Hockey notebook: Depth, goaltending spark Brunswick boys to 9-0-1 start

Jan. 23—Moments after scoring both Brunswick goals in a 2-1 overtime victory over Thornton Academy at Biddeford Ice Arena on Saturday night, AJ Wolverton stood outside the locker room clutching the Silky Sombrero, his prize for being the Dragons' Player of the Game.

Teams at all levels have some sort of light-hearted award they present to a player after each win. For the Dragons, it's the Silky Sombrero, an award the captains came up with. At 9-0-1, the defending Class B state champions have awarded that hat quite a few times.

"The person who got it last game gives it to the guy who got it for this game," said Wolverton, who leads the Dragons with 13 goals and 11 assists. "Going into the game, we knew we're a good team but this was going to be a real test. I think this proved we can do anything we set our mind to. We can accomplish it."

Entering Saturday's game, Thornton was No. 1 in the latest Varsity Maine boys' hockey poll, while Brunswick was No. 2. To the Dragons, the win over a Class A power like the Trojans reinforced their confidence.

"I think it starts with the fact we can roll three lines out there and our three lines, we think can skate with anybody in the state," said Mike Misner, Brunswick's coach. "You go down 1-0, the boys stick with it. We knew it was going to be a tough game, and you stay the course knowing you'll be able to skate with these guys when you get to the third period. We get to overtime, we know we have the legs and we feel comfortable with that so we just keep grinding away."

In senior Luke Patterson, the Dragons have arguably the top goalie in the state. Patterson made 37 saves in Saturday's win, and now has a .934 save percentage and 1.69 goals against average. The one goal Patterson allowed to Thornton came on a rebound off a shot he was unable to cover up.

"Luke has been huge for us all season. It's a game of inches. If he would've had another inch and been able to cover that puck, it's a different score. Luke's been awesome," Misner said.

Misner stressed the schedule remains tough for his team. Tuesday there's a rivalry game against Class A Mt. Ararat/Lisbon/Morse/Hyde. The Dragons face Cape Elizabeth (8-2) — which they beat 4-1 on Jan. 7 — on Thursday, and have a rematch against Cheverus/Yarmouth (5-2-1) — a team Brunswick tied 3-3 last month — on Feb. 1.

"With (Mt. Ararat), it doesn't matter their record, our record. It's a rivalry. It's always going to be a pretty high-intensity game. Cape gave TA a run when they played them, and Cheverus/Yarmouth beat (Class A) Scarborough, so it's great competition and we're looking forward to it," Misner said.

THE CHEVERUS GIRLS' co-op team is playing through injuries to a pair of key players. Junior defender Lily Johnson is out with an ankle injury, but should be back soon, Coach Scott Rousseau said. Junior goalie Ella Lemieux, a Varsity Maine All-State selection last season, is likely to miss the rest of the regular season with an upper leg injury, and is questionable for the playoffs, Rousseau said.

In Lemieux's place, freshman Ellie Skolnekovich has been in net for Cheverus/Kennebunk/Windham. In seven games, Skolnekovich has a .952 save percentage and 0.53 goals against average, and the team is 13-1 and in first place in the South Heal point standings.

"The next player has to step up. Nobody is going to feel sorry for us," Rousseau said. "Ellie could play varsity hockey for a lot of teams this year. She's perfectly capable. She doesn't have the experience Ella has, but she's a good goalie."

Lemieux was injured in Cheverus' 5-3 loss to Penobscot on Jan. 12. Three of Cheverus' four remaining regular season opponents — the Mt. Ararat co-op team (8-5), Yarmouth/Freeport (11-1-1), and Penobscot (9-3-1) — have winning records. Rousseau called the loss to Penobscot a chance for the team to learn how to deal with adversity.

"At this point in my career, you need to have long-term perspective on the season. Having to struggle a little is good. It's healthy," Rousseau said.

SINCE OPENING THE season with two losses and a tie, the Cheverus/Yarmouth boys' hockey team has won five straight games. At 5-2-1, the team is now in second place in the Class B South Heal point standings, behind Brunswick.

"Early in the season, we had some things to iron out," said Coach David St. Pierre. "It wasn't anything glaring, just recommitting to the small things."

St. Pierre said the team's depth is starting to emerge. Eleven players have scored at least one goal, with David Swift leading the team in scoring with four goals and seven assists. Ben Moll leads Cheverus/Yarmouth with five goals.

Senior goalie Neal McQuarrie has been sharp, allowing just seven goals over the five-game win streak, with a .938 save percentage over the streak.

"(McQuarrie) was feeling like he needed to improve his game. To his credit, he worked his tail off in practice," St. Pierre said.

WITH FOUR OF its five remaining games against teams with a winning record, the Yarmouth/Freeport (11-1-1) girls will be tested as they try to hold on to the North region's top seed in the playoffs.

Yarmouth/Freeport has games remaining against the Winslow/Gardiner co-op (7-4), Cheverus co-op (13-1), Mt. Ararat co-op (8-5), and Lewiston (9-5). The games against Cheverus and Mt. Ararat, along with one against Portland/Deering, will be played on the team's home ice at Travis Roy Arena.

"Last year we practiced a lot at Falmouth (Family Ice Center). This year we've practiced at (Roy) a lot more. It really feels like home now," said Yarmouth/Freeport Coach David Intraversato.

An injury to defenseman Adelaide Strout meant Intraversato had to shuffle Sophie White from wing to the blue line.

"Sophie's played defense her whole life. We have a pile of defensemen on the team and not as many forwards, so she was playing wing. It wasn't a big transition for her," Intraversato said.