Illnesses leave Hornets at mercy of Crusaders

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AUBURN – If Leavitt Area High School wants to chalk up Monday night’s 5-0 Class B hockey loss to John Bapst Memorial High School as a symptom of the flu, don’t think the Hornets are making excuses.

They’re really just employing a little wishful thinking. Simply put, based on the standard Leavitt established over the first half of the campaign, the Hornets refuse to believe they’re this bad at full strength.

“This was not normal for our team,” said Leavitt coach Ron Rouillard. “There was no urgency. It wasn’t any one person’s fault. Nobody played well.”

After gritty victories over Gardiner and Yarmouth to christen the new year, Leavitt (5-5) didn’t even sniff scoring a goal as they retreated to the .500 mark in this interconference clash at Ingersoll Arena.

Connor Scofield scored first and last for John Bapst (6-3), whose interminable bus trip back to Bangor on the black ice was a joyride in the aftermath of its third straight victory and third shutout of the season.

Ethan Sale, Casey Hull and John Cooper also lit the lamp for the much-traveled Crusaders. They’ll hit the interstate and head nearly as far in the opposite direction for their next game with Houlton-Hodgdon.

“If we’re lucky enough to win that one, this week should give us a lot of Heal Points,” said John Bapst coach Aaron King. “Leavitt is a very good team. They’re going to win some more games.”

They’ll have to conquer the dry coughs and dry heaves first.

Rouillard had an inkling of what was to come when he arrived at the rink and learned that three players weren’t in school and wouldn’t be available to play. Another of his starters was pulled from the lineup at the last minute for showing up late.

“And then we lost another one who got sick on the bench during the game,” Rouillard said. “Hopefully I’ll have all my players back Wednesday for our game against Greely. There’s a lot of sickness going around. It’s been awful.”

Richard Thibault (23 saves) provided his usual steady last line of defense for the Hornets, but John Bapst kept the upper hand by taking advantage of odd-man situations and flawless puck movement.

Scofield scored a power-play goal in the final 90 seconds of the first period. Hull repeated that effort in the second stanza, following up Sale’s strike three minutes earlier to make it a 3-0 lead.

Leavitt’s best chances to disrupt freshman Derek Duff’s shutout came on breakaways by Tyler Robitaille and Steven Rouillard in the second period. In both cases, the Crusaders caught the play from behind and denied the Hornets a legitimate scoring opportunity.

“We couldn’t make a pass,” Coach Rouillard said. “To me, our guys gave up a little bit.”

Duff, the youngest netminder in a three-goalie starting rotation for John Bapst, made 19 saves.

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