Black Hawks tame Wildcats: Semis next

16 years ago

The Houlton-Hodgdon Black Hawks opened the postseason Monday traveling to county rival Presque Isle for a quarterfinal match. The No. 5 Black Hawks came out on the winning end of a hard fought 3-2 game over the fourth-seeded Wildcats.
    The first period was all Houlton-Hodgdon, as they outhustled, out hit and outshot the host club by a 12-4 margin. The Black Hawks used this advantage to take a 2-1 lead into the locker room. While the local club outplayed the Wildcats in the first period, they fell behind 1-0 as Presque Isle’s Zac Campbell found the net at the 2:02 mark of the period. The lead was short-lived as the Black Hawks’ Mike Epley struck for his twelfth goal of the season just 22 seconds later, breaking in alone to beat Wildcat netminder Ethan Hill cleanly to tie the score at one apiece.
“Morgan Hall and Taylor Martin sent Epley in on goal with alert passing up the ice,” said Black Hawks coach Joel Trickey.
The Black Hawks took the lead at the 12:55 mark as Craig Buxton was sent in alone by a pretty pass from Zac Chase and put the puck away to make the score 2-1. Buxton’s goal was the Black Hawks’ seventh shorthanded goal of the season.
The second period saw the more experienced Wildcats get themselves back in the game as they matched the Black Hawks’ intensity for the first part of the period. The Wildcats outshot the locals 12-6 thanks mostly to an opening flurry of shots during a  43-second 5-on-3 and 1:17 second 5-on-4 advantage to start the period. Black Hawk netminder Malik Abouleish made several grade A saves during this power play and the Houlton-Hodgdon defenders played disciplined defense to keep the score at 2-1. Not long after the locals killed off the penalties, the Wildcats tied the score on a nice individual effort by Dylan Collins, as he stole a clearing pass and slipped it by two Houlton-Hodgdon defenders to pot the goal. The period ended with the score tied at 2.
The third period saw the Black Hawks regain their composure and form, as they displayed in the first period. They outshot the Wildcats by a 9-5 margin and with time winding down it looked like the game might be headed to overtime. With 4:56 left in the game Lowell Matthews became an instant hero as he skated to the high slot and took a pass form Epley. He one-timed a low shot between the pads of Hill and the Black Hawks took the lead 3-2.
The final minutes of the game were packed with action as Presque Isle fought hard to extend their season. The Wildcats had seven seniors on their roster and these hard-working players were looking at their final game.
Houlton-Hodgdon took an interference penalty at the 11:43 mark giving the Wildcats a man advantage for most of the final minutes of the game. The Black Hawk defenders rose to the occasion, as they had all game, and defended the Houlton-Hodgdon end aggressively. As time was winding down Houlton-Hodgdon once again took over play and ran out the clock playing mostly in the Presque Isle end and the neutral zone. When the final buzzer went off, it found a jubilant Black Hawk team pouring onto the ice to celebrate their win and their upcoming trip to Sukee Arena in Winslow to take on the No. 1 Black Raiders in an Eastern Maine semifinal match.
“Our last practice before this game was really upbeat and we had a very good feeling about how the kids would come into this game,” Trickey said. “We weren’t disappointed, unlike the last game here, the boys started strong, dominating the first period. No one on the bench was worried even after the Wildcats took that 1-0 lead. We had a game plan and stuck to it. It paid off as the Wildcats seemed to be rattled by our aggression.”
Several of their players seemed to be off their game all night, Trickey noticed, and that was part of what the Black Hawks were trying to do.
“Our kids play much better when they are hitting and forcing the play,” Trickey explained. “The kids knew that if they lost focus or let Presque Isle dictate the style of play, our season would be over. The entire team followed the plan and gave us a 45-minute effort.”
The upcoming game against Winslow is at 5 p.m. on Saturday at Sukee Arena in Winslow.
“It will be much like the game at Presque Isle during the regular season, as we split with both teams, taking the game in our opponent’s home rink,” Trickey said. “We expect the Black Raiders to be more of a hitting team than Presque Isle was and we  hope the work ethic and aggressive style of our kids will give us an opportunity to make it back to Orono to play in another Eastern Maine Final.”
Trickey said he and the other coaches have known for a while that any one of the teams in the playoffs this year could take it all.
“The kids seem to understand the focus and effort they need to make it deep into the playoffs,” he said. “Everyone involved with the Black Hawks welcome anyone that would like to come cheer us on this weekend. We want to extend our thanks and appreciation to the Houlton High School band for traveling to Presque Isle. We feel they made a huge difference in the entire atmosphere at the game and gave the fans and the team a big boost.”