The Bangor High School boys ice hockey team has never played in a Class A state championship game since its inception in 1984, and it certainly didn’t appear as though this year’s team was any threat to do so after going 4-8-1 through its first 13 games.
In the midst of that span was a stretch in which the Rams managed to score only 12 goals in nine games.
But they finished the regular season with four wins in their last five games and scored 25 goals.
And the sixth-seeded Rams followed that with a come-from-behind 4-2 road win over third seed Edward Little of Auburn.
Now the 9-9-1 Rams find themselves one victory away from a state championship game appearance as they will take on second seed Thornton Academy of Saco, 15-4, in a semifinal on Wednesday at 6 p.m. at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland.
Wednesday’s victor will face the winner of the other semifinal between top seed Falmouth, 17-2, and fifth seed South Portland/Freeport/Waynflete, 11-8, in Saturday’s 12:30 p.m. state title game in Portland.
“The kids are working hard and they’re all buying in at the right time,” said 13-year head coach Quinn Paradis. “They are all coming together at the perfect time.”
Senior center and captain Mike McLean agreed.
“We’re working well as a team. We’re all positive. We’re clicking right now,” McLean said.
Bangor, which had lost twice to Edward Little during the regular season, spotted the Eddies a pair of first-period goals before Michael Moscone, Jackson Guimond and Marc-Andre Perron scored in the second period and Miles Randall added an empty-net goal.
Senior goalie Liam Doughty finished with 30 saves as Edward Little outshot Bangor 32-16.
“Liam played a fantastic game for us, especially in the third period,” Paradis said.
He also noted that the line of Moscone between fellow juniors Guimond and Ty Walker has “come alive and been a great scoring second line.”
Guimond began the season on defense.
Paradis said moving Guimond up front has “given us a little more depth. All three lines are working out pretty well.”
McLean, a Travis Roy Award semifinalist for the best senior player in Class A, centers the top line between sophomore Perron and junior Randall.
Freshman Chase Caron centers the third line and three wingers alternate in around him — senior Lucas Lindsay, sophomore Andrew Slocum and freshman Phillip Moscone, Michael’s brother.
Michael Moscone and McLean were the team’s leading scorers during the regular season with 17 points apiece as Moscone had 13 goals and 4 assists and McLean had 4 goals and 13 assists. Walker had 4-10-14, Perron had 7-6-13, Randall had 8-4-12 and Guimond wound up with 2-8-10.
Paradis said his defense corps has been playing at a high level to complement Doughty between the pipes.
Bangor has allowed only eight goals in its last six games and held all six opponents to two goals or less and that includes Falmouth, which edged the Rams 2-1 in overtime after beating them 6-0 in Bangor earlier this season.
Doughty said taking top seed Falmouth to overtime after a lopsided setback earlier at home was “a big turning point. It was huge. It showed us that we were able to hang with them. That gave us a lot of hope going into the playoffs as did the win at Lewiston.”
Bangor beat Lewiston 4-1 in their last regular season game after losing to them 1-0 in overtime earlier.
Senior Josh Ryan and freshman James Schureman are paired together in one defense tandem with juniors Richie Trott and Preston Henry on another.
Sophomores Zachary Lindquist and Jake Biberstein rotate in.
Doughty had a 2.07 goals-against average and a .906 save percentage during the regular season.
Thornton Academy has been led by Kyle Lesieur (10 & 19), Gavin Pellerin (12 & 12), Evan Beaudette (11 & 10), Brady Pecora (14 & 4), Heath McLean (7 & 11), Lucas Hubbard (3 & 15) and Jake Marcotte (9 & 8). Defenseman Hubbard is a Travis Roy Award semifinalist.
Senior goalie Porter Krause has a 1.78 GAA and a .920 save percentage and he shut out Bangor in their only meeting, 2-0. He had 13 saves and Doughty made 20 stops.
The Bangor coach said to beat Thornton Academy, his team has to be “tough to play against and compete every shift. We will need a 20-man effort. We have to be aggressive on the forecheck and force turnovers. And we’re going to have to come up with some big plays on defense.”
He also said Doughty is going to have to continue playing well and “make saves when we really need them.”
“We have to play like we did against [Edward Little],” said McLean. “We have to be hard on the puck. We’re going to have to have a strong forecheck to score goals on them. They have a good goalie and a good solid defense. We’re going to have to play well in our own defensive zone but we’re also going to have to generate some offense.”
The coaching staff and players are taking it one game at a time but Doughty knows how special it would be if they beat Thornton Academy and play for a state title.
“It would be a big moment for Coach [Paradis], a big moment for the team and a big moment for Bangor. It’s a pretty cool place to be in right now,” Doughty said.