PI icemen reach Class B North hockey title game with victory over Riverhawks
WATERVILLE, Maine — The Presque Isle Wildcats are back in the Class B regional finals for the first time in four years, surviving a lackluster first period in the semifinals against the No. 2 ranked Waterville-Winslow Riverhawks to post a 6-3 victory Saturday at the Alfond Center on the Colby College campus.
Presque Isle, the third seed, improved to 14-6 and earned the right to take on No. 1 Old Town-Orono, a 7-3 winner over fourth-ranked Hampden Academy in the other semifinal. The B North championship game will be played beginning at 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 6, at the University of Maine at Orono’s Alfond Arena.
Waterville-Winslow ended its season with an 11-8 overall record.
The Wildcats were outshot 19-5 in the first period and Thomas Tibet put the Riverhawks on the scoreboard with 4:22 left with a powerplay goal.
Presque Isle found its game and knotted the score just 41 seconds into the second period when freshman Gage LeTourneau scored off a Connor DeMerchant assist. The Wildcats took the lead less than six minutes later when another freshman, Colby Carlisle, converted on the power play with assists from Torey Levesque and DeMerchant.
“We were suffering from nerves and jitters in the first period, but then we got back to our core basics,” said PI coach Carl Flynn. “Our freshmen were challenged by me to play beyond their age and they did so.”
Waterville-Winslow capitalized on its second powerplay goal with 6:14 left in the period to tie it at 2-2 before the Wildcats took the lead for good when junior Jake Stevens tallied off assists from Levesque and Thomas Patenaude.
Stevens made it 4-2 by scoring on a 5-on-3 power play 6:35 into the third period before DeMerchant put in another off assists by LeTourneau and Carlisle with a man advantage less than a minute later.
The Riverhawks scored a shorthanded goal with less than two minutes to go before York fed Stevens for another powerplay goal 27 seconds later to close out the scoring.
Waterville-Winslow ended up with a 32-31 advantage in shots on goal, but Wildcat junior goalie Andre Daigle was brilliant in what Flynn called the best game of his career.
Tibet finished with two goals and an assist for the Riverhawks and goalie Bryce Gunzinger had 25 saves.
The teams had split their two regular season games, with the Wildcats taking a 6-2 decision in Waterville on Dec. 16 before Waterville-Winslow turned the tables in Presque Isle on Dec. 29, prevailing 5-4 in overtime.
Presque Isle last played in the regional championship game in 2014, losing to Messalonskee, 9-3. It will be the Wildcats’ sixth trip to the regional finals in program history and fifth in the 13 years under Flynn.
The winner of the Presque Isle vs. Old Town-Orono game advances to the state championship game to be played Saturday, March 10, at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston against the South champ. Game time is scheduled for 1 p.m.
The Wildcats’ only appearance in a state game came in 2009 and resulted in a 5-1 loss to Greely.