BREWER, Maine – It may seem like the Bangor High School hockey team earned an easy win over arch-rival Brewer based on the 5-1 score.
But it was anything but easy for the Rams.
The Witches carried the play for long stretches in the first two periods but the Rams were more opportunistic and eventually put the game away on third-period goals by sophomore center Miles Randall and senior center Cooper Ireland at the Penobscot Ice Arena in Brewer.
Class A Bangor improved to 1-1 while Class B Brewer was playing its season-opener.
Randall’s goal was his second of the game as he scored what proved to be the game-winner on the power play with 1:06 remaining in the first period.
Senior defenseman Isaac Bonenfant had opened the scoring just 1:32 into the game.
Brewer senior defenseman Brady Barker cut the lead in half at the 8:46 mark of the middle period but senior left wing Cam Legassie answered with a pivotal goal just 1:17 later to quickly restore the momentum and the two-goal cushion.
“That was a huge goal,” said Bangor coach Quinn Paradis.
Legassie found the corner with a snap shot from the circle to the right of Brewer sophomore goalie Ethan Hanscom. Cole Neale picked up the assist.
“I came around the top of the circle and I saw two guys in front so I just shot and it went short side,” said Legassie, who beat Hanscom blocker-side.
“Legassie is a good player,” said Brewer coach Lance Ingerson. “He has a very good shot and he took advantage of it by finding the corner.”
Both goalies turned in exceptional performances as Bangor senior back-up Baxter Cole, getting a rare start in place of two-time all Class A North goalie Jake Hirsch, stopped 35 shots including several high-percentage opportunities.
He capped his stellar performance by making back-to-back stops in the final minute of the game.
Hanscom also made 35 saves including several gems.
Both coaches agreed that the score wasn’t indicative of the game.
“It was a lot closer than a 5-1 game,” Ingerson said. “They were able to capitalize on some of their opportunities and we weren’t able to.”
“Brewer played well. They’re going to win a bunch of games,” Paradis said.
Bangor won the special teams battle, converting on one of its three power play chances while killing all five Brewer power plays including a 54-second five-on-three late in the second period and carrying over into the third.
“Our special teams looked a lot better than they had in years past,” Paradis said.
“They were able to keep the puck out of their zone on our power play,” Ingerson said.
Randall and Michael Moscone assisted on Bonenfant’s game-opening goal as they buzzed the Brewer net before sliding the puck back to Bonenfant at the midpoint. Bonenfant took a quick wrist shot and it slipped past the right skate of Hanscom.
Randall extended the lead by converting the rebound of a shot from the left point by Legassie.
Randall and Daniel McCarthy were camped out in front of the net and the rebound squirted over to Randall.
“It was off to the goalie’s right and I tapped it in,” Randall said.
Michael McLean also assisted.
Barker scored a similar goal for Brewer as he whacked away at a loose puck and swatted it behind Cole. Cade McKenney assisted on it.
The Witches had several chances to pull within one after Legassie’s goal but they couldn’t beat Cole.
“I was definitely happy with the way I played. My defense really helped me out especially when I gave up rebounds I shouldn’t have,” Cole said.
Randall scored the clinching goal with 7:35 remaining when he took a nifty one-touch pass from Ireland in the neutral zone, burst down the left wing and saw his wrist shot trickle inside the short side post after he got hit hard by a Witch just as he got off his shot.
The contact slowed down his shot and that may have thrown Hanscom off.
“That was pretty lucky. Cooper took a hit to make the play,” Randall said.
Ireland capped the scoring with a rush down the left side and a well-placed shot into the upper far side corner.
”It was a back and forth game. I was very proud of our players. For a young team, they did very well,” Ingerson said.