Gorham forward Jared Wood summed up his hockey team’s attitude perfectly in two sentences Wednesday night.
“This was our ultimate goal, to play for a state championship,” the senior said after scoring twice to lead the Rams past Greely in the Western Class B final.
Then, he added:
“It feels like there’s still more work to be done.”
The challenge ahead for Gorham (17-3) is enormous. The team has never advanced this far so it will have to avoid merely being satisfied with that achievement. And then there’s the little matter of refocusing its energy in time for a 1 p.m. showdown Saturday with mighty Messalonskee (20-0) for the state title at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston.
“We’re going to have to play to them. We can’t sit back on our heels and let their speed beat us,” Wood said.
There are two classic story lines at play in this game.
Messalonskee fell short in the past two championship games against Greely. Does that make the Eagles the hungrier, more battle-tested team? Coach Mike Latendresse certainly hopes so. He said the sting of the past two seasons is still fresh in the minds of a team he calls his best in 12 years at the helm.
The Eagles have had the hammer down all winter, putting up 137 goals, nearly seven per game.
Gorham counters with top-flight goaltender Justin Broy, who anchors a defense that has surrendered just 27 goals, barely more than one per contest.
Unstoppable vs. unflappable?
“They’ve been blowing teams out,” Broy said after taming Greely, his voice hoarse from the celebration.
“The stress is overwhelming but it’s good. I’m looking forward to it.”
Messalonskee has a top forward line that boasts Cunningham brothers Chase (79 points) and Jared (70). Dan Condon anchors a strong second line. There has been no let-up in a schedule that included an early blowout victory of defending Class A champion Falmouth.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” Latendresse said. “Because of the skills that we have from one through 20, we’ve been able to demand a lot more systematically.”
Many hockey observers consider Messalonskee the best team in Maine regardless of class. Latendresse wants no part of that discussion, although he did offer this:
“I think we’re a smart hockey team; we’re talented. But we have to work and we have to show up to be successful. So far we’ve done that for 20 games.”
That leaves Gorham Coach Jon Portwine the tall task of coming up with a game plan to offset all that offense.
Broy will be the biggest part of that. Then it will be making sure he has the Rams’ attention one final time.
“I think they’ll be able to get up for that,” Portwine said. “I was questioning whether we were able to get up for this game (against Greely). In practice I wasn’t sure we were there. I wasn’t sure the enthusiasm was there.
“But they proved me wrong tonight. They were ready. I should never doubt them again.”
Mark Emmert can be contacted at 791-6424 or at: