WATERVILLE — Like many of us, the Waterville boys hockey players enjoyed some big meals this week with their families. There weren’t any practices or games around those repasts, so things were a little ragged early on when the Purple Panthers hosted Winslow on Friday morning.
“The first period was really rough for us,” Waterville senior forward Chris Lee said. “Everybody was a little lagging behind from all that food. After that first period, we got our legs under us and started to play hockey.”
Waterville never quite solved Winslow sophomore goalie Andrew Beals, but the Panthers did control the action. Lee and Nick Denis each scored a goal as the Panthers earned a 2-0 victory at Alfond Rink on the first day of the Central Maine Motors holiday tournament.
Friday’s game counted in the regular-season standings for both teams. The tournament concludes today when Winslow faces Brunswick at 11 a.m., followed by Waterville and Scarborough at 1 p.m.
Waterville kept up the pressure in every period — 19 shots in the first, 12 in the second and 16 in the third — but Beals made 45 saves. His best sequence came with the score 1-0 early in the third period. Beals made a save on the left post and ended up outside of the crease. When Lee tried to finish off what looked like a clear shot from close range on the right side, Beals dove back toward the net to smother the puck short of the line.
“He did amazing, actually,” Lee said. “We couldn’t buy a goal the first two periods.”
“Andrew kept us in the game,” Winslow coach Andy Dube said. “He was always in position. He was solid back there. He was someone that we could rely on all game long.”
The first nine or 10 minutes of the game were sloppy, as both teams had to shake off some cobwebs. Waterville got into a flow late in the period and scored with 9:11 left in the second. Dalton Denis made a nice spin move in the slot to work himself free, but his shot went wide of the net and off the boards. Lee was right in position for the carom, and knocked it in for a 1-0 lead.
“Playing at Colby so much, I know the bounces,” Lee said. “So I just waited for it and just buried it.”
Winslow (1-2-0) got a power play with 1:29 left in the period and thought it would get a two-man advantage after a brief scuffle with 13 seconds remaining. Instead, the referees doled out matching penalties over the protests of Dube and the Winslow fans.
Winslow got two more tough breaks in the third period, picking up penalties for an elbow to the head and for roughing. Still, Dube pointed out that Waterville (3-0-1) won the game on the ice.
“Hats off to Waterville,” Dube said. “They outplayed us and they out-shot us (47-19). They controlled most of that game, forechecked very well, kept the puck in our zone a lot. They were the better team today.”
Heading into the third period, Waterville had a 31-12 edge in shots on goal, but only a 1-0 lead. With 5:45 to go, it was still 1-0, and after killing off two penalties, Winslow was about to go on a power play of its own.
But the puck was in the Winslow end when the Raiders went on the advantage, and they couldn’t get it out right away. Instead, Waterville’s Andrew Roderigue set up behind the net and fed Nick Denis, who score top-shelf to make it 2-0 with 5:17 left.
That finished the scoring for the day and both goalies had a part in that. While Beals was brilliant, it was almost easy to forget that Waterville senior Kaleb Kane had 19 saves and a shutout.
“He’s had games where he doesn’t see a lot of action, but he’s always ready,” Waterville coach Dennis Martin said. “He’s very talkative. He keeps the guys in sync to what’s going on.”
Waterville has some interesting games coming up: Today’s exhibition against Scarborough (perhaps the best team in the state) and Thursday’s Eastern B showdown at home against Messalonskee. Winslow, meanwhile, would just like to get in some games, period.
“We really haven’t been tested yet, as far as playing a bunch of games in a row,” Dube said. “With all these cancellations, we’ve only played one game every two weeks, and it’s hard to get in a groove that way. We’re ready for more games.”