ROCKPORT — After winning the school’s first regional ice hockey title last year and losing a strong group of experienced seniors to graduation, Camden Hills, and veteran coach John Magri, are pleased, if not satisfied, to start 2022-23 with a winning two-game trip to Aroostook County and competitive road loss to the defending state Class B champions under its belt.

The Windjammers started the regular season with back-to-back road wins over Presque Isle (5-4) and Houlton/Hodgdon/Southern Aroostook (14-1) on Friday and Saturday, Dec. 9-10, and lost 7-5 to host Brunwick, the defending state titlist, on Tuesday, Dec. 13.

The Windjammers lost to the Dragons 2-0 in the state Class B championship game last year.

As the scheduling gods have deemed, Camden Hills battles foes on the road in many early games.

On Tuesday night at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, the Windjammers entered the state title game rematch having lost nine seniors, including an all-star goalie, from the previous year, along with five players, three of whom are major contributors, from this year’s squad.

This was juxtaposed with Brunswick, which lost two players from its state championship team and still maintained a starting goaltender who kept Camden Hills scoreless in the state final. The Dragons also are considered the number one team in Class B and one of the top teams, regardless of class, in Maine.

“This was looking like an uphill battle on paper, but, frankly, our core group of players likes to work hard and do things the hard way,” Magri said.

The result was a “a great hockey game and, although we lost, I have never been prouder of this team. The story of this game makes a big statement to the league that we are still contenders.”

The Dragons led 3-1 after one period, while the opponents played to a 4-4 tie the rest of the way.

For the Windjammers, who scored first and forged a 5-5 tie at one point, Alden Howard turned in a three-goal, two-assist performance, while Billy Kurzius and Zanni Sabatini added goals and Flynn Lilly, Lucas Wyman and Cam Brown assists.

For Brunswick, Jacob Colaluca potted three goals, Nick Marro two and Zach Stern-Hayes and A.J. Wolverton, one. Garret Countway contributed two assists and Marro, Brady LaForge, Bo Marini and Wolverton one.

Between the pipes, Windjammer Quinn Hoppin finished 27-of-34 and Dragon Luke Patterson 26-of-31.

Camden Hills was 1-of-4 on the power play and Brunswick 0-of-2.

Coach Magri said in the “state championship-type battle” the Windjammers had a golden opportunity to upset the Dragons when they earned a significant advantage with a five-minute major penalty on Brunswick for a “vicious” cross check to Brown, who was lost for the rest of the game.

The coach said the penalty was so “egregious” the Dragon who committed the foul was ejected from the game, disqualified for the next game and Brunswick given a five-minute major penalty.

Alas, the visitors could not capitalize and the hosts scored a couple of late goals for the early-season victory.

Magri said his team could have folded when it trailed 4-1 to the defending champs, but showed resiliency.

“After the game in the handshake line both myself and the Brunswick coach smiled at each other and agreed it was a great hockey game and he stated he hoped to play us again this season and I smiled back and said I would like that too,” Magri said. “Because if you think about it, the only way we could face each other again would be in a repeat of last year’s state championship game.”

Trip north

On Saturday, Dec. 10, the Windjammers woke up about 9 a.m. after the night in Presque Isle and headed to the John Millar Civic Center to face the Houlton Blackhawks at noon.

The coach said the Windjammers “were coming off a very fast and hard-fought victory against the Presque Isle Wildcats and the players were focused on the pace they would have to keep on Tuesday against Brunswick so the Windjammers hit the ice ready to invest in a fast hockey game.”

The Windjammers moved the puck well and the 20 players logged a heavy number of minutes on the ice and the goals built. Eight of the goals were scored in the first period before the hosts played the visitors tougher the rest of he way, the coach said.

Leading the offensive charge for the Windjammers were Owen McManus with three goals and Brown, Aiden Aselton and Sabatini two, while Owen Hotchkin, Wyman, Lilly, Bridger Witbeck, Bennett Gardner and Bowden Trzaska added one.

Hotchkin chipped in three assists, while Wyman, Bridger Witbeck, McManus and Sabatini added two and Howard, Kurzius, Aselton and Brown one.

Hoppin finished 8-of-9.

On Friday, Dec. 9, the Windjammers made the more than 200-mile trip to Aroostook County for the first of two games, this one against the Presque Isle Wildcats, who “appeared to have ample stature and a good collection of upperclassmen juxtaposed against our rookie-laden team, but the Windjammers hit the ice with a level of tenacity and grit that made us bigger than we are,” Magri said.

Camden Hills fought off a six-on-four attack to close the game with a 5-4 victory.

Magri said freshman goalie Hoppin “had a great debut in the net for the Windjammers against Presque Isle with 25 saves on 29 shots, inclusive of some key saves on breakaways and odd-man rushes that were timely in order to keep the game close and provide a comeback opportunity for the team.”

The game was knotted 2-2 after one period, while the hosts grabbed a 4-3 lead after two. The Windjammers tallied the final two scores for the win.

For the Windjammers, McManus netted two goals and Sabatini, Gardner and Aselton one, while Wyman, McManus, Kurzius, Sabatini, Brown, Hotchkin and Aselton added assists.

For the Wildcasts, Dawson Kinney had two goals and Breygan Mahan an Charlie Peers one. Connor Bell finished 21-of-26 in goal.

The Windjammers finished 1-of-5 on the power play and Wildcats 0-of-9.

Camden Hills received 22 penalty minutes.

The Wildcats led 4-3 and the third period was a “great hockey battle stalemate” until with five minutes left Aselton rushed the puck and scored an unassisted goal to tie the game.

Three minutes later, Aselton fed McManus and McManus again showed how difficult it is to prevent him from finding the back of the net, Magri said.

With a one-goal lead Camden Hills was given another penalty with two minutes left and the Wildcats pulled their goalie, but the Windjammers held strong.