March 29, 2020
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Championship hockey foes collide in rare regular-season showdown

Linda Coan O'Kresik | BDN
Linda Coan O'Kresik | BDN
Nate Young of Old Town-Orono (left) battles Kennebec’s Hunter Brown battle for the puck during a March 2019 game in Orono. Young and the Black Bears are gearing up for a Monday showdown against defending state champion Greely.

Teams that square off in state championship games rarely face each other during the regular season, especially when they are 135 miles apart.

But that will be the case on Monday when Old Town-Orono plays Greely of Cumberland Center at Alfond Arena in Orono. Puck drop is set for 4:10 p.m.

Old Town-Orono and Greely have met in the last two state Class B title games. Old Town-Orono triumphed 3-2 in overtime two years ago before Greely avenged the loss with an 8-0 triumph last season.

The Black Bears and Rangers could very well make it three state title game matchups in a row on March 7 at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston, as both teams are seeded second in their respective divisions entering Saturday’s play.

Both teams are undefeated against Class B competition.

Old Town-Orono is 6-2-1 with its losses coming against Class A teams Portland-Deering (4-3) and Bangor (5-3). Its tie came against Class B North contender Hampden Academy (2-2).

Greely is 6-1-1 with its loss and tie being against the top two teams in the Class A Heal Points standings: undefeated leader Lewiston (4-2) and No. 2 Scarborough (1-1).

Lewiston is 8-0 and Scarborough is 6-1-1.

The Black Bears are eager to face the Rangers again, although they readily admit Barry Mothes’ team last season was exceptional.

“That was the best hockey team I’ve ever played,” Black Bear junior center Tanner Evans said. “They gave it to us from the get-go.

“But we didn’t dwell on it too much afterwards. We’re using it as motivation to get back there this year. We’re looking forward to playing them on Monday,” he said.

Senior left wing Tyler McCannell recalled it was one of those games where Greely jumped out to an early lead and kept piling it on. The Black Bears didn’t have an answer.

Old Town-Orono coach Chris Thurlow expects a competitive game.

“They lost some pieces off last year’s team but they’re still a very good team,” he said. “They took Lewiston down to the wire. We know we can play better than we did in the state game. We were back on our heels the whole game.”

Thurlow likes the fact they are playing a crossover game against a Class B South opponent.

“It’s good to stay in tune with the South teams. Playing two Class A teams and playing Greely will make us a better hockey team, regardless of who wins,” Thurlow said.

Old Town-Orono has impressive scoring balance with Sam Henderson (11 goals & 6 assists) centering Jackson Campbell (4 & 6) and Zach Needham (6 & 4) and Evans (5 & 6) flanked by McCannell (8 & 8) and Gabe Talon (2 & 1). Adam Henderson, Sam’s brother, has produced four goals while playing on the third line.

Seniors Dylan Street (1 & 9) and Nate Young (1 & 9) have been important point-producers on defense and sophomore Aidan Rand (3.33 goals-against average, .905 save percentage) has made significant strides as a first-year starter, Thurlow said.

Greely features the Moores, Andy (9 & 9) and Ryan (2 & 8), along with Evan Dutil (8 & 1) and veteran goalie Jared Swisher (1.93, .931).

Prior to Monday’s matchup, both teams will be tested on Saturday.

Old Town-Orono hosts Class B rival Presque Isle (6-2-1) for a 5:30 p.m. game at Alfond Arena. Greely awaits Class A Thornton Academy of Saco (5-3).

“They’re a rival so we always get up to play them,” Evans said.

Presque Isle has three of the leading scorers in the state in Class B in Gage Letourneau (20 goals, 18 assists), Colby Carlisle (14 & 20) and Connor Demerchant (10 & 22).

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