KENTS HILL — The Maine Moose U-18 Midget hockey team didn’t enter the state tournament as a top seed. It wasn’t expected to beat defending champ Lewiston, let alone win three games that would secure a berth in the national tournament in Michigan.
But that’s just what the Moose did, and it’s just where they’re headed come March.
“We went into the playoffs in fourth place,” said Dallas Clark, a Cony High School junior who played center for the Moose. “But we kept working and kept working. And then we won it. It was incredible.”
The Moose won three playoff games, beating Portland, Casco Bay and Lewiston to reach the national tournament.
The team, comprised of 20 players from around the state and beyond, will head to Lansing, Mich., for the national tournament March 28.
“It’s awesome,” said Ben Gray, who owns the Moose. “Two years ago we started the midget program, so this is great. We knew the 18s had a good chance to get there. It’s a very tough league with very tough teams, but we knew we could get there.”
The Moose defeated Casco Bay 5-3 in the semifinals before blanking Lewiston 3-0 in the state final.
Clark, a third line center, scored three goals in the playoffs, including one against Lewiston.
“I have never won a state title before, so it felt great,” he said. “I was more of a defensive guy. Any offensive chances I got, I tried to bury them.”
Added coach Jeff Ross: “We progressed a long ways. We have a lot of talent. We just outworked our opponents. We have some good goalies, and we had a lot of guys who contributed.”
Clark joined Cony teammates Galen Casey and Dakota Bowie on the U-18 Moose team. Tyler Boudreau (Lawrence) and Chris Lee (Waterville) also see ample ice time.
The Moose also received key contributions from five Kents Hill players, including Filip Akermark, Ryan Caswell, Logan Day, Rikard Keussen and Chad Martin.
“We all stepped up,” said Day, a Tampa, Fla., native.
The Moose played their home games at Kents Hill this season.
“Dakota is a real bull in front of the net,” Ross said. “We like to get him out there on the power play. Galen brings that speed, and Dallas is one of our penalty kill guys. He plays tough defense. He’s a shut-down guy. Dallas is key for us because you have to have the defensive guys.”
Mike Brown, of Orono, and Patrick Spaulding, of Brewer, shared the goaltending duties.
“It was great to get these teams going,” said Gray, who also oversees the organization’s bantam and U-16 teams. “We wanted to get feeder programs going.”
The continued development of the Midget teams convinced Gray to bring back a Maine Moose junior team.
The Moose last fielded an International Junior Hockey League team in 2009.
“We’ll be back next season,” Gray said. “We were looking to bring it back last season but couldn’t when the roof collapsed at the (Kennebec Ice Arena). But we plan to bring it back next season. Everything is going in the right direction. We’re excited.”
The Moose will compete in the 13-team IJHL next season.
Gray said he plans to hire a coach for the junior team within the next two weeks.
Bill Stewart — 621-5640