ORONO — After spending all season wearing holes in the netting at every end of every rink in the state, combining to score 166 goals between them, the Black Bears and RiverHawks decided a shootout wasn’t going to determine a regional champion after all.

Senior goalie Kohle Parker stopped all 29 shots he faced in his first game action in more than two weeks to make Tyler McCannell’s first-period goal stand up, and No. 1 Old Town/Orono held on for a 1-0 win over No. 2 Kennebec in the Class B North final Wednesday night at the University of Maine’s Alfond Rink. The Black Bears (15-5-0) will face Class B South champion Greely in the state championship game Saturday afternoon at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston.

The regional title was the second in as many years for Old Town/Orono, which lost to Waterville in the 2017 final in overtime.

“It was a team effort,” Parker said. “Great breakouts, great defense, a lot of blocked shots. Just an all-around team effort. It was a team win.”

For the first time in 20 games this season, Kennebec (15-5-0) was held scoreless. The teams had combined for 10 goals in each of their two regular-season meetings, a pair of games they split.

“I told the boys before the game … ‘I’ve got a feeling this thing’s going to come down to one big play, one big goal,’” Kennebec coach Jon Hart said. “You know what? It did.”

Kennebec’s Zach Menoudarakos, left, embraces teammate Cooper Hart after losing 1-0 to Old Town/Orono in the Class B North final Wednesday at the Alfond Arena at the University of Maine in Orono. Morning Sentinel photo by Michael G. Seamans

The RiverHawks, who finished third in the league in scoring with 77 goals this season, had a glorious chance to take control of the game in the second period. They had four power-play opportunities in the frame — playing 8 minutes of the first 9:26 with the man-advantage — but could not convert a momentum-swinging goal.

Parker made 13 of his 29 saves in the second period, including 12 while backstopping the Black Bear penalty kill. The effort was more impressive considering he hadn’t played since Feb. 16 against Presque Isle, serving a suspension for a violation of team rules.

“I thought we were in trouble,” Old Town/Orono coach Chris Thurlow said. “Come the (fourth) one, I was like, ‘How many can you go in a row without them converting?’ A couple of lucky bounces but hard work from our kids, as well. To kill all (four) of those was huge. It kind of leapfrogged us to say if even if we’re a man down, we can still play well.”

Parker’s best moment came just over a minute into the period, when Kennebec’s Tom Tibbetts tried to jam a shot underneath him from the left post. On his stomach, Parker steered the puck clear of the goal line until teammate Tanner Evans could come in and swat it out of harm’s way.

Kennebec’s Nathan Newgard (9) tries to sneak the puck by Old Town/Orono goalie Kohle Parker (1) in the second period in the Class B North final Wednesday at the Alfond Arena at the University of Maine in Orono. Morning Sentinel photo by Michael G. Seamans

“I did my part,” Parker said. “I made a few scramble saves that were scary, and the defense battled in the corners really good and the (forwards) were outstanding clearing the puck. It was all good.”

“He’s a heck of a goaltender. I’m proud of him,” Thurlow said. “He had some unfortunate situations early in the year, but he did what we asked of him to earn his position back. He did earn that, and he went out there and he got redemption. I couldn’t be happier for him.”

It was Parker’s second shutout of the season. He made 12 saves in a 3-0 win over Houlton/Hodgdon on Jan. 21.

McCannell’s team-leading 19th goal of the season came with 9:47 gone in the first period, when the RiverHawks were caught pinching too deep on the forecheck. Gabe Talon sprung McCannell free in the neutral zone and his shot from the high slot beat Ben Grenier (20 saves) five-hole.

“I cut across from my opposite wing and I saw their defense making a change,” McCannell said. “I was like ‘Chip it, chip it!’ and then I saw me and the goalie, and that was it. I actually got slashed when I took the shot. I was trying to go upstairs and it went five-hole, so I was just lucky enough to get that bounce.”

Kennebec goalie Ben Grenier (31) makes a save on a shot from Old Town/Orono’s Sam Henderson in the second period in the Class B North final Wednesday at the Alfond Arena at the University of Maine in Orono. Morning Sentinel photo by Michael G. Seamans

It was a rare occurrence of open ice for either side in a game dictated by both neutral zone and defensive zone coverages.

“I would have never (predicted) it, but the effort was there,” Thurlow said. “Guys were blocking shots and sliding all over the ice. Guys were playing tough. I think it was just both teams saying we’ve got to commit to defense because that’s a good offensive team over there. They probably said the same thing about us. Both teams really committed to defense, and I think that’s what happened tonight.”

Early in the third period, Tibbetts’ shot was redirected on Parker for the initial save with the rebound going to a creeping-in Cooper Hart from the left point. Hart’s second-chance try at knotting the score missed wide of the near post.

Old Town/ Orono’s Tyler McCannel (9) jumps into the glass toward the fans as he celebrates a 1-0 win over the Kennebec in the Class B North final Wednesday at the Alfond Arena at the University of Maine in Orono. Morning Sentinel photo by Michael G. Seamans

Kennebec’s best final chance to force overtime came with 1:30 remaining, following a faceoff win in the left circle. Nate Newgard cleanly won the draw to the near wing boards for Brandon Mason, who dropped the puck back to Hunter Brown at the point. Brown’s drive through heavy traffic in front of Parker rang off the left post.

“There were a couple where I’m putting my hands up (in celebration),” Jon Hart said. “Credit to them, they’re a well-coached team. They did a great job doing the dirty stuff around the net to get that puck out. They did a great job planning. Both teams — our transition games were shut down by each other. That’s playoff hockey.”

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC


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