Edward Little High School defenseman Cam Audette, right, slips a pass past Gorham High School’s Cole Perreault during their game Wednesday at the Norway Savings Bank Arena in Auburn. (Justin Pelletier/Sun Journal)
AUBURN — Edward Little boys’ hockey coach Norm Gagne didn’t like what he saw from his team during the preseason, nor during a season-opening victory.
But when the Red Eddies played their home opener Wednesday night, Gagne finally saw the kind of hockey he’s wanted his team to play all along.
And for EL, it was winning hockey.
Eli Thibodeau scored a pair of goals, both assisted by Aaron Perkins, and EL got the better of Gorham in a 4-1 win at Norway Savings Bank Arena.
“This is the best we’ve played,” Gagne said. “And we stayed out of the box. I was really, really proud of the kids. We’ve been preaching mental toughness and mental discipline, and we certainly had that tonight.”
Thibodeau put the Red Eddies (2-0) ahead early. His rebound shot from in front took a friendly bounce off the post and Gorham goalie Garett Babineau just 2:21 into the contest.
“I think that it was just a huge lift-up for us to not be down, to just get a jump on this team,” Thibodeau said. “It kept our spirits high, and we worked hard, fed off of it.”
That was the only goal EL scored in the opening period, but the Red Eddies set the tone by dominating puck possession and offensive zone time.
“We wanted to get momentum and we wanted to keep momentum, and the only way to keep momentum is to keep the pressure on and keep doing what we were doing — getting the pucks deep and working it down low, and really working hard on our forecheck,” Gagne said. “And that’s the key to our success.”
The disparity of chances in the second period was even greater. The Red Eddies held the Rams (0-2) to just a pair of shots on goal.
“I wish I could say it was rare, but it’s been common this preseason and into the season,” Gorham coach Jon Portwine said. “We battle, and we’re there for the long haul, but we just haven’t been able to create much offense.”
EL created more offense at the midpoint of the period. Logan Alexander fed freshman Collin Merritt to make it 2-0 Red Eddies.
Perkins made it a three-goal lead two minutes into the third. He finished from Ben Cassidy seconds after the Rams had killed off a Red Eddies power play.
Perkins and Thibodeau connected for a second time 6:24 in to make it 4-0.
“We switched up the lines after preseason, and I think the chemistry of my line, second line, third line, we’re all connecting well,” Thibodeau said.
The Rams answered 31 seconds later when Lucas Roop’s second effort on EL goalie Ben Feldman finally got through. Trevor Gray had the assist.
“It didn’t look like we were going to be able to break through and get the puck past the goalie tonight — he played really well,” Portwine said, “but to be able to put that one in, and have a little bit of spark and hope that we could score, and we could finish, it helped a lot.”
Feldman stopped 13 of 14 shots, while Babineau made 18 saves for the Rams.
“I told them, ‘If we play like we did tonight, stay away from the penalties, and keep our mental toughness and our mental discipline, we’re going to have a successful year.’ There’s no question in my mind,” Gagne said. “We’ve got talent in the locker room, and it’s just a matter of us honing the system.”
Gorham High School’s Lucas Roop, right, leans into Edward Little High School’s Eli Thibodeau while maintaining control of the puck during their game at the Norway Savings Bank Arena in Auburn on Wednesday. (Justin Pelletier/Sun Journal)Edward Little High School’s Collin Merritt, left, carries the puck ahead of Gorham High School’s Jack Richards during their game at the Norway Savings Bank Arena in Auburn on Wednesday. (Justin Pelletier/Sun Journal)Edward Little High School’s Aaron Perkins, right, makes a pass across the ice in front of Gorham High School’s Ben Nault during their game at the Norway Savings Bank Arena in Auburn on Wednesday. Perkins assisted on Edward Little’s fourth goal on the play. (Justin Pelletier/Sun Journal)