Last February, the Orono High School hockey team missed its first Eastern Maine Class B hockey playoff berth since 1992-93 by .137 points.
With a .137 decal on their helmets and the fraction written on their practice T-shirts, the Riots have all but ensured that they won’t miss the playoffs this season by rolling to a 10-1 record.
One of those wins came over defending two-time state Class B champ Winslow 4-2.
“We wanted to jump out early,” said senior center and co-captain Tom Hite. “We didn’t want to make it close. We didn’t want to wait until the last game to see if we were destined for the postseason.”
Third-year coach Greg Hirsch has been somewhat surprised.
“I knew we had a lot of returning players and we had some talent, but we hadn’t had experience when it came to winning yet,” said the 25-year-old Hirsch. “Look at Winslow. They’re used to winning. It’s contagious.”
But even Hirsch concedes that with the win over Winslow, his team is “getting to that point now.”
He also said his team has excellent leadership and the heartbreak of missing the playoffs has worked to its advantage.
“I think we won five of our last six last season and we weren’t ready to have the season end,” said Hirsch. “We missed the playoffs by one [bad] shift, or by hitting the post once. A little thing cost us the playoffs.”
So the Riots have paid attention to every detail and played every shift as if it was their last.
“We haven’t focused on the playoffs as much as we’ve focused on winning each game,” said junior left wing and co-captain Eric Powers. “We skate 100 percent every time we hit the ice.”
The Riots have been stingy, allowing only two goals per game.
“The coaches have drilled defensive zone coverages into our heads,” said Powers. “It’s been great. Nobody runs around. We play the system real well.”
For the first time in quite a while, the Riots have depth. Last year, Orono had only 12 to 13 skaters. This year it has 22.
“We had been used to playing just two lines and we’d get tired. Now we can play a third and fourth line and it helps the team so much,” said Powers.
The top two lines feature Adam Sewall (10 goals, 11 assists) between left wing Powers (12 & 10) and right wing Chris Monberg (8 & 5) and Hite (9 & 9) between LW Noah Lundy (5 & 5) and RW Matt McKnight (7 & 5). The third line of Jamie Brooker between Ben Berry and Jake Hedstrom has combined for 12 goals and 14 assists.
Eric Holmes and freshmen Travers Kurr and Matt Kedrick see virtually all of the blue-line duty since Rob Murdoch suffered a broken collarbone.
Sophomore Stuart Cady has emerged as the No. 1 goalie and has been “unbelievable,” according to Powers. Shane Rivers is a solid backup.
“They have a good variety of talent and they cycle well out of the corner,” said Hampden coach Bob Morin. “Sewall is a very strong player, and Cady has done a bang-up job.”
Hite and Powers said Hirsch and assistants Blair Marsh and Aaron King have done an outstanding job.