ORONO, Maine – Special teams are vital and can decide hockey games and that is what happened in Saturday afternoon’s Class B North schoolboy contest between Old Town-Orono and Presque Isle.
The Black Bears received power play goals from seniors Connor McCannell and Adam Henderson and killed all three Wildcat power plays, including a five-minute major, to edge Presque Isle 2-1 in an entertaining affair at Alfond Arena.
Defending three-time Class B North titleist Old Town-Orono improved to 2-0 while Presque Isle fell to 1-1.
Both goalies were outstanding as senior Rowen Fremouw finished with 25 saves for the Black Bears while Presque Isle freshman Connor Bell turned aside 26 shots.
In a rematch of the 2019-20 B North final, which was won by Old Town-Orono 6-2, the Wildcats wasted little time taking a 1-0 lead when freshman center Isaac Staples scored the first goal of his career off an Ethan Carlisle feed.
But McCannell tied it with a screened wrister from the point 6:08 later and Henderson scored the game-winner late in the second period off a Dylan Davis pass.
Just 15 seconds after Staples scored, Old Town-Orono first-line left wing Perry Collatos was assessed a five-minute major and a game disqualification for hitting from behind.
But the Black Bears did an exceptional job killing the power play for 3:03 and then Presque Isle’s Quinn Demerchant was called for interference to make it a four-on-four.
“We’ve been struggling on our power play and Old Town-Orono has a phenomenal power play. Their power play has killed us the last five years,” Presque Isle coach Carl Flynn said.
“We figure we’re going to be in a lot of close games this season so we have worked hard in practice on our special teams,” Old Town-Orono coach Chris Thurlow said.
“Our special teams won it for us,” said McCannell, who showed good poise at the right point on his goal as he received the puck from Jacob Davis.
“I caught it on the boards, walked it to the middle and waited for the screen [to form]. Jacob went in front and that made for an easy shot off the far post and in,” McCannell said.
The Presque Isle line of Jonah Roy between Demerchant and Dawson Kinney generated three glorious chances on a shift in the second period but were denied by Fremouw on two of them and by an unlucky bounce on the first one.
Roy found a wide open Demerchant in front and Demerchant made a nifty move transferring the puck from his forehand to his backhand and pulling it around Fremouw only to have the puck roll off his stick in front of the empty net.
Seconds later, Fremouw smothered a Roy point-blank attempt with his left pad and then made a stick save off a Kinney one-timer from a Demerchant pass.
Moments later, Henderson scored his goal from the edge of the crease off a pass from behind the net by Dylan Davis.
“I saw Dylan going down low so I started sinking toward the net to get past their defenseman and try to get into a spot for a shot. I was no more than a foot or two from the goal and I just tried to get it on net,” said Henderson, who now has three of Old Town-Orono’s six goals this season including two on the power play.
The Black Bears are 3 for 6 with the man advantage through two games and a perfect 7 for 7 on the penalty kill.
Dylan Davis picked up his second assist of the game.
After an evenly played first two periods, Old Town-Orono protected the lead extremely efficiently in the third period, limiting the Wildcats to just three shots thanks to the play of senior defensemen McCannell, Noah Thibodeau, Chase Campbell and Peyton Vose and sophomore Jackson Lizotte.
“We played real well in the third period,” Thurlow said.
Bell kept his team within one in the third period with a number of top-notch saves among the eight he finished with in the period.
He also alertly pokechecked a pass from Jacob Davis intended for his brother Dylan that would have resulted in a tap-in for Dylan Davis if Bell hadn’t intervened.
Staples opened the scoring thanks to his linemates, Carlisle and Garrett Letourneau.
The puck went from Letourneau to Carlise behind the net and he made a quick pass to Staples, who got free in the slot and one-timed the pass behind Fremouw.
Flynn called it a “measuring stick” game for his Wildcats and was encouraged by his team’s performance.
“For the most part, we played and skated with them. We can compete with the upper-echelon teams,” Flynn said.