WATERVILLE — As far as the Hampden Academy boys hockey team is concerned, hard work pays off.

The Kennebec RiverHawks are still waiting for proof of that.

Sophomore Owen Cross scored a pair of goals, including a shorthanded empty-netter to seal the victory, as the Broncos held off a furious third-period rally from the RiverHawks for a 4-2 Class B North win Saturday morning at Colby College’s Alfond Rink.

Hampden (7-0-2) remained unbeaten on the season, while Kennebec dropped to 2-8-1 with just one win since beating Cony/Hall-Dale/Monmouth on Dec. 18.

“I think we’ve been the better team the last four games, but we’ve only got one win, one tie and two losses,” Kennebec coach Jon Hart said. “I told the guys, there’s nothing you can do but keep working and make the playoffs. Then, nobody will want to play us.”

Junior goalie Cooper Ryan made 30 saves in the win, 17 of them in the third period under constant Kennebec pressure, including five on two late RiverHawk power plays that overlapped for a 26-second 5 on 3 advantage.

Ryan entered the weekend with a 1.90 goals against average and a .922 save percentage — both among the best in the league.

“I need to help the team. That’s my responsibility,” Ryan said. “You’ve got to do your best to stay focused, stay warm and be ready whenever. We let off the gas a little bit (in the third period).”

“We just tried to stick to our game plan, get pucks deep and make them go 200 feet,” Hampden coach Eric MacDonald said. “They’re a good team, they’re well coached. They gave us a game.”

Cross got the Broncos on the board with the lone goal of the opening period, and then Hampden doubled the lead with 1:08 remaining in the second. Sam Economy tipped home Cameron Henderson’s point shot during a 5 on 3 advantage for the visitors.

The RiverHawks woke up in the third.

The shots were 7-0 in the period in favor of Kennebec by the time Cody Ivey put the RiverHawks on the board 3:50 into the period to make it a 2-1 game.

The two teams traded goals 16 seconds apart to make for some nervous final moments for Hampden, but with Kennebec goalie Bryce Gunzinger (15 saves) pulled in favor of an extra attacker Cross was able to create a turnover at his own blue line and turn it into an easy breakaway goal into an empty net.

“In my opinion, that team is as good as it gets,” Hart said of Hampden. “We just outplayed them, outshot them. We had our chance to tie it twice, and in a way you’ve just got to tip your cap to them.”

Having effectively managed the game through the first 30 minutes, Hampden did enough to earn the victory despite the RiverHawks’ flurry of activity over the final 15.

“It was a battle,” Ryan said. “We definitely didn’t have our best game, but at the end of the day we came out on top. That’s what we’re looking for.”

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