BREWER – Messalonskee High School hockey coach Mike Latendresse said freshman left wing Justin Lawler has a “knack for the net.
“He is a natural goal scorer,” continued Latendresse. “He’s very patient and he has soft hands.”
The Brewer High School Witches will surely agree with Latendresse after Lawler scored his third, fourth and fifth goals of the season in the first 8:25 to guide the Eagles to a 4-2 Eastern Maine Class A hockey triumph at the T.J. Ryan Center Saturday night.
Messalonskee of Oakland improved to 3-1 while the youthful Witches fell to 1-5.
Lawler and the Eagles blitzed the Witches in the first period, outshooting Brewer 14-2 en route to building the 3-0 lead.
“For some reason, we haven’t been coming to play in the first period. Maybe it’s because of our inexperience,” said Brewer coach Steve Van Dolman who has 12 freshmen and sophomores on his 20-player roster.
Lawler scored just 2:09 after the opening face-off; expanded the lead 3:44 later and added a shorthanded goal at the 8:25 mark.
“It feels good,” said Lawler whose first goal came off the rebound of a Ted Fabian point-blank shot that was set up by a Brayden Sheive pass.
“The puck was just sitting there. I had it on the backhand and I saw his [goalie Anthony Puiia] blocker,” said Lawler who flipped the 10-footer over Puiia’s blocker.
On his second goal, he stole the puck in the neutral zone, split the Brewer defense and roofed a 20-foot wrist shot over Puiia’s glove.
“That’s all I saw [open], that corner,” said Lawler.
His shorthanded goal was set up by Nick Perry, who said he spotted Lawler striding toward the front of the net.
Perry flipped it and Puiia came out to race Lawler for it.
Puiia touched the puck first but Lawler quickly took it away, pulled it around him and slid it into the vacant net.
The Witches came out with much more energy in the second period and began sustaining some pressure only to have Messalonskee’s Seth Patten score on the Eagles’ first chance of the period.
Perry fed Patten in the slot and he lifted a 16-footer over Puiia’s glove.
“Nick made a super nice pass. Coach [Latendresse] told us the goalie likes to go down early so try to put it upstairs,” said Patten.
Sonny Dunbar gave the Witches some life when he tucked a Matt Grimes pass under Messalonskee goalie Ben Conti midway through the period.
Early in the third period, Conti made a great right toe save off Dunbar, who was set up by Grimes and earmarked a 14-footer for the far corner.
Grimes made things interesting by converting a penalty shot with 3:21 left.
The Witches also had an opportunity in the final 1:19 when they had a two-man advantage and then pulled goalie Puiia to give them a six-on-three situation.
But Conti made a couple of solid saves and the Eagles did a good job in front of him.
Senior Conti finished with 16 saves while Puiia, making his first start of the season, finished with 29 stops.
“It wasn’t one of our best games but, overall, we played a decent game. We hurt ourselves with penalties,” said former University of Maine star Latendresse.
Brewer tri-captain and center Grimes said “we’ve got to play well for all three periods.”
EAGLES 4, WITCHES 2
Messalonskee (3-1) 3 1 0 ? 4
Brewer (1-5) 0 1 1 ? 2
First period ? 1. Mess, Lawler (Fabian, Sheive), 2:09; 2. Mess, Lawler (unassisted), 5:53; 3. Mess, Lawler (Perry), 8:25. Penalties: Mess, Patten, roughing and unsportsmanlike conduct, 7:42; Brew, Dunbar, interference, 11:23.
Second period ? 4. Mess, Patten (Perry, Marston), 2:17; 5. Brew, Dunbar (Caldwell, Harding), 7:37. Penalties: Brew, Fitzpatrick, holding, 9:15; Mess, Patten, elbowing, 9:51; Brew, Harding, holding, 10:20; Mess, Mason, tripping, 11:10; Brew, Grimes, slashing, 13:05
Third period ? 6. Brew, Grimes (penalty shot), 11:39; Penalties: Brew, Harding, hooking, 2:28; Mess, Vasvary, high-sticking, 7:23; Mess, Fabian, hooking, 9:12; Brew, Patterson, elbowing, 10:53; Brew, Caldwell, roughing to the head, 11:28; Mess, Marston, tripping (penalty shot), 11:39; Mess, Patten, roughing, 13:25; Mess, Lawler, unsportsmanlike conduct, 13:41.
Shots on goal: Messalonskee 14-10-9?33; Brewer 2-6-10?18
Goaltenders: Mess, Conti (18 shots-16 saves); Brew, Puiia (33-29)
Power-play opportunities: Messalonskee 0-6; Brewer 1-8
Attendance: 125 (est.)