Zach Wilson’s debut as Hampden Academy’s new ice hockey coach was semi-successful.
His Class B Broncos didn’t win but they earned a 2-2 overtime tie with Class A Bangor on Wednesday night behind senior goalie Aaron Donavan’s 50-save performance.
Wilson is replacing Eric MacDonald, who stepped down after six seasons so he can watch his son, Kaeson Dana, play basketball for Calais High School.
MacDonald guided the Broncos to a 64-37-5 regular season record including a 61-22-5 mark over their last five seasons after they went 3-15 in his first campaign (2015-16).
The coaching change comes the season after Hampden Academy reached the Class B North championship game for the first time since 2003, a game in which the team lost to Camden Hills 5-2. The role is the first head coaching gig for Wilson.
“It was a very hard decision,” said the 46-year-old MacDonald. “I coached all summer and I thought about it and thought about it but it’s the best decision for me and my family.”
MacDonald said he thoroughly enjoyed his time behind the bench for the Broncos, and added that he received tremendous support from current athletic director Fred Lower and former AD Mike Bisson.
“Eric did an outstanding job,” said Lower, who added that MacDonald made the right decision to spend time with his family. “I didn’t want to see him leave. He knows he will be welcome if he wants to come back in some kind of capacity.
Lower and MacDonald said the program is in a good place with Wilson, who assisted MacDonald last season.
“The program is in great hands. I’ve known Zach a long time and he’s a great hockey guy who will do great things with that program,” MacDonald said.
“Zach is an educator even though he doesn’t teach school. He is very knowledgeable and has a great rapport with the kids,” Lower said. “At the same time, he has the ability to be tough and hold the kids accountable.”
Wilson, who was an assistant under Dave Shedd at Brewer High School when the Witches won the 2009-10 state Class B championship, said he is loving his first stint as a head coach so far.
“I love being involved with the game. I grew up playing hockey. It has been in my blood since I was 8 years old,” said the 35-year-old Wilson. “Fred [Lower] has been awesome and Eric [MacDonald] is only a phone call away. Eric is an incredible mentor. It has been a pretty seamless transition.”
The Orrington native played two years of hockey at Kents Hill and two at Brewer High, including on a regional championship team that lost to Cape Elizabeth in the state title game in the 2005-06 season.
He has coached at a variety of levels.
The 2008 Eastern Maine Community College graduate, who is a machinist at H.E. Sargent Inc. in Old Town, said he will build his team from the goal out with defensive zone coverage being a major emphasis.
“We want to break the puck out [of the defensive zone] as a five-man unit, not just one guy trying to go end to end,” said Wilson, who has the opportunity to coach his son, Zach, a sophomore defenseman.
He said he has a very young team that is hard-working and dedicated and he expects them to have a good season.
Wilson is focusing on developing his team so that it will be playing its best hockey at the end of the season in time for the playoffs.