By Joseph Cyr, Special to The County
HOULTON, Maine – Aroostook County’s only two varsity hockey squads took to the ice Tuesday evening as Presque Isle took on the consolidated squad of Houlton-Greater Houlton Christian Academy-Hodgdon-Katahdin.
And while the host Black Hawks showed they have made great strides on the ice, Presque Isle proved to be too much, resulting in a 6-1 victory for the Wildcats.
Presque Isle’s Garrett LeTourneau scored a pair of goals and added an assist to lead the Wildcats, while Oliver Woollard, Isaac Staples, Cooper Boinske and Lucas Wood each had one goal. Gavin LeTourneau, Jonas Elliott, Isaac Staples and Wollard each had one assist.
Houlton’s lone goal was scored by Bradley Swallow off an assist from Gavyn Drew.
Dawson Cole made a number of spectacular saves in goal for the Blackhawks, while Ethan Bosse and Connor Bell shared goaltending duties for the Wildcats.
It has been a tale of two different seasons for the Wildcats and Blackhawks.
For Presque Isle (10-2) it has been the best start to a season in veteran coach Dr. Carl Flynn’s 19 years with the program. After losing their first two games to start the season, the Wildcats have rebounded nicely and are riding a 10-game winning streak, with just five games remaining.
Presque Isle sits atop the Class B North standings and should be poised to make a lengthy playoff push.
“I think this is the first time we have ever been ranked No. 1 for an extended period of time during my 19 years of coaching,” Flynn said. “We had a slow start to the season, getting outscored 16-4 in the first two games (an 8-1 loss to Messalonskee and 8-3 loss to Hampden Academy).”
Flynn said he had a heartfelt meeting with his squad after those first two losses, and from that point forward the team has bonded nicely.
Keeping the coaching fresh after 19 years is always a challenge, but Flynn said he is fortunate to be blessed with several assistant coaches – Darren Carlisle, Danny Davenport and his daughter Jillian Flynn – who help keep him energized.
“Darren is forever researching new drills we can do,” he said. “We have been able to come up with a couple of different power plays and different offenses that change from year to year, depending on what we have for personnel.”
Blackhawks coach Tony Marino said while the team’s 1-12 record does not reflect it, the group has made tremendous strides on the ice this season. Marino returned to coaching the Blackhawks this year after spending the past two seasons as an assistant coach. He also served as head coach for six seasons from 2013-2019.
“I really enjoy coaching and love hockey,” Marino said. “Plus, I am familiar with a lot of the kids and I get to coach my son, Patrick. I hope the kids really enjoyed playing hockey and learned the lesson that no matter what you do in life, you have to work hard.”
While it has not translated to wins, the coach said he has been pleased with the amount of determination his team has shown.
“Our effort has been picking up with each game,” Marino said. “It has been a transitional year for this group, but we are focused on finishing our year strong.”
Both squads seem to be enjoying a resurgence in terms of numbers. The Blackhawks have a roster of 16 athletes, while Presque Isle has 22 on the squad.
“We will lose five seniors this year, but our numbers should still be good,” Marino said. “We have 10 or 11 kids who should be coming up and will be eager for playing time.”
“Our numbers are really good,” Flynn added. “We have been able to have a jayvee (junior varsity) team for the past two years and we have a lot of kids who swing. Our numbers for the next few years look stable as well.”