CARIBOU, Maine — The top two teams in Class B North just happen to be located a mere 13 miles apart from each other and are rivals.
In their second meeting of the season on Friday, the host Caribou Vikings scored just over 10 minutes into the match and added an insurance goal late in the second half to defeat the Presque Isle Wildcats, 2-0.
The victory extended Caribou’s winning streak to eight and improved its record to 10-1-1. Presque Isle lost for the first time this season as its record dropped to 9-1-2. The Vikings moved to No. 1 in the standings, while the Wildcats fell into second place. Each team has games remaining Saturday and Tuesday to close out the regular season.
The Vikings and Wildcats had played to a 1-1 draw at Presque Isle Sept. 12.
Tommy Pinette put Caribou on top after teammate Alex Ezzy took a cross from the left side and ripped a shot off the crossbar. The ball bounced high in front of the goal line and Pinette headed it into the right corner of the goal. The play was part of a stretch of dominant play in which Vikings used their quickness to keep the opponents out of rhythm.
“We put a lot of pressure on them early and had a lot of chances,” Viking coach Scott Hunter said. “I think that let our guys know that we were going to be okay and were good enough to compete with them.”
“They had us on our heels for sure the first 20 minutes of the game,” Presque Isle coach Joe Greaves said. “But the biggest difference was their team speed. They turn you over and when they transition to offense they have four or five guys who are very fast getting up the field, so we had trouble keeping up with them on their runs.”
Play was more even throughout the final 20 minutes of the first half and the opening 30 minutes of the second half, but Caribou still strung together more opportunities as they outshot Presque Isle, 15-9, and created threats on some free kicks as the Wildcats committed 14 fouls, compared to seven by the Vikings.
Caribou netted the clinching goal as junior reserve Riley Bouchard ran onto a Cullin Caverhill corner kick and pounded the ball into the net with 4:30 remaining in regulation. It was Caverhill’s team-leading 19th assist of the season.
The Vikings have now shut out four of their last five opponents. They own a 34-3 scoring margin during the winning streak and Caribou senior right wing Austin Findlen said the defense has been brilliant.
“They contain the ball, they don’t lunge, they take their time and just wait for the [opponent’s] offense to make a mistake,” Findlen said, “and when they make a mistake, they just take it away.”
Caribou’s stalwarts in the back are Alex Bouchard and Jake Berkoski on the outside and Parker Deprey and Tiernan Barbosa in the middle. Noah Hixon, who registered six saves, showed good hands and instincts in preventing any goals even though Presque Isle took seven corner kicks and had several long Jonah Hudson throw-ins which created traffic in front of the net.
“We talk a lot about our forwards and our mids, but our defense has been really tough,” Hunter said. “Stuff that looked like it was going to be dangerous fizzled out at the end because we had guys covering for each other. The defense has been awesome all year long.”
Mason Young made eight saves in goal for Presque Isle.