WATERVILLE — Maybe it was the little layoff. Maybe it was the opposing goalie, who became all the more impenetrable as precious minutes ticked off the Alfond Rink scoreboard Saturday night.

Most likely, it was a little of both that prevented Waterville from running away with another hockey game like it had done so many times in the regular season.

Freshman Zaharias Menoudarakos scored a pivotal power play goal with 5:30 left in regulation and top-seeded Waterville overcame the stalwart play of Hampden goalie Cole Benner (34 saves) to earn a 3-0 victory in a Class B North semifinal Saturday night.

“That was tough,” Waterville coach Dennis Martin said. “Their goalie was fantastic. We just had to keep going and keep going.”

Jackson Aldrich and Justin Wentworth also scored while Nathan Pinnette had 17 saves for the Panthers (18-1-0).

The Broncos, in the playoffs for the first time in three seasons, finished 14-6-0.

Waterville (18-1-0) will play No. 2 Old Town/Orono (16-2-2) in the B North final Tuesday night at 7 at Alfond Arena in Orono.

The Purple Panthers swept the regular season, winning 6-0 and 8-7.

“It always feels good to get to the next level,” Aldrich said “It’s time to put it all on the line.”

Waterville scored a whopping 151 goals in the regular season for an average of 8.4 a game, and it opened the scoring just 59 seconds into the game when Aldrich buried a rebound from the lower left circle off a Wentworth shot from out front.

Wentworth split a pair of Hampden defensemen just outside the circles and ripped a shot that Benner redirected to his right.

Aldrich pounced, had a seam to shoot and roofed the puck to the far back corner.

“Justin had a great shot,” Aldrich said, “and I just got the puck and put it in. It was nice to get that first goal.”

Waterville threatened to turn the game into a laugher, but Benner kept the Broncos in it with one tough save after another.

He finished with 15 saves in the opening period.

It stayed 1-0 until Menoudarakos took a feed from Wentworth and beat Benner to the blocker side to give the exhaling Panthers a 2-0 lead.

“That second goal was huge,” Martin said. “We needed that.”

Added Wentworth: “We knew we just had to keep shooting and shooting. We had a lot of chances all game but they just weren’t going in.”

Wentworth capped the scoring with an empty net goal in the final seconds.

“We came out and we played hard,” Martin said. “It was a tough game but we got it done.”

Bill Stewart — 621-5618

[email protected]

Twitter: @billstewartMTM

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