’s a much different game for him.”
Latendresse, whose Eagles reached the EM Class A playoffs the first eight years before missing them a year ago, enjoys being in Class B and said Brewer continues to be the team to beat.