Bangor High School senior goalie Jake Hirsch (left) and senior center Cooper Ireland co-captain the 2021-22 hockey team and have aspirations to win the school's first state championship. Credit: Larry Mahoney / BDN

Cooper Ireland and Jake Hirsch go toe-to-toe in practice every day for the Bangor High School hockey team, with Ireland trying to score on Hirsch.

It’s a tough matchup for the Rams’ senior co-captains. Ireland, a center, has been on a scoring hot streak, registering a hat trick in each of his last four games with 17 goals in 11 games this season.

Goalie Hirsch has allowed only nine goals in his eight starts with four shutouts.

The talented duo want to lead the Bangor hockey team to its first Class A state championship. Bangor has never even played in a state title game in hockey. The team is 9-2 and second in the Class A Heal point standings behind undefeated Edward Little High of Auburn.

Edward Little handed Bangor its only two losses, 3-0 and 5-4.

“Jake is the best goalie in the state. He robs me in practice every day,” said Ireland, who finds it easier to score on opposing goalies because they aren’t as good as Hirsch.

“Cooper has one of the hardest shots in the league,” Hirsch said of his teammate. “Seeing him every day in practice, I know I’m not going to face a shot harder than his in a game.”

Ireland, who centers a line between seniors Cam Legassie and Cole Neale, never expected to go on a scoring tear like he has with 12 goals over his last four games.

“The amount of goals I’ve scored this year is awesome but it’s more important to keep winning games and playing well like we have been,” said Ireland, who dropped 30 pounds before the hockey season.

Bangor coach Quinn Paradis said Ireland has done a better job putting his shots on net this year and he has been shooting the puck lower. Hirsch added that Ireland knows where and when to shoot. 

Ireland said the 6-foot-3, 200-pound Hirsch “takes up a lot of the net, is very quick and he has great rebound control.”

Hirsch said he’s motivated to do what he can to help the rest of the team. That includes limiting rebounds and helping the defense. 

His skillful play gives the rest of his team the confidence they need to focus on scoring. 

“We feel we can take a risk or do whatever we have to do to put the puck in the net because if we make a mistake, Jake will bail us out nine times out of 10,” Bangor senior center and assistant captain Daniel McCarthy said.

Ireland and Hirsch were teammates on the football team in the fall, too. The pair helped lead the Rams to a 7-3 season and its first home playoff berth since 2014. The seven wins matched the total amassed between 2015-19.

Ireland was a defensive lineman, while Hirsch played on both the offensive and defensive lines.

Now they’re focused on bringing the hockey team all the way.

“We came into this year with a state championship on our minds so we want to do anything we can to get there,” Hirsch said.