Two-time defending Class B North champion Old Town-Orono survived a sluggish first period and an impressive performance by a hardworking Brewer team Tuesday night to earn a hard-fought 3-0 quarterfinal hockey victory at Alfond Arena in Orono.
Sophomore goalie Aidan Rand turned in a superb performance en route to the shutout, finishing with 28 saves including 18 in the first period.
Old Town-Orono, 13-5-1 and the No. 2 seed, plays No. 6 Messalonskee of Oakland [11-6-2] in the semifinals at 8:30 p.m. Friday at Colby College in Waterville.
Top seed Hampden Academy, 14-1-4, faces No. 4 Presque Isle, 13-5-1, in the 6 p.m. opener.
The semifinals were moved from Saturday to Friday because the Colby College women’s hockey team is hosting archrival Bowdoin in a 3 p.m. NESCAC quarterfinal.
Seventh seed Brewer wound up 7-10-2.
“I could tell Aidan was on tonight. He played with great confidence,” Old Town-Orono coach Chris Thurlow said.
“I haven’t seen a sophomore goalie play like that before. He came into his own tonight. He played a hell of a game,” said Old Town-Orono senior center Tyler McCannell, who had a goal and an assist.
“This was probably one of my better games,” said the 5-foot-11, 130-pound Rand. “I was watching the puck really well.”
McCannell scored his 18th goal of the season just 1:08 into the game, senior left wing Jackson Campbell notched his seventh with 28.5 seconds remaining in the second period and junior left wing Tanner Evans collected his 18th 5:31 into the third period.
McCannell opened the scoring by driving to the net front and deflecting Evans’ centering pass from the left corner past Brewer junior goalie Tyler St. Lawrence from the top of the crease.
“It hit my glove but I didn’t purposely put it in [with my glove],” McCannell said.
The Witches thoroughly outworked the Black Bears in a dominant first-period performance, outshooting the Black Bears 18-6.
But they couldn’t solve Rand.
Old Town-Orono carried the play for the most part in the second period but St. Lawrence was sharp, rejecting 15 of the 16 shots he faced.
Campbell expanded the lead when he took a pass from Sam Henderson and sailed a rising wrister from the left circle through traffic and into the short-side corner.
“We had a good forecheck and Sam saw me up top. I made a move, saw the corner and sniped it. Zach [Needham] was in front helping me out [by screening St. Lawrence],” said Campbell.
Old Town-Orono had a 16-5 edge in shots on goal in the second period.
Rand made two terrific rapid-fire stops off junior center Liam Spaulding in the first minute of the third period to preserve the 2-0 lead.
Rand got his chest on Spaulding’s one-timer from the inner half of the right circle off a Nick Vinson pass and then kicked out Spaulding’s follow-up attempt with his pad.
“I had a lane [on his rebound attempt] but he stuck his pad out and saved it. He barely got it but he still got it,” Spaulding said.
Evans then supplied an insurance goal by poking home the rebound of a McCannell shot after McCannell had maneuvered around a defenseman to get off a 25-foot snap shot from the left circle.
“I saw [St. Lawrence’s] glove and I knew he had a good glove so I tried to put it off his chest or his pad. It went off his pad to Tanner and Tanner finished it,” said McCannell.
Dylan Street also picked up an assist on the goal.
St. Lawrence also played well, rejecting 28 shots.
Old Town-Orono had won the two regular season meetings, 4-1 and 6-3.
“The score didn’t dictate how close a game it was,” Brewer coach Lance Ingerson said. “Neither team dominated by any means. We had a lot of opportunities but we couldn’t find the back of the net.”
“This was probably our best game of the season,” Spaulding said. “We really played our hearts out. The puck didn’t bounce our way.”
McCannell praised Brewer for its season, which was preceded by the death of senior defenseman Jordan Parkhurst in a November car crash.
“Brewer has a good team and they went through a lot emotionally this season. They fought hard,” McCannell said.