WINSLOW — Not much separated the Winslow and Waterville hockey teams during the regular season, with the teams splitting a pair of meetings.

The Purple Panthers and Black Raiders met Saturday night for a third and final time with a trip to the Eastern B title game at stake.

And the rivals saved their best showdown for last.

Jimmy Fowler scored a hat trick, including the game-winner with 6 minutes, 13 seconds left in the third period, to lift No. 3 Winslow past No. 2 Waterville 5-2 in an Eastern B semifinal before a near-capacity crowd at rocking Sukee Arena.

“I’m on cloud nine,” Fowler said. “I’m speechless. It’s just an amazing feeling. We wanted this game bad.”

Winslow (14-6-0) will play top-seeded Messalonskee (18-1-0) in the Eastern B championship game Tuesday night at 7 at the University of Maine.

The Purple Panthers, who received a pair of goals from Michael Oliveira, finished 13-5-1. They also allowed four power play goals — matching their season total in one night.

“We out-played them for a lot of the game but we couldn’t bury our chances,” Waterville coach Dennis Martin said. “We couldn’t capitalize.”

Added Winslow coach Andy Dube: “We had something to prove. I think the team felt they’ve been disrespected. I told them that if you have to earn it, and we did (Saturday night).”

Fowler’s hat trick supported a standout performance from Winslow goalie Andrew Beals, who stopped 36 shots, many from point-blank range.

“I knew I had to step up,” Beals said. “And I did. I just didn’t want to let my team down. I had to do it for the seniors.”

The teams were tied 2-2 heading into the third before the Raiders pulled away with goals from Fowler and Jacob Grenier about two minutes apart later in the third period.

Keegan Cain also scored a third-period goal for Winslow.

Twice the Black Raiders went ahead on Fowler goals and twice the Panthers answered on strikes from Oliveira.

The game was scoreless until Fowler gave the Raiders a 1-0 lead with a power-play goal about six minutes into the second period.

Fowler, left alone at the far post, took a nice pass from Jacob Trask and slipped the puck into an open net before Waterville goalie Nathan Pinnette could slide over. The goal, which came with 8:59 left in the period, capped a strong power play for the Raiders.

“The puck just seems to find me there,” Fowler said.

However, excited Winslow fans had yet to settle down before the Panthers pulled even on an Oliveira goal with 8:36 left in the period.

Oliveira took a pass from Dalton Henderson in the high slot and ripped a shot past Beals.

Fowler gave Winslow a 2-1 lead with 4:49 left in the second when he converted a rebound from out front. It was the second power play goal of the evening for Fowler.

Oliveira and the Panthers erased the deficit a little more than a minute later when he took pass from Henderson and beat Beals with a shot from in front.

The teams came out with plenty of energy and scoring chances, but the goalies kept it a scoreless game through the first period.

Nick Denis had a few opportunities early in the period, twice getting off good shots from the left circle only to be denied by Beals.

Grenier nearly gave Winslow a 1-0 lead with 7:15 left in the opening period when he came charging down the left wing and put a rising shot on Pinnette, who stopped the puck with a chest save.

However, the rebound came out to Grenier who again got off a good shot but again was denied.

About two minutes later Matt Jolicoeur wheeled in front of the Winslow net and nearly slipped a shot past Beals, but the junior goalie made a nice save to keep the Panthers off the scoreboard.

“It was a fantastic game,” Dube said. “It was back and forth, up and down. It was a typical Winslow-Waterville game.”

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