LEWISTON — A year ago, Messalonskee junior Ben Weeks was just an interested spectator at the Class B state championship hockey game against Greely.

As the backup goalie, Weeks knew it would take a serious injury to four-year starter Nate DelGiudice for him to play. Saturday, Weeks and Greely goalie Kyle Kramlich were the two most important players on the ice as the teams met again for the Class B state title.

Greely won again, this time 3-0, and Weeks played with the poise of a veteran as he stopped 28 shots and allowed two goals. The third was an empty-netter from Greely star Ted Hart with 15 seconds left to play.

“Throughout the season his game has improved so much,” Messalonskee coach Mike Latendresse said. “His game has gone so far beyond what I was expecting. He had a great game today and he had a great game in the Eastern final.”

Weeks admitted he’s been thinking about this game for a long time. He skipped the headphones as well as conversation with his teammates on the hour-long bus ride from Oakland to the Androscoggin Bank Colisee to focus on the task at hand. Nerves? Not in this game.

“I really didn’t feel that nervous,” he said. “I threw up before the Eastern Maine game. This game I just felt confident, felt good.”

It was Weeks’ calm demeanor that kept the Eagles in the game during the first period when they were thoroughly outplayed by the Rangers. Four of Greely’s 10 shots in the period were labeled for the back of the net including a late short-handed bid from Greely captain Kyle Megathlin. The Eagles managed just two shots but went to the locker room in a scoreless tie.

“He definitely held his ground,” Messalonskee forward Chase Cunningham said.

Perhaps lifted by Weeks’ performance, the Eagles played their best hockey of the game in the second period, outshooting the Rangers 11-8. They couldn’t get anything past Kramlich, who started last year’s championship game as a freshmen. The Rangers finally got to Weeks as three players combined on a pretty goal with Aiden Black tapping the puck into an open side.

Weeks credits both Nate DelGiudice and Nate’s father John, an assistant coach with the Eagles, for much of his progress this year.

“Playing behind Nate, I loved it,” Weeks said. “We’re pretty good friends. He’s shown me a lot.”

John DelGiudice worked with Weeks two or three times a week and occasionally Nate was able get time away from his junior hockey team, the Lake George Fighting Spirit. Weeks gave up goal No. 2 five minutes into the third period when Reid Howland jammed a quick shot between his pads, but that was all the Rangers would get until Latendresse pulled Weeks in the closing minute. Not only did he played well but so did his defense, which includes freshmen Sam Bell and Dylan Burton, sophomore Jake Dexter and junior Tyler Simpson. The group worked extra hard to protect their first-year goalie this season and down the stretch he returned the favor.

“Mentally we were there,” Weeks said. “I knew I was there.

“It’s a pretty emotional time in there,” he said motioning to the locker room. “But everybody’s pretty happy about our performance.”

Gary Hawkins — 621-5638
[email protected]

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