Spring is (supposedly) here but, for some, the hockey season has lingered on for just a while longer.

Cony High School’s Cam Wilson, Kents Hill’s Esa Maki and Waterville’s Gunnar Hann and Matt Jolicoeur recently made the trip to the Dr. Pepper StarCenter with the Maine Moose to compete in the Tier II Under-16 National Championships. Also on the team are Messalonskee’s Dana Michaud and Sam Bell, though neither could make the trip.

“I thought we did alright,” Moose coach Ben Gray said. “One of the tough things for us was we were the youngest team there. We are mostly (1999) birth years, (other teams) were ’98. That one year makes a big difference.

“We were playing against a lot of kids that were bigger and stronger than our boys, but we still put on the good show.”

The Moose opened the tournament March 26 with a 3-2 loss to the Montana Thunderblades despite a late comeback bid. Trailing 3-1 late in the third period, Jeromey Rancourt, of Lewiston, scored a shorthanded goal off an assist from St. Dominic Academy’s Gavin Bates with 2 minutes, 15 seconds remaining but the team could not draw any closer.

The Moose responded the following morning, however, as they scored a 6-0 win over Wyoming. Wilson, Bates, Rancourt, Hampden Academy’s Marc Thibodeau and Lewiston teammates Dustin Larochelle and Cole Ouellette each scored goals in the win, while Maki picked up the shutout with 26 saves in goal.

“Esa had a good game in net, we changed up some lines and some of the line combinations really started to spark,” Gray said. “That game was really a total team effort. We put a lot of shots on net and it was just a very physical game.”

Unfortunately for the Moose, that trend would not continue as they were outscored 4-1 in the final period in a 7-4 loss to eventual champion South Dakota. Rancourt, Edward Little’s Ryan Raby, Thibodeau and Bates each scored in the loss, while Hann picked up an assist on Raby’s score.

“That game was back and forth. It was 3-3 going into the third period and they opened it up on us,” Gray said. “It wasn’t ideal, we kind of shut down in the third period.

“For the most part I believe the shots were even. South Dakota went on to win the tournament so they must have been doing something right.”

Despite the finish, Gray said he is still hopeful for the future of the team given that the vast majority should be back next season.

“We have a bunch of kids with great futures ahead of them,” Gray said. “These next few years are crucial. It puts them in a nice spotlight to go on to play prep, junior or college hockey.

“…Next year we have a lot of familiar faces coming back so we should be in a good situation, but we still have a lot of work to do.”

Evan Crawley — 621-5640

[email protected]

Twitter: @Evan_Crawley

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