Camden Hills goalie Jackson Benier and teammates Owen McManus (#9), Jakob Johnson (#11) and Elias Libby (#24) during the Class B North championship game Wednesday at Alfond Arena. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

There was a time last season when Camden Hills High School goalie Jackson Bernier thought his hockey career might be over.

He had a problematic right knee his sophomore year. During a game last season, his junior year, he suffered a lateral meniscus tear.

“I thought this was the worst thing that could possibly happen to me,” he said. “In the moment, I was so scared.”

After the initial shock, he realized it could be fixed with surgery. That happened in July. After a two-month recovery period, he has strung together a memorable senior season.

Bernier has been a crucial component in the Windjammers’ Class B North championship and berth in Saturday afternoon’s 1 p.m. state final against South champ Brunswick at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland.

That will be followed at 3 by the state A final between fifth seed Thornton Academy of Saco, 15-5, and No. 7 Scarborough, 12-8-1.

During the regular season, Bernier posted a 1.75 goals-against average and .921 save percentage as the Windjammers went 10-4 and finished fourth in the Heal Points standings. He has been outstanding in the playoffs, allowing only three goals in three games.

He will have to be sharp again on Saturday because the Dragons will come into the contest averaging six goals per game in their three playoff victories. Brunswick, the second seed in B South, is 16-4 and has won 11 in a row while Camden Hills is 13-4 and has won eight of nine.

Both teams are looking for their first state title. Camden Hills shut out Brunswick 3-0 on Jan. 22 in Rockport.

“(Bernier) has been phenomenal,” said Camden Hills coach John Magri. “When he is on fire, it’s an unfair advantage for us.”

Bernier made 28 saves, including numerous gems, in the 5-2 regional title game win over Hampden Academy. Both HA goals came on five-on-three power plays.  

“He is a fantastic goalie,” said Brewer coach Lance Ingerson. “He is definitely a difference-maker. He is good positionally. He takes away angles. He has a good glove. It’s tough to get one by him.”

Magri said Bernier was determined to have a great senior year. He started his freshman year, but he was letting goals in during his sophomore season due to technical and injury issues. By the end of last season, he was in too much pain to step on the ice.

“He is all about hockey,” Magri said. “It has been a bumpy road for him.”

Bernier, who moved to Maine when he was a young child from West Palm Beach, Florida, said this season has brought what he has been waiting for his entire tenure. After falling short in title quests in his first two seasons, Bernier helped lead his team to a COVID Cup championship last season before his knee injury shut him down. He has been pleased with his season to date.

“I’ve been happy,” he said. “There have been times I have come a little too hard on myself for making simple mistakes but, overall, I’ve played pretty well this season.

Senior center Jakub Johnson and senior defenseman Elias Libby have been the other catalysts. Johnson had five goals in his first two playoff games to go with his 11 during the regular season and set up two goals against Hampden with precise passes. Owen McManus has 17 goals, including the playoffs, and Emmet Marshall has 12.

Libby has scored four goals including the vital fourth goal against HA as the Windjammers scored two goals in the first minute of the third period to break a 2-2 tie. He also had 10 assists during the regular season.

Mike Misner’s Brunswick Dragons have 11 players with four or more goals, five with nine or more and three with 10 or more in Nick Marro (21), Ollie Bateman (11) and Zach Stern-Hayes (10).  They also have four with 22 or more points in Marro (29), Stern-Hayes (25), A.J. Wolverton (22) and Bateman (21).

Stern-Hayes had the game-winner in the 4-3 five-overtime semifinal win over Cheverus/Yarmouth and Bateman had two goals in the regional final, a 6-4 triumph over defending two-time state champ Greely of Cumberland Center.

Luke Patterson (2.30, .902) will be between the pipes for Brunswick.

In the A final, Scarborough 28-goal scorer Sam Rumelhart and his team will try to solve TA goalie Gage Tarbox-Belanger, who has surrendered just one goal in each playoff game.

Scarborough last won a state title in 2015 while TA last triumphed in 2011 and ‘12.