Having played against each other for the last four months — some ending others state-title aspirations in the process — they came together to represent their region in the second-annual Maine Winter Classic.

“It was fun, there was a lot of good spirits on the bench,” St. Dom’s and East coach Steve Ouellette said. “It was a good atmosphere and a nice way for these boys to finish their careers.”

In the end, it was the West that defended their title, winning 7-6 in a shootout Saturday at Norway Savings Bank Arena. Falmouth’s Isac Nordstrom and Jake Grade and Scarborough’s Sean McGovern all scored in the shootout to propel the West. Bangor’s Nick Graham scored in the shootout for the East.

It looked as if the East was going to net its first Maine Hockey Classic title when St. Dom’s Caleb Labrie went top shelf over the near-side shoulder of Scarborough’s Ben Bragg with 2:53 left in regulation. But Nordstrom’s hat-trick goal with 41 seconds left forced the shootout session. Nordstrom knocked in a rebound in front off the stick of teammate Jake Grade.

“Obviously you want to win every time you’re out there battling,” Nordstrom said. “They have a great, strong team back there and good goalies. We were really focused on getting pucks to the net. That’s how you score.”

Saturday’s all-star tilt featured six ties and two lead changes in a game where neither team led by more than a goal.

Playing two 24-minute periods, the first nine-plus minutes were a feeling-out process as both teams tried to establish some chemistry with their new linemates. A few teams had enough senior representation to play together on the same line. St. Dominic Academy had seven seniors playing in the game, most of any team. Lawrence/Skowhegan and Falmouth each had four and five others had three.

“It was amazing,” Labrie said. “One more game with my line — the three guys I’ve been working with since freshman year. Just to get one more game with Brad (Berube) and Dillon (Pratt) was awesome. Get one more game with our head coaches and just to play with all the guys you’ve been playing with in local hockey and youth hockey and to get that last chance at our home rink was an amazing year to end my senior year.”

Forty-eight players among 18 teams made up the field.

“We got together as a group, had one practice,” Ouellette said. “You have to remember some of these guys, their seasons ended a little while ago, so they’re a little rusty. I think once you got that first goal for your team there was a little more energy, a little more excitement and that’s when it all started to take some momentum.”

Edward Little’s Branden Dyer opened the scoring at 9:09 of the first period, redirecting a shot from the blue line from Cony/Monmouth’s Spencer Buck to give the East a 1-0 lead.

“It was great to play here and everything,” Dyer said. “It felt good to be out there and have all these guys who I’ve always played against be on my team.”

The West responded with three of the next four goals to grab a 3-2 lead. Nordstrom had the first one off a cross-crease pass from McGovern. Cheverus’ James Hannigan had the other two. Both finished with hat tricks.

Lawrence/Skowhegan’s Andrew Carpenter pulled the East even at 3-3 with 2:50 remaining in the first. Fellow Bandits Trey Michonski and Cody Martin had the assists on the play.

After Nordstrom gave the West a 4-3 lead, the East came back with two unanswered. Brunswick’s Jacob McGowan scored on a breakaway to tie the game for a fourth time and Carpenter netted his second of the night to put the East ahead.

It took the West all of five seconds to respond. Hannigan won the faceoff at center ice and carried the puck into the zone before beating Poland/Gray-New Gloucester/Oak Hill goaltender Nick Hemond.

All six goaltenders played roughly 16 minutes. Lewiston’s Nick Hawk and Biddeford’s Brandon Daigle started for their respective teams. Daigle finished with nine saves, while Hawk made eight saves. Hemond and Windham’s Clayton Owens each recorded seven saves in relief. Noble/Wells’ Wyatt Ricker made 10 saves and Bragg finished with a game-high 17 for the West.

The West completed the sweep in the Class B contest as it defeated the East, 7-3. York’s Derek Neal outscored the East himself, scoring five goals.

Neal scoring onslaught started with 6:18 left in the first period to give the West a 3-0 lead. He scored twice in the final 1:10 of the first period as the West took a 5-0 lead into the locker room.

The break didn’t slow down Neal, as he scored 2:54 into the second period for his fourth of the night. He tallied his fifth with 5:05 left.

“I was expecting it to be a hard-fought game and it was a hard-fought game,” Neal said. “I just got some lucky bounces there, got some puck luck and buried a few. I got a lot of help from the teammates around me. It was fun to play with everybody out there.”

The West scored the game’s first six goals before the East would get on the board with a tally by Brewer’s Gabe Valley with 14:10 left in regulation.

Gorham’s Travis Mansir opened the scoring for the West at 5:42 of the first period and Cape Elizabeth’s Cole Caswell added a power-play goal less than a minute later.

John Bapst’s Hunter Pate scored twice for the East, the first coming with 13:07 left and the second with 4:12 remaining in regulation. 


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