WINSLOW — The Skowhegan hockey team is headed to the Eastern A playoffs for a second consecutive season.
The Indians, who’ve been steady since the puck dropped in December, hoped to get there with a signature victory.
They got one Saturday.
Anthony-James Paul scored two goals in the first three minutes of the third period and Skowhegan beat the Maranacook/Hall-Dale/Winthrop cooperative team 5-2 in a pivotal Eastern A showdown at Sukee Arena.
“We had some intensity,” Paul said. “It was big. We wanted it.”
Tyler Savage, Trey Michonski and Chase Nelson also scored for Skowhegan (12-3-1), which avenged a 4-1 loss to MHW (8-6-2) earlier this season.
The Indians and Hawks came in fifth and sixth, respectively, in Eastern A Heal points.
“This was huge,” Skowhegan coach Jeff Fowler said. “We beat Hampden but this is bigger. We haven’t beaten a team with eight or nine wins. Now we proved we can do it. This should give the guys a lot of confidence. It’s not a playoff victory, but it’s a big one.”
Sam Edmondson stopped 24 shots and Jake Johnson added three assists for Skowhegan.
“We’re trying to get a home game for the playoffs,” Edmondson said. “(MHW) was right on our heels.”
Zach Bessette and Nick Lacasse scored for the Hawks. Tyler Plante had 23 saves.
“They played hard and showed up for a victory,” MHW coach Andy Dube said. “I give all the credit to their goalie. He was great.”
The teams were tied 1-1 after the first period before Skowhegan went ahead for good with a disputed goal with 57 seconds left in the second. Michonski got credit for the goal when he poked the puck past a sprawled-out Plante as several players convened in the crease. The officials huddled and discussed the play before ruling the goal would stand.
Skowhegan extended the lead when Paul scored two quick goals early in the third period. The first came just 1:19 into the period when he took control of a loose puck and wristed the puck past Plante to the near post.
“I saw the puck dribble out and I put it on net,” Paul said. “It surprised him, I think.”
Paul made it 4-1 a little more than a minute later when he took a great pass from Johnson and ripped a shot past Plante from out front.
“Jake was in the corner and I called for (the puck),” Paul said. “He put it right on my stick. It was a perfect pass.”
Skowhegan jumped ahead 1-0 when Savage took a pass from Jake Johnson and beat Plante with a low shot just 4:25 into the game.
The Indians had opportunities to extend the lead but Plante came up with some big saves, including a nifty stop with the glove on Cam DesPres about a minute after the goal.
MHW also killed a Skowhegan two-man advantage later in the first to keep it a 1-0 game.
The Hawks finally pulled even when Bessette beat Edmondson with a blast from the left point.
Jared Hanson fed a perfect drop pass at the point to Bessette, who then ripped the puck to the far post with 4:18 left in the period.
Bill Stewart — 621-5640