Nick West was hardly alone in feeling the way he did last week upon receiving the news that his friend, Casey Cloutier, a freshman at St. Dominic Academy from Winthrop, had died in a car accident Tuesday morning in Leeds.

“I was kind of really confused and I didn’t really know what to do,” West, a freshman forward on the Winslow High School boys hockey team, said. “It was tough.

“…We’ve been playing with each other for three years and he was just a great friend.”

West — a teammate of Cloutier’s on the Maine Moose travel hockey team based in Augusta — paid tribute to his friend in the Black Raiders’ 12-1 win over Houlton/Hodgdon on Saturday afternoon at Sukee Arena, trading in his No. 27 jersey for Cloutier’s No. 14.

“It’s just tragic what happened to him,” West said. “I just wanted to go out there and just leave all that I had on the ice.”

He certainly did, scoring a pair of goals in the final two minutes of the second period — the first two of his high school career — and picking up a pair of assists along the way as well.

“It was for him,” West said. “It was all for him.”

The ripple effects of Cloutier’s sudden passing have been felt throughout the central Maine hockey community, however, and not just at Winslow.

“We have a number of kids who were quite close to Casey that are going to the funeral tomorrow,” Gardiner coach Jeff Ross said. “We have practice on Tuesday, but we let the kids know that it’s not mandatory. We want them to take the time to be with their families and to get through what’s going on here. It’s definitely been a tough time. A lot of our kids have struggled with it unfortunately.”

Ross said the team would like to do something to show support for the Cloutier family and those affected, but is still waiting to figure out exactly what.

“I just have to work with my athletic department to see what we’re allowed to do,” Ross said. “We need to do something for the family, but more for the hockey family and our kids that are struggling with it to let them know that this is an important time and we’re going to support not only Casey’s family through this but also our family.

“People tend to forget the effect that it has not just on the immediate family, but the extended family of the lives that Casey has touched. I think it’s important that we show that support to these guys.”

• • •

Over the past few weeks, no team has been hotter in Eastern B than Messalonskee.

The turning point for the Eagles, according to first-year coach Joe Hague, came on Dec. 17 at Sukee when they played Class A Bangor and were wholly dominated by the Rams in a 6-1 loss.

“It took a little bit obviously getting to know the team and everything, and it took a little bit to get the flow going,” Hague said. “The Bangor game really woke us up.”

Since then Messalonskee (6-1-0) has won four straight, including a 3-0 victory Saturday over previously unbeaten Brewer. During the stretch, goaltender Elija Tuell has been particularly sharp, allowing less than one goal per game.

This week, however, the Eagles will see just how far they have turned the corner as Wednesday they will travel to take on Class A Lewiston (4-1-1) before returning home Saturday for a showdown with Winslow (6-2-0).

“We have to take care of Lewiston first, then we’ll focus on Winslow,” Hague said. “I know they’re eager to get into another match with us, too.”

The Black Raiders also have their own business to take care of this week with a game against the Maranacook/Winthrop Co-op on Wednesday before Saturday’s contest.

When Saturday does finally arrive, Winslow will be looking to repay the Eagles for the 6-5 loss they dealt the Black Raiders in the season opener after Winslow had raced out to an early lead.

“That would be a big win for us,” Winslow coach Andy Dube said. “It would show us that we have improved since the first week, and that we can skate with them, play with them and be right there with them at the end.

“We jumped on them early (the last time), we want to do it again and play them hard right until the end this time.”

• • •

Speaking of big wins, the Winslow girls hockey team finally broke through this past weekend with a 3-2 overtime victory against Brunswick on Friday and 2-2 tie against Mt. Ararat on Saturday. The Black Raiders had lost their first 10 games to start the season.

“It does a lot for the confidence and needless to say they were very, very excited,” Winslow coach Chris Downing said. “They’ve really put forth the effort and it’s paying off.”

The Black Raiders certainly did not spare the dramatics in picking up their first of the season Friday night. Brittany Mason tied the game with six seconds remaining on her first career goal, and one minute into overtime Paige Veilleux scored her second of the game to seal the win.

• • •

Waterville coach Dennis Martin is hoping this weekend’s trip to Presque Isle will help the Purple Panthers recapture some of their early-season mojo.

Friday afternoon at around 1 p.m. the team will leave Waterville and head north for more than 200 miles for a 7 p.m. start against the Wildcats. The Purple Panthers will stay in the area overnight and then play at Houlton/Hodgdon at noon Saturday.

“We always used to do a bonding weekend trip where we used to go to Vermont,” Martin said. “It’s a chance to build camaraderie and get back to doing what we were doing at the beginning of the year.

“We started out on fire and now we’ve got to get over this little bump in the road and get back going.”

After starting out the season 3-0, the Purple Panthers (4-3) lost three in a row before snapping their streak with an 8-1 win over Houlton/Hodgdon on Friday.

• • •

Cony/Monmouth is in the midst of a break in its schedule where it will not play a game in 10 days and, for the Rams, it could not have come at a better time.

“It’s a weird schedule this year. Next week we have three games with a makeup game. There’s nothing you can do about it,” Cony/Monmouth coach Chad Foye said. “We have a bunch of kids with colds and flu-type symptoms, so hopefully everyone will be well for the game on Saturday night.”

Saturday the Rams (1-4-0) will travel to take on Poland/Gray-New Gloucester/Oak Hill and will be looking to get on track for the first time this season.

“The rhythm we’re in isn’t good,” Foye said “We haven’t really put a full game together and we haven’t really even put a full period together.”

Part of that has also been due to injury, as Cony/Monmouth has been without the services of front-line players Cam Wilson and Anthony Brunnelle. Foye did not specify when they would return, but added he hoped to have them back soon.


Evan Crawley — 621-5640

[email protected]

Twitter: @Evan_Crawley

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