The 6-5 overtime loss to Waterville in the Class B North schoolboy hockey championship game last season left a lasting impression on the Old Town-Orono Black Bears.
The Black Bears had a pair of two-goal leads in the first two periods and three one-goal leads in the third period only to wind up as the regional runners-up.
But, according to Black Bears coach Denis Collins, it was the fact Waterville outshot Old Town-Orono 42-18 that left the biggest impression.
“The kids felt they were dominated and they wanted to be in command in every game this year,” Collins said.
And that has been the case so far.
Going into Tuesday night’s game at Houlton-Hodgdon-Southern Aroostook-Katahdin, the Black Bears were 7-0 and had outscored their opponents 54-6.
They avenged that loss to Waterville by sweeping the first-year Kennebec River Hawks, a team composed of players from Waterville and Winslow. Old Town-Orono beat the River Hawks 9-2 in Orono and 4-0 in Waterville.
Old Town-Orono was 16-3-2 a year ago, and all three losses were to the two-time state champion Purple Panthers.
The Black Bears graduated three game-changers in Tyler Wheeler, Jacob Gallon and defenseman Austin Sheehan but they did return an impressive corps of players. They have benefitted from the addition of Finnish exchange student Antii Jarvikare, a defenseman, and freshman forward Tanner Evans, son of former Old Town standout Jimmy Evans.
Collins said he knew his team had great potential by virtue of their impressive play in exhibition games against Class A teams such as Bangor and Thornton Academy of Saco.
“We’re very fast and we have a lot of skill. We have been possessing the puck for nine or 10 minutes each (15-minute) period,” said Collins, who has been the head coach since Old Town and Orono merged into a cooperative team five years ago. “Our defense corps is one of the best I’ve ever coached. They can all skate like forwards. ”
Senior Josh Wheeler, younger brother of Tyler, and Jarvikare are the catalysts along the blue line.
Jarvicare has three goals and seven assists and Wheeler has 2 & 6.
“Antii can handle the puck better than anyone and he’s the best I’ve ever seen at getting the puck to the open man,” Collins said.
Wheeler is quick and has the ability to shed forecheckers and get the puck to the forwards.
“You can’t get the puck away from him,” Collins said.
Junior Cam Tower (2 & 6), senior Austin Soucy (1 & 1) and sophomore Dylan Street (1 & 6) have been productive on the blue line and senior Dillon Leland and freshman Dominique St. Louis supply depth.
Up front, dynamic senior Jacob Dubay (8 & 15) and linemate Tyler McCannell (11 & 6), a sophomore, are the leading scorers along with Evans (7 & 6) and senior Ben Allan-Rahill (5 & 8).
Collins said Dubay has been getting checked closely by everybody, often with two players on him, but has been able to set up his linemates with precise passes.
“Jacob is our best player,” Collins said.
Speedsters Trent Lick (5 & 5), a junior, and Sam Henderson (8 & 1), a sophomore, also have been constant threats.
Collins has a promising all-sophomore line that gets three or four shifts per period composed of Nate Young, Jackson Campbell and Gabe Talon.
Freshman Zach Needham and sophomore Lucas Souza-Cuhna have each played in five games.
Junior Kohle Parker has been between the pipes and has an 0.90 goals-against average and a .944 save percentage. Nate Reid and Lexi Marsh back him up.
Follow BDN Maine Sports on Facebook for the latest in Maine high school and college sports.