FARMINGTON — Dangle a potential state championship in front of the Skowhegan field hockey team at your own peril.

The Indians, who have won 16 of those trophies in the past 25 years, entered Monday’s Class A North semifinal game as underdogs against top-seeded Mt. Blue. They emerged as 1-0 winners thanks to a goal from sophomore Maliea Kelso and a crucial save from first-year goalie Leah Savage.

The fourth-seeded Indians (11-3-1) face rival Messalonskee in the regional final Wednesday at Hampden Academy while Mt. Blue finishes at 13-1-1.

The Cougars had beaten Skowhegan twice during the regular season, each time by a goal, which only served to fire up the Indians.

“I feel like there was a different mindset because they had already beaten us twice and we were like, ‘We’re not going to let that happen ever again,'” Kelso said.

The wind and cold at Caldwell Field took its toll on the sizable crowd but the players warmed up quickly in a back-and-forth first half in which the Indians held a territorial edge but neither team could produce good scoring chances. The Cougars had the best one when leading scorer Hannah Minns collected a bouncing ball just over midfield and broke in on Savage alone, but she was called for a violation near the top of the penalty circle.

“There’s always calls in the game you don’t understand and that was definitely one of them,” Mt. Blue coach Jody Harmon said.

The Indians, who held a 7-4 advantage in penalty corners, scored following their sixth one midway through the second half. Julia Steeves put the ball in play to senior Kealey Bowman, who passed the ball to Kelso.

“Kealey Bowman pushed the ball over to me and I just collected it and shot,” said Kelso, who was stationed seven yards to the right of Mt. Blue goalie Erika McArthur (six saves). “I took a really quick look up just to see if I had the shot and I did, and I was just like, ‘I’m gonna shoot.'”

The Cougars bounced back quickly, and four minutes later were awarded a penalty stroke when the ball hit sweeper Haley Carter as she blocked a shot from Minns in the goalmouth. It proved a critical save.

Senior Hannah LeClair took the shot and flicked it to the left of Savage, who stopped the ball with her left hand.

“I was really nervous but I knew that I was going to stop it,” said Savage (six saves). “I was real confident.”

Savage, a junior who has a gymnastics background, played goalie for the first time during the summer.

“She’s amazing,” Skowhegan coach Paula Doughty said. “To have the nerves and the composure. She’s never even seen a game until this year.”

Both teams showcased their skills in the first half, with neither getting the upper hand.

“Mt. Blue is a wonderful team,” Doughty said. “They’ve got great players, great speed. But I was really happy how we played today. We played better on our defensive corners today, that was a key.”

The Cougars ended their best-ever season, but with 14 returning players and a strong feeder program, they plan to be back.

“This will be our new normal,” Harmon said. “We’re definitely a team that’s not going to give in. We know how to work hard and have a lot coming up through. This won’t be a one-season type of thing.”


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